Seis: Envelopes, We’re Not Friends

I have always had what some might consider an irrational fear of licking envelopes.

I have been wary of envelopes as long as I can remember. Not ‘envelope’ as in the verb ‘to envelop’; I have no problems with suffocating hugs. In fact, I love those. Envelop me as must as you want – no problem there – just try not to stink too much or my olfactory bulbs may have something to say about it. No no, I could hug all day. I even hug in my sleep – with my pillow, at least.

I am afraid of the mail-room phenomenon of physical, tangible, sendable envelopes. The kind you put paper in. I know that this is an odd concept to many as most of you have probably not mailed much since the fourth grade, but I am an avid letter sender. I send mail for every occasion: thank yous, birthdays, sorrys… And so on and so forth. And now that I have a haughty-taughty internship, I find that I have started using them even more often than usual in my daily task of mailing various informational packets and items of which you have no concern all around the country (and world – go me). I have to use envelopes all the time, and so my fear has a sound basis.

I am absolutely, positively terrified of procuring a paper cut on my tongue. I don’t exactly know precisely where this fear came from, but I can’t handle even the mere thought of such agony in the tasting region of my mouth. Maybe it’s from that one Jackass movie where Steve-O gives himself paper cuts on the edges of his mouth. Jesus. I don’t know how you do that. I can’t do it I can’t I can’t I can’t I’m twitching even thinking about it. Imagine how much pain that would bring: a paper cut on your tongue. You literally couldn’t eat anything with even the mildest acidity for at least a week, and your mouth is such a moist environment that I feel as though it would harbor the ailment and maintain the pain as long as possible. Imagine blood protruding from your tongue AHHHHH NO.

First of all: I don’t know who the genius who came up with the idea to have humans lick what is essentially glue to seal a parcel, but there is no way that can possibly be healthy – or at the very least unobtrusive with one’s health. It’s glue for goodness’ sake – why in the world do we go from the day to day licking glue? It’s almost as if the team who came up with that was playing a practical joke on the world…

“I’ve got an idea – instead of the good old wax seals we’ve been using with no problems for centuries, let’s try something else: glue!”
“Yeah! Even better, let’s dry out the glue in such a form that moisture it would make it adhesive again!”
“That way people have to lick it to use it!”
“How stupid do you think people have to be to lick glue just to send a letter?”
“Pretty darn stupid!”
“Think we can do it?”
“Ha ha! We’re about to fool the world!”
“Right-o we are!”

And that’s how that went, I’m sure. It must have come about when the manufacturing sector started booming around the Industrial Revolution (probably one of the worst things that has ever happened to the world, in my humble opinion) and when people began to gain the capability of moving faster than 20 miles or so a day via horse and buggy. Things to build – parcels to send! Times were a-changing, and I get it, I guess. Things needed to be easier and there had to be a more efficient way of sending a few letters out a day.

But really, what is wrong with wax seals? First of all, they’re awesome. If you pay just a bit of money, you have a wonderful wax stamp that you can use for the rest of your life, with the small additional purchase of some wax and probably a lighter or something – I’m not really that well rounded in how wax stamps work. There’s no way it’s that hard though… I mean maybe you get a little burnt once in a while. So what? Was creating the glue-seal for envelopes the way to avoid getting a small burn on your hand? I’m sure that with practice, it’s really not that onerous. Plus, it looks awesome and official. Everyone receiving anything from you ever will just ponder precisely how important you are to have sent something completed with a wax seal.

Now secondly, I know that we have this fancy alternative marvel known as the self-sealing envelopes, or whatever they’re called. Obviously they don’t seal themselves; you have to peel off the little sticky-back first and press down, requiring extensively less salivary effort… but from a moral standpoint, I am opposed to this as I believe it probably generates a lot more garbage in a non-recyclable form than we really need. So that’s it for that argument.

