Squealing and Snorting and Growing Up

The sillies are uncontrollable. No matter the trigger, they induce tearful fits of laughter lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to over an hour.

The sillies are uncontrollable. No matter the trigger, they induce tearful fits of laughter lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to over an hour.The sillies and I knew each other very well when I was little. As I thrashed around on the carpet squealing and snorting, my mom would exclaim, “Somebody’s got the sillies!” It was usually me.

In elementary school, my best friend and I often fell into the sillies together. Thinking about the name of the basketball team we created, The Weasel Kings, our gigglescreams would damn us to separation. The administration was in conspiracy against us. In fourth grade, I attempted to switch into her class and they switched her out. When I switched back into my original class, they moved her back into hers. After that, we were never allowed to be in the same class, to be partners in P.E., or to sit next to each other at lunch.

The sillies were serious. For the latter half of my gold-starred career at Indian Paintbrush Elementary School, we were forced to sit in assigned seats during lunch and condemned the entire class with us. When we were in the fourth grade, fifth and sixth graders could choose their seats. When we entered fifth, that privilege applied to fourth and sixth. And when we were finally sixth graders—kings of the castle, finally we could choose—the fourth and fifth graders were given that luxury. Conspiracy.

And maybe it was for good reason. Even then, despite our best intentions—we would often sit back-to-back while drinking and eating, avoiding eye contact—there wasn’t a lunch where food didn’t get spit across the table or milk didn’t spray out of our noses.

In first grade, on the one hundredth day of school, that same best friend and I weren’t allowed to participate in the festivities because we kept interrupting the “100 Days of School” song with fits of laughter. Instead of celebrating, we served our punishment, sitting in the back of the classroom with our heads down on desks. Meanwhile our classmates sang and danced around us. They also made those awesome “100” glasses where you could see through the zeros. It ended up being okay, though, because the only treat they got was candy corn, and I’m pretty sure everyone hates candy corn.

What causes the sillies? It could be anything. The most memorable thing about the sillies is how unmemorable the cause is. It just happens. There’s no thought behind it, no judgments, no witty observations, and definitely no puns.

It starts in the corners of the lips. You breathe in and the feeling overwhelms your chest—you’ve gotten in trouble for this so many times. Your lips squish together trying to keep it inside. Your exhale carries a strained high-pitched whimper to the edge of your teeth, but you suck it back in before it can escape. There’s a bubble in your throat, it’s growing bigger, it’s going to burst, you need to breath, it needs to burst.

The sillies brought me down on my back, left me crying endlessly, and strangled away my breath. They gave me a silent laugh and killer abs. But my laugh is getting louder and my stomach is getting paunchy.

I’m starting to outgrow the sillies, but it’s not me, it’s definitely them. There comes a time, and I feel like a real grownup saying this, when it’s no longer appropriate to spit yogurt out onto your friend’s face. My laughter, once a garbled mess of unprovoked shakes and tears, is becoming refined. It can still be uncontrollable, but now it’s appreciative. It says, “What happened just now, I enjoyed it. Let’s do it again.”

I feel childish even saying the word “sillies” now—it would be even more childish to still have them. People tell me that I’m almost 22 years old. I guess that means it’s nearly time for me to lose the glow-in-the-dark onesie, settle down, buy a pantsuit, and get really into holiday decorating.

I’ll miss the sillies. I’ll miss that having the sillies is so much different than being ridiculous or being absurd.

This summer I made a short list of the things that help bring back some of those feelings:

Dogs sitting in the driver’s seat in parked cars

Little boys in suits

Extreme dance fighting

Animals in people clothes

Babies in animal clothes

Bowl cuts


While I don’t always remember how they started—childhood memories are starting to blur—I do remember that after all my fits, I would get extremely tired. My mom would scoop me up from wherever I happened to pass out and lay me in my bed. She would stay there until the sillies completely passed, rubbing my back until I fell asleep.

On occasion, after sleepless nights, the sillies and I meet up again. At 4:00 a.m. in my common room, I make my Macy Gray impression, and my roommate, Francis, and I squeal. Knowing it’s a mistake, though—an accidental run-in—the sillies and I part ways. I get up to finish yet another problem set. And when they finally leave for good, I’ll keep telling myself it’s not me, it’s them.

—Parul Agarwal ’13 is a government concentrator in Adams House. She hasn't had milk come out of her nose in over 10 years.