Two of my Scanner friends have guiltily admitted, via Twitter, to liking football (shhhh!).
They weren’t being entirely serious, but it stuck in my mind because it’s not the first time I’ve come across the idea that people with multiple interests should feel embarrassed or guilty about the things they take pleasure in.
On page 12 of her book Refuse to Choose, where Barbara Sher is advising Scanners to keep a special journal or Scanner Daybook for all their ideas, she mentions a scanner who wrote to her and said,
I call the Daybook my “Guilty Pleasures.”
And I know I have some interests that I’m less likely to reveal than others, depending on who I’m talking to. So why do we still feel guilty about some of our interests, even after we’ve discovered that we’re Scanners or Renaissance Souls, and know it’s OK to be interested in lots of different things?
@dreaminaction suggested a possible reason in another tweet.
Maybe that’s it, football really doesn’t go with a cool artsy persona. And perhaps collecting antique thimbles and playing the Northumbrian bagpipes wouldn’t fit with being a footballing type. Enjoying crosswords and amateur operatics would be fine pastimes for a retired librarian, but probably not industrial techno music or researching the history of sex toys. And if you’re a teenager who loves designing fonts, growing giant marrows, and playing carpet bowls, you’re probably going to keep quiet about it in case people think you’re odd.
In other words, you feel guilty because an interest doesn’t fit other people’s image of you, or the image you would like people to have of you, or the image you have of yourself.
That could be for many reasons – maybe it doesn’t fit with your culture or sub-culture or profession; it’s totally unrelated to your other interests; it seems trivial or purposeless, and unworthy of your attention; or too grandiose and unattainable; it’s too lowbrow or too highbrow; it’s inappropriate for your age, or gender, or class, or orientation, or ethnicity; It’s out of your league or below your station; It’s boring to other people, or obscure, or uncool, or out of fashion, or ridiculous.
I think it’s mainly about a fear of disapproval. Sometimes that disapproval is imaginary, but often it’s real and can have harmful or unpleasant consequences. So, as we move through different environments during our scanners’ lives, we learn which interests are safe to reveal in which situations.
As a survival mechanism among people who don’t understand Scanners, I think that’s fine. It would be too stressful to out yourself fully to everyone all the time. But it’s a problem when we internalise the disapproval and let guilt prevent us doing the things we love. Because every one of our interests, however trivial or random it may seem, adds something to our store of skills and knowledge and mental connections, and can lead in completely unforeseen but amazingly wonderful directions. Because that’s the way Scanners’ brains work.
Here’s an example. When I was an 11-year-old schoolgirl in England, during an interview for a scholarship to a posh high school, I said I liked reading westerns. It was before I’d learned to feel guilty about that particular pleasure, and maybe that’s why I didn’t get the scholarship.
Perhaps I should have told them that after reading the westerns I used to look at maps of the USA to see where the stories took place – Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming – I loved the sound of those names! And I used to look at pictures of the places in photography magazines – the Grand Canyon! Wow!! And after reading a story with a civil war background, I went looking for books to read about the history of the American civil war. And so on….
So yes, I think every one of a Scanner’s multifarious interests, even football, makes us more multidimensional, and way cooler than cool.