One day, when I was a wee child of middle-school age, I was at a summer camp whose purpose was to educate young women about the wonders of science and technology. While we were eating our lunches, a girl in the camp showed everyone how she could wiggle her ears, the other girls looking on in awe, and naturally I was consumed, body and soul, with jealousy. I feigned an air of cold disinterest as she told us how she had developed this skill. It was, she said, because she kept raising her eyebrows and moving her face that she was gradually able to move her ears at will. I pondered this, and resolved to raise my eyebrows until I was able to wiggle my ears.
What the girl didn’t tell us was that she had to raise her eyebrows for a long time. I had to keep raising my eyebrows sporadically from then until some point in the ninth grade. If you ever thought I was trying, very awkwardly, to flirt with you, I’m so sorry. I imagine that me silently and repeatedly raising my eyebrows at you would be very frightening.
But one day, on the bus home from a track meet, as I was dutifully raising my eyebrows, I felt a twinge in my ear. I could finally wiggle my ears, and I was released from my very own miniature eyebrow-raising hell. I can still wiggle my ears today, although, as I quickly learned, there are drawbacks to being able to wiggle one’s ears.
First of all, ear-wiggling accomplishes nothing useful at all. It is probably for this reason that it has since become vestigial in humans. Really, how could it ever help you in any way? What does it do? The only pro I can think of is that it could be used as some sort of new-age wrinkle-reducing treatment, because it stretches back the skin on your forehead. And second of all, whenever I hear a loud noise or someone comes up behind me, my ears prick up like a cat’s, and it’s very annoying.
This last part is, I believe, due to the evolution of the ear-wiggling muscle. While animals like cats do need to prick up their ears, it would be idiotic for a person to try and hear a given sound better by twitching the flattish mass that is glued firmly to the side of their head. However, those muscles are still there, even if they tend not to work when we’re born; they’re a vestigial feature. The muscles can be awakened (in my case, by repeated eyebrow movement), and then you can wiggle your ears. So, if you wanted to spend your time in isolation doing something absolutely ridiculous, here you go.