A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Second Childhood

Hospitals and nursing facilities are grown-up places, where things like prudishness and modesty have to be left behind. I overheard two nurses laughing about the persnickety patient who requested that no men, not even aides or orderlies, be allowed to enter her room. Of course, nurses have seen and handled things that would have most of us fleeing or throwing up. There aren't many professions that get more respect from me than nursing does.

Still, it bothers me to hear a 90-year-old man say things like "I need to go potty" or "I have to wee-wee." And the nursing staff encourages it. Instead of "urinate" and "defecate," they say "pee-pee" and "poop" or even something I hadn't heard since third grade: "No. 1" and "No. 2." (No one uses the most familiar four-letter Anglo-Saxonisms.)

At first I thought this was an example of the infantilization that some critics decry in our culture. But then I lightened up. These twee euphemisms are the ones that almost every parent uses so often during the toilet-training years that it shouldn't be surprising when they become second-nature to us.

But something in me still thinks that being sick -- or just very, very old, as most of my roommates have been -- should be treated with frankness, not cutesiness.

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