I just finished reading Lena Dunham's new book Not That Kind Of Girl where she recounts her adventures and mishaps as a young woman forging her own path in the world. I read it in one day, not because it was wildly gripping but because it felt like I was spending the day with an old friend who I haven't seen since summer camp of 1994 (I never actually went to summer camp and have always resented this fact — Camp Cucamonga was one of my favourite movies). I listened to her recount her first blow job on the same day her cat dies, her inappropriate (unsolicited) relationship with her fifth grade teacher, her deep love of her family and their complicated relationships and all the strife and victories along the way.
The night before I bought her book I watched her interview with Jian Ghomeshi. I was taken by her ability to articulate her experience with such honesty and clarity (and humour, of course) in the wake of so much criticism and praise. But what I have been most intrigued by is her unabashed oversharing — loved or hated.
According to the Urban Dictionary, oversharing is "[p]roviding more personal information than is absolutely necessary..." but I am of the belief that any information a person chooses to share is necessary by their own standards. What makes oversharing uncomfortable is the person receiving the information. Like crying in public, it just falls out of your face with little control over when or where. If you are crying in public it is likely because whatever you were feeling had no way out except through tears (and maybe a little snot) and you had little control over when and where it was going to happen. It makes other people uncomfortable, perhaps even judgmental, but you are just there being human and... being vulnerable.
Oversharing is a form of vulnerability and it is vulnerability that makes people uncomfortable, not the actual information. How can I be so sure? Because I am so fucking certain that any remote, minuscule, mundane detail of my life that may be even mildly embarrassing or weird or sad or whatever, somebody else has gone through. That's it. I have no fear of sharing the gross and dirty details of my life because I acknowledge my own humanity and yours and I have no shame about it. Lena Dunham doesn't either.
It does not surprise me that I would be drawn to someone like Dunham who has little to hide and who so willingly shares her less than perfect self with the world. I do believe that people are fascinated, even attracted to, people who are willing to bare all their imperfect, weird, gross, fucked up glory for the world to inspect and examine. Those stories make the best memoirs — the dark and sometimes dirty details of a persons life. It is in our nature to want to see into the dusty crevices of other peoples lives even if we don't want to share our own.
I am a self-proclaimed oversharer and I cry in public.
Your worldview has not shifted or blown up. You're welcome.
**Full Disclosure: I wrote this post a few days ago and sent it over to my husband to review/edit it (as I always do) and his response surprised me. So after reading it over a few times, I sent it to my trusted girlfriends to ask for opinions. It was varied. This got me thinking:
Oversharing is undoubtedly personal and our own definition of it is equally so. Admittedly, I was shocked at my husband's reaction (I have deleted a couple of paragraphs since the original version) and then utterly intrigued by my friends responses. What a wonderful point of discussion! What is oversharing? Who decides? When is it too much or irrelevant? For some people it's about personal privacy, for others it depends on the audience and for some oversharing is as natural as breathing.
Let's be honest: if you were going to read a memoir, whose would you read: the person who only shares the details that are deemed fit for the public's ear or the person who has shared all the gritty details of their personal lives that make you feel oddly uncomfortable but mildly comforted?
If you are reading this, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on oversharing in the comments below! I am so intrigued by this topic and want to hear more!