Sunday, December 6, 2009

We can not talk about it, but don't tell me it never happened.

Heart-to-heart intimacy, the arbiters of social conduct were beginning to believe, had no place in a courtesy code designed for the smooth social intercourse of the urban middle classes. Sentimental sincerity could not govern face-to-face conduct among strangers and near strangers in an anonymous social world. .. And sincerity was no longer seen as the summum bonum of the polite world because, etiquette writers were increasingly convinced, "if every one acted according to his heart, the world would soon be turned upside down."
From: Halttunen, Karen (1982) Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in America, 1830-1870, p. 167.

Hum, yeah. Kind of weird reading this today after events of last week. If the memo's been around since the mid-19th century, where's my copy?

In sum, in response to a request, I was told "
No thanks, that won't work for me, lets not speak of this again" followed shortly by, "And regardless of what was actually going on (of which we shall never speak again), we shall all agree that this other thing is what was going on, even though it is made up of 98%-whole cloth. And, I shall insist that it is the only truth of what was going on, and in this I shall speak for everyone, and your truth shall be null and void. Kthxbye." (Yes, I am paraphrasing.) Except I disagreed with the null and void bit. I was ok with the framing of it as whatever... but not ok with the complete denial of what actually happened. Seriously, don't tell me I don't know what I know. And don't insist you didn't do what you did... HELLO, I was there. And I'm not crazy. And it hits all kinds of buttons that I keep wrapped up in my personal baggage.

The "No thanks, that won't work for me, lets not speak of this again" was really sufficient and ok with me. I really didn't think the whole thing was this big a deal. That last bit though, the whole cloth fiction, denial thing? Pissed me off, and I called bullsh!t (only without saying bullsh!t; I believe I used "disingenuous" -- maybe bullsh!t would have been better). Which resulted in an angry email about social pleasantries. Hopefully, the other parties will get that I was pissed at the attempt to deny and erase what happened, not at the necessity of social pleasantries following what apparently -was- a big deal to make it ok and grease the social wheels.

Can I also just say that I don't much like it when people's anger is directed at me. But really, I had to say something...

Next post will be a book review, with no personal drama, honest!

Edit: one more quote from the above book: "Finally, they could rest secure in the knowledge that heart cannot meet heart in a world of strangers, and in the recognition that the uncloaked heart is the most dangerous acquaintance of all." (p. 188)


Ink said...

Good for you for NOT accepting that effort to control the discourse. Go, Digger! You're completely right.

Bavardess said...

I don't know what the whole story is here, obviously, but I can sympathise with your anger at it being assumed you'll accept something didn't happen when you know it did. You did the right thing to refuse to pretend things were what they weren't just to mollify others.
On a slightly different note, your quote about social intercourse and proper 'social conduct' struck a note with me, because I've just been reading about a 14thC letter that was couched in such intimate and loving terms, that for hundreds of years it was assumed to have been from a wife to her husband. It was only recently that a historian figured out it was actually from a baron to his (future) king, and was talking about political loyalty, not personal affective love.

Digger said...

Thanks, both. I'm just so frustrated about the alternate history and the escalation. Truly, email is a medium where what is meant doesn't necessarily come through from what is said, and I think some of what I said was taken the wrong way (not the part about calling bullsh!t, but other parts may have been taken as an F-U Very Much, when that wasn't my intention). I'm not sure where to pick this up, or even if I should.

Bavardess: The Chronicle of Higher Ed just had an article on friendship, discussing how the meaning of it has changed over the years. Here's a link (it goes to the Chronicle, honest!)