Ever felt repulsed by the person you’re supposed to be attracted to? Rhik Samadder explains the history of the ‘ick’ – a romantic gut reaction – and what to do when it strikes. Plus, below, Philippa Perry on its psychological meaning
This is the summer of the ick. An ick is a point at which your initial attraction to a person flips into a feeling of disgust. The causes are many and various, but once someone gives you the ick, all desire is killed. You only want to get away. You cannot ignore an ick, despite your better judgment. It is an unconscious gut reaction, picking up on a cellular incompatibility, by which I don’t mean they have an Android phone.
I felt a chill of recognition when I first heard the phrase. I immediately related it to my friends, who had all been using it for ages. One of them told me she got the ick off a boy who didn’t use pillowcases. Another from one who wore a lime green shirt. Another friend – for the sake of privacy we’ll call her Icarus – has experienced it many times, including once at the Prado in Madrid with her then-boyfriend. “We were looking at a painting of a fat little Bacchanalian nymph baby. I realised it was the spitting image of him,” she says. “We broke up shortly after, but I couldn’t tell him why.”