Friday, July 6, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 6: Chinese Kid Tales - Shame

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My stomach was churning in shame and embarrassment all day long. I knew as the work day progressed that I'd have to eventually face up to committing my mistake, and I was not looking forward to it at all. I pride myself on being a responsible, considerate citizen who more or less has her sh!t together; how did I get here?

As a bored voice yelled, "Next!" I shyly advanced to the counter with my head down.  When I was asked what I was there for, I mumbled so quietly that the bored customer service person had to ask me three times, and she quickly morphed from bored to irritated.

"I'd like to pay my fines, please."  

The librarian barely managed to stop herself from rolling her eyes in annoyance and went on to proceed with the task at hand.

I was late returning 12 books I had borrowed from the library a few weeks ago, and some of them were popular, new titles that had holds on them.  I myself had been practically foaming at the mouth waiting for the books to get in my hands - I was so looking forward to reading them - and I felt bad for the 456 people I had kept waiting.

Then as I paid up, something occurred to me.  The librarian didn't care that I had late fines; she was more annoyed that I was wasting her time.  She didn't really treat me any differently than someone who might have needed to borrow a book or renew their card - someone who hadn't done anything wrong.  In her eyes, I was not guilty and I wasn't a bad person.  In fact, she probably processes tons of late fine payments a day.  And in fact, paying up a day late is much better than people who never pay at all. 

That was when my next big revelation hit: Nobody will shame me as hard as my mother does.  Only Chinese mamas will shame you so much and so regularly, from Day One, that you eventually come to internalize the habit and develop the superpower of effective self-shaming.

No one at the library pointed or stared.  No one muttered in a mock soft volume that there I was, that @sshole who returned hold books late and kept other people from enjoying the resources.  I imagined all of these scenarios and piled the humiliation onto myself as a result of being raised by a fairly traditional Chinese mama.

It is the same mechanism that has prevented me from doing things like starring in a sex video, showing up late to work, taking/sending naked pictures of myself, wearing obviously unflattering clothes, getting pregnant before I could afford to raise kids, getting bad grades, and doing drugs.

Thus, I thought I'd start this list just for fun - and feel free to add to this! --

You know you have a Chinese mama when: 
*you can shame yourself into being a considerate, responsible (though sometimes paranoid/neurotic) human being with good judgement

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