Courting Shame

‘The exhibitionist loves to flirt with shame.’ Mason Cooley


Don’t tell anyone but sometimes at night when the house is quiet and sleep has not yet found me, I will grab my phone and peruse a fairly useless but always gawk worthy entertainment news site. A few nights ago I partook in my guilty pleasure and as usual found lots of mindless storylines and Photoshop altered images to anesthetize my brain into sleep. But before the mental anesthesia kicked in there were two images juxtaposed to one another that startled me into full consciousness. I had to stare at them both for a moment just to take in the absurdity of their contrast.

Of the two photos that caught my attention, only one prompted me to use today’s quote- it involved someone’s butt. Oh Boy! I looked once and looked again and then looked away. No matter the angle, my reaction to that giant posterior was the same, and it was not good. That being said, I am deeply reverent of the female body in all of its many forms. I love art and I love beauty- whether it comes through nature, words, or a human body clothed or unclothed. To me, what makes something artful or beautiful is its ability to evoke some type of meaning; deep thought, transformation, emotion, laughter, …. Meaning is what feeds me- nourishes me in a way that makes me feel satisfied and somehow changed. For me, meaning and beauty walk hand in hand.

So back to the virtual gossip mag I was looking at….Next to the photo that displayed the aforementioned butt was another very different picture. It was of a diminutive, frail looking woman in a hospital gown. It was the last picture posted by a young celebrity named Diem Brown who lost her life to ovarian cancer last week. I wasn’t well acquainted with her life or her message prior to this, but ten words into the first paragraph I could see that she had used her unfortunate diagnosis to bring education, hope, and strength to the world.  So there, side-by-side sat those pictures…. One of a ginormous butt crying out ‘look at me!’ sans any other meaning at all, and the other of a young waif like woman in a hospital bed, holding tight to her best friends while she makes eye contact with the world.  It had to be one one of the most vulnerable days of her life as she asked for prayers, displayed her strength, and voiced her solidarity to the millions of others fighting an illness like hers. She managed to smile bravely despite her plight, what a message she gave.

Before I write on, I want to make a few points. First and foremost, I know that no one forced me to click on the image of that giant butt- my choice. Secondly, I’m not implying that everyone has to have a deep meaningful tear-evoking message in order to be worthy of attention. There are plenty of entertainers, comedienne, athletes, pundits, etc. that garner and hold attention that do not have the goal of deep meaning in mind. But meaning wears many guises; laughter, talent, agility, or even an irreverently voiced strong opinion… all of these things  have meaning, and with that meaning they GIVE something in exchange for our attention. My thoughts today are not about any of those other types of people; my thoughts are about a unique group known as exhibitionists. An exhibitionist takes our attention and gives nothing in return. An exhibitionist seeks attention solely for the thrill of having attention. For me, when my attention gets drawn toward something and there is a pay out when I get there- whether it is laughter, emotion, or thrill…that is nourishing. But when my attention gets solicited, I give it, and find there is no pay out- nothing to chew on…. the ‘look at me’ behavior that has caught my eye in the first place, becomes very distasteful.

That butt could have been presented in a thousand different ways that could have offered just a smidgen of meaning to those pics… perhaps a small gesture from the owner of that butt encouraging new mothers who might be struggling with post partum weight loss. Any small attempt to make it about something more than the size of that derriere and a desire to ‘break the internet’ would have made all the difference. Maybe in time a deeper message will emerge, but(t) for now, it is, what it is. (Pun intended.)

#BreaktheInternet… Shame had to love that hash tag…. because it meant that the courtship was over and the relationship proper was now in full swing… after all, you can only court shame for so long without becoming inextricably entwined with it.

While Shame stays busy escorting the exhibitionists onto the stage, I hope the majority of us will choose to take the arm of one of Fate’s other squires (Respect, Grace, Honor, Service…. There are oodles of them to choose from.) Meanwhile I am pretty sure Angels lined up to give full escort to the real A-lister who placed herself on the world stage last week. Like that giant butt, she solicited our attention- asked for a moment of our time… and anyone who gave it, received something in return…  That is beauty.

Diem Brown’s last photo surely will not have the same staying power as the one of that giant butt …. However, the message she leaves behind will.