What If You Were Paris?



So Paris Hilton has begun her 45-day jail term, which entails 23 hours a day of solitary confinement (the last hour of the day is used to “shower and talk on the phone.”)

She says she’s going to use this time “to reflect on her life, to see what she can do to make the world better.”

Okay, I don’t want a discussion about Hilton’s character or the “fairness” or “unfairness” of her sentence. (I have a fresh pile of wet fish and I’m not afraid to use them.)

Instead, I want my Monkbots to tackle these questions:

  1. Twenty-three hours a day for a month and a half is a lot of time to spend in solitary confinement. Do you think you could tolerate being alone with yourself for that long?
  2. How would you pass the time?
  3. Do you think you could handle the inordinate amount of self-reflection that would surely take place?
  4. What would you expect to walk away from the experience with (solution for world peace or solution for losing 20 pounds or solutions to how improve your standing in the world, etc.)?

(All mentions of Gray Charles or Taylor Hicks will go directly to moderation in all threads today.)


24 Responses to “What If You Were Paris?”

  1. Jenni Jac Says:

    On a recent trip to Philadelphia, we took a fascinating tour of the old Eastern State Penitentiary. The Penitentiary was the first built in the USA, and state of the art (for the 19th century). It was originally designed to keep each and every prisoner isolated from each other, in order for the prisoners to reflect upon their crimes. The concept was eventually abandoned as the prisoners were having mental health issues. That arrangement is not ideal for the human psyche.

    To answer the questions, I believe I would be better equipped to handle it than most because I was an only child up until the age of 15. I spent many hours keeping myself occupied mentally and physically. I would probably try to write something of length and substance during my incarceration. This I have not been able to do since my time is pretty fragmented as it is. I hope Paris will gain something from the experience. Hollywood seems like environment that has been disastrous for many people.

  2. Laurita Says:

    Wow, Shelley, very interesting prompt you’ve given us today.. thank you for “changing the subject” in such a meaningful way…

    So, I saw that Paris is bringing spiritual reading with her, including the Bible and Buddhism books, which is what I would do… and have done…

    I’ve personally been in jail a few times over the years for anti-war protests, once for 3 months with a group of fellow students (when we were Paris’s age!) for closing down an Ohio Air Force base that was shipping napalm to Vietnam…
    We did a lot of meditation and practice over those weeks, to cultivate lovingkindness and mindfulness, and I continue to attend workshops and study Buddhism myself in recent years– particularly inspiring are teachings I’ve attended with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whose got the best sense of humor of all! 😉

    Here’s a great clip which I would share with Paris if I could- Notes about the video by PBS:

    “Why does an ancient Eastern spiritual practice appeal to workaholic, frenetic, emailing, fast-talking, fast-typing, and overly stressed Americans? In “Bill Moyers on Faith & Reason”… Pema Chödrön, whose teachings and writings on meditation have helped make Buddhism accessible to a broad Western audience, talks about how her own spiritual search led her to becoming a Buddhist nun…

    “Everybody has the potential, without exception–every living being has the potential to awaken.”

    [ For more — http://www.pbs.org/moyers ]

    If I was Paris, I’d read every day from Pema Chodron’s book, “When Things Fall Apart”…
    More info about her, her writings, etc. http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/

    Finally, a few quotes (which also relate to some of your recent postings, Shelley):

    ” • If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.

    • There’s a reason you can learn from everything: you have basic wisdom, basic intelligence, and basic goodness.

    • Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live.”

  3. Dr. Bob Says:

    I spend a lot of time with people who are incarcerated, especially those who are “PCed up” (in protective custody), which is the twenty three hours alone. They say that they read and wrote letters and thought. Even though technically they are alone for 23 hours, the time is broken up, as well. It is loud a lot, which would be very hard to get used to. The guards talk to you, I think. I think that I could handle it. I would write and pray and take the time to read and sleep. Sleep is a great escape, from what I hear. I think that it would be doable. Didn’t the Pilates guy come up with the exercises while in prison? Think so.

    A month and a half is not that difficult, but a year? One of my patients was in solitary for a year. Hard to imagine, really.

    As to the self-reflection, I dunno. There is only so much of that anyone can tolerate — if it was broken down into chunks, maybe. Unfortunately, you would probably gain weight, because there is canteen and the food is really starchy. I would hope to lose some weight and become the queen of pilates. I would write lots of letters and have Rowan post those for the Monkbots. A jail blog would be pretty boring, I imagine.

  4. sideways721 Says:

    For me, to be given those constraints and restraints, I would read all the Hemingway and Steinbeck which I either don’t remember or didn’t read, and any other recommend reading I could get my hands on. Plus all the non-fiction stuff I’ve been dying to read. Not enough time the past few years. And, I would love to re-read all the classics.

    I lived and worked in Greece and the Middle East for a few years in my early 20’s. It wasn’t always easy. There were times when I was in “solitary confinement.” Socially/culturally and physically. It’s lonely.
    If I was to be in an actual cell (as we see on television with no windows and the exposed toilet et. al), I would for sure need meds. I have claustrophic tendencies, and that would really freak me out. Being contained like that.

