The Horror! The HORROR!

She gave birth in a WHAT?!

Have you ever noticed that when you’re about to undergo some ordeal (a wedding, childbirth, tooth extraction), people always want to tell you their horror stories?

I first noticed it a few months ago when a then-pregnant friend mentioned that people get weirdly free with a pregnant woman. They’ll touch her, ask her personal questions, and tell her the epic story of a 45-hour labor which ended in a gruesome emergency C-section. Of course, my friend can now beat them all: she gave birth in a truck on a rural road.

It got still more noticeable when I started mentioning wedding plans to acquaintances. After I mentioned my upcoming nuptials, the woman who does my hair told me the horror story of her second (or was it third?) wedding. The hotel hosting it double-booked them with another wedding, so they had to have the ceremony and reception in the bar instead of the banquet hall. The photographer was late, the flowers never showed, and IT ENDED IN DOOM AND DIVORCE.

The most easily-traumatized victim of our love of horror, though, is the man with the upcoming wisdom tooth extraction. My fiance had his wisdom teeth out this morning, and, after a lifetime of painful dentistry and orthodontia, he’s been dreading it for the three weeks since he made the appointment.

It went fine. He was in and out in 45 minutes.

But we’ve heard so many horrible stories of dry sockets and impacted teeth in the past week that it makes me just want to pretend I don’t have wisdom teeth and never, ever go to the dentist again. The worst part of it was that I accidentally got in on the scare-the-victim stories, too.

In this metaphorical image, the cat represents the dentist.

Fiance: “Well, the dentist said I won’t need anyone to drive me home, but I think I’d like it if you would.”

Kristin: “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. When my brother had his wisdom teeth out, they had to drive an hour and a half to Abilene, and then my dad had to pull over a few times so that he could vomit… um… never mind.”

Fiance: (with growing horror) “Vomit what? Blood?”

Kristin: “Um… yes?”


Why do we do this? All people are story-tellers: it’s not just writers. We love to share the appalling stories of the trials we’ve undergone, and that’s fine. Rehashing a battle is probably more fun than fighting it, and commiseration makes our victories (or suffering) ever-so-much more satisfying.

But why do we scare the person who is about to face what we struggled to overcome? Why do we take this sadistic pleasure? It’s hilarious, but it’s horrible all at the same time.

What do you think readers? Why do we love to share our most gruesome, painful stories with people facing the same struggles?

13 thoughts on “The Horror! The HORROR!

  1. Ha! I do this ALL the time. And I love it!

    But I do it for entirely different reasons. Or, at least, that’s what I tell myself.

    I’m telling the horrific stories so that the soon-to-be victim will feel better about their experience, because, surely, it will not be worse than what I’m about to tell them… 👿

  2. I am dying laughing…it is SO true. When I was pregnant with my first child, people told me the MOST INAPPROPRIATE stories. Total strangers would tell me things that should never ever ever be repeated in polite society. Never ever. Ever.

    I don’t know why we feel compelled to tell people these horrible stories! But it is kind of funny…

    • It’s hilarious. It totally is, especially, when we’re not the one getting told the stories. But it’s SO WRONG. I can’t even imagine some of the stories pregnant women get told.

      Though now I get to vicariously tell the story of my friend who gave birth in a Toyota pick-up truck. 😀

  3. My wisdom teeth story is kind of amusing…they were impacted, but I got them out in Poland under local anesthesia only, and I remember hearing Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” playing on the radio as he sawed through the crown of one of them. Bua ha ha.

    Yep, I’m a badass.

    • Should my wisdom teeth ever require removal (which they probably will, since last time I checked they were growing in sideways), I will have nightmares about this story.

  4. Well, let’s see…my wisdom tooth extraction went fine, my wedding with no problems, and we just celebrated our 19th anniversary. A few hiccups in labor, but I don’t share those stories with pregnant women. I do try not to terrorize anyone, but it seems we all want to one-up each other with our stories and the fish gets bigger each time we tell them, doesn’t it?

    • It really does. Most of my horror stories–heart surgery, appendectomy–have a very small audience for scaring, so happily they don’t grow too much. And I hope my wedding goes as smoothly as yours does!

  5. LOL! Yes! I dread sharing what’s going on in my life with some people because of this exact thing — and sometimes, even when I do have a bad experience, I know that if I tell these people, their experience will be ten times worse and still make me feel bad for sharing! LOL… Ugh!

    LOVE the picture of the chihuahua!!

  6. We are creatures that love stories and they have to be interesting, exciting, over the top to entertain. The first time we tell it it might be closer to the truth, but then as people share their similar stories, we have to one-up it each time — until we are exaggerating to elicit that horror response, “No, they didn’t,” “Oh, god, that’s awful,” or “Eww that’s disgusting!” Human nature.

  7. Hahaha! Oh my. Your poor fiance. Well, I have now vomited, but it was not blood. So now I have that to look forward to–THANKS, KRISTIN. 😉 I have to agree with your friend … I think the horror stories I heard while pregnant were the worst. Don’t worry, your wedding is going to be perfect, no matter what! People love to spread the love, don’t they? *le sigh*

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