Thursday, January 03, 2013


Yesterday I read about a journalism teacher whose "signature assignment" is the "humiliation essay": write three pages about your most humiliating secret. "It encourages students to shed vanity and pretension and relive an embarrassing moment that makes them look silly, fearful, fragile or naked."

I won't be doing that here.

I am considering possibilities though. Here's one: the college-era performance of Beethoven's Ninth during which I could not stop crying because the choral director had made fun of my name. I don't remember what he said, but I know the room was lemon yellow and it was April and it was hot. We in the chorus were smashed together on the stage and had to stand through the whole damn symphony, including the first three movements when we didn't sing. I couldn't see. If there were risers I wasn't anywhere near them. I was claustrophobic. I had cramps and a headache, an uncomfortable dress and a desire to be anywhere but there. The notes were high. And I cried and cried. The director, with some compassion, appeared at my elbow to apologize, which didn't stop the tears. It only made them more embarrassing.

This choir director bullied and teased all the time. He was a smart-ass who picked out easy targets--the really odd people on campus. A smart, handsome man, making fun of the lowly, for cheap laughs. And all those adoring singers in his choirs laughed. It made me angry, but apparently it was funny to make fun of the notorious psych student for example who was six-fee-somethingt tall, had pink eyes and scars on his forearms and wore a white wool overcoat that reached to his ankles and made him look like the Easter bunny.

I did not want to be counted in the same group as him. The flash I felt of that is what started the crying. The humiliation kept it going.

I don't have three heads or three breasts or three of anything that I should have two or ten of. But all my life I've just wanted to be normal. Telling humiliating stories does not seem to be the way to get there.

When I started this blog and named it "The Perverse Lutheran," I hoped to be witty and clever, to charm, to turn beliefs over in the light to discover little-seen facets. I planned to be the Perverse Lutheran by being one-up on much of what has been handed down to me.

And yet the path into a story is always through the heart, through the heart's humiliation.

There's something about incarnation there . . .

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