When I was little, there were several games I used to play with my friends on the school playground that resulted in an ASMR experience for me. One was the old “cracking an egg on your head” in which a friend would fold their hands together and gently tap on the top of your head until they “broke” their hands apart and let the “goo” from their “egg” ooze down your hair and neck onto your shoulders. Like the Alphabet Game (which I often talk about) it helps if the person you are partnered with is exceptionally good at this game and is neither too hard nor too soft with their actions. (If they give you a bonus ooze, it was even better!) There was also “Circle, circle, dot, dot, now you have your cootie shot” and “plowing the garden” (Again, requires a soft touch in order to achieve the right result)
I could also achieve ASMR tingles when playing “Heads Up, Seven Up.” Now, I don’t know why this effected me this way but it was the moment of anticipation that tended to lull me into a state of bliss. My head would be down, my eyes closed and I would hear footsteps coming toward me not knowing if the person would actually tap my head or not. If I was lucky, the “tapper” would be a girl who would do it so gently I would barely feel it. Boys tended to take the opportunity to smack you up side the head.
However the one game that stands out to me the most, is the one I remember the least. Similar to the Alphabet Game, it involved a lot of back play and a rhyme that I have learned has a number of variations depending on where you lived or how you learned it. Some kids incorporated the egg cracking into this one but for my crew, that was a whole separate thing. The parts I remember the most involved drawing an X on the back, a question mark, maybe an exclamation point (but I can’t be sure), there was something about a knife in the back, during which your partner pretended to stab you gently and then raked their hands down your back saying “blood, blood” then they finished the whole thing by blowing on your back while saying “a cool breeze” and then pinching along your spine while intoning “to make you freeze.”
Now understand, I grew up thinking everyone experienced this wacky little feeling we now know as ASMR and its because of rhymes like this that I did. The person’s partner seems to know the reaction that the person will have when the rhyme is over, so it never occurred to me that it may work on some people and not on others. Our of idle curiosity, I googled the words I could remember just to see if anyone outside of my enclave had ever played this game before.
I was amazed.
I was led to an ASMR subreddit in which people typed their variations on the lyrics and the accompanying actions. Many of them said that this was one of their first ASMR experiences. Considering it had been 36 years since I had played this game, it brought to mind several questions:
1. Who wrote the original rhyme?
2. How did they know what the end result would be?
3. Is this even more of an indication that people have known about ASMR-like experiences for far longer than we think?
4. If so, how did they explain it?
I would discover that finding the lyrics to the rhyme was far easier than finding the poet behind them, but I did learn that this finger play could be used to calm temper tantrums according to one educational website. It also brings up the long running debate between ASMR and Frisson. Personally, I don’t understand what all of the fuss is about. Both a shiver and the tingles associated with ASMR (and goosebumps for that matter) are biofeedback responses that occur in much the same way. As someone who experiences ASMR and frisson and goosebumps, I can attest to the fact that I can achieve all three at the same time, any of them by themselves or a combination thereof. I become very sad when I see people bash those who ask about shivers and tell them that it is not ASMR they experience. Well….how do they know that for sure? After all, our triggers vary, who is to say that the way in which we recognize it does not vary as well?
Many of my friends from “back in the day” will say that they do not experience ASMR, but if you bring up these various playground games, it’s amazing how they not only know what you are talking about, but also the feeling they experienced as well. Now, I’m not suggesting that we are all tingle heads, but I think kids are way more in tune with their ASMR than adults will ever be. Some of us just hang on to it longer than others.