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We’ve heard about it. We’ve witnessed it a couple of times. Damn, some of us were luckless enough to have been daggers drawn with it since debuting in the dating game. This is all about the dreadful, ill-fated – yet oddly relatable – ick.

A first-date ruiner and a relationship’s death-stroke, this crisp three-lettered word is the voice inside your head bawling “ew” when your romantic interest turns you off.

It might be overusing the (supposedly flirty) see-no-evil monkey emoji. Maybe it’s all about the rasping sound they make whenever they straw-sip their Oreo milkshake. Or perhaps their go-to McDonald’s is Filet-O-Fish – which is entirely understandable.

Those seemingly arbitrary and painfully innocuous turn-offs are guilty of making the ick’s prey hide under a rock, cringe up into a ball, and press the block button. 

A recent survey discovered that one in four adults experienced the ick. So even if you aren’t familiar with this dating vocabulary staple, chances are you experienced it. Picture this – you’ve been on a few dates with someone who makes you laugh until your abs hurt, is emotionally available, and has a soft spot for beagles. 

They even passed the ultimate test – your friends’ group chat flooded with positive feedback when you sent their Instagram profile. 

But then you get wind of his pro-Trump politics approach. Your heart sinks. Your romantic interest shifts from shaggable material to a pitiful I-need-to-ghost-you case. A second ago, you thought this might be the last person you narrate your life trauma to. You felt like you finally bagged your soulmate. 

Now you’re pondering whether the bathroom windows are large enough for you to squeeze through and disappear forever. The fantasies of sharing a sangria jug on a Madrid rooftop bar and retiring together in a Cornwall cottage shattered to pieces. You feel viscerally disgusted. You got the ick. 

The ick is far from being absent in clubbing culture

© Ronê Ferreira / Pexels

As you can tell, this small but mighty occurrence is the type of bullet one can’t dodge. Once your beau ruins the milk and honey facade by fumbling something so ordinary, there is no going back.

The ick is an oddly specific thing someone will do or say with one mission – to dry you up and make you Google chastity belts.

Quite ironically, this is the same person who made you daydream about settling down and having two or three kids only a couple of minutes ago. 

But this seemingly indecipherable repulsion isn’t absent from the nightlife culture – on the contrary. A quick peek at how erratically chaotic and unapologetically wild clubbing sessions are would rank your go-to party destination as a hotbed for the godawful ick.

Clubbing might not be Wordle, but you still can fuck up with words

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For 24-years-old Jessie, there is no other word that makes her consider becoming a nun more than snog. “It sounds slimy and uncomfortable. Whenever I stumble upon it in group chats and social media, I shudder with disgust,” she says.

“But hearing it live makes the situation ten times worse.”

Little did the guy whom Jessie started chatting up with in the bar queue know about this uncannily specific turn-off.

Before parting ways to different bartenders, he wanted to get Jessie’s number, asking when she’d be available for a snog.

The amount of compliments he showered her with didn’t matter anymore – the situation went from tingles to wince in a second, knowing it was the same voice that proudly uttered the yukky snog. 

“I straight up lied to his face, telling him I am in a happy and loving 2-year relationship – then I dashed instantly, hoping that was the first and last time I would see his face that night,” Jessie concludes. 

Your go-to drink is a staple for you, but an ick for someone else 

They say your drink of choice speaks more about you than mom ever will. Maybe this is why Jim feels his body tingling with the instant and irreversible ick when hearing someone order vodka soda.

© MART PRODUCTION / Pexels

“For me, vodka is the one spirit nobody should drink – even when it’s the only untouched bottle at a dry afterparty,” the 22-years-old student states. “It’s spicy, malty, and overall repulsive. But adding soda to it? That’s another level of disgusting.”

Imagine this scenario: you’re in an electronic music temple, soaking bullet-hard techno beats like they are a sponge. Thanks to the grim lights flooding the dancefloor, you can’t see shit – plus, they make you a little dizzy. 

While you’re chewing the cud on calling it a night, Cupid’s arrow hits you. You decide to shoot your shot, walk towards what will hopefully become your soon-to-be Netflix & food delivery partner, and ask if they want a drink. 

“How could I explain that ordering vodka soda is the ultimate deal-breaker for me?”

Then they order dog poo at the bar. This is what Jim experienced – minus the dog poo, since it was vodka soda. But for him, ordering poo at the bar qualifies as cringe-worthy as considering that boozy concoction socially acceptable. 

“I was utterly disgusted – and it was visible. She asked me what was wrong, but how could I tell her everything was wrong? How could I explain that ordering vodka soda is the ultimate deal-breaker for me?” Jim recalls.  

“I asked her to hold my drink while I use the bathroom. I never came back – I was that repulsed.”

The clubbing-infused mating ritual 

© MART PRODUCTION / Pexels

All is fair in love and clubbing. But when strangers dance close enough for you to feel their breath down the spine as a primitive way to flirt, restraining orders are a sweet-sounding rule. 

“I can deal with skinny jeans and cheap bed sheets. But when you are grinding behind my back, one centimeter away from my hairline, you’re done,” 20-years-old Sarah says.

“I don’t care who you are – you can be Brad Pitt. You’re invading my privacy while catapulting my anxiety level through the roof.”

Entirely sexless and ultimately pointless, this wannabe mating ritual doesn’t just put Sarah off wanting to touch base with the opposite sex – it actively puts her off shagging for keeps.

This might be one of the nastiest and most repeated (supposedly flirty) nightlife practices, but for Sarah it sits at ick’s hierarchy top. 

“It’s somehow similar to the clicking-at-waiters practice,” Sarah affirms. “Guys might think it’s a lucrative way of self-affirming your presence, but it’s a gross entitlement – both in regards to my space and my body.”

Keep your weird dancing moves for your next acid experience 

Even though 25-year-old Mary tries to avoid being too prescriptive with her ickery, she believes weird dance moves are the scourges of a good clubbing session. As a fellow reveler, Mary understands the whole mantra of losing yourself in the DJ’s drop beats – but everything has limits.

At the end of the day, you can’t bring your tripping-balls-on-LSD-at-Waha dance moves to Ministry of Sound. 

As she turned back to the dancefloor, her clubbing beau got hyped up – he made it obvious through his Squidward-having-a-seizure dancing routine

“I met this guy one night in the smoking area,” Mary recalls. “He was a 10 out of 10, plus we had a lot of things in common. He told me he was a 3D animator, and I work in photography – so I was like oh, okay, let’s move things on the dancefloor.”

© Yan Krukov / Pexels

Although Mary doesn’t want her significant other to pull off flawlessly-executed moves from Shakira’s dance repertoire, she has a weak point for terrible dancers.

As she turned back to the dancefloor, her clubbing beau got hyped up – he made it obvious through his Squidward-having-a-seizure dancing routine. What was supposed to be a turning point for her next hookup quickly became the ultimate crush killer. 

“The embarrassment I felt can’t be put into words,” Mary explains. “The ick is so superficial because nobody around us seemed to mind it at all – but my face went all red. I couldn’t stop thinking wow, this is really bad. I have to get out of here ASAP.”

Is it sad that weird dance moves, vodka sodas, and snogs are some of the things sending our next clubbing hookup to hang in the balance? Maybe a bit. But that’s the thing about the ick. Those mighty feelings of repulsion are so instinctive we don’t take a second to pause and reflect on their viability.

But they reside in the one place you wouldn’t think to look – your heart. So next time you see someone who potentially looks like your clubbing soulmate sipping on vodka soda, just pretend it’s gin and tonic.