Talking with Food in Your MOUTH

Over the course of my life, sleep–like alove of camping, finding a baby that sings the blues, an actual zip gun, or the ability to sustain an active savings account–has been elusive. Much of that is due to racing thoughts, another symptom of bipolar disorder that might make you–the ever-judgmental-yet-adoring reader–quite envious. “But Dan, Dan … we imagine that’s where you conjure all of your literary lightning and vocabulary gymnastics–and quite possibly why you’re so goddamned handsome.” Hush, hush, little ones.

So at 41 I reluctantly started taking mood stabilizers–again. The initial wave of pills prescribed to help me sleep had names like ancient, science-fiction gods: Saphris, Seroqeul, Latuda, etc. While they didn’t help me sleep, they did remind me that I hate taking psych meds.

As a kind of digital holistic treatment, I’d lie in bed looking for YouTube videos with “relaxing voice … soothing voice.” Such videos generally featured placid landscapes and voices that sounded like they were trying to brainwash me or coax a wee fairy out of a tree, or both.

Then I saw those four magic letters: ASMR. One part pseudo-science, two parts whack, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is considered a response to certain sounds or visual triggers that create “tingles,” comforting and relaxing bodily sensations. The ASMR God is Bob Ross, the late, gray-anglo’d PBS painting instructor whose voice, for many, is like an auditory IV drip of Michael Jackson Juice.

Whether I felt any “tingles” or not, I was instantly hooked. Weird is the light, I am its moth. ASMR is a community with more than 5.2 million videos and some YouTube channels boasting hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

In a way, ASMR is like a worldwide Eyes Wide Shut orgy (minus Tom Cruise) for people who enjoy quiet sounds and can’t sleep. Essentially, ASMR taps into our shared desires to be utterly lazy, staring slack-jawed into space while scratching an arm, stomach or leg.

Always shot in POV (Perturbing Online Video), the ASMRtists (sadly, I didn’t make that term up) seem to utilize the same plots: Cranial nerve exams and anything medical is a big hit, as well as applying makeup, rubbing brushes on the mics and, of course, food. Takeout, candy, noodles, unboxing packages of “snack packs” … these unhinged whisperers will eat anything as long as you’re watching, not unlike Nick Nolte at a hotel bar.

While you are encouraged to find your own path in the ASMRhole, we equally demand that you go to YouTube, type in “ASMR food,” and buckle up.

Here are a few we like to nibble on–we’ve provided links with each title to expedite your ASMR experience.

The brainchild of Tony Bomboni ASMR, this clip combines elements of Martha Stewart, Mr. Rogers and Vincent D’Onofrio from the 2000 in-the-mind-of-a-serial-killer film, The Cell. While Bomboni sports makeup that evokes the chimerical lovechild of Howdy Doody and Courtney Love, he’s more doting than disturbing. Hey, Boo Boo, what’s in the picnic basket? Why, it’s BBQ chips, lemonade, sandwiches, hot dogs and a dosage increase for Chef Bomboni’s atypical antipsychotic. Nom nom nom!

All the way from Finland comes this 56:11 minute (WTF?!) clip of some guy named finngamerASMR. Whispering with a gravely voice that sounds more like a famished Serge Gainsborough than any peckish Finn, this take on eating junk food benefits from the auteur’s poignant, “eyes of a child” discovery of horking on standard USA junk food like Moon Pies, Fritos, Cheez-Its and Sour Patch Kids. We gave the world blues music, Carol Burnett, gun violence and Bruce Vilanch–now we’re giving global cavities, diabetes and obesity.

Not even the late Dr. Alfred “I Like to Watch” Kinsey would’ve been prepared for this merger of video, sound, food and barely restrained libidinous, uh, tingles. Brought to us by the (fittingly named) Hungry Lips, this clip features a young woman, shot only from the nose down, barely contained by her T.J. Maxx lingerie, as she coyly ingests a red popsicle. YouTube Red subscribers can enjoy bonus Werner Herzog commentary: “In the same way that this mean mama jama slurps back this popsicle, nature continually consumes us with ready and ever-sharpened teeth.”

The Meryl Streep of the whole scene is surely Maria, aka Gentle Whispering ASMR. Whenever I doubt if ASMR is working, I listen to her silky Russian accent and nod out, at times even rolling out of bed for a dramatic descriptor effect. Maria is the assured envy of all other ASMRtists; she’s been featured in the New York Times. She’s the Madonna of Mumbles, the Tila Tequila of Tingles … you get the idea. This 12-minute feast of spice jars being raised and lowered, a dainty hand placed just so on a package of raw hamburger meat, coy spatula taps on a bowl of uncooked buckwheat, ending with a one-two punch of Maria eating the meal she has so freely cooked for us, is certain to convert you into the ASMR cult.

Straight outta Norway comes Solfrid ASMR, a gal who turns gastronomic gusto into a grotesque auditory gulag. In this video, from her collection of 44 eating clips, this ASMRist is chowing down like she’s gunning for cash and prizes. You, the viewer, ultimately win. Prone to eating giant plates of food, while maintaining a lean figure, surely leads one to wonder if Solfrid might be infested with a Norsk Svart Metall Bendelorm, or “Norwegian Black Metal Tapeworm.”