Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Essay on Shame #18

This weekend I sat on a backstairs porch on a hot summer night with two people I like a lot, two people I don't know very well but like fine, and one person I adore (James), who made one great joke but otherwise didn't talk much in the conversation I'm about to respond to. Everybody else joked about incest, told stories about shitting in plastic bags, offered to shit on each other's chests and disapproved vehemently and profanely of things I needed explained. I couldn't always tell whether they were being sarcastic or serious (one of the two I like a lot has the best line in deadpans of anyone I've ever met). I got increasingly uncomfortable and squirmy and eventually went inside to go to sleep.

All four of the talking people are anti-status-quo in a wide range of ways, most of which I admire, and I bring this up because the shame I was feeling was partly status-quo shame, societal shame -- "People don't talk about that stuff!" even though of course they do and anyway, if something really is harmful, it's not talking about it that makes it so. It was also partly my high school shame, which comes from the fear of being insufficient, revealed as inadequate, and which is the source of a good 40% of the lies I have told in my life. As of this moment, I vow to say at least 40% more often: "I don't know what that is. Tell me about it."

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