L: u seen the new tees?
L: the ones that say ‘living my okayest life’
L: and ‘2020 sucks’
A: those are kinda perfect
L: remember when we used to be annoyed with sayings on t-shirts
L: telling us how to feel
L: preaching and judging
A: no i don’t remember
A: remind me
A: bc it’s hard to forget your relentless shaming
A: when i used to wear my ‘radiate love’ tee
A: or my ‘shine like a diamond’ one
L: not sure which i liked better
A: i know, it’s hard to choose
Shame. Comes in so many varieties. Let us count the glorious ways.
There’s the ‘my kid drank too much at the party and the entire town found out’ shame.
There’s the ‘my kid wasn’t invited to the party’ shame.
There’s the ‘I didn’t feel sad when I dropped my kid at college, is there something wrong with me’ shame.
There’s the ‘I dropped my kid at college and now I sit in his room and smell his sheets’ shame.
There’s the ‘I pressed buy now on amazon instead of buying local’ shame.
There’s the ‘I didn’t go to the rally’ shame.
Oh and there’s food shaming. For eating too much. Or for eating too little.
There’s even dog shaming for wearing the dreaded cone.
There’s the shaming we do to other people.
There’s the shaming we do to ourselves.
There’s body image shame, career shame, age shame, mental health shame, cultural shame, phew.
And now there’s a new one to add to the list.
So what is this thing we’re calling shame? We’re having trouble defining it and fully understanding it, but it feels like it’s everywhere. Is it vastly different from it’s cousins, guilt and judgment? Is it humiliation? Disgrace? Is shame self-imposed? Is shame meant to be something we do to make others feel bad? To make ourselves feel better? To change others behavior? To change our own? Maybe it’s all a little bit messy.
One day last week while discussing the coronavirus cases spiking at universities and the unrest in Wisconsin and the political conventions and the hurricane named Laura, this happened.
A Mad Lib.
Remember when we used to write limericks?
Well, now we write Mad Libs.
It was a _____ (adjective) summer night in 2020. There was so much _____ (adjective) noise coming from my neighbor’s backyard. I _____ (verb, past tense) all of my friends to tell them about the _____(noun). My friend said, “See, I told you that the ______ (last name) were going to be super spreaders.” So I continued to shame them while drinking my bottle of ______ (a liquid) and _____ (verb ending in -ing) them while walking into the other room of my glass house. But when I got there, I couldn’t believe my ______ (body part, plural)! My child was coughing and had a high _____ (noun). Oh, shit.
It was a ______ (adjective) winter night waaaay back in _______ (any year other than 2020). We met some friends at a ______ (adjective) restaurant! It was a time when we could do all sorts of fun things, like sit _______ (opposite of outdoors) and drink and eat together. The waiter suggested we order the _______ (adjective) french fries. After ______ (verb ending in -ing) the french fries at record speed, _______ (proper noun, begins with an L) said, “Omg, I think I ate all the fries! I mean, I know that _______ (proper noun, begins with an A) didn’t have any.” “Oh, please,” said ______ (proper noun, begins with an A). “I had at least _____ (some small number, definitely fewer than 4). And anyway, I’m so full from my ______ (something green).”
And the many types of kid shaming including, but not limited to, the following:
Ooh, your _______ (overly aggressive noun) is the one who bit little Johnny in preschool?
Ooh, your _______ (picky noun) only eats chicken nuggets and other beige foods?
Ooh, you let your ________ (undisciplined noun) sleep with you?
Ooh, did I just hear your _______ (tattle-tale noun) say that you were squeezing her arm too hard?
Ooh, was that your _______ (mother f’ing noun) who got caught smoking a juul in the middle school bathroom?
Ooh, how many AP classes is your _______ (smarty-pants noun) taking?
Maybe when we start to fill in the blanks, we see clearly that the act of shaming and judging doesn’t elevate how we feel about ourselves. In fact, it does just the opposite. Because we know all too well that as soon as we pat ourselves on the back, the next episode of ‘shame on you’ is sure to be starring us.
Last Monday, after Angie dropped her ______ (eldest noun) at college.
L: so how r u?
L: for real
A: holy sad
A: i wasn’t prepared
A: i thought i was prepared
A: but that moment when he walked away
A: into his dorm room all alone
A: was entirely too much
L: and i’m not saying much
L: because what is there to say?
L: nothing I say will make it easier
A: i wish there was something helpful u could tell me
A: but i know there’s not
L: i think you just have to sit in it
A: wanna know what else makes it not easier?
A: telling yourself to stop feeling so sad
A: that he’s ready, that this isn’t about me
A: bc even if i know that
A: even if i know that i’ll be fine
A: it still feels ‘pit in your stomach’ sad
L: ‘hole in you heart’ sad
A: ‘tears bubbling out of your eyes’ sad
L: ‘feel like i lost an arm’ sad
A: i’m kinda ashamed that i can’t stop crying
A: why do i feel so lost and sad about this?
L: bc it’s hard stuff
L: you know the mantra
L: it’s all as it should be but it’s sad nonetheless
L: so please
L: just be nice to yourself
L: or as we say in our new mad lib lingo
L: stop beating up my friend _______ (proper noun, begins with an A)
Turns out, shame is a tricky business.