The WCOID – Day 5, On Tangents

0034 nmbr 5The Writing Challenge of Indeterminate Duration – Day 5
What is public and what is private? What should be public and what should be private? What do public and private mean today?

I only had to skip over one topic today to land on one that felt doable … and I did it because I care about each and every one of you. The prompt that I gave a pass to was describe your day, hour by hour, and I figured you’ve got better things to do than sit around reading a list of Law & Order episodes.

I chose the public and private topic because it seemed more relatable. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that much of the distinction between what should be public or private comes down to the audience and the reaction you’re hoping to elicit (or avoid). If I’m going for a laugh, I may say things that are somewhat mortifying. There’s something about the combination of “I can’t believe you just said that!” and “I do the exact same thing!” that is familiar to most people.

It’s similar to discovering that the milk smells like sour cream and bleu cheese, marinating in a crusty sweat sock, and our first reaction is to say to someone, “Smell this … it is so gross!” We’re driven to include others in unpleasant things, but I don’t think we do it to celebrate all things repulsive, like dogs do by jumping in your lap after rolling around on a dead gopher they discovered decomposing on the lawn; or the way cats will wake you up by gently setting an eviscerated, but still twitching, bird on your pillow.

Our pets are essentially saying, “This is so awesome, I just have to share it with you because I love you that much!” When we do it, I think it’s more about not wanting to be different … regardless of how hard we try to convince ourselves and others that we’re as rare and unique as a snowflake in a sauna. When it’s regarding something positive, sharing it is more likely to be an attempt to prove how special we are — You can’t like Uncle Bonsai! I like Uncle Bonsai! And I’m the one with eclectic and eccentric taste in music! But when it comes to the weird and embarrassing, the first thing we want to do is make sure we’re not the only ones who do it … There have to be other people who save their toenail clipping in an old Sucrets tin, right? It’s normal to do that, isn’t it?

Whether it’s saving toenails or hair or scabs, knowing that you’re not alone in your little hobby can lessen the shame associated with it. You should still feel some shame about the toenail thing, though, because it is disturbing. And if it’s something other people might use against you, owning it goes a long way toward taking it’s power away. As Rebel Wilson demonstrated so well in Pitch Perfect.

I find it curious … no, queer! I find it queer! It’s fun to use queer to mean odd or unusual, as though you have no idea that it might mean anything else. It also seems to cause a low level of discomfort in some people, just like saying vagina or scrotum does.

I do it as my own little personal protest against the use of “gay” to mean lame or stupid. It’s subtle, but it’s better than when I tried to make a point by calling lame things “straight.” I sounded like I got advice from a mom in in a 1970s After School Special — ”If they keep bothering you honey, you just turn right around and say, sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

If I wrote the After School Special, the next scene would be in a hospital with our hero covered head to toe in bandages. When the mom asks what happened, the kid would reply, “Sticks and stones, Mom! They beat me with fucking sticks and stones!!”

As some of you are aware, I suffer from Adult Tangential Tendency (ATT) Disorder, which is similar to ADD. According to my doctor, the primary differences between them are that ATT is something I “invented” and it “does not require a prescription for Ritalin.”

It seems I had an episode while writing this, because I’m about 700 words in and have hardly touched the topic. Typically, I’d be annoyed and frustrated, but in this instance, it seems like a good thing. It tells me my brain might be waking up and getting back to to its old tricks.

I’ll try to settle down and be more focused tomorrow, but for now I’m just going to sit back and enjoy it.


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