My son, who turns two and a half years old today, had a slight fungal infection earlier this week. As a result, he had an itchy bottom. On the way home from the pharmacy, we stopped off at the local supermarket, where he enjoys the rewards of a modest fame. As he made the rounds to collect votives in the form of cheese, ham and breadsticks, he made a point of announcing to each of his acolytes: Em pica el culete, which is Catalan for “My bottom itches.”
Once the general concern had been ameliorated and he had paid for our purchases, we returned home and applied the unction offered to us by the pharmacy. He immediately slipped off into a siesta while I retired to the balcony to suffer a slight twang of envy.
Why is it that only toddlers and lunatics are given a monopoly on such unabashed honesty?, I asked myself. Wouldn’t we all be better served by baring our souls and maladies to casual inquiries regarding our state of health and mind? Isn’t that what cooperative existence implies?
I tried to imagine the reaction of cashiers and toll collectors. They would say, “How are you doing today?” And I would respond, “Well, I’ve got a slight touch of gonorrhea, but other than that, not bad.” Or perhaps, “I’m feeling like I’ve squandered my life away and have fantasies of a piano falling on my head and putting an end to this anxiety.”
In an ideal world, the clerk would hand over my change and commiserate by sharing a similar jewel. “Mmm. I know how you feel. I pretty much despise my life and wish I was smarter and more attractive.”
Why is it that we all must suffer in private? I guess there are really two answers to that.
One: Humans are a cruel bunch. When they sense weakness in an otherwise strong person, they pounce. Even if they do it harmlessly through distant ridicule and gossip. While it’s distasteful to harass the seriously maligned, we find great pleasure in hearing news of the demise that befell what we thought was “the perfect couple.”
The other reason why our social survival demands reticence is far more obvious and blatant: Nobody gives a fuck.
When you’re an adult and not in the pantheon of the rich and famous, people just don’t want to hear that your ass itches. If Tom Cruise stopped off to buy toilet paper and mentioned that every day he looks in the mirror and gazes at a disturbed, ridiculous freak, the news would hit the wires like “Officer down!” through police dispatches. But the rest of us are about as interesting as televised government meetings.
For those who feel indifference toward the unimportant, it would only be fair if, in this utopia –or, depending on your sensibilities, dystopia—that I imagine, one should be allowed the liberty of saying, “I’m not really sorry about your husband, because I didn’t know him. And, actually, I’m thoroughly bored right now. Could you move on, please?”
I don’t suppose that my ideas will ever catch on. Yet another reason why I will never be voted “Ruler of the Planet.” People just don’t know what’s good for them. Lucky for them I don’t have a powerful daddy and smooth relations with the petroleum industry. I might just make a difference.