When my daughter was in her early teens, there were times when I would imitate one of those old-time radio ads: “W-T-M-I! Way Too Much Information, ’round the clock, seven days a week!” The Gentle Reader is either familiar with kids that age or is one her or himself, and you know the sort of stuff I mean.
I mean, don’t we? We’re talking about “the ills that flesh is heir to,” as the saying goes–but we’re NOT. That’s not how it really goes–either in the original, or in life.
It’s a misquotation of part of Hamlet’s soliloquy in III,i:
To be or not to be . . .
the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to . . .
Not that mushy “ills” stuff. Thousand, natural, and shocks. Art is in the details. There are lots of them, they are part of life, and they hit our outraged system with the impact of tiny bullets. It’s important to us that we share the details of our best friend’s philandering, all about what happened at that party, just what trick our digestive system is up to today, and exactly what the surgery entailed.
And the auditor usually doesn’t need or want to hear it. They desire that whatever happens in the bathroom, stays in the bathroom (unless there’s some impact upon the host’s rug or plumbing). They don’t want to have to meet those saucy people, knowing what they know, because they’ll have to shake hands while knowing where those saucy hands have been. And anybody with an imagination (or a penchant for the Discovery Channel) can picture all that ucky medical stuff performed upon their own flesh.
And we know this, but we want to share anyway. Pity the pharmacist, bartender to the afflicted. It’s best explained by going back to the primal overshare: toilet training, where information is joyously announced because it is a milestone of control over that mysterious sack of stuff we come packed in. It is a triumph! No poop, there I was!
I survived the surgery, and it was some ordeal, let me tell you! But I kicked its ass! Hey, you know how hard it is to find that much fiber? And I’m sorry you don’t want to hear about my sexual awakening at that Mazola party, but that’s because you’re square and I must preach the word! This last betrays the lot, because the oversharing is “all about me.”
I think the unwilling audience should remember that, either in being sympathetic to the impulse to overshare and bring somebody else into the me-ness, or as ammunition against the onslaught of I-don’t-care-how-uncomfortable-this-makes-you. Because whether you want to admit it or not, it is all about you on some level much of the time, and your lack of oversharing is due only to your greater desire for control; you have a stopper on the bottle preventing the exuberant genie from emerging.
Besides, admit it: Half the time, deep down, there’s a piece of you that kind of wants to know.
So! Guess what happened to me to inspire this blog?