His version of course is not about a lack of shame in relation to one’s character. When I mention “Shameless” I mean the literal definition: “A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”
I remember one of the first times I felt this painful humiliation. It was the summer after third grade and I was shopping around a drug store with my mom. At the time, my older sister had just graduated elementary school and was set to move up to the middle school in September. I remember thinking how much older she seemed and how far behind her I suddenly felt. My mom was teaching her to shave her legs and she was allowed to wear clear mascara and tinted chapstick to school. Meanwhile I was stuck back in munchkin land with the “little kids.” How I yearned to feel older and be “cool” just like her.
My mother walked over to the register and while she paid for her merchandise, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a bright blue mini bottle that read “Ice Drops.” I remember my sister and her friends talking about the liquid breath mint.
“Older girls carry it, so they are always prepared if a boy wants to kiss them.” I overhear them saying.
“We’ll have to get some now,” they giggled.
I saw that little blue bottle as my opportunity to “one-up” my sister and her friends. To finally attain something “cool” first, instead of always being the one to pull up the rear. I walked over to the display and I plucked one of those little bottles right off the shelf and tucked it into my jacket pocket.
“Come on, Lana,” my mother said as she retrieved her receipt from the sales clerk.
As my mother fumbled to put the bags in the back seat of the car, I rushed to tear the clear wrapping from the “Ice Drops.” I had to see what it tasted like so I could tell me sister all about it when I got home. I twisted off the white cap and squirted the blue liquid into my mouth.
Within second, an intense burning sensation burst through my mouth and down the back of my throat. Everything suddenly felt like it was on fire and I couldn’t feel air moving in or out. I coughed and choked to get a breath in. This stuff really was icy hot! As I struggle for air and hacked away, my mother rushed to my side.
“Lana, are you okay honey? What’s wrong?” My mother was deeply concerned, but I couldn’t respond. Each breath I took intensified the icy hot feeling. I opened up my little hand and showed my mother the bottle.
She gave me some water and when I finally stopped coughing I looked up at her with my big, brown, innocent eyes. “Thanks for helping me,” I weakly said.
She didn’t say, “Your welcome, I’m so glad your okay sweetie,” instead she firmly looked down at me and asked, “Lana… where did you get that?”
I looked down at my feet and twisted a stray piece of hair around my finger. I nervously responded, “I took it from inside” and used my free hand to gesture toward the store.
“You STOLE that?” she asked with her voice rising on the word STOLE. “You should be ashamed of yourself!”
I suddenly felt awful. I didn’t even think about stealing, I was only thinking about being cool. I scrambled for an answer. “I didn’t steal it Mom, I just took it from inside because…” before I could answer my mother grabbed my arm and was dragging me back into the store.
When we got inside she asked to see the manager. We waited for a few minutes, which felt like a lifetime. When the man came out of the back room, my mother informed him I had something I wanted to share.
I stood silent engulfed in embarrassment.
“Go on” she sternly encouraged.
“I took this” I said, as tears welled up in my eyes. “I just wanted to be cooler than my sister for once and now I’m a thief.” I wailed.
Tears streamed down my face and between sobs I said “I’m….Sorry…Mister. You can…take me to jail now.”
I remember the man smirked at me and said he wasn’t going to take me to jail, the liquid mint was only $1 but he did make me promise to never do anything like that again. I think about my experience with shame and how shame is lacking in current society and pop-culture. The endless amounts of reality TV shows and social networking portals, opens doors to shameless behavior that never existed before.
Don’t believe me? Tune into The Bachelorette, The Jersey Shore, The Real World, Big Brother, even reality cooking shows and it makes you think, “Who in their right mind does that? Don’t these people have any dignity?” But it’s not dignity they are lacking; when we really look into the issues… it’s the absence of shame. The temptation of money, fame and ego all overshadow the feelings of shame.
We as viewers tune into these shows for the sensationalism. The way that people behave on these shows is so extreme we just can’t look away. It’s similar to the strong desire to “rubber neck” at a car accident while you drive down the turnpike. You don’t necessarily WANT to look at the crushed piles of metal, but you just can’t help yourself to take a quick glance and see what happened. I call this “The Curious George Complex.”
So, we viewers are just curious to look, but why? Why are we tuning in? Why is reality TV taking over television and in recent years become more popular than sitcoms? It’s because the people they find to participate in these shows are so shameless, we curious viewers just have to watch.
The show’s storylines are so bizarre that they have to be real. If a writer made them up, people would think it was just too crazy to be convincing. “I’m not buying that” we’d say. But on reality TV, all bets are off. A storyline doesn’t have to be logical or believable. Anything goes.
I guess that’s why the participants are so wild. Everyone is competing to have the craziest background, story, motive or experience. They act like animals on national TV and numb themselves to the “painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”
I think this separation of consciousness is made possible by lack of self-esteem, morals, values, self worth…but I also think technology is playing a very important role. The ability to just log onto someone’s facebook page and write whatever you want, then close the laptop and separate yourself from the comment, enables people to be irresponsible with their behavior. The glow of the screen welcomes us to write whatever we think, whenever we think it; without the consequence. We don’t have to wait to run into someone, we don’t have to hear ourselves say something terribly mean out loud; we don’t have to see the hurt wash over someone’s face when we’ve offended them. All of these burdens, which remind us to be responsible for our actions, are pardoned when we settle up behind the computer.
Bullying has intensified because it isn’t just limited to the school yard or work place. Family drama doesn’t end at Sunday dinner. Spats with friends don’t dissipate and die off as quickly as they used to. All because the internet acts as forum to keep the disagreement alive, as well as, shield the offender from facing their own shame.
A couple key strokes to spit venom, but the second you turn away from the screen you don’t have to feel bad about your comment. It allows people to be detached, from real relationships but more importantly from themselves. People no longer have to “own” their comments. We don’t put as much stock into what is said, because before can even read it over, we’ve already hit “ENTER” and clicked open another screen.
It all makes me wonder…would we think more about what we say if we stopped viewing facebook, MySpace, Linked In and other social networking as “Profiles.” If we think about what we type and post as a reflection of our character, instead of it being an online version of ourselves, where we can create whatever we want and say whatever we want.
Instead of separating ourselves and creating a “online reality” we should try and maintain real reality. Maybe if the computer had a pop-up that said “You should be ashamed of yourself” just as mother scolded me…maybe people would think twice about their sensational behavior.
SHORT AND SWEET…AKA…MORAL OF THE BLOGLike my mother taught me…No matter how desperate you are to be cool, (lifting Ice Drops, typing a nasty comment, or acting like a drunken fool on a reality show) the truth is, compromising your integrity and morals, never made anyone cool. In 2011, if we stopped worrying about “cool” and start worrying about “being ashamed” I think we’d see a much different outcome.
“The only shame is to have none” –Blaise Pascal
This article originally appeared on the blog 20 Something- Straight Up, On The Rocks, or With a Twist
About the Author
Lana Morelli is the Editor of St. Joseph's University's Literary Journal The Avenue. She is also a full-time reporter for a California based Legal Magazine, Courthouse News. Her freelance work has appeared in various publications, including Philadelphia Magazine, Delaware Today Magazine, The Garnet Valley Press, SJU Athletic Media Guides, Gimme This & That Magazine, Examiner.com and more. Finally, Lana operates her own website/blog, www.lanamorelli.com.