Sunday, November 21, 2004

tmi versus mitin

I believe I've mentioned MITIN (pronounced "mitten", natch) here before; it's an acronym I'm trying to inject into the language. It stands for "more information than I need", and while it may seem similar to TMI--"too much information"--it's actually quite different.

TMI, as it tends to get used, usually connotes something beyond what the hearer is comfortable with. A good example might be talking about your hemmorhoid surgery at a fancy cocktail party. MITIN, as I see it, is something beyond the hearer's level of patience--but it's not necessarily messy, distasteful, or somehow inappropriate. So if I say that my conversation with the guy who fixed my, oh, toaster was MITIN, what I'm saying is that I didn't really need to know how the heating element works, or how many pieces of wire there are inside the average Westinghouse toaster versus the average Braun toaster, or who invented the first toaster and what that meant to the development of a democratic society. I don't need to know those things to okay his going ahead with the needed repair.

TMI and MITIN do share in common that they are completely in the eye of the beholder and fluctuate according to situation. I don't think Snufkina or Thread, for example, have TMI thresholds (except perhaps hearing about their parents' sex lives), while I know that Sleek does have one, and it's directly related to the mechanics of straight sex (can't use the word moist in conversation with him, about anything, because it makes him think about girl parts, which he really prefers not to do.) MITIN's the same, and then some: I was happy to hear all about the innards of my car before I agreed to have her disemboweled, but I don't really need to know what Muscles did to make my computer work again--although I am of course deeply grateful that he did.

So. I recognize that my writing style is probably MITIN for a lot of people, and bless those of you who like being "in the center of my life", as my godmother said of reading my essay. And there's some stuff coming up that may be a little TMI--how can I put this? I've been in a pretty intense sexual situation for a few months, and I'm learning things from it that I would love to talk about here, things as meaningful in their own way as watching my father fade out--but ours is not a culture which can handle talking seriously about sex.

I'm casting about here a little, I know. I guess this is just a heads-up. I'm going to be talking about sex more and death less and catering hopefully very little unless it's entertaining; bear with me.