I’m writing this from an “eating bar” at gate A22, Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. Because I have a three hour layover, I sat down with my KFC popcorn chicken, an almond pretzel, and a diet Pepsi (airports are like carnivals to me—the diet flies right out the window and I eat everything I never eat at home)—and two men sat down on the other side of the eating bar, one to my left and one to my right.
Not wanting to be rude, I averted my eyes from their food and glanced to my far right, where a man was spitting into a garbage can. Yes, spitting.  All I could think of was the poor person who had to empty that trash can. Yuck.  I looked away quickly, having a personal aversion to spit and spittoon jokes, and then I couldn’t help but wonder—why do men spit all the time?
My father used to spit—he’d make this unique and gigantic sound that must have alerted all the other men within miles that he was about to launch a champion loogie, and then he’d crank down his car window and let it fly. In the back seat behind him, I’d duck from sheer reflex.
I remember thinking it was too bad when Dad finally got a car with power windows. Somehow that smooth gliding glass didn’t have the same anticipatory effect that his muscular cranking of the window did.
And when you speak of spitting, how can you help but think of baseball?  I know it’s tradition because baseball players used to chew tobacco and spit out the, er, juice, but since tobacco in any form can cause cancer, most of the players have now switched to pistachio nuts (which have shells which require spitting) or bubble gum, but why anyone would want to spit out that juicy sugariness, I cannot imagine. 
Anyway, I was sitting in the airport (still am, actually) meditating upon the male spitting ritual, so with no warning whatsoever fear I asked the two men across from me:  “Why do men spit?”
Each of them looked at me with actual fear in their eyes. What, don’t strange women ever speak to them in the airport, or were they terrified because I had broken through the personal space bubble that’s supposed to protect people from nearby strangers?
The man to my left ignored me completely, quietly turning his body and moving his food out of cootie range.  The man to my right was more good natured, and quickly responded:  “Habit,” he said. A moment later he amended his answer:  “Habit and Copenhagen.”
I nodded—that I understood.  I mentioned something about my dad’s spitting, and the baseball players and their pistachio shells, but he didn’t say another word.  He just looked away and kept munching on his McDonalds burger and fries. 
As for me, in this situation, at least, I am happy to remain united with the league of Women Who Do Not Spit. Like them, when I feel something in my throat, I do not feel the urge to examine it, study it, measure it, or see how far I can fling it into public space.  If it’s the result of a cough, I quietly swallow.  If it’s part of the bay leaf I purposely put into the stew, I lift my napkin and gently deposit it among those pristine folds.

But I do not spit.  And since I am now eating alone at this bar at Gate A22 at DFW, maybe I should refrain from bringing up the subject. 



  1. Judy

    Dear Angie,
    Thank you for this…from the title I knew I was in for laughter…oh, sister how we need it to stay healthy! Some days more than others!
    God bless you and keep writing…love your books!

  2. strikefast2002

    As soon as I am outside; walking my dog, biking, fly-fishing I spit and I like it. Having a wife and four daughters your question of “Why Do Men Spit” has been raised many times. I have pondered it often and am still left with only theories. One of which is that boys grow up outside playing, running, biking, sporting hard and long. All that extended exercise makes for all kinds of oral thicknesses that we would rather spit than swallow. In some ways that seems to be the more rational and less gross thing to do. Clearly, walking the dog or fly-fishing is not causing phlegm so why do I as an adult continue to spit? Habit?

    My daughter runs cross country and track in college and always spits at the end of races and work outs. Since she runs everyday she been spitting regularly for a long time and she spits like a girl. I have never seen a girl spit with any kind of real grace.

    Bill Jensen

  3. Angela

    Dear Strikefast-with-a-habit:

    The stomach is filled with germ-killing acids, you know, and they can quickly and quietly take care of anything you might swallow, including gnats, dust, and anything produced by your own body. Yet men obviously think it is less distasteful to spit than to simply swallow and let the body take care of the problem. Hmm. I am grateful that you took the time to share your thoughts, but I think the truth is found in your first line: I spat and a liked it. 🙂

    Heaven help us if women start spitting, too. We might all have to wear rubber-soled shoes.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Still in the airport,

  4. Angela

    Ah! Now I see the name, Bill Jensen. And Judy, thank you for your kind comment and your laughter. Much appreciated.


  5. Linda Gordon

    This post brings back memories of my dad and grandfather, both chewed chewing tobacco. Once when I was very young I was riding with my dad in his pickup. I was eating dry cereal out of the box. When my dad rolled down the window to spit I decide to be like my daddy and spit cereal all over him. Let’s just say that broke him of his habit for awhile.

  6. Kristin

    I have wondered this before! I teach middle-school and I have noticed that a lot of boys spit without thinking twice about it. And then, I have noticed that most grown men spit, as well. I think you SHOULD keep asking and help us find out why! I want to know!

    p.s. I also recognized DFW airport. I read “airport” then looked at the picture and thought DFW and I was right! (I don’t live there, just catch connecting flights there sometimes).

  7. Kristin

    Sorry for the double post. 🙁 It won’t let me delete it…

  8. Anonymous

    I must confess–I am a former ‘spitter.’ Imitating my older brother, whom I adored, I learned to place a loogie just about anywhere I desired (I also learned to throw a knife.) Watermelon seeds were usually my choice of projectile though (and I NEVER NEVER spit indoors, that just wasn’t polite!) Oh, wait, sometimes I still do spit my gum out the car window. Old habits.

    Ms. Sandy from Navasota

  9. Mocha with Linda

    I’m not sure which is funnier – your reflections on spitting or the men’s reaction in the airport?! LOL

    I’m just glad we’ve gotten past the days of the old spittoons in the parlor. Ewwww.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the watermelon seed spitting contests!

  10. Cindy

    Before I had gastric bypass surgery, I didn’t know how to spit! Now it’s another story. Because my pouch(what’s left of my stomach) is so small all it takes is one little bit too many and we get what is called the foamies. Well, they don’t go down because of the food in my pouch so I have to spit it out. I have now spit at stop signs, red lights, had hubby pull over to the side of the road and in the trashcan. Doesn’t happen often but enough in the past 4 1/2 years to teach me how to spit! lol

  11. Kay Day

    Once I was in a restaurant and a man walked by and spit on the floor right next to my chair! What in the world?!!

    I spit occasionally, but not loogies. If I’m outside and I get dirt or a bug in my mouth I’ll sputter and it is totally lacking in grace as Bill said. And I do enjoy spitting out watermelon seeds just for fun. Or gum. But I’m no good at it at all.

    When I was young there was a sweet little old lady in our church who could hack up a loogy and spit to compete with any man.

    P.S. My husband informs me that a woman speaking to a male stranger is interpreted as flirting. Regardless of topic or situation. Perhaps those men were just protecting their marriages. 😀

  12. Angela

    Flirting? Excuse me while I stop laughing. What part of “Why do men spit?” sounds like flirting?

    Shaking head–and wondering at the presumptions of the male psyche–


  13. Kay Day

    The topic came up because I asked a guy at the gym if he knew how to use an exercise machine. He looked really panicked and started talking about his wife.
    That’s when my husband and his friend explained.
    Another time I apologized to a guy for running into him with my shopping cart and he started talking about his girlfriend.

    Oh brother.

  14. Angela

    Oh brother is right. I don’t know whether to consider those guys clueless or intrinsically self-absorbed. Or maybe it’s because they think about women so much, they assume we MUST think about nothing but men . . . frankly, we don’t have time! LOL!


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