Earlier this week, I wrote about the art of temper tantrums by both kids and adults. Now I want to write about the art of the overshare and battling the subsequent anxiety.
Because I am an expert in the former, and a warrior of the latter.
I’ve been actively and avidly oversharing since I was a small child. The adults around me speculated a number of possibilities for what they termed “flamboyance” and “melodrama”: I was bored in school (I was), I had a chemical imbalance (I did not, but damn if I didn’t get put on Ritalin and almost die from an allergic reaction to it, anyway), I was just plain bad (I wasn’t). At school, I acted up. At home, I stayed in my room. At my grandparents’ houses, I entertained and imagined and played.
I learned quickly that I was expected, as a child and as a female, to internalize rather than verbalize. And I didn’t like it, so I didn’t do it. Untrue—I definitely internalized some things. Like a feeling of worthlessness, a perpetual inability to please anyone, an unlovability I was becoming more and more sure of as I neared college.
My social life for 20+ years has been a series of opening my mouth and later regretting at least half of what comes out of it. I have made insensitive and ignorant comments, spilled secrets that weren’t mine to spill, and offended people. Who hasn’t? But I also talk a lot when I’m nervous, and have a late-blooming filter, and have been eager to connect with others, and in that eagerness, shared intimate details too soon, trusted people too soon. And it’s caused me considerable anxiety.
Do you want the dirty details of my panic attacks and self-berating? Wouldn’t that be an overshare? Because it will make you feel uncomfortable? Or because it actually would be sharing too much?
Who determines what is “too much” to know about another person? Well, the person who is made uncomfortable, I guess. So if, like me, you grew up in a household where emotion was a sign of weakness, wouldn’t the people who ingrained that idea into you likely be made uncomfortable by any show of emotion at all? And if, like me, you also live and make art in defiance of the idea that showing emotion equals weakness, doesn’t it stand to reason that you are not so easily made uncomfortable?
You know what makes me uncomfortable? Discrimination, harassment/abuse, censorship, and the SPCA commercials. That’s about it.
I have this almost certainly annoying habit of announcing when I have to pee. Sometimes people just quietly get up and leave the room and do their thing and come back, and everyone assumes they’ve peed or something—that is to say, no one really thinks much about it at all because everybody pees. Other times, people say they need to “use the restroom,” or they simply say, “Excuse me for a minute, please.” People can be so civilized. I, on the other hand, stand up, at home or at work or at a friend’s house or wherever, and say, “I’m gonna pee, I’ll be right back,” or “Hang on, I seriously have to pee,” or “I’ve had to pee for two hours and am just now finding time to go,” or some other such ridiculous pronouncement. I have no idea why I do this. I have no real plan to stop doing it.
In the grand scheme of social faux pas, it isn’t bad. Or, it’s terribly inappropriate to say “pee” and make people think about peeing. I offer it as an example of something that might be an overshare to one person and no big deal to another.
I think I’ve come to believe that the “art” of oversharing is deciding to do it in a thoughtful and crafted way, rather than blurting out, “I have to pee so bad, I’m going to break the seal!” over beers at a company dinner. And I think I’ve also come to believe that all writing is oversharing. (Well, all writing that makes an emotional connection, that takes risks, that is fresh and exciting, even experimental. Stale old academic-sounding creative writing is not oversharing because it often risks nothing, is just over-processing, like poking through one’s puke with a stick to see what’s in there, or distancing, like being revolted by so base a thing as puke which, again, everybody does.) There will always be someone who thinks my writing about things I’ve lived through is telling stories that should stay untold, that are private, that are only my business. Maybe they even think I should be protecting others involved in my story, or maybe they just don’t believe me.
Those people can respectfully fuck right off.
I can write that and it feels so good because it’s MY puke, I mean, MY story to tell; but I’d be lying if I told you those people’s opinions don’t deliver regular blows to a fundamental child part of me that doesn’t want to be shamed for feeling things and talking about them anymore.
And that’s why I write. Revelation. Or have I said too much?