So a friend of mine who will go really unnamed posted this to her Facebook page this week: Attempting to try out that whole "talking to people when you're upset" thing. So far I've been called weird, young, and stupid. Thanks guys.
And what got me was not that her friends are obviously horrible people (or, I suppose, they're just normal, old, and smart), but that she was trying it out. Which leads me to assume she's reached her age (mid 20s, I think) without ever before "talking to people," when she was upset. And I'm sure she's not alone. Misery sometimes loves company, but other times misery most definitely loves solitude. And once misery loved Chachi.
So I was thinking about why many people simply don't feel comfortable letting others know how they really feel. (Taken to the extreme, this is called, by professionals who name this sort of thing, the "Marc Cohn Syndrome," in reference to a man who once asked in a song, "Do I really feel the way I feel?" To which I've always answered, "Yes, Marc, you moron. By definition, you have to.")
I might be making some of that up. (But not the song lyric. He really did sing that.)
As another example, I was in LaGuardia Airport earlier this year, waiting on a flight to Indianapolis. My flight was late (and of course I made sure to get there early), so I was sitting there for a long, long, long time. After about two hours, a very attractive blonde (sorry, mom, she was about eight inches taller than me) came into the waiting area and sat down to wait (go figure). After another hour (did I mention I was there for a while?), she got up and made a phone call, nervously looking at her watch. No answer. Three more times in that next hour she tried to call someone (I assume), and was getting noticeably agitated. Stand up, call, sit down, wait ten minutes, stand up, call, sit down, etc.
Finally her boyfriend shows up, not on a plane, oddly, but from the parking lot, and gives her a big hug and kiss. You know what she says? "Oh, I'm glad you got here. I was starting to worry."
Starting to worry? Four phone calls in under an hour? I'm glad she didn't actually get worried - the police have better things to do. But she felt as though she couldn't let him know how she really felt; the rest of us could watch her fraying nerves, but she had to tone it down for the one person who was actually in her life.
Now, those who do let everyone know how they feel are said to "wear their hearts on their sleeves." This is a pretty picture. I mean, first of all, I only own, like, four things which would match all of the blood spurting out of the severed arteries, and second, I think I'd really only get a chance to try on maybe three of them before I actually bled to death. So even the mental image associated with expressing yourself discourages that type of thing.
Of course all of us get discouraged at times when we simply can't find the right words. I mean, I'm a writer (this column notwithstanding), and even I'm at a loss occasionally about how to express myself. In any language, words for emotion only go so far. Though they do tend to sound uglier in German. "Ich liebe dich, mein hertz." Not only is that not at all romantic sounding, but BabelFish informs me that it translates to "I love you, my cycles per second," because I should have spelled it "herz."
A good example for me, though, was suggested this past weekend, as we closed up my grandmother's house down the shore for the season. I really cannot express how special that place is to me. It's truly been my second home since before I can remember. It's my happy place. And yet, when my grandmother asks, "So did you have a nice weekend," the best I can seem to muster is a well-considered, "Yeah, I did." Not, "Every single day I get to spend down here I consider a true gift from God," but ... "Yeah, I did."
Eloquence, thy name is Adam. Or, you know, not.
I'm not saying that we should let everyone know how we are feeling all the time, but I do think that the world might be a little nicer if we didn't have this need to impress people with our nonchalance, with our cold, cool stances. I mean it's not necessary that every time you walk up to your best friend you tell him or her that your life is better for just knowing him/her and that if he/she were to go away then you would be hard pressed to find someone new with whom you could discuss how horrible a kisser the person you hooked up with this past weekend was or how much nicer it feels to finally go without underwear or why you have the three gallon tanks of cream of wheat under your bed. Once might be nice, but not every time.
But people take this to the extreme. Kids, especially boys, are taught from an early age to "take it like a man." I mean, what's up with the kids making fun of that boy who cried when he fell on the playground in second grade, for example? Looking back on it, he was actually hurt, and his peers stood around him laughing. This was only going to make him cry harder, especially once he realized that he ripped his new jeans and that his mom would be really angry when he got home on top of everything else. He didn't need these bullies laughing at him. So maybe when he grows up he decides to write about these mean kids in a column. Maybe he really never got over it and he cries himself to sleep at night with the image of that circle around him and the others laughing and the hole in his new jeans and the laughter and the pain and the pointing and the laughter and I'll get them someday, I swear I'll have my revenge and then they won't laugh anymore and THEY'LL LEARN AND NEVER LAUGH AT ME AGAIN AND....
Where was I? Right. But even then we're told not to let others see our true feelings. That's why those conversations we had in seventh grade ("Do you like her?" "Like her? Or like her like her?" "Well, do ya?" "I don't know. What does she think of me?") still go on, just at a higher level. Suddenly you're sitting at a bar and your friend says, "I think she's looking at you," and you're transported back to algebra class and you really have to fight the urge to pass her a note. Or not. Does note-passing work these days? Kids probably just text each other, which only works at a bar if you already know her phone number, and then what's the point of passing a note? Why do you keep asking me these inane questions? Duh.
Because a lot of the time, people feel as though they have to be the coolest, and being cool means not letting anything touch you. Not caring. It's my contention that the reason so many people are so unhappy so much of the time is because they're holding back some pretty important emotions. Or they need more comfortable footwear.
I suppose now I should sum it all up in that easy, yet eloquent, way that most of these things end. Okay, how's this: Loosen up, people! Share how you feel with your friends and significant others. Maybe even some insignificant others. Life is too much of a burden to carry alone; if we rely a little more on those around us, then we'll wind up feeling better about ourselves, don't you agree? You don't?
Well then, see if I care.
A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.
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10.9.09 @ 3:43p
We Americans have a hard time with emotions, especially showing them to others. There is a fear that we might be made vulnerable by what we say or show. Our melting pot society has geometrically grown facets that aren't to be understood by anyone. Disconnected fragments of disjointed personalities. The expression isn't as simple as the 'emotional sleeve wearer' of 'ole Europe. You touched on the romance or germanic language's ability to allow others to share feelings. The Italians, when they have lost happiness, use a word to sum it up - dispiacere - regret, sorrow or grief. We only need about 1000 years more to perfect the unperfectable.
10.9.09 @ 3:54p
I imagine it doesn't help that we're societally related to England, either. They've perfected "staid."
To quote John Cleese's character in "A Fish Called Wanda": Wanda, do you have any idea what it's like being English? Being so correct all the time, being so stifled by this dread of, of doing the wrong thing, of saying to someone "Are you married?" and hearing "My wife left me this morning," or saying, uh, "Do you have children?" and being told they all burned to death on Wednesday. You see, Wanda, we'll all terrified of embarrassment. That's why we're so... dead. Most of my friends are dead, you know, we have these piles of corpses to dinner.
10.9.09 @ 4:10p
Marc Cohn Syndrome is the psychosocial corollary to Hagar's Law of Temporal Absolutism, "Only time will tell if we stand the test of time."
10.9.09 @ 4:43p
And as I was reminded in Wednesday's episode of Glee, "I just wanna live while I'm alive." Wise boundary-setting, that.
10.9.09 @ 5:12p
Nice. I would also posit two other favorites of mine:
"You're so vain. You probably think this song is about you." Even if one allows that the song may really be about the songwriter, it's still about Warren Beatty.
"Until it ends, there is no end," from Cyndi Lauper's "All Through the Night." She's right, you know.
10.13.09 @ 11:28a
So... why do you keep three gallon tanks of cream of wheat under your bed?
10.16.09 @ 12:49p
I said "you." You have the three gallon tanks of cream of wheat under your bed.
So I should be asking you that question.