Dating

Things that give you the "ick" (and how to deal)

By Katherine

What do TikTok and Baby Reindeer have in common? A deep and uncomfortable dive into "the ick", that indefinable feeling which we've all felt from time to time about a person or scenario. That niggly feeling of "I don't like this, and I can't say why."

Icks are subjective, and vary from person to person, but they can play a significant role in shaping attraction and influencing relationship dynamics. On TikTok, @wyszkay (aka "guy with the list") has an entire account devoted to lists of "icks" - the top post has 38.9 million views, and by God it - and the rest of the posts - are an uncomfortable watch.

In one, a guy opens his boba tea by stabbing the lid with his curled fingers, then licking them off before drinking straight from the cup (ignoring the straw on the table in front of him). This rates #675 on the list: "Don't drink boba tea." Sir, I may never be able to do so myself, ever again.

The Netflix series Baby Reindeer is like a study in icks, one after the other, as the character Martha says and does things that leave the audience squirming with discomfort. (See: The "Have you ever wanted to unzip people and climb inside them" scene, and just about every other thing that comes out of Martha's mouth. Shudder.)

So if you've got the ick about someone you're dating, what does that mean? And what should you do about it?

Some common icks

Honestly, some of the "icks" you feel are going to be legitimate. If your date has poor hygiene, bad breath, body odor, or is a bit of a dirty scruff, it's normal to be turned off by that.

Other icks relating to people's attitude or behavior are also understandable. People who brag about themselves, act entitled or arrogant, or are rude - like that date who was dismissive of the waitress at the coffee place you met at - are off-putting for a reason. And that reason is that it's okay to want someone who has a level of self-awareness and basic respect for others.

These kinds of icks are in the realm of "normal" and are just you having an understandable human reaction. Some icks, though, are a bit more... Personal.

When the icks are specific to you

Ask your friend group to weigh in on their own icks and you'll get a wildly variable set of answers. Overly clingy behavior = makes sense; drives a station wagon = hmm, why is this an ick? Some of the icks from @wyszkay include being a man with a phone case, ordering fries at a Mexican restaurant, dipping a toe into the pool or bath water to test it, and coughing/sneezing into your hands rather than your elbow (hard agree with that last one, actually.)

What may be a major turn-off for one person might not bother someone else at all. It depends so much on your individual preferences, experiences, and boundaries. You get to feel how you get to feel, and other people get to behave how they want to behave - your boundaries are up to you.

Are "icks" really red flags but with a silly name?

Your feelings and your intuition exist to help you make informed decisions. "Icks" are probably not as serious as red flags, but they do serve the same purpose. Consider what it is you're reacting to about the other person. Why does it bother you? Is it a dealbreaker? Is it a minor annoyance? You can't change other people, so it's unlikely you can "train" what icks you out of someone else - if it doesn't grow on you as an endearing little quirk about the other person, it's always going to annoy you. Listen to that, and act accordingly.

Ultimately, recognizing those feelings within yourself can help you identify what you like and don't like - and when women are often socialized to be accommodating and accepting of men's behavior and to overlook all sorts of things in favor of "getting along" and "being agreeable", having an "ick" about someone can feel like a radical act. Lean into your icks. Let the icks weed out the guys who aren't for you. Use the icks wisely!

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