I was reading an article and the interviewee said this about the stories he writes: When you’re forced into exile, you lose places, you lose people, but you also lose money, and nobody wants to talk about that because it isn’t a very elegant thing to discuss.
No. Nobody wants to talk about that.
There are so many taboo subjects, and then there are even qualifiers on top of those subjects. You can’t write about:
ABUSE. Physical-sexual-emotional-or-any-iteration, especially if you’re going to name names and the abusers are still living.
MONEY. Having too much or too little, as both are crimes infused with their own twisted swords of shame.
RACE. If you’re a minority, shut the hell up, you’re complaining. If you’re not a minority, shut the hell up, you’ve already had the microphone long enough.
RELIGION. If you’re a believer, you’re preaching. If you’re a nonbeliever, you’re preaching.
ACADEMIA. If you’re a professor, you’ve sworn to abide by the code. Students, you can never, never write about your teachers or fellow students or what really goes on behind the wall, lest you become the scourge of your community.
YOUR CHILDREN. Shame on you for being a parent who would even consider, gasp!, writing about your children.
The list is long and there are so many fucking “rules.”
This morning a friend sent me a quote from this book: I needed words because unhappy families are conspiracies of silence. The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven.
Taboo subjects are funny things. Is nothing sacred? Do we really need to know about this? What makes you think it’s your place to ‘tell’? What if your version is the wrong version?
I recently read a piece about racism wherein the author said, basically, please don’t respond to this with your own stories of racist relatives and the like, I don’t want to hear it. What? This admonishment to shut up (to the reader!) still, weeks later, bugs the hell out of me.
Years ago, when I published my first essay, people said, “Maybe you should change the names.” When I first told a friend I was writing a book about growing up in Missouri, she said, “How will you ever go home? What if no one ever speaks to you again?” All of these people mean well. They’re worried about me. And they have good reason. What happens if I break the rules, break the code? What if I cross a bridge and can’t come back?
What subject are you avoiding? And if you’re not avoiding it, how do you manage the pressure to keep quiet?