Breathe Right Nasal Strips

Philip Cosores

I think no one will love me because I snore.

That’s my 2019 excuse, at least. File next to stretch marks, credit card debt, childhood trauma, weight gain, and those four grey hairs right at the apex of my part that refuse to be tamed (working on a word for this). Snoring is the latest addition, reason number 53,791 to not look for anyone, rebuff those who try to prove me wrong, and resign myself to a too-fixed pattern of red wine and Netflix before bed. Personally, I wouldn’t even typify that last one as unhappy behavior; have any of my sexual partners produced a rush akin to the pleasure of clicking “Next episode” after a cliffhanger ending of Russian Doll while swirling cheap Cab Sauv in an Ikea tumbler?

I notice the snoring but do nothing, the only proper response to concerns I might have about my life.

If necessary, I can concoct reasons to avoid intimacy out of thin air, a pattern of self-sabotage so subtle even the disruptions feel like clockwork to me. It wouldn’t matter if I were an objectively flawless human (see above, not the case), I’d still find a reason and make it big enough to hide my heart behind it and stay there: cowering, but safe. At least I pretend it’s safe. Not letting anyone in doesn’t really prevent you from getting hurt — it just builds a false sense of security, like a goldfish swimming calmly in its tank, unaware the house is on fire.

To be human is to be hurt, and if that’s not enough, I know how to make it worse. Love, to me, is chaos, and partners who won’t tolerate my disruptions are dismissed as lacking. Trying to love me? Hard. Trying to let someone love me? Impossible. I can’t do it. My process helps me avoid getting too deep or too peaceful with another person. If things are excellent, I am very likely to leave, or twist things around until they are awful. (Are you just blowing up your life? my boss asked me when I told him I was leaving to start this magazine. Answer: Likely, but what else is there?)

The snoring really is getting bad, though.

Last year, a casual hookup complained that he barely slept (not in a hot way) after we went home from a bar together. I chalked it up to his innate rudeness and stopped seeing him. I guess I didn’t realize how intense the problem was until two weekend trips with a friend and I sharing a room resulted in that relationship ending. Losing people is nothing new when your fight or flight instinct is dialed all the way to flight, all the time (twice as intense if drunk), but this time she was the one who left, without even an attempt at hashing it out.

She taught me that some people are hardwired to avoid conflict the way I avoid intimacy — and provided a timely reminder that women can be just as shitty as men. So why not try dating again? This isn’t quite optimism, but they live next to each other.

After family trauma in my twenties became inexplicably connected in my head to a subsequent breakup, I began to associate relational intimacy with pain of a magnitude I barely survived. Acknowledging the behavior is more than half the battle, my old therapist used to tell me. But acknowledging it without action for years barely counts as a stalemate. Feeling unable to move forward or let anyone new in, I opted for one of my finest strategic moves: going backwards, baby. Maybe if I returned to a partner from before that big emotional rip, I’d do better; progress might start in the past.

Philip Cosores/Yoori Shin
Philip Cosores/Yoori Shin

Philip Cosores/Yoori Shin

Philip Cosores

On this recent spur of the moment trip to visit the most unavailable but kind man in my repertoire, I packed in a rush, forgetting to bring my attempt at a solution, a box of delicate, lavender-scented Breathe Right strips (I know, but the smell helps me feel more feminine and less fucked up). After I arrived, I coaxed him to take me to a nearby CVS and chose a green box of plastic Extra Strength strips — I really didn’t want this particular partner to be disturbed. But even the strongest strips were no match for my snoring. Not that it mattered. He valiantly held me until I fell asleep, then headed to the couch each night. Full marks.

I mean, I finally stopped fucking rude guys who don’t put my needs first (which, for the record, means I almost never have sex), but this one has always been selfless. A protector. He compared the snoring to a baby lion, effectively turning my weakness into something bordering on cute. Theory squashed, I’m totally lovable. If only it were that easy.

Snore strips and condoms have more in common than you might think, by the way. Both come with useless, loud packaging that usually makes its way into the sheets over the course of the night. Both contain an inner, sticky device that’s supposed to prevent great disaster and protect nightly intimacy between two people. Both are small, unobtrusive, easy to pack, and a pain in the ass if you’ve forgotten them.

In defense of these three anecdotal figures tasked with sleeping near me, the snoring problem is much worse than your average, run-of-the mill loud breathing. It does feel lion-sized. And it seems unlikely that snore strips alone are going to solve it. Based on my own Googling and internal, totally un-fact-checked research, I have diagnosed myself with sleep apnea. From weight gain, probably. And the too-many glasses of red wine right before bed, which, sources say, is likely “self-medication for profound loneliness.” Thus the cycle continues.

So, I’m tracking my sleep with an app now, and using the strips. Fractional changes. A real paradigm shift is going to have to wait a little longer, as the solutions are “drink less” and “lose weight,” both of which have been on my to do list since at least 2015. Good luck with that, we’re heading into an election year.

Still, meeting with a loving reaction to my pet shame shook loose more than I thought it would. Not that I behaved that way. I fought with my heroic couch-sleeper every day of our weekend together, finding something wrong with any compromise or making impossible demands until even his patience broke. When you’re not happy, nobody’s happy, he accused. You won’t even let me love you. The charge stuck. Further research shows crying yourself to sleep does not help mitigate snoring. Neither does sex, but that one does help with the tears, and I allow myself to accept the love, even though we both know it’s temporary.

When he fell asleep I put on Fleabag and watched a fellow fucked up, broken woman decide to be achingly vulnerable. She says I love you, even as the man who inspired the feeling walks away. No power games. No sarcasm. No pushing him away. But it doesn’t feel bad! It’s one of the only moments of pure joy we witness her feel.

The point isn’t really the snoring. Or that the strips only work some of the time. (They do lessen the snoring, that I can guarantee 100%.) The point isn’t even being loved by someone else. The point is that even attempting to take care of myself, to admit a problem and make an effort to fix it, no matter how small, is progress.

Denial, particularly when it comes to health, has been the de facto prescription in my family for generations now. It’s big and little things, from high blood pressure to severe depression, suicidal ideation to getting a cavity filled. I guess we could count snoring as a little thing here, given the competition.

On the plane home I started writing down things I love about you, as a rubric for what to look for in new men. Selfless. Kind. Huge dick. Patient. Then I stopped, and I started writing things I love about myself instead. Snores like a lion. Progress. Fractional.

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