Third of all, that glue tastes horrible. I learned that… today. I am going to be honest, every single time I have to send anything, I hand of my envelopes after I have stuffed them to whomever is readily available and I have them seal it with their own saliva – saliva that is not mine. What if people tried to collect your DNA from a letter? Isn’t that kind of a sketchy system to begin with – should we really be sharing our bodily fluids and most personal, classified information so freely in the first place?

But anyhow: So now in the office, when I have to mail something, I don’t have a roommate or sibling or boyfriend to pass off my menial task, so I have had to circumnavigate another way of sealing my envelopes. Through what was a very quick flash of inspiration instigated by my fear, I quickly realized that I would not even ever have to lick an envelope at work because living in the fortunate first-world country that we do, we have quick and easy access to a wonderful phenomenon: dihydrogen monoxide. For anyone who has never taken any sort of science class: that’s good old-fashioned water – what people drank prior to the soda and and milk and “juice” revolutions – but that’s another conversation.

So what I typically do now to send a few envelopes is just simply walk down the hall (exercise!!!), wet a paper towel, bring another dry paper towel to rest the wet paper towel on so my office doesn’t turn into a minor flood zone, and seal the envelope with my handy-dandy paper towel. Easy peasy.

Now today for whatever reason, I couldn’t quite seem to muster the energy to remove myself from my cushiony desk chair to walk down the hall and procure said paper towel for my crafty method. Plus, I really wanted to get out of the office at a reasonable time today as I had a meeting shortly after arriving back home, so clearly I could not let the two-minute venture to the kitchen delay me. I looked at my pile and realized that I can count (YAY) and that there were only 11 envelopes. What my seemingly-mathematically-tuned mind forgot to account for was that fact that these were not regular white 4″ X 8″ mailing envelopes but massive 9″ x 12″ers, which requires a lot more salivary generation.

However, my body was intent on remaining where I was, so I began to let my mouth begin on what is essentially one of my top five fears. I was doing something completely irrational, I know. I embarked on my Journey of Licking.

As I was in the midst of a stare-down with the first envelope in my pile (it won), I came to terms with the fact that the only way I was leaving the office at the time I wanted to was if I stopped procrastinating like a thirteen-year old (no offense kiddies) and simply performed the task at hand. So I started. At first taste, I considered suicide. Just kidding. But really, it was horrible. I hated it. I couldn’t imagine a worse idea I had ever had, and I mean EVER. It was disgusting and repulsive and repugnant. I took personal offense to how utterly revolted I was. How could this be normal? How do most people tolerate this? Are we really encumbered by a society of such idiocy that we submit to this crime against humanity on the day to day? Really, who does this? Do people really not mind licking envelopes? Am I the only one who is so bothered? Maybe I am – I did just learn in Bio Psych that about one-quarter of the female population is blessed (burdened?) with a super-tasting ability. But WHY did it have to be me?

Now, I am not typically such a negative person – in fact, I am known in the local community (my ten – maybe? – friends) as a DandyLion: characterized by my dandy, liony, optimistic and generally pleasant disposition. (Except when my technology breaks – then I am 5 years old). I always stay on the bright side of everything and don’t typically find a negative side to many seemingly catastrophic events. Things could always be worse … but usually things are just wonderful and peachy the way they are! So I decided to ditch the negative ways, man, and go with my more usual, sunshiney vibe.

“It’s not really that bad, DandyLion,” I said to myself. “You can do this! It’s just eleven envelopes! After this, just a mere 10 to go – that’s nothing! Think of what interns have to do!” That last statement, I just threw in because it’s ironic.

I tried to enjoy the letter-licking, I really did. And for a few licks, I almost started to enjoy it. Glue can have such a… gluey flavor, you know? Kind of sticky and… what is it… syrupy? “It’s actually kind of good!” Said I to me. “I can see why people don’t actually mind this viable deed!” Moi a moi, again. It was going splendiferously!

Yes, splendiferous indeed, until about the third or so envelope in. Then, my mouth started getting dry. I was playing the Rocky Theme Song in my head to bring some motivation into it. Duh duh duuuuuhhhhhhh, duh duh duuuuhhhhh. Okay, so I actually turned it on, whatever. I have no shame.

