Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Dirty Story

It has been awhile since I've done this, but I'm going to indulge in a little brain dump this morning.  Not sure why I haven't done so recently or why I'm doing it now, though I've got my period, and sometimes I write or do more creative things around that time--again, don't know why.  Hormones are very interesting.

Don't you love how I just talk about my period like this, in the open, where anyone can read about it?  When I was a kid, I was told to shush about it, unless I was speaking to my mother, privately, which was a step up from the 1950's when you didn't talk about periods at all and pads came in unlabeled, brown paper bags.  But it was a small step.  At age 13, I still didn't know exactly where my vagina was, so when an aunt gave me a tampon one day and I told her I didn't know where to put it, there was some eyebrow raising.  Biology wasn't big in my house or my Catholic middle school.  In fact, it was almost taboo.  I was afraid to wash my privates because our 8th grade teacher told us not to touch ourselves.  I took this literally.  So I would kind of let the water run over my body, let the soap drip, rinse and hope for the best.  I was being good, even if not sanitary, right?

I enjoy the way my mind works sometimes, roaming from hormones to body parts to Catholic school to things we're brought up to believe.  If I were teaching writing right now and I saw a student writing this (after cringing because there really are things I don't want to know about my students), I would say, "What you need to write about is something you were taught to believe that is not true and the effect it had on you.  That's your topic."  Then we'd go through the outlining and drafting processes or maybe even skip outlining if it were a creative writing class or if the essay was intended to be a chronological narrative.  With the exception of tense changing and mechanics, most students don't have trouble organizing a narrative.  It's one of the easiest writing forms to teach and learn, which is probably why it's one of the first patterns presented in English composition texts.  Most of us know how to tell simple stories and explain why those stories have importance.  I think it's in our blood to do so.

People have told stories from the beginning of time.  We listen to stories as children and reveal our own.  As adults, we do it formally, professionally and socially, orally and in writing, through complex media and traditional paper/pen.  Story telling is part of the human experience.  We don't think about that when we've got to file a police report or write a narrative review of our employee or compose a few sentences about our prior work experience.  Yet that's story telling.  It's narrative.  It's not creative writing, per se (and probably shouldn't be), but it's a series of events that must be described in an orderly, meaningful way to create understanding.  In that, creative and factual story telling are similar.

There are whole books written on how to formulate a resume, which is, essentially, a story.  There are books on writing annual reports.  What are those except more stories?  And how about legal case files?  Testimony?  Those are some of the most interesting true stories.  Medical records?  Military briefings?  Stories.

Which leads me back to the question I might ask a student.  What is something we were taught to believe that ended up not being true, and how did that impact us?

You'll be happy to know that my practice of virtuous washing ended fairly quickly.  It's amazing what happens when you tell your best friend something and she laughs so hard she practically pees herself.  I'm a very clean person now, I assure you.  There are plenty of washcloths in our house.   
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