Wednesday, 8 May 2013
Why is it suddenly so necessary to feel "comfortable", to be spared any sense of embarrassment, of awkwardness, of bewilderment? Why are such quite natural reactions seen as unthinkable?
Feeling uncomfortable is a normal everyday experience, a way of adjusting to new situations. If you never feel uncomfortable, you're never going to learn anything about yourself or about the world. You'll be stuck forever in an over-protected bubble.
A Michigan mother has complained that passages in Anne Frank's diary made her daughter feel "uncomfortable" because they were "pornographic" and "inappropriate". The passages in question were simply descriptions of a young girl's body.
If her daughter didn't know much about her body, then yes, what Anne Frank wrote probably did make her uncomfortable. But the result was that she learnt things and was better informed.
There's nothing wrong with feeling uncomfortable. If on the other hand you're feeling offended, or belittled, or mocked, that's different. That's a genuine attack on your self-esteem and your dignity that needs challenging.
But let's not elevate a bit of functional awkwardness into a major psychic trauma that calls for kid gloves in all directions. In fact we should encourage a daily diet of occasional discomfort just as we encourage the regular consumption of high-fibre foods.
It's good for you, dammit, just stop making such a fuss!