    We can’t really comment on Paris’ incarceration irrespective of our own social/family situation. I enjoy my family life, my DH and our daughters and pets and social life, etc. I would KNOW that they would be there when I return. But Paris should too. She has her loved ones, her friends.

    A month and a half is not very long. Hopefully, Paris WILL reflect on her life. BUT, she could just update her address books, make birthday guest lists, etc. If she loves her chihuahuas, ferrets, etc. as much as she says she does, that will be a very painful separation. My dogs are always underfoot.

    Religion. Buddhism.
    Laurita, isn’t the internet wonderful and monkbot that with a topic such as Paris Hilton going to jail, we can connect about something entirely different.
    Shelley, can I post my e-mail address on here?

  5. Shelley Says:

    you may post it…but i advise against it.

    or…open a temporary e-mail to share online.

  6. jenfera Says:

    1. I do think I could tolerate myself for that long. I’m not so bad! And if I get to shower every day I won’t stink or anything. 🙂

    2. If I am being honest, I would probably pass a lot of time crying. I would definitely feel sorry for myself. It also depends on what I have access to. If I have plenty of books and paper and pencil, I can entertain myself for hours. A book of Sudoku would be nice. I’m with Dr. Bob on the pilates royalty aspirations.

    3. Again, with the paper & pencil, I could handle the self reflection. I would write it all out, and hopefully gain some peace from it. Maybe I could meditate on all of the things that I don’t have to do because I am there. No dishes to wash, no laundry, no cleaning the kids’ hair out of the shower drain, etc.

    4. I don’t think I would walk away with any solutions, but I would hope that I would walk away with a renewed sense of appreciation for all the good in my life.

  7. leejolem Says:

    I could maintain my sanity if I had access to books of all kinds–fiction, non-fiction, the Bible, devotionals, puzzle books. I truly think I would lose my mind if it were just me in a cell with no books to read. Sleeping would be great for 2-3 days, but then I think I would sleep to much which can mess with your wake/sleep cycle and contribute to depression, so I would have to guard against that. Exercise would have to be incorporated because otherwise I would eat and not move and get bigger and bigger. My hope would be that I use the time to pray and connect with God in a meaningful way. He is the only thing that would get me through and help me cope with the loneliness.

    Is Paris really going into solitary? I didn’t realize that. Is it for her safety? If not it seems a little harsh. I haven’t followed the situation at all, so I’m rather clueless about it.

  8. Dr. Bob Says:

    People who would be hard to protect otherwise go into PC. However, from what I have seen, it is not entirely solitary. Depending on the jail, it can be a wing where inmates can interact — they are just separated from the general population.

  9. taywatch Says:

    She’s actually only going to be there for 23 days. Since she checked in just before midnight on Saturday, that counted as one full day. I saw that on a TV report last night, so Sunday began her second day. I’m not minimizing the effects of confinement, no matter how short term. I’d be fine so long as I had plenty of reading material including non-fiction and educational because I love to read, have lived alone for years and don’t need people around. If there were a lot of noise, that would really get to me so a lot would depend on the surrounding environment. I’ve been working on learning Italian so I’d probably take some books and tapes (depending on the restrictions).

  10. Mr. Reality Says:


    The real agenda here should be a petition on the Internets to free Paris Hilton! This sentence is tantamount to an American legal system run amok. It should have been immediately suspended and all charges dropped, for Paris has given us the summer pop anthem “Stars Are Blind,” a hook-laden, breezy musical masterpiece.

  11. jenfera Says:

    Shelley, where are you and the fish?

  12. Shelley Says:

    Right here….(I was in a meeting, sorry.)

    Takes careful aim and hurls stinky halibut at Mr. Reality.

  13. patrickkaddiddlehopper Says:

    1. I could definitely tolerate being by myself for that long. I need only 3 things.
    2. A baseball and glove, and the Bible. I’m really being honest in saying that I have at spent at least 2 and half hours tossing a ball in the air (I could’ve gone longer, but I heard things heating up on The View downstairs…just kidding).
    3. The ample self-reflection time would be spent wondering what the heck I could’ve done to avoid this awful mess, counting the bars of the gate and the stones the walls are made of, and doing push-ups and side-straddle-hops to keep myself in physical shape to where I can tunnel through the wall with a rockhammer covered up by a poster of….uh….sorry guys I was watching Shawshank Redemption while typing.
    4. Experience? Oh, you mean how to make a shank out of a toothbrush? Yeah, I’ll get lots of experience. 🙂

  14. Theresa Says:

    I need parameters here. What is the definition of solitary confinement, beyond the fact that it is solitary. Can I have my laptop? iPod? The guards will or won’t talk to me? Can we have books, paper and pencils, colored pencils, scissors, a deck of cards for solitaire? Can I do the Pilates to a DVD instructor or do I have to read it from a book? Can I watch movies? Another big question: Can I wear makeup and fix my hair? At least an eyelash curler and lip gloss? These are very important questions!!!

    See, these are the fears that keep me a law-abiding citizen. I don’t ever want to be in a jail situation.

