When I was a kid and watched soap operas with my mother – both the daytime and nighttime versions – someone was always being blackmailed over a sketchy past. The victim was usually a woman who used to be a hooker/madam/total slut who didn’t want her current boss/boyfriend/husband to find out. Frequently this lead to murder, but was at least costly and inconvenient. And of course, the truth always came out in the end.
Which made me wonder why people didn’t just tell the truth in the first place, and beat the blackmailer to the punch, thus taking away all of his power. Of course, there is no drama in my scenario, so no one is going to write that story.
Years ago David Letterman was confronted with extortion over a past indiscretion. In response, he not only came clean to his wife, but to his entire viewing audience. I doubt his would-be blackmailer saw that coming, but along with losing her hold on his life, he also had her prosecuted, which I thought was a nice touch.
It was a bold move on his part, to confess to the world like that. People love to watch other people “fall,” especially celebrities. But I think he knew that the burden of people who wouldn’t forgive him was well worth shaking off.
What a revelation.
For me, a person terrified of what people would think if they knew my myriad faults and fuck-ups, I came to Richmond intent on never revealing a single story of any past transgressions. What a relief to have gotten over that. Because I’d rather live honestly with fewer friends than attempt to hide parts of myself for the sake of being seen in a better light. And I’d definitely rather the truth came from me. It’s very freeing.
I was born in Oswego, NY,
"I had always wanted to be a writer, but was impeded by the belief that to be a writer one had to be extraordinary, and I knew I wasn't. By the time I was ready to give up my academic career I had realized that while books are extraordinary, writers themselves are no more or less special than anyone else." The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield