Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Club - Self-Inflicted Wounds


Jonathan Harris reads. Taken from the Awesome People Reading tumblr. 
Welcome to the book club of one.

If you aren't familiar with the Pierogi Book Club, the rules are simple. I pick a book that I like; it has to be entertaining, thoughtful or interesting. If not, I drop it like it's hot.  Ok, I don't really drop anything, but I do delete the offensive books off my tablet and on to the next one. These books won't end up on your chardonnay swilling friendly neighborhood reading list, but I enjoyed them.

Self-Inflicted Wounds
self-inflicted wound (n): a spectacularly humiliating, and often hilarious, incident entirely of one's own making. 

see also: you did it to yourself.

Aisha Tyler's book, self-inflicted wounds: heartwarming tales of epic humiliation is everything I want in a book. By sharing her memories of events most try to forget, such as trying to use the force not to wet herself are hilarious. I related to the smart nerdy girl that may have been a little too smart and brave for her own good. 

Tyler describes herself as an "African-American comedian/actress/television host/podcaster/gamer/intense lover of pancakes with such a lush and heady surfeit of fine curse words," which, if we are honest with one another, how can you argue with pancakes?

Here is an excerpt that describes a self-inflicted wound much better than I can:
  Sometimes the self-inflicted wound is entirely of your own making, and sometimes others empower or hasten it along, as if adding accelerant to your fast growing pyre of self-immolation. Everyone enjoys a spectacular meltdown, which is why we are so addicted to shows about people who extreme coupon, dress their children up like hookers, or live in a hoarder's paradise of vintage magazines and Ziploc bags of cat poop. It is supremely fun to point and laugh at the foibles of others, and if we can stick out a foot to trip someone into a murky puddle of their own damp mistakes, all the better.  
But in the aftermath of the self-inflicted wound, when you sift through the embers for the arsonist's tool, the propane canister or half-burned lighter, much like the nameless narrator in Fight Club, you discover that Tyler Duren is just a figment of your fractured imagination, that you blew up your own apartment and burned your life to the ground and you've been punching yourself in the face like a idiot the entire time. 
  Don't fight it. Accept it for what it is. You screwed the pooch. All you can do now is try to turn it into a learning experience. 
  Or, at the very least, into a killer story you can tell your friends. 

Tyler takes us through various stages of her life, with chapters titled, The Time I Almost Set Myself On Fire, The Time I Snuck Out of My Home in the Night Like a CBS After-School Special, The Bunny Fiasco, The Time I Fell Asleep on the Patio Furniture at a Birthday Party and The Hot Wasabi and the Infinite Sadness. 

"Self-Inflicted Wounds" is also a segment for her popular (and darn entertaining) podcast, Girl on Guy. She convinces famous people to share a personal story of their own epic humiliation - which shows us that famous people are real people that make the same boneheaded mistakes we all do. 

If you are even slightly nerdy or if the Calvin and Hobbes Raccoon story means anything to you, this is the book for you. As a special treat, pay attention to the footnotes. Those things are the colored sprinkles on a Donut Land donut of deliciousness. This is the first book in a long time that I have read sections over and over just because they were funny. So very, very funny. 

I've found that I learn way more from my mistakes and failures than my successes. Those mistakes are what make a person stronger, albeit while potentially whacking away at the personal medical deductible. Mistakes make great stories. No one wants to hear the valiant  tale of you working all weekend and spending a hour finding that paper jam under knob d. Nope, your friends want to hear the quiver in your voice as you recount the time you had a business trip in Vegas and woke up on a bus with only one shoe and a pocketful of glitter.


In the spirit of sharing personal accounts of crippling embarrassment, here is mine, of which if you look very closely, you can see the physical manifestation of my prideful fall from elementary grace.

Recess at Kidder Elementary in the 70s was a free for all of child mutilating contraptions; from the monkey bars cemented into the black top play ground to the child-tossing merry go round to the flesh-melting metal slide. My choice for that afternoon's play time was the swings, where were positioned over jagged, kid ankle twisting rocks. 

No matter the Generation, be it X, Y or old-timer, kids are always looking for the next great one up. That one thing you can double dog dare another kid to do that will either result in momentary playground fame or a tearful call home to mom, sobs punctuating the real or imagined injury. 

On this playground, there were two sets of swings. The easy ones, with the plastic that wrapped around your butt, hugging you in place, and the more dangerous, hardened plastic swings.  The latter, faded and cracked, were perfect for the jump off. This was a move that kids adore and parents scream when performed. We all did it. You swing as high as you can, trying to go for even with the top bar of the swing set and then you leap off into the air, flying squirrel like with arms stretched out, to the ground below.  

I loved it, and on this particular day, I was a champion. I flew higher and farther into the rocks than any other kid. 

In the playground version of the Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake dance off, I was challenged by a loud mouth little boy that, years later would eat an entire classroom's lunch serving of prunes (that is another story), to see who could fly the highest. I nodded at him, and took his dare, certain I could get one more match in before the bell rang. 

Both of us started to swing, side by side, little legs pumping, while the rest of the class cheered on their champion.  We swung higher and higher, the chains creaking with each pass. My opponent jumped into the air, thinking I was going to as well, he was too proud. He landed with a thud into the rocks below while I kept swinging and laughing. Pumped full of adrenaline and pixie stix, I swung higher, garnering more cheers and applause until I felt I won, and then I let go, gracefully landing in the middle of the other kids. A few rocks tumbling out of the way of my hush puppies.

There were so many kids rooting for me, that I didn't want anyone to be left out, so I turned around to bow to the fans behind me.

And then, the swing came back.

WHAP! 

The swing seat cracked into my head, knocking me flat on my back. Kids screamed and scattered as my blood gushed from my eye. All I could see through the fog of my tears was my teacher coming toward me, and not another soul around. I could barely hear her questions of how and why through my wails and sobs. 

My dad picked me up from school and in his dad "rub some dirt on it" fashion took me for ice cream instead of stitches, so I know have a scar on my eyebrow, where the hair never grows quite right.  

What about you? What is your tale of epic humiliation?


Calvin and Hobbes...the Raccoon *sniff*

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