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During the great American spanking debate of September 2014, Elon James White wrote a thought-provoking piece about his experience getting spanked as a child. He writes of the “pain and distress” he recalls feeling during belt-whoopings. As I read it, I wondered:
How does his mother feel about him telling this story?
In a world where neighbors call the cops on parents who let their kids play outside, he “outed” his mom as a former child-spanker. Some readers may think nothing of it, others may find themselves forming negative judgments of her past actions. His mother is part of the story too.
Depending on who pens the story, the reader’s response may differ. The allegiance may change. It’s not just the story of an adult’s childhood memories of being spanked. It’s also the story of a mother’s admirable evolution on the practice. So whose story is it? Who owns the “right” to tell this story?
I share a lot about my personal life on my blog. I share a lot of stories. There are many stories I don’t share though. Stories I don’t share because they may cast an unflattering shadow on a person I care about. Stories I don’t share because no matter how innocuous the topic, someone somewhere can find a reason to be offended. What if that person is a potential employer? Stories I don’t share because while I’m good with my personal choices, other people may hold them in poor regard and feel compelled to share their distaste with me. I’m not interested in being the target of the latest internet pile-on.
What I write is the truth the way I see it. Yet, there’s so much I cannot divulge. Sometimes, before I publish a post, I run it by a sister or a friend and ask, “If you were X___ and you read this, would this offend you?” Thankfully, I’ve only had to make one pre-offense edit.
Lately it’s the stories that I don’t write that nag at me. I just don’t know if I have the “right” to tell some of the heavier stories that I share with other people. So, I don’t write them, or I write them and I don’t share them; it feels restrictive.
I am bursting with stories I feel implicitly beholden to keep tucked away.
Who do you think a story belongs to? Is it fair game to share a story even if it may make someone else look not so good?