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.
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?