Friday, April 24, 2009

My junk box of shame

Call me sentimental, call me a packrat, or just call me weird, but growing up I rarely threw anything out. If I had written it, drawn it, molded it or built it – I kept it. I imagine it had to have either been my parents’ influence – my macaroni-glued-to-a-paper plate-and-then-enshrined-in-silver-paint masterpiece got hung on the wall every Christmas until I reached my twenties – or my grandfather’s tendency to hoard junk – at his place you were hard-pressed to find a space to set down your drink without disrupting his extensive collection of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys - that steered me in the direction of believing all creations were created equal – and all creations must be kept; forever.

There are many reasons why I am glad I, along with my parents, held on to a few gems. Since I was always writing, I have various awesome stories written at various stages of my development (it’s really fun to see how my writing progresses; although I’ve since discovered that most of my stories follow an eerily-similar story arc and either have the title of “The Three ___ (fill in your friendly barnyard animal here)” or else revolve around a camping trip where a few good and innocent people are maliciously attacked by some kind of roving, wild beast of an animal and barely make it away with their lives). Many of these are fun to hold on to and reflect on, because they invite a feeling of nostalgia; they represent a time when I was young enough to be cute.

But the fact of the matter is, if you hold on to everything – and I mean everything – eventually, you’re going to have to one day come face to face with a period of your life when you weren’t so adorable. Lucky me – I dealt with most of my teen angst through writing, and so every awkward and humiliating moment of those fun-filled high school years is captured with unbelievably fervent detail and forever recorded in the pages of my many journals (none of which I could possibly ever throw away – that would be worse than throwing away priceless macaroni art!) This, by the way, is how your box of creative masterpieces quickly transpires to become your box of shameful and horribly embarrassing secrets.

Case in point: a couple weeks ago, while rummaging through my parents’ basement for old photographs, I came across my own pink box of personal junk. Excited, I brought it upstairs and thought I would proudly toot my own horn of childhood genius by narcissistically riffling through my collection of personal goodies in front of all who was gathered. But before I could select an appropriate piece to share, my boyfriend snatched the first thing out of the box and started to read it aloud – as it turned out, it was titled “Mr. Right” and was more or less a laundry list of all the positive features I was looking for in the “perfect man.” And not a list that I made when I was like, seven, where the features might include such attributes as “he should have a cool bike” or “his mom should like me and give me milk and cookies when I come over.” No, this was a list I made in high school. Old enough to use phrases like “should always be intuitive to my feelings,” and, “ideally, medium to muscular build, with a tan,” and “dry and witty sense of humour, but not so funny that he overshadows my jokes. Also, he can not have more than 3 tattoos.” Perfectly embarrassing, and I snatched it right back out of his hands and placed it back in the box. Then I wrapped the box in many rolls of tape, put it in a corner out of view and told everyone not to speak of it. So much for my narcissistic nostalgia – there are some things better left unremembered.

Realistically, I know there is no point in getting embarrassed over such a lame list. So I was envisioning my dream man when I was 17. So what? I should probably be more embarrassed over the fact that I used to keep a list of all the boys I’d kissed, or the fact that I kept a pros/cons list I made in 3rd year university when I met four guys in one weekend and used a homemade spreadsheet to figure out which one was the most “dateable.” (Personal favourites from said list include a con for “Chris” that read, “he does not like the film Napoleon Dynamite” and a pro for “Curtis” that was listed as “he kept telling me how hot I was.” Something tells me by university I still hadn’t progressed much on my priorities when it came to finding Mr. Right).

I should also probably be more embarrassed about a letter I once wrote when I was 23 about how much I hated my boss at the time – which my boss later found and read, or the letter I wrote when I was 12 to Jonathan Taylor Thomas declaring my undying love – which my mother found and read, or my journal entry when I was 14 about my giant crush on my brother’s friend – which my brother found and read (or so I think… I never could prove that one).

The point is, when you’re somebody like me, there’s no such thing as real privacy (let’s be honest, all you ever really need to know from me you’ll probably find after you’ve fed me 2 shots of tequila with a side of bar lime anyway – I like to spill my own secrets when intoxicated (and yes, it only takes 2 shots)). But writing is therapeutic (for me, anyway). For some reason, I need to do it or I’ll probably spontaneously combust. But I know the risks involved; as soon as it is recorded, and documented, it’s out there for the taking. It’s the same reason Inspector Gadget’s memos always self-destructed after he got them; there’s always the potential that they’ll get into the wrong hands (although I’m not sure why Chief Quimby never learned to not be around when those memos exploded).

Still, there is the “controlled exposure” effect. I still think I’d prefer to voluntarily offer up selected information rather than have someone stumble upon my rantings in my private spaces. Which is possibly why I’ve turned to blogging a little bit more and have been writing in my journal a little bit less.

There is something to be said for keeping some things private; which is why for now I’ll keep the pink box sealed, duct taped, and stored in some dark, unassuming corner.

Unless, of course, it’s tequila night - and you’re buying. Then all bets are off. :)