Please stop acknowledging my bodily functions.
“Bless you” is a phrase so reflexively spoken upon hearing a sneeze that many of us forgot or don’t even know where it came from. It has obvious religious connotations but they’re archaic and no longer make any sense in our modern-day world. You don’t protect your friend from the devil when she coughs so please, let her sneeze in peace. Here are five reasons why “bless you” has to go.
1. The plague is no longer a thing. And thank God, sure, that we no longer live in a world where the pope (Gregory I in 600 AD, to be exact) is imposing on us the responsibility to bless one another to protect us from dying from the bubonic plague.
2. Religious political correctness. You never know who you’re trying to bless and not everyone’s going to be receptive of your random act of kindness. Atheists, for example, might respond to a “bless you” with a roll of the eyes. Someone of another faith may not appreciate your blessings if they perceive you to be of another (potentially opposing) set of beliefs.
Nobody likes to be interrupted – and that includes sneezing.
3. Does anyone really buy the devil/sneeze connection anymore? We’re not sure exactly how this one got started; but some attribute it to the middle ages. A “bless you” was uttered to protect you from the evil that a sneeze left you susceptible to. Similarly, sneezing was believed to be a means of expelling Satan from the soul so saying “bless you” was a way of keeping him out. I’m not convinced.
4. Nobody likes to be interrupted — and that includes sneezing. There are few things more frustrating than losing a sneeze and that’s exactly what happens when you’re faced with a premature “bless you.” And then, we’re expected to say “thank you” after the unwanted blessing, killing off any hope of a super-gratifying sneeze encore.
5. It’s an unnecessary expectation to put on others. In the absence of a “bless you,” an alternative could be for the sneezer to say “excuse me,” as one might with any other involuntary bodily function (ok, gas). That might take the onus off the sneeze witness and allow us all to carry on without worrying we’re committing a serious social faux pas. It makes more sense than “you’re so good looking,” and probably won’t end with a door slamming in your face like the one that closed on Jerry Seinfeld’s.