Seriously though, it was horrendous. My mouth was clamming up saying “NO NO NO PLEASE NO MORE.” I kept going until the very end, and I’ll spare you the gory details because it is really bringing up bad memories and a disappointment in the department of my own personal judgement (a department of mine which to this day has not yet failed me so miserably). To continue such an orally-offensive task goes against everything I believe in: Don’t put anything in your mouth if you don’t know where it came from. Which brought me to a slightly distracting, more Google-based task in finding out where envelope glue comes from. According to

“Assuming you are talking about the glue that needs moisture to seal the envelope. This type of glue is made from gum arabic, which is a product of the hardened sap from two different kinds of acacia tree, which can be found in west Africa and northwestern India. It is edible for humans and has E number E414. As well as being useful for sealing envelopes it is also a staple ingredient in certain sweets such as M&Ms, marshmallows and gumdrops. Non-edible applications also include the binding of watercolour paint and an important ingredient of shoe polish. Pretty useful stuff.
Author: Rik Sargent, Science Museum”


Firstly, that means we are importing this stuff in from around the world and consuming massive amounts of oil and other energy to bring up something we really don’t need in the first place… There’s the first no-no. Secondly, that right there is the reason I do not eat processed foods. Why is this ingredient which you definitely cannot usually find in a normal person’s kitchen cabinet in the manifestation of these things people consider snack-foods? There is really no good reason for this. Thirdly, anything that can also be used in such unnatural things as watercolor paints and plays such an active role in shoe polish of all things is no friend of my taste buds or tonsils.

Furthermore, I did a bit more research on what the heck E414 is, and according to, “high concentrations bring about flatulence and bloating, due to fermentation by the intestinal microflora (in the same way as all indigestible polysaccharides).” So that’s disgusting and again unnecessary.

So while maybe in some eyes, I couldn’t really find any concrete evidence against envelope glue, I will make the argument to say I honestly didn’t try that hard. Also, I think they’re not telling us the whole story. I don’t trust manufacturers of nearly anything, what can I say?

It took me nearly 20 minutes to lick eleven envelopes – I definitely could have gone with my trusted wet-paper-towel-method and used only one fifth of the time, tops. But I ignored all natural instincts and trudged and plowed through… I guess you can call me a real trooper.

The envelope glue completely dried my mouth out; nothing was remotely palpable and I could not even begin to express anything coherent until about 2 hours later, after I arrived back home POST-meeting. That was quite an uncomfortable meeting, let me tell you. I was a primary conversationalist during it, being as there were only two of us, and this seemed to cause a tad of a communication conundrum. (This was definitely not an underwear-type meeting, friends. I was eliciting advice from a graduate-student friend of mine. Sorry to disappoint…?)

It took two full glasses of water, an extra tall mug of tea (with honey, always with honey), and a slice of pizza with extra sauce to get that vile and monstrous flavor (can you even call it a flavor? Isn’t a ‘flavor’ supposed to be reminiscent of something to an extent pleasing or delightful? Let’s just call it an ‘essence)’ – semi-expunged from my oral cavity. It’s been nearly six hours since my last lick, and I still have residual glue in my esophagus and surrounding my tongue-region. I can’t seem to get rid of it. Needless to say, I do not have any future plans, immediate or extended – to ever, EVER lick an envelope again. The only positive part of this experience was that I did not, indeed procure a paper cut on my tongue.

In other news: I forgot to go back to CVS the other day. So much to do, so little time. They did however send me another 20% off coupon… so I will be sure to take advantage of that in the upcoming week.

In other other news: I found my Street Sense lady today! Carrying around a box full of change all week finally paid off! And my shoulders forgave me too! But really, I hope that it comes in handy and that she enjoyed the same warm and fuzzy feeling that I did – it’s so nice when people are nice!


A DandyLion Questioning Modern Society


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