Warning: this column contains words and phrases that some adults may find offensive – especially those who no longer consider themselves human. Parental guidance is advised.
What is it about our culture that makes so many of us uptight about things related to the way our bodies function? Or is a better question, what is it about us that makes our culture so uptight? From the way we react, it often feels like anything associated with being human is taboo, nasty, degrading or otherwise disgusting.
Folks seem more comfortable talking about intentional acts of violence than reflexive actions involving bodily fluids. The conversation doesn’t even have to come close to some of the most common occurrences in nature, like sex and reproduction, before we start getting uneasy. Why is that?
It’s as if we have some sort of self-hatred thing going on regarding the way our bodies work. If I didn’t know better I’d think most people are ashamed of being human. In many ways it feels like we aspire toward a way of being that’s more akin to all things un-living. I don’t mean like zombies; they’re undead, or at least that’s my understanding. Rather, folks these days seem to prefer the representations of people we see on TV, video games and computers to real life beings who feel breathe, consume, excrete, secrete, cry, perspire, and do every other thing related to the human experience.
I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to this wrong thinking about certain aspects of being human. Toilet humor aside, I get uncomfortable mentally when my stomach rumbles so loud it fills the room, or I belch unexpectedly, or my bowels begin stirring and I’m not home. Feel uneasy reading this? You’re not the only one. Writing these descriptions causes me embarrassment – not because it might unconsciously set my body in motion, but because we don’t consider such things proper to discuss in polite company. Yet we’ll go on for hours discussing the distasteful act of laying off hundreds of breadwinners for the sake of increasing quarterly profits of stock holders. Go figure.
Then there’s one of the most natural acts known to man; or rather women: breastfeeding. Some find it offensive to observe in public. The way I see it is that I don’t see it. A mother is feeding her baby in the most natural way. Big deal. I don’t write a letter to the editor when some guy scarfing down a hoagie chews with his mouth so wide I can see his tonsils. I just don’t look. It’s none of my business. We all have to eat; case closed.
It’s funny; a lot of us passing a car wreck will rubberneck for a chance to observe some mayhem, but glimpse a mother feeding her child and it’s the end of the world. Even more to the point, I see people ignore what they don’t want to see all the time, with seeming ease. Like a homeless person in need of shelter. Or a poor kid alone on the street that looks hungry.
Steady are the efforts to dehumanize humans. Crying tears? You’re overly emotional. Passing gas? You’re just revolting. Sweating because you’re hot? You’re obviously unclean. Bottom line? Too human. I wonder if the awful ways we think of ourselves and our bodies is what drives the often terrible things we do to each other. The things our bodies do are beneficial and natural. What would happen if we celebrated ourselves and our bodies with the all respect and wonder befitting the amazing beings that we are?