One of the interesting phenomena I have observed in recent years on the Internet is that everyone now feels the need to share EVERYTHING. And that oversharing is somehow…brave.
I understand this is a weird thing for me to say. But hear me out.
If you have scars or a belly or bags under your eyes, it is somehow a very brave thing to take a photo of yourself and post it on the internet and TELL YOUR STORY. Neverminding the fact that all of us have scars and body fat and bags under our eyes. Wearing a bikini when you are not a Victoria’s Secret model has somehow become a cultural statement against capital-S-Shame that makes a photo go “viral.”
In fact, there seem to be two trends: Idealised lives, and disgusting lives. Your life is either perfect all the time and nothing bad ever happens on the internet, or your life is a constant shitshow of pants that don’t fit and ill-behaved children and strange liquids and…discharge.
You are either A+, or you get an A for Effort.
I understand how important personal confidence is, and I truly understand the value of sharing stories to build community or to make sense of common experiences. But what I do not understand is The Need To Tell Everyone About Everything or Comment on Everything Constantly. I know plenty of mothers who have written at length about their experience as parents, and have never resorted to the cliché of telling the world in detail about the bums they have wiped. I know lots of women who write about Being Women and who never, ever give us vivid descriptions of periods as a stand-in for actually telling you about the experience of being a woman in the world. Finally, I know men who firmly believe that writing about taking a shit is not a substitute for actually describing or discussing intestinal fortitude.
It is not brave to be disgusting, I think. But I have noticed that sometimes when writers are not confident in their skill, or they are simply Not Very Good storytellers or writers, they will resort to being graphic, or gross in order to cover up what they lack.
Is there a place for yuckiness? Sure. Are scars and bumps and bruises ways to tell stories in and of themselves? Absolutely. Is grossness sometimes funny, or sometimes even the story itself? Yep. I am not critiquing that. But what I am questioning is the need for sticky, disgusting, bloody things to supplant the nuance of parenthood, or womanhood; for nakedness to be representative of bravery.
I suppose I am more sensitive about this topic than most. Two years ago, I had cervical cancer. Which is one of those things that is either Fine or It Isn’t. There aren’t any ribbons or awareness campaigns for the disease – you are either young enough to have had the vaccine, or you miraculously figure out what’s wrong very early and you are spared a lot of heartache, or you didn’t get vaccinated, and you don’t figure out what’s wrong, and you die. This sounds harsh and stark, but based on my (rather unscientific analysis), that seems to be how it shakes out.
The treatment is typically surgical, and sometimes involves radiation. For me, the treatment and recovery felt pretty barbaric, and nothing was normal for a really long time.
The year prior to my own brush with mortality, the son of one of my best friends had barely survived his birth and died shortly thereafter, at only a few hours old. The year after my surgery, a dear friend who had been supportive of me during my own quick and messy foray into patienthood died of cancer. I am telling you this not to be morbid, or to make you feel bad, or feel squicked out without understanding why. But I am telling you this to maybe hint that the experience of parenthood is not all exploding nappies graphically shown or described on the internet, and the experience of bravery is not just about posting a non Vogue-standard bikini snap on Instagram.
I have been a little more quiet lately because I have been trying to sort out the meaning of Less is More, and what it is to be Brave, and when Shutting Up is the right choice so that beauty can rise from the ashes.