Unlike many other emotions, embarrassment must be learned. Infants know nothing of this emotion, and parents often use the threat of embarrassment to teach young children correct and incorrect behavior: “If you say that in public, you’ll embarrass yourself,” we say to the toddler with a penchant for scatological chitchat. Embarrassment is also a social emotion; its occurrence requires the real or imagined presence of others. Belch at a dinner party and you will likely feel embarrassed; do it while home alone and you’re unlikely to feel abashed. Because it is a learned behavior grounded in social relations, embarrassment is a kind of barometer for a society’s notions of civility.
The body, despite its desire to be polite, demands attention. And once it has yours, it is not likely to let go.
It seems that my first attempts to listen to my body, give me a hug, hold my hand, even the silent slipping into someone else’s bed to curl into a sister’s sleeping back were actual cries of emotion. fear and loneliness have made me seek the warmth of another body. i heralded this as a good thing, savored the fact that somehow i have been pulled back in. delicious tremors from a glance, the surprise of a word against your earlobe, a hug in greeting from a friend, the way a smell lingers. smell so poignant, smell so familiar.
Finally, it isn’t mere interpretation; there is nothing as plain as touch.
Through all this, I attempted to intellectualize. Classes were suffused with discussions of our temporal selves. I talked about abuse and how it makes you reel back from touch, anyone’s touch. How no man is weaker than when he is reduced to his fists. How nudity is such a symbol of power because it is vulnerability —– and only those who trust hold genuine strength. How the body betrays us with the wrong size, color, shape, movement and how really that says more of what we think about the body than the body itself. But looking at those weeks, my need to remind my students that their bodies existed, that the way it could distract, control, overwhelm was not cause for shame — this was just me reassuring myself.
Because this was new. This kind of living was new.
Living with grief does disembody you. Even if the only time it is expressed is when one’s howls are inhuman, when it is not you, Anina who is crying but it is Anina’s body racked with sobs, choking over tears. To wake up in the morning and get out of bed, to live after, one must forget about physical absence. And to do so, I told my nerves not to feel, I told myself that memory was enough. That the promise of resurrection could hold me.
Catholicism likes to comfort us with the afterlife, that it is the end of our suffering. It is as if we only feel sadness though our bodies. But isn’t laughter of the body? Isn’t an orgasm minute contractions of the muscles? Isn’t love?
But finally remembering that i am of my skin, of my sex has made grief a choice. Somehow realizing that one is powerless to the chemical imbalances of the body, that it IS what happens has made dealing with these emotions a possibility.
Grief exists and will be around, but he turned to me and said, “I think we can be friends,” then retreated to his chair by the window because natural light is best to read by.
this began with an italo calvino story. and how in the morning, he woke up and realized that what he thought was beautiful was just a white wall, peeling in the harsh sunlight.
this began with sinta where the sun comes out and moon turns out to be made of foil.
this began with hoping that if i just got through the night, it would be better tomorrow.
i was going to talk about just seeing things for what they are until i realized, that relaly when your teeth hurt, your throat smarts every time you laugh or cough and you know you’ve got sick bubbles in you just waiting to get out…
who cares about anything else?
the body needs attention, dammit.
completely different context, but “i think i have a better sense of humor about things.”
and only i can hear the rimshot.
and in true ditz fashion, kisses my luv-ers.
i love you, take a cookie.
“Descartes was wrong,” she says. “It’s not ‘I think, therefore I am.’ It’s ‘I am because you are.'”
which of course leads to inevitable fact that
Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
to gather us up
So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zer circle, mute.
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty
We shall be a mighty kindness.
Try not to panic, ning.
(from Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved and Rumi’s “Zero Circle”)