Raise your hand if you used to read the embarrassing moments column in your teen magazines when you were younger. Yeah. Me, too. I’m kind of familiar with them. 😉
Humiliation is one of the big baddies that people spend their entire lives dodging, right? And with cancel culture, “Disgraced” is the new title du jour. Disgraced former Governor Andrew Cuomo. Disgraced reporter Judith Miller. Lucky for Lance Armstrong he had his scandal before “Disgraced” became the preferred…ummmm…honorific of the shame police.
We censor ourselves in meetings, in relationships, on social media to avoid shame. Me? I love turning the lights on when shame is lurking to remind myself and you, my beloved reader, that in reality we are safe. We are safe. We are safe. It’s funny how this Unedited vibe ended up being my thing when my earliest journals were edited to the point of fiction. Like in 8th grade, instead of professing my complete and utter unrequited love for Chris Case, I pretended, in my diary, that he was obsessed with me because I didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of…myself? The paper? My pen? God? I’m not sure. But it reminds me of my own 8th grader who often says through gritted teeth, “Mom, you’re embarrassing me…” when it’s only me and them…and I am merely breathing the wrong way. They have yet to answer the question I ask every time: “Who am I embarrassing you in front of??” But it took me typing this out to realize shame doesn’t need an audience. We are all the audience that bitch needs to keep us small, right?
Shame had a plan for me. She came early and often so I got used to her visitations. Anybody who’s gotten slapped or hit by their parents knows intimately what shame feels like. Kind of like that Instagram meme: Tell Me I’m Worthless Without Telling Me. Yeah. But it wasn’t always that dark. My favorite embarassing moment: That time in first grade I walked in super late to a school-wide assembly held in our echoey chapel…and farted…loud…while I was the only person standing…and it was totally silent…until the loud rustle of every single head turning my way. That. Was. Awesome. And you remember how last summer I got my period all over my dress at a gathering and everyone thought I had sat in something until the entire party realized with horror that no…that was my…ENDOMETRIAL TISSUE. Yeah, girl. I’m hot. 💅 Oh, and let’s not forget Gawker. As soon as I became very successful, I was one of their favorite shaming targets. (See the photo above.)
So yes, I am a walking, talking “Traumarama” – in funny ways and darker ones.
Sex is prime real estate for shame in our lives, am I right? Have I told you about the time I farted when I was having sex with this guy in college? To his credit, he farted in response and we died laughing (although I was laughing on the outside, and just plain old dying on the inside at that point in my life!). And maybe you’ve heard of women who never let their husbands or boyfriends see them without makeup. They wake up early, put their face on and get back into bed. And of course, we all know women who avoid certain sexual positions because they are unflattering to their bodies. Shame makes us contort, literally and figuratively, in so many ways.
Recently, someone worked very hard to shame me for my past choices and actually discredit me on every level. In fact, they used my past Substacks hoping it would be the Yellow Brick Road to The Atoosa Rubenstein Hall of Shame. I won’t share the context to protect the privacy of those involved because people who use shame as a tactic clearly have a shame sensitivity themselves and I, for one, am not looking to shame anyone even if they act dishonorably toward me. And the truth is, I was amazingly at peace through it all: I own my past…love my present and can’t wait for my future. Trying to shame me is kind of like telling a guy with a very big dick that he has a small one. Ummm…okay…sure…I have a small dick if that makes you feel better about yourself. 😘
But here’s the very best part of the day. After about 4 hours of relentless slut-shaming, this person and I found ourselves using the bathroom at the same time on a break.
Are you ready?
I mean…I can’t even make this up. Your girl farted in a stall right next to the slut-shamer while I was peeing! Raise your hand if you kinda try to avoid farting while you pee in a public restroom. 🙋🏻♀️ Yeah. Now imagine yourself next to someone who is being paid to try to shame and humiliate you. Once again….It. Was. Amazing. But I didn’t feel the way I did when I farted in 1st grade…or in college with that guy. I just silently laughed my ass off and even forgot to tell any of my besties afterward. They’re reading this now for the first time, like you. Just another reminder from the universe that shame is an illusion. I don’t mean that we don’t feel it. Shame can be a powerful forcefield that deeply impacts our actions and behaviors – kind of like one of those invisible dog fences. But when we find the source of our deepest shame and invite it in for tea (therapy!), we’re deactivating the invisible fence that keeps us from our fullest authenticity and freedom. Or, in my case, I guess I can let my fart flag fly. 👑
Our parents, with all good intentions, are usually the first ones to use shame as a tool when we start to show our independence. Usually, they’re trying to keep us safe or in line. And some healthy shame is good. It can keep us safe. Like if I hurt someone, I can avoid doing it again. But shame can also be used as a weapon against us…to make us feel small as a tool by people who feel small themselves in an effort to “right size” (in their opinion) our footprint. But sister, our birthright is to be expansive. All of us: Including the same folks that use shame as a weapon. And can you think of a time on earth that our greatness was more called for? As our rights are being challenged, as our environment is suffering, never before have we been called to be the giants we were born to be. I recently read a beautiful essay by Frances Weller. He said:
Many of the great myths begin in a time such as this. The land has become barren, the king, corrupted, the ways of peace, lost. It is in these conditions, that a ripeness arises for radical change. It is a call to courage (from the French for full heart) and humility. Every one of us will be affected by the changes wrought by this difficult visitation. It is time to become immense.
I said this to the incredible women who have come to sit in circle with me at my home over the past month: It is time to become immense. If you live in NY and want to join a circle respond to this email. (Sorry, this is a strictly IRL thing, no Zoom.) If you don’t hear back from me, DM me on IG, too. I’m having some email issues that are getting straightened out. But either way, I’m here 24/7, as always at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Unless, it seems, you’re emailing me from the wrong fucking email system!)
PS – Paid subscribers can scroll down for an incredible Audible that is like a Masterclass on shame. It totally blew my mind when I listened to it the first time. (I’ve since listened several times, taken notes and shared with my closest friends.)
Atoosa Unedited is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Soundtrack of my 🤍🖤❤️:
Listen to this episode with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Atoosa Unedited to listen to this episode and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.