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No Shame, More Gain

Carlyn Lynch
It’s biblical. Adam meets Eve, Eve gets Adam into trouble, God gets mad and throws both the bums out of his garden. In that moment of banishment, the two of them discover it; the feeling that makes their cheeks burn and hands reach for the nearest fig leaf…Shame. One minute, they’re prancing / jiggling about Eden wearing nothing but a smile, then something shifts and suddenly Adam’s got size issues. Fear of being exposed, being vulnerable, being aware of people looking at and judging you is a longstanding human condition that has strengthened with the passage of time. Our two-legged species avoids these states of consciousness with Darwinian adeptness…an evolutionary skill that can flavor our lives vanilla.

So, this week I’m making the case for Shamelessness (capitalized for emphasis). When we tell inhibitions and societal restraints to take a walk ; we give ourselves permission to fully indulge in our romantic life, everyday life…even our work life.

To further elaborate on the evolutionary theme I’ve got going on in my introductory paragraph, I’ll first address the importance of shamelessness in our romantic / sex lives (an arena many of us enter with the anxiety of a doomed Roman gladiator). The modern-day prophet of shamelessness as it relates to sex has got to be Dan Savage, host of the Savage Love podcast and columnist for The Stranger. He’s constantly reinforcing the fact that sex is ridiculous by nature and in order to fully enjoy it, people have to get over their hang-ups about their own perceived inadequacies or kinks or fears of judgment from their partners and society. There is lots of truth and gratuitous, witty humor in what he says and I refer you to him for further exploration of this topic as I blush, wipe the sweat from my brow and proceed with the column….ahem…

Shamelessness can also be the catalyst for creating unexpected moments in the most mundane situations. It is my lack of shame that allowed me to enjoy a moment straight out of a Pepsi commercial this afternoon while careening down 71 South. As is customary for me after the work day, I had slicked my hair back into a wind-resistant Cloris Leachman chignon, rolled down the driver’s side and passenger windows and cranked the volume of Train’s ‘Soul Sista’ to a standard level 23 for highway driving.

As I was belting out the line, “The way you move ain’t fair you know”, bracing my steering wheel for pop-and-lock leverage and thinking to myself, “I never said I was fair baby…oh YEA!” I caught a glimpse of flailing limbs to my left. A cute, redheaded guy was really making his seatbelt struggle to restrain some pretty passionate movements…I couldn’t hear his music over mine, but judging by the seismic frequency of shoulder shakes and rapidfire head nodding, I‘d wager he was working with techno.

I looked over at him, he looked at me and we laughed at each other in that very commercial, throw-your-head-back-with-a-knowing-smile-and-mischievous-glint-in-your-eyes sort of way. We laughed at the other for looking ridiculous, at ourselves for looking ridiculous and mostly because we were having so much fun. I felt a sense of solidarity in our shamelessness, like we were united in rebellion amongst a sea of poker-faced drivers incapable of reaching the Shameless Nirvana we had achieved.

My Siddhartha-like shamelessness has its benefits in the office as well. For example, my boss has a manila folder that she has deemed the “Carlyn File.” In this file are hair-brained projects I’ve proposed that will never see the light of day (it’s thick). But I keep coming up with new ideas, worse ideas and better ideas. Each time I toss one out there, I stand by it with confidence and time does not slow before my eyes, nor does a tiny piece of my soul die, if my carefully laminated papers are banished to the file. Despite these occasional flops, I know that my willingness to put myself out there has only made my job more interesting and helped me to establish a trusting, collaborative and mutually respectful rapport with my boss.

Shamelessness, coupled with respect for your own well-being and the well-being of the people around you, is key to freedom and growth. Quit being scared to make a fool of yourself and you can begin to take more chances, be more present in your everyday life and have uncensored, honest relationships with friends, family or romantic interests. It’s totally exhausting to go through life playing it cool and, worse than that, it’s boring. The more open and genuine you are with the people in your life, the more they’ll respect you and feel comfortable to be themselves too…so (rah, rah) everybody wins!