Conflating Stories

Posted: 28th April 2013 by Lee Harrington in Journal of a Passionate Life
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When folks become “known,” we sometimes get used as examples. Examples of good behavior, examples of bad behavior. Examples of what to do, and what not to do. I myself use my bad stories as teaching stories, as I have talked about in other journal posts like this one on my life being turned into anecdotes. But teaching stories are important, because they help folks learn from the mistakes of others without having to learn the mistakes for themselves.

However, stories become a game of telephone. They get mixed up with one another, details shift, things get translated and confused.  Thus, when I heard that I had done a face-palm alone in my own apartment, I got very confused. No I hadn’t. But as they expanded what they had heard, I realized two stories had been conflated with one another.

Story 1:

I was at home, and was practicing a self-suspension. My scissors were out of reach, and my phone was across the room. I was watching the Olympics skiing, so they were all going uphill :) My line for flipping me back over was tied off at my ankles, so I had to do a sit-up to get out. I had been upside down for a while, and when I tried to get out, I could not do the situp. I tried many times, and then passed out. I woke up, confused about the uphill skiing. I oriented myself, and tried again and again. Passed out again. Wake up #2 I had an adrenaline rush hit, and was able to get myself out. 2 lessons:

  • Don’t do self-suspensions home alone with no one due to find you and all backup gear far away (was a weekend, no one would miss me for days)
  • Don’t tie off lines out of reach

Story 2:

I was performing at ShibariCon. Strip, dance, strip more, self-waxing, suspension harness on underneath. Get self in air, flip upside down. Twist, twist, tuck line. Spin. Whoops, spun in the wrong direction, the wraps untwisted, and I went down on my shoulder. From the audience it looked like a face-plant. A few folks head for stage to “help” me. My spotter (Suzanne SexySadist) comes over, I grab her, kiss her hard, use her to lift myself up, and go back into the show without a beat. (Opera reviewer said that I was faster than any opera folks who have walked off stages he has seen, and there have been many he says). Lessons:

  • Don’t just twist-and tuck lines for dynamic suspensions
  • It’s okay to get pissed the fuck off when someone calls a face-plant on yourself or your partner “pulling a Harrington.”

Neither are happy stories. The second one sucked. I went to my hotel room and cried, and then finally realized I had two choices. Keep crying, or dress up sexy and go face the crowd. It took me an hour or two, but I finally did so, and the healing slowly began. Until 2 years later a friend said he called face-plants “pulling a Harrington.” When I explained why that was offensive and not funny, nor accurate, as I had not dropped anyone else nor had I face-planted, he said I should loosen up as it was funny. This person was a dear person to me. I have since cut those ties, which saddens me.

Anecdotes become myths. Myths make people into heros, villains, saints and monsters. I know that when I am dead, my stories will become myths, and time will tell as to whether I am a hero, villain, saint or monster. Or just some human, who tried their best as they lived.

Use your teaching stories, but remember, that there are people on the other end of those stories who deserve respect.

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