Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Rules

I was talking to a couple I knew, a friend and his wife, over dinner, back when I still lived in Chicago, and the subject of sexual abuse by clergy came up. For my friend, the issue was really simple - people were not meant to be celibate, and attempting to be so was more or less a one-way ticket to mental illness. Being neither in a relationship nor into casual sex - and not thinking of myself as crazy, I was inclined to disagree - after all, if I could handle not having a sex life, it couldn't be all that difficult.

Over time, though, I came to agree with him - sort of. My own understanding of The Rules tells me that for men, the only allowable avenue for dealing with the emotionally-laden parts of life is talking to a Significant Other. When you're talking to other friends or family, there is a certain... fa├žade that needs to be maintained. "Men aren't supposed to cry," is part of it, perhaps the part most familiar to people, but it's not all of it. In any event, it creates a situation in which there are certain things that one just doesn't talk about with anyone you aren't sleeping with on a regular basis, and that often results in bottling up things that other people can vent out (if they have a the right partner). I wasn't of the opinion that it lead to the serial sexual abuse of minors, but to just constantly being weighed down by a burden of personal secrets that could never really be shed.

I don't know if that's still true or not. It strikes me as the way The Rules were written, when I learned them, if you choose to think if it that way, but my understanding of said Rules solidified thirty plus years ago - a lot changes in that time.

In any event, this came up as a result of another conversation I was having with someone recently, in which we were talking about social media and the culture of sharing that it engenders. They'd asked if I ever discussed deeply personal issues here on my blog, and without thinking, I responded, "Of course not. That's against The Rules." But then I realized that other people did reveal personal issues on the internet - enough so that I was often impressed by their willingness to overshare, and so I started thinking about the whole topic again. And I wonder, has the overall nature of sharing simply changed from when I young (Are The Rules different now?), or does the internet have its own protocol that doesn't apply elsewhere?

It is, more than anything else, a philosophical question, rather than a practical one. Three decades of following The Rules have made it second nature, and I'm unlikely to change. So it's the sort of thing that I spend my Saturdays thinking about while running errands or pondering what to have for lunch. But still, one of these days, I might have to track down the answer for myself. Understanding The Rules in a broader context than oneself is a handy part of understanding the world.

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