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Story Archives

Childhood

Oscar Wilde

By Josh Kun

I have never been one to stand up straight, even before I was tall. As a kid, I was always criticized for my posture. My mother would pull on a hair from the top of my head, as if it were a string directly connected to my spine. In home movies of birthday parties and holidays, the camera always catches me slightly hunched (usually in corduroy Ocean Pacific shorts and white Big 5 tube socks pulled up to the knee), indulging in one of my two favorite bad habits: biting my nails and twirling my bowl-cut dirty-blond hair into tangled, often painful knots. Both habits are made easier by slouching; both encourage the body to fold into itself, to bring the head down from its heights and bury itself into the chest and shoulders, to erase the body, to reject it. I’ve always comforted myself by believing that both habits are signs of extreme interior mental activity, habits of nervousness and anxiety and worry (all codes for intelligence, right?), habits that, like my constantly shaking right leg, are proof that I’m always thinking about things. Who needs this body when the mind is where the action is? Mutilate the shell to nourish the soul. Kill the body to feed the mind. Something like that.  [From “Slouch,” Guilt and Pleasure, Issue 5, Summer 2007]

In what ways are you the same or different from your younger self?

How often do you still take cues on how to behave from your parents?

 

Josh Kun is an author, academic and music critic who is an Associate Professor of Communication in the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California.