Start with a waiver, end with your photo on the wall...

105053-1357929-thumbnail.jpgSo are you also prone to talking yourself into loooooooooodicrous stuff just to see if you can do it? Or is that just me? As a result of one such bright idea, I'm sitting here actually frightened to take out my contact lenses tonight.

Perhaps a little back story is in order.

It all started when I reconnected with a friend I've known since the late nineties, after we'd lost touch for a long time. E and I hadn't seen each other in 4 or 5 years, I'd imagine, but once we "found" each other again, things moved along remarkably like old times. And by "old times" I mean there's a little routine in the social schedule. The players have varied somewhat over the in-between years, but just like the days when we used to meet weekly for Mexican food on one particular night or for all-you-can-eat pancakes on another, the current circle meets regularly for meals now, too. Only now one of the traditions is Wednesday night wings.

It's at the Wednesday night wings place where this whole challenge business got started. My first night there, I noticed a segment of the wall in the entryway that's dedicated to a whole host of Polaroid pictures that have clearly been taken of people who are in varying stages of distress. These stars of the photo wall? They've eaten what's known as the Insanity Wing, and been rewarded by getting their picture on the wall. (That, plus they get to write really long stories about it in their blogs!)

My first night out with this crowd, I was told all about those at the table who had, indeed, partaken in said challenge. Seems the wings are so hot you order them one at a time. Oh, and one more thing. You Have To Sign A Waiver. Yea...right. (That was then.) My response when I was asked if I had any interest was drawn from a recollection from my sister's pregnancy days when she was explaining how she would, in fact, be taking all drugs that were offered up to her. So said sis: "I'm not trying to be a hero."

Over time, though, I noticed it was always the guys talking about it, and for the most part it's also guys who have their photos on the wall. "Maybe one day!" I started to say, thinking..."Well, it could happen!" Certainly never, however, giving that much thought to this alleged futuristic event.

Then there was tonight.

After all these years I finally got to meet E's sis, her hubby and sons, who moved to this area from LA during the time he and I had lost each other. (Sis Looks Just Like Their Mom, by the way. Seriously!) So hubby was sitting next to me, and as is usual and customary, someone asked him if he was gonna' order one of those Insanity Wings. He recalled that one of the friends who would be arriving any moment had actually accepted the challenge and chances are he would...if a challenge were thrown down. "I can't back down from that!" he said. And I started thinking..."What am I waiting for?"

So I found myself suggesting, "Let's do it together!" Thinking, why not have a buddy? Of course, his response was, "Oh great. If a girl's gonna' do it, now I have no choice!" (Ya'll know girls really like that, right? Being held up to a lower standard because of our gender? I mean, I know it's how our society works and all, and it's not necessarily your fault. I'm just sayin...)

And then I found myself pushing onward. Asking the two guys at the table what it was like. Quizzing them with detailed questions, trying to prepare myself appropriately, delusionally thinking I might actually be able to prepare myself for such an adventure. Listening intently to their answers. Loving the idea that I'd already talked myself into this, now it was only a matter of time...Asking the server. Ordering the wing. Picking up the clipboard and actually reading the waiver I'd known I was going to have to sign.

Um. Uh oh.

Seems there's something in the recipe that could burn me internally. I can't remember the wording now - it's all a bit of a blur, and I'm not even exaggerating - but there was a part about how something I was about to eat Is One Thousand Times Hotter Than A Jalapeno Pepper. Yea, smart what? You're waaay past backing out now!

So yea, I did it. The ugly little wings came (really, they were horribly ugly, sitting in their little paper trays, one for each of us, all red with these specks of spices all over them and this excruciatingly red powder all coated along the outside.) The camera phones and video phones came out. The chick with the Polaroid camera positioned herself across the table, behind my friends. Then I noticed my new pal to my right? The one who signed the waiver before me? He was eating his wing. Already. No, not much of a choice, at all, turns out. So I put the thing into my mouth.

The biggest surprise, I think, came when I started shaking. My hands were thoroughly trembling the whole time I was eating this culinary bomb. Strange. E said it was probably the adrenaline. What else would it be? I stayed eerily calm...trying to anticipate what would come next. Could I handle it? When would the burn come? How bad would it be?

It was bad. My eyes watered, the trembling got worse, my mouth and throat burned, and my lips. OH my lips actually hurt. A lot. And E's girlfriend across the table, Dear Love Of My Life, started handing me chips dipped in great gobs of ranch dressing. To help cut the burn. And it helped, too.

People who know me well are familiar with the fact that my neck and chest are prone to turning pink during high-stress situations. No surprises, then, when someone said, "Your neck!" But then someone said, "It's purple!" I have never seen my body react so severely. It must have taken a half hour, easily, before my color returned from this intense shade of red to a more normal color. My eyes are still a little red. My lips are swollen and bright. I'm dying to take out these contacts. But I don't dare. Not yet. I've only washed my hands 5 times, and by my estimation? I've got at least 10 more washings to go before I'll even think of risking it.

The Polaroid shot - which I captured with my camera phone - was taken about 20-30 seconds after I'd eaten. We were told this is when the heat really kicks in. We were told correctly.

By the way? Yes, I'm totally glad I did it. No I won't do it again. But unless something freakish and unexpected happens inside my body that I have yet to know about? I don't regret it one bit...