If you laugh a little too hard at Christopher Titus jokes (especially Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding), you are My People.
That’s kind of been my benchmark for years.
If it’s not been made clear, I come from a rather messed up background. I’m not going to regale you with my “f**ked-uppedness cred” – because that’s rather beside the point. And really – I am tired of hearing the same story at the beginning of every “rags to riches” or “success story” by a given author. Every. Single. Time. “Look, I overcame this!” and “Look, I overcame that!” Maybe the first speech or book or radio show you hear them do, you say, wow. But then if you like what they have to say and you want to hear more… you have to hear that same story twenty million times. By about the fifth or fifteenth time, you’re feeling rather pitiless, like, “Yeah, I know, you were homeless and living in your car, or addicted to drugs, or an alcoholic, or Mommy didn’t love you, blah, blah, blah… I know! Get on with it!”
Or as Christopher Titus would say, “…come down off the cross and use the wood to build yourself a bridge and get over it.”
Or is that just me?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not an advocate of telling people to hold it all in, suck it up, or otherwise give themselves an ulcer. But life coaches? Motivational people? STILL fixated on their troubled past? Reliving it with every class or seminar or speech they give? That just seems… f**ked up.
But Wren, you may be saying, they’re trying to show that if they can come from hell and succeed, you can, too.
Alright, fine. But you can say, “I know what it’s like to be in a dark place,” without having to go into all the gory details. And if you’re truly over it, you don’t need to go into the gory details with every Tom, Dick, and Harry you want to motivate. But these people are telling the same exact story – either with so much pain in their voices you just know it still haunts them, or with absolutely no emotion at all, like they’ve become so numb to the telling of it that it means nothing anymore – over and over again. Neither of these scenarios sounds very healthy for the storyteller. And how are they helping others by self-flagellating, again?
So what’s the point of telling and re-telling your dark, gritty backstory twenty times a week to anyone who will hear it?
Oh, yeah. F**ked-Uppedness Cred.
These people are trying to earn the respect of people who are still in the dark place.
You know you do it, too. Hell, I’ve done it. If you’ve been through hell, you look at the Leave It To Beaver-esque families out there, with their support for each other, unconditional love, financial stability, health, and tragedy-less lives, and you kind of stare, like, “are these people for real?” When the worst thing that’s happened to them is a fender bender or a bad case of the flu, you scoff at their blissful unawareness. You mock what they consider to be hard times. You can’t take much of anything they say – let alone their advice or compassion – seriously, because you feel like they just don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
So the F**ked-Uppedness Cred is important if you want to be respected and taken seriously, and not blown off as some airy-fairy self-esteem cheerleader, giving trophies to everyone just for participating.
Well, f**k that noise.
I’m a pretty easy-going kinda gal. Even when I was a volatile brew of emotional meltdown, blinding self-hatred, and distorted thinking, I still put on the happy face, and no one had even the foggiest that anything was even remotely bothering me. Again – I am not advocating this as a good idea. In fact it’s a very, very bad idea. Don’t do it. But I digress.
I would smile. I would laugh. I would make jokes. And I didn’t tell other people my crap. When something dropped – usually innocuously – it would stun the hell out of people. Because I came off as that innocent goody two-shoes whose biggest problem was that tragic C in math class type. But then I would let slip some hint of my real life and inevitably, I’d get comments along the lines of, “Wait… what?! You?!!” or “But you always seem so happy!”
Yep, me. News flash: not every person with a tragic past a) does drugs b) drinks to excess c) dresses goth and/or slutty and/or gangster d) screws anything that moves in a desperate search for love or e) flunks out of school and/or gets arrested. Some of us rebel by being good.
Yessir, when I was a teenager, I was an honor student, participated in all sorts of extracurriculars, held down a job, was a teacher’s pet of sorts, didn’t do drugs, drink, have sex, or get into trouble, and otherwise could have played the “good influence” role on any after school special there ever was.
All while… living in hell.
And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been condescended to by people whose biggest problem that I could tell (since they lamented to me as though I was their confessor) was… they didn’t always get what they wanted. But because I never said, “Let me tell you about real problems… ” and instead took their problems seriously, they presumed I found their plight to be equally tragic and the worst thing I’d ever heard.
Now I know I sound a little heartless here, and I don’t mean to be. If you don’t have the perspective to put the little annoyances in perspective, then it’s going to seem huge and horrible in your vision when you encounter them. I get that. But if there’s a continuum of tragedy, and death and rape are on one end, and a parking ticket is on the other… the death and rape end gets to shake their head at the parking ticket end when they start going on like they’re a cast member in Hamlet.
So, I’ve been scoffed at for not wearing my F**ked-Uppedness Cred on my sleeve, and it used to annoy the bejeezus out of me. But I still couldn’t bring myself to do it. I don’t know why. It’s just not in me.
But I’ve come to the place where I Just Don’t Care and It Doesn’t Really Matter.
Think I’m a naive? Go right ahead. Think I’m BSing you when I say “I understand where you’re coming from”? Scoff away! Because I Just Don’t Care and It Doesn’t Really Matter. I don’t feel the need to win some tragedy contest or earn Extra Horrifying Bonus Points. If someone is in a place where they can hear what I have to say, then they’ll hear it. If they’re not, then they’ll find some other excuse to not do so even if I gave them a detailed dossier of Why I Understand Your Pain.
This isn’t to say “my secrets will die with me!!!” as much as it is to say, you’re not going to hear my sob story twenty million times. If something is pertinent to a conversation, and perhaps actually helpful to furthering the discussion, maybe I’ll share it. But I’m not going to go around announcing it so that I have the immediate respect of the other F**ked-Uppedness Survivors in advance. Because I shouldn’t have to. I want people to judge me on my present, not my past. If my words have value, they have value in the now, not because I have a good sympathy-garnering story to tell.
So, judge me how you will. There will not be a Chapter One: Out of Darkness autobiographical horror story in The Book. But hopefully a few folks will read it anyway.
And I will try really hard to not stare at the Cleavers of the world like they have antennae sticking out of their heads when they talk about how wonderful their life is, except for that awful day when June broke the heel of her shoe and skinned her knee.
Because isn’t wonderful what we’re all aiming for?