Me, myself and Maury

by Susan Slotnick
November 04, 2010 01:02 PM | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I fell on my head, broke my wrist and lost the use of my right hand. That’s why you haven’t heard from me lately. One small broken bone and life as I knew it ended. I could not teach, dance, write, read, cook, clean, drive a car, feed myself, pick up my grandson or turn a key and a doorknob. Along with the loss of these activities, the different characters brought about by each activity, in the drama I call my life, temporarily died. Who was left? I’ll tell you -- a stranger who did nothing but watch trash TV for a month. Just myself, Maury Povich and a parade of people getting their five minutes of fame.

The Maury Povich Show consists exclusively of “ordinary people” subjecting their sexual lives to the scrutiny of a lie detector and DNA tests, while the results are shared with millions of voyeuristic couch potatoes.

I surprised myself. I was interested. Given my self-picture (ego), I would have assumed that when all my different personas disappeared, someone loftier would be left -- maybe a person who meditated or could sit outside and watch the leaves turn red.

One of the pivotal philosophical questions that we humans ask ourselves as soon as we can think is, “Who am I?” Sometimes it takes the experience of a crisis, such as an injury, to strip away the roles we play and see who is left. “Who Am I?” I am a person who is truly interested in whether Shicquia’s baby was fathered by her husband or her husband’s brother, or if Irina’s elderly husband is cheating on her with her mother.

But of course that’s not all I am. My surgeon, Dr. Barbera, suggested that I write about being injured. I asked him what positive changes come for most people from injury and he said, “Humility.”

Is it that when all activity slows down and one’s life shrinks, our egos diminish? Then we can make contact with a simpler more genuine self. Is that what he meant by humility?

When I became injured, my public self lost its identity. For one month I was left only with my private self. Nevertheless, I would not want to display my private self on The Maury Povich Show. I wondered why those guests did. Since Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud postulate that 90 percent of our motivations are unconscious, what motivates a person to go on one of these shows? I wish I could interview someone who did and try to get to the deeper meaning.

Then I remembered an embarrassing moment in my own history. I was on The Phil Donahue Show years ago. If you see me out and about, please don’t remind me.

Here’s how it happened: I arrived at home one day and the babysitter told me The Phil Donahue Show called. “Yeah yeah,” I said, “and my name is Marilyn Monroe.”

Through some mysterious networking, the producers found out that at the time I was allowing my daughter’s boyfriend to live with us. Sorry no more details.

At first I refused to appear on the program. Then they chided me. “So you don’t believe that your child-rearing practices are okay? You’re ashamed of your beliefs? Are you a hypocrite?”

“No I’m not,” I said.

“How about if we put you in a disguise? A blond wig and sunglasses?”

After much haggling back and forth, I finally said “Okay.”

They told me that I would be speaking to nine-million people, live.

“How many of those people do you think you actually know personally?” my brother asked. It was then that I realized I did not need to wear a mask to hide my identity from the millions of people I’d never met, just the several hundred who I knew.

“Good luck with that,” my brother said. “You’ll pull up to The Bakery Sunday morning and everyone will scream, Hey Susan, where is your wig and sunglasses?”

So I decided to go disguised as myself.

Even in this familiar mask, revealing myself did require bravery.

The ten percent of motivations I was aware of were these:

I would ride to NYC in a stretch limo.

I could bring 20 friends to the show.

I would meet Phil Donahue (who I discovered was a wonderful loving man).

My hair would be fixed and my make-up applied by professionals.

The food in the Green Room would be tasty, abundant and free to my friends and myself.

I would get to espouse to millions of people the virtues of my own opinions.

Although I am embarrassed by the show now, at the time it was oxygen to my ego. By the time the program ended, I had everyone in the audience copiously applauding for my side of the issue.

Now that I have remembered the conscious reasons why I exposed my private self to the world, I will attempt to explain what profound psychic (a synonym for soul) reasons I, or anyone else, would do such a thing.

When we were babies, we only had a private self. The concept of a public self was not formulated. Of course this is true. Babies display flagrantly and innocently in public all the bodily functions we learn to hide. Infants have no clue where they are or who is watching them. It’s all private to them no matter what is going on externally. Not for long.

Soon the adaptations to the outside world begin. Children must figure out how to get adults to love them, what society wants from them, how to fit in at school, what traits they need to acquire to make friends.

The longer we live the more roles we play in the larger world. With each role comes a new public persona. For many adults this split from our private self can be painful and emotionally costly to the health of our souls.

Maybe the guests on The Maury Povich Show unconsciously want to unify their private and public worlds in the most extreme and outrageous manner.

In some unconscious and convoluted way telling your darkest and dirtiest secrets to millions of people in the most public forum possible might accomplish this, at least momentarily.

Carl Jung suggested that one of the best ways an adult can reconnect with their inner being, with their soul, is to make art. People who write poetry, paint pictures, make films, choreograph dances and even columnists are often expressing their private soulful self. In sharing their art with the public they are also bringing divergent parts of themselves together. This takes courage.

Shicquia and Irina, I may not fully understand your methodology, but I can admire your courage.
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