    If I can have my distractions, then yes, I can tolerate myself and will keep busy somehow. If I cannot have any distractions, then the vision gets a little shakier. The only question would be how long I’d last before I started talking to my volleyball (ala Tom Hanks and “Wilson”).

  15. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Are there rats in prison?

    Just wondering….

    I like being by myself so I think I’d be okay. I would like to have plenty of reading materials, sudoku, crossword puzzles, etc. I would also like some art supplies and journaling materials.

    And the Bible.

    Of course, just reading the Bible doesn’t always lead to understanding so I’d be praying quite a bit and meditating on the Word.

    Hopefully I’d come away with a deeper understanding of myself, of God, of my place in this world, of God’s purpose for my life….and a deeper appreciation for the things that I have and the people that care for me. I would also hope to show my appreciation by serving other people and putting their needs above my own.

  16. Shelley Says:

    Official Prize of the Day goes to two people:

    Bama…because her answers are spot on with my answers.


    Patrickadiddlehopper…for cracking me up.

  17. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Awww, thanks Shell-Shell! I don’t think the link is working though! 😦

    P-Diddy’s comments cracked me up too! What’s the PtothaD-Hopper gonna be up to all Summer?

  18. Julie Says:

    And I totally thought you were asking “What if you were Paris,” the city. I was all ready to wax poetic.
    I’m reading Franny and Zooey for the umpteenth time this week. As you all probably know, the story is (among other things) a kind of roundabout way of looking at the meaning of life, and the role of knowledge, and understanding our place in the cosmos, etc. But one important aspect of the book which has struck me this time is the idea of spirituality and knowledge being tied to a kind of non-knowledge, or emptiness or something.
    In the ‘Franny’ section, just before she faints, Franny is telling Lane Coutell about the book she’s carrying around in her purse. She says that in the book, called The Way of a Pilgrim the main character is on a quest for self-knowledge. He learns that by repeating a prayer incessantly, something happens to him, and the prayer becomes a part of his physical being, and he attains a kind of harmonic one-ness with the universe. It doesn’t matter what the prayer is, she says. It can be “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” (the prayer of the Pilgrim,) or it can be “Namu Amida Butsu” (used by Buddhists) or “Om” (as she says, the prayer used in India). The point is :
    “But the thing is, the marvellous thing is, when you first start doing it, you don’t even have to have faith in what you’re doing. I mean even if you’re terribly embarrassed about the whole thing, it’s perfectly all right. I mean you’re not insulting anybody or anything. In other words, nobody asks you to believe a single thing when you first start out. You don’t even have to think about what you’re saying, the starets said. All you have to have in the beginning is quantity. Then, later on, it becomes quality by itself. On its own power or something. He says that any name of God – any name at all – has this peculiar, self-active power of its own, and it starts working after you’ve sort of started it up.”
    So, all that to say, if I were Paris Hilton, I’d be whispering a secret prayer for the 23 hours I was in solitary. It couldn’t hurt, and it might be very interesting…

  19. KD Says:

    I don’t mind being alone. In fact, as the mother of three, I sometimes yearn for a few minutes alone. However, 45 days IS a LONG time.
    Although not the same by any stretch of the imagination, this topic makes me think of my time alone in the hospital expecting the baby—12 days, many of which I spent “alone.” But even then, I had the nurses visiting me regularly. They thought it was odd that I wanted my door open all the time, but I told them I needed to see “life” happening even if I couldn’t participate in it. Then weeks of bedrest–(6 with one pregnancy, and 5 with another) were extremely confining and lonely. But even then, I had the comforts of my home around me…TV, music, phone, books, projects, computer, paper and pen, and the knowledge that family was coming home at the end of the day. I know the hardest part for me would be the separation from my children and husband. After the 12 days in the hospital, I was just so grateful to breathe the same air as my family again.
    Could I do it? Yes, because I would have to….I would be too determined to leave that place sane. I would spend my time reading. If I could take a few favorites with me, I’d be fine. Paper and pen would be a bonus. And I know I would walk away with a deep and enduring appreciation of the simple things in life, and even a gratefulness for all of life’s inconveniences…things like being stuck behind a slow person on the road no longer raises my blood pressure because I appreciate the fact that I’m out driving. I imagine that appreciation would be ten times greater if I was ever to experience what Paris Hilton is about to experience.

  20. kimmykins Says:

    This is easy for me. I’d write lists and daydream. I’d say I’m a half step away from being compulsive about writing lists. This is the girl who in an eight grade study hall wrote a list of what to pack when I went to college and then actually used that list to pack for college. I have more stories I could scare you with including writing a list of supplies I’d need for my future dog and then actually buying said supplies a good 7 years before I got my own dog. Yah.

    So as long as I had something to write with and some paper I’d daydream my way right through my month and a half.

    I think the other two activities which would take up significant amounts of my time would be sleeping and if they allowed books reading. I’m a champion marathon sleeper. It runs in the family.

  21. Karen Says:

    I could tolerate being alone with myself for that long, but not in a confined space — very claustrophobic; but even as I say that, I know that “learned helplessness” would set in eventually — after I threw myself at the bars a thousand times. I enjoy the life of the mind. I’d pray and remember Bible verses