November 6, 2013

A Culture of Confessions. ~ Heather Grimes

Recent evidence proves it: as a culture, we love to confess.

(Have a look at this, this, this, and this article in elephant for just a few examples from the month of September alone.)

Another fact:  There is an explosion out there in the genre of mama-writing that is self-deprecating and confessional. Books like Confessions of a Scary Mommy (that also happens to be an astonishingly popular blog) and Naptime Is the New Happy Hour are hinged on the notion of confessing.  They are both national bestsellers.

I love honesty, in all its brutal, clashing, operatic forms. I can smell a nugget of bullshit from the next room and have the inclination to either run the other way or throw an ax into the heart of it. I love to have conversations that look and feel like a walk through a dense forest at nightfall, knowing that a clearing will occur at some point. But not knowing where or when.

Confessions of a Scary Mommy became exceedingly popular as a blog, in my assumption, not because of the quality of the writing or the specifics of the mama-tales chosen to purge onto the page, but because it is a place to lay it on the line, without even a slight-sideways glance from your spouse or closest friends. (You could remain totally incognito, if you so choose, with your handle: mo’beta mama 666.)

There is something glorious about not needing to make your rant sound poetic or like the zygote of a life lesson.

There is something poetic in the sloppy, unedited, boldfaced grime. And the click of a finger to post such an admission is not dissimilar to the ever-comforting sound of a flush.

And an added bonus: there is no-doubt that it can be gloriously satisfying to bear witness to the confessions of others.

Behold, the best movie-confessional scene of all time:

(Beware: adult language and content.)


Though I love the confessional poets (Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, RIP) and have always held a secret intrigue for the priestly job of receiving confessions, I, myself, am not a fan of confessing. I abide by the belief system that first drafts are not meant to be exposed to the general public, and I, admittedly, check my blogs dozens of times for grammar issues, typos and spots that simply make no sense.

My handwritten thank-you cards are usually second drafts. I spend inordinate amounts of time crafting my honesty in the same way I spend a pretty penny at Bare Minerals on make-up to make me look natural.

But having said all that, I’m willing to take a leap here. Perhaps it’s Zach Galifianakis, or a sense of false security provided by my beloved maroon couch, but I am prepared to scribe five confessions in the space below—first-thought-best-thought, no revisions, no idea what I’m going to say.  (You’ll just have to trust me on this one).

Ooh, tiny heart palpitations.

Here goes.

1. Today, there was a tickle between my boobs, under my shirt, and I thought it was a hair. But when I looked, it was a tiny piece of crust from the toast I ate this morning for breakfast, over an hour earlier.

2. Watching the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with me, or anyone in my family, is a royal nuisance.  It’s been a family tradition to watch this movie— reciting each godforsaken notable word aloud—every holiday season for decades. We pretty much act it out, scene-for-scene, as we watch.  It’s fully interactive and must be nauseating for anyone who is not, well, us.

Here’s the confession part: I have the infamous Chevy Rant memorized and it didn’t happen by accident. I actually memorized it, by writing it down, reciting it again and again, chunk by chunk, like a college assignment. I could have used that brain data-space for a Mary Oliver poem or, perhaps, Homer.  But I chose to fill it, instead, with Clark Griswold.

3. This is the embarrassingly cluttered situation on the table directly to my left, right now. If I were having company (including my daughter’s four-year-old friends), I’d no-doubt tidy up, but since we are all about exposing what the “drop-in” visitor sees, here you go.

The contents of the end-table are as follows: A wine glass filled with a cocktail of Kombucha and OJ, two plastic princess tiaras, a packages of Kirkland’s baby wipes, a baby doll that Opal has named “flower blossom,” a red tin camping bowl taken from our RV, filled with puzzle pieces, an untouched glass of water.

And the piece de resistance: the blond, plastic bust of a dolly that Opal can put make-up on and style her hair. This was her big birthday gift from her dad and I (the one who has publicly ranted about the princess-archtype more than once).

Here’s the deal: I asked her to pick one thing that she wanted for her birthday, one special thing. She has been harboring a Lakeshore catalog by her bed for months, and the page that had this doll-head was folded over. I asked her again and again, hoping she’d change her mind, upgrade to something less, well, girly. But when it came time to make the order—trust me, this thing was not cheap— I decided to allow her to have her own interests, even if this one made me cringe.  (So it begins.) And…she adores the thing.

4.  I enjoy seeing photos of famous people in mundane situations, especially Phillip Seymour Hoffman with his three kids. Tabloids and paparazzi are not upscale journalism—nobody’s saying that. But I find that these images create more of a level playing field. (Copyright laws keep me from including any of my favorites here, not to mention the fact that elephant journal presumably does not endorse the publication of tabloid-esque photography. I understand that.)  But I tell you, the vision of Sandra Bullock picking up her dry cleaning with a kid on her hip or of Kate Winslet eating a sloppy hot dog from a street-side stand are comforting to me. They settle my mind like sugarplums and sheep.

5. Most of the houses on our street have big, gaping, floor-to-ceiling windows in front. One of my favorite things to do is take a stroll down the block after dark and peer into those windows at the unwitting, perfectly-framed scene inside. I love being invisible to the same people who I waved at earlier that same day, walking by or getting into our cars. I’ve never witnessed anything of the caliber of big-city-apartment window viewing—our neighborhood is about as lovely and peaceful as they come— but I enjoy the real-man Rockwellian scenes of people around the table eating dinner, of the TV screen flickering in the corner. A snapshot of a mundane evening in-the-life.

And, since I’m confessing, what interests me even more than what I can see is what I can’t see.

The houses with the curtains or blinds drawn (sometimes all hours of the day), or the ones with a tie-dyed tapestry or flag of a sports team in the front window inspire the most intrigue.

What is happening just beyond the glass and all that fabric?

By all means—do tell.

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

Photo: CEB imagery





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