Thursday, May 19, 2005

SHAME! (I'm gonna live forever...)

I was raised with a great deal of shame surrounding sex and nudity and my physical habitus in general. We were very modest people when it came to bodily functions. I can remember being scolded severely for walking in on my father in the bathroom, though I have no memory whatsoever of his being undressed--I don't think he was. I think he was fully clothed, and shaving. But in the bathroom and therefore off-limits to my four-year-old eyes.

Or maybe I startled him and he nearly cut his own throat, but the point is, we didn't do the nude thing. Bathtime was for getting clean--there was no splashing or blowing bubbles or enjoying the feel of the warm, soapy water against bare skin. Swimsuits were strictly one-piece, and as soon as I developed the nearest thing to the beginnings of breasts, they included the thickest, most resilient built-in bra my mother could find. On an nine-year-old.

Yeah, it was a look.

I can recall being sent from the room each time my infant cousin had his diaper changed, lest I spy what made little boys different from little girls before my psyche was ready to handle the information. Who knew what might happen to an twelve-year-old who'd seen a two-month-old penis, after all? Surely promiscuity, teenaged pregnancy and prostitution couldn't be far behind.

Does it surprise anyone that I rebelled? Could any thinking person truly be shocked that micro-bikinis became my swimsuits of choice as soon as I left for college? That in my senior year, I was called before the Dean of Students for skinny-dipping in the lake just off campus? THREE TIMES?? That I married a man who thinks nothing of coming to the breakfast table bare-assed as the day he was born, and has only recently agreed, with the growing embarrassment of our seven-year-old daughter, to at least don shorts for the morning meal?

Given what we know about human psychology, it shouldn't. But something happened the other day that tested even my very elastic shame boundaries--and I surprised myself. Apparently, those boundaries are even more stretchy than I'd thought they were, and I'm still trying to decide if this is a good thing.

I was carrying a couple of large, heavy boxes filled with discarded toys and clothes out to the garage for temporary storage. So I'm headed down the sidewalk with the bins. The one on top is sort of sliding around, and the lid isn't on very tightly, and I can hear the toys rattling inside, and I really don't want it to fall, because some of the stuff inside is breakable...but my sweats are beginning to slide down my hips...

I should note that I've recently lost some weight, and these sweats have always been a little big on me. I should also note that I only wear underwear on very special occasions.

It's a race against time and gravity. Can I get to the garage before either my pants fall to my knees or I have to drop the box on the sidewalk? Because I can't stop and bend or squat to PLACE it on the sidewalk...will lose the pants for SURE, then.

I almost made it. Would have, too, if SOMEBODY hadn't LOCKED the side door, necessitating a quick left turn onto the driveway at the last possible moment...where I came face-to-ermmmm...NOT-face with Mr. B, a nice, elderly gentleman of my acquaintance, collecting his mail at the end of HIS driveway, some sixty feet away. I dropped...NAY, THREW both boxes down, grabbed my pants, yanked them up, picked up the boxes and went about my business.

But the shame...the SHAME...the shame I just...didn't...feel for some strange reason...

I mean, yes, I feel badly that I may--or may not--have startled and embarrassed our neighbor. He didn't react, which means either he didn't see (hard to believe--you had to be there) or he's too much of a gentleman to even acknowledge my faux pas.

But actual shame about the fact that I accidentally exposed myself? Not so much. In fact, I have quite a bit more shame about having made the kids skip Little League practice last night because we were all too cranky and tired to deal.

What does this say about me? Am I deficient, or healthy? Have I swung too far in the other direction in response to what I KNOW was unhealthy in my upbringing?

I'm askin'...


Blogger Donald Francis said...

Selah, in my mind, shame is something that is based on the negative effect your actions have/had on others or yourself. Since the old fellow was clearly not scarred for life, and you weren't mortified by the exposure of your generally hidden bits, I would say you're perfectly healthy.

But, then, I'm a crackpot, and hardly an authority on such things.

5/19/2005 4:41 PM  

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