Monday, May 18, 2009

If that doesn't work, you could always scream into a pillow

I’m kind of annoyed. Well, pretty annoyed, I get that way sometimes. Don't be alarmed.

I was irritated about something last week and then I noticed everyone else writing about it, so I decided to let greater minds than mine hash it out, besides, I’m easily annoyed, it’s not like I wouldn’t have something else to complain about soon, but it kept coming up over and over in different situations, not the original irritant, but similar ones, like a theme, or a plague, that’s when I knew I just couldn’t keep quiet; I was going to have to write about not only that first thing that was bugging me, but a whole lot more.

What? Oh, you wanna know why I’m annoyed?

Here’s the thing, I like reading about other people’s lives. I like to watch them on TV, and give me some neighborhood drama and I can analyze it like nobody’s business. Can I get an "Amen!"?

I’m not the only one. Writing your life story is big business. It doesn’t even have to be interesting or inspiring half the time, I mean, Paris Hilton “wrote” a book. Please. Gossip magazines and websites are huge. Everyone wants to know who’s eating what, wearing what, and falling down drunk. We love to read about tragic childhoods and bad marriages. “Reality” television is smoking hot, we don’t even care what they’re doing, some of us will happily watch puppies nap. Seriously, if push came to shove, you could twist my arm into watching a whole lot more than I already do, and I don’t even have cable. We’re voyeurs (I know, I know..... speak for myself), it’s fun to think about someone else’s problems or judge their choices; it’s a comfort to know that there are other weirdos in the world making the same mistakes or bigger mistakes than we are. Why not escape into someone else’s mess for a while?

A few days ago I read an excerpt from Elizabeth Edwards' new book Resilience. She writes about her husband’s affair and her cancer, she also writes about how she and her cheating man are making their way through the whole mess one day at a time, and about how in the mist of it all she couldn’t stop wishing she could have her old life back, the one she was living before her husband betrayed her. It’s really pretty sad. As I read it, I couldn’t help wondering why anyone would want to take that part of themselves to Oprah if they didn’t have to.

Then I read that Sarah Palin is planning to co-author her story. She's such a giver. Oh, and you can’t even buy a pack of gum at Circle K without seeing Jon and Kate and their sad tale. But when the mother of my son’s friend went into detail about her court ordered anger management classes and the events leading up to that court order….IN FRONT OF MY SON!!! I was shocked that this sense of "openess" had reached every corner of my life.

How about just a tiny bit of discretion? Is that seriously too much to ask? The fact that people want to watch your train crash is not a good enough reason to let them. They'll find something else to do, I promise.

The reoccurring thread in all of these stories is that, from what I can tell, none of these people seem to have any regard for their children. I can’t imagine what it would have been like as a teenager if my mother had written her memoirs. The shame and embarrassment of everyone in the world knowing our family’s secrets would probably have done me in.

I can absolutely understand Elizabeth Edwards hurt and anger. I can absolutely understand her desire to tell her side of the story, but when she does it like this she fuels a fire and a perception about her kids’ dad that they have to face when they go out in public. They’re just kids, kids who probably like their dad a whole lot and they should, that’s how it ought to be, no matter what I think of him. Because it’s really none of my business. Really.

Look, I can’t stop anyone from writing about their life; I can even understand why they would want to. I write, I know how therapeutic it can be just to get things on paper (or a screen, or whatever) and release them. I share things here with people I don’t know and they are free to judge me or to use my shortcomings to make themselves feel better. By all means, have at it, but you should know, there’s a whole lot more that I’m not sharing. Which technically means you should feel really good about yourselves, because the dirt in my closet is dirty. And private. Yep, it’s my dirt and even if I didn’t mind all of you knowing what a loser I am in real life I still wouldn’t tell you, because my dirt is all mixed up in a pile of dirt that belongs to my husband or my kids or other people I care about and like it or not when I tell people my deep dark secrets it’s not only me that they know something about.

So, here’s the deal, if you are a single gal who looks great in a bikini and you want to sign yourself up for the MTV spring break house, go for it. If you are a dragon slayer who would like your moment in the survivor sun, please, go, have a great time. If you want to write a book about a horrible time in your life, turn it into fiction, let the wise guys try to figure out what’s real and what’s not. But please, please, please, if you just want some extra attention find a shrink.

And I ain’t talkin’ about Dr. Phil.


Homer and Queen said...

I 100% agree with you! We all have our dirt, well no spicy dirt here, more tragic dirt I'd say, I guess I really don't want people judging me too harshly unless they have walked in my shoes! Being cynical and snotty keeps me from crying so people...feel free to judge me for that! You are a great writer, wish I had your talent!

Becky said...

I agree. Sometimes, people simply share too much. I was reading a blog just the other day about a woman who had been abused as a child and some of the details left me a little disturbed. I think it was an anonymous blog, but I got the feeling that this was more of a pay-attention-and-feel-sorry-for-me sort of thing rather than a healing process. I dunno. To each their own, I guess. I just don't need to know about it all.

Heidi Ashworth said...

Hmmm, much food for thought in this post. . . don't all bloggists just want extra attention?

wesley's mom (sue) said...

Homer and Queen-Everyone deals in their own way. I make fun of everything. Sarcasm keeps me from crying.

Becky-I agree. I just don't need to know all of the gritty details.

Heidi-I think everyone wants attention, our levels of need are just different, but when people air their "dirty laundry", for lack of a better word, at the expense of someone else it crosses a line. This is not to say that I have never been guilty of oversharing, and plenty of times I have gotten caught up in the drama of someone else's life, I'm just bugged by the way some people feel okay about giving up all the details, especially when children are involved.

Karen said...

I believe the children are our future.
Teach them well and let them lead the way!
Show them all the beauty they possess inside.
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be.

Cheryle said...

Sue, this is one of the most right-on posts I've seen in a long time. I think it's sad that people feel like they need the world on "their side," and perhaps even sadder that so many of us are willing to sit gape-mouthed muttering "Oh my God! Did you read THAT?"

Life used to be private. For the sake of the innocent, it still should be. Thanks a lot for this post.