I love to watch people and how they interact with others. I’m fascinated with what their body language says and if it represents the words coming out of their mouths. I enjoy writing character sketches after spending an afternoon out and observing folks. I suppose it is this fascination with what makes people tick that causes me to gravitate to even the oddest of behaviors in people. And when I say odd…well, you’ll get the idea.
Can people really be addicted to anything? After watching a couple of episodes of My Strange Addiction on The Learning Channel you may begin to think so. But people addicted to eating toilet paper and drinking their own urine? Those are tough to swallow (couldn’t resist).
As long as we’re talking strange behavior I’ll confess – I have an affinity for freshmint Tic Tacs. No other flavor will do and I inhale them by the pack. No, I won’t tell you how many packs I’m up to a day – I’d sooner confess to some deviant sexual behavior than admit to how many Tic Tacs I eat a day. When I’m writing, though, and especially when stuck on a thought, I consume those crunchy little mints like crazy. Am I as twisted as the urine drinker? Not that I’m judging – well, maybe a little. I think that’s pretty sick.
Shows like My Strange Addiction are akin to the wild and weird carnival acts of the early 20th century. You know you don’t want to be intrigued by it, but you just can’t turn away. In the early to mid 1900s, circus sideshows proudly displayed those with unfortunate physical disabilities. Some say these folks were completely exploited while others say it gave them a chance to be recognized and earn money they might not have been able to otherwise. I’ll leave that one for you to decide. One thing to remember, though, is that we are creatures prone to curiosity, and prior to the advent of television most people weren’t exposed to anything unusual or different. Therefore, their fascination with a person’s disability or illness was born from the natural human instinct for discovery. How we react once we’ve gained knowledge is what sets us apart from the crowd. Do we laugh, mock, sympathize? Do we continue to question or seek answers? Humanity is a fascinating subject for a writer – the depth of our emotions, the desires of the heart, curiosity for the bizarre, and the need to know about those things which can cause us harm and yet still seek them out because we want answers to our questions.
Are people with strange compulsions to sniff mothballs and gasoline gaining anything from being televised? Are they wonderful exceptions to the rules of normalcy? Are they being exploited or are they attention-seeking to begin with? I don’t have any answers. Without a viewing audience, the sideshows of days gone by would have never existed. What about today? The viewing audience keeps these shows on the air. I’m simply fascinated with both sides of the coin – the ‘addict’ and the ‘viewer.’ You tell me – whose compulsion is worse?
Resources: The Learning Channel, My Strange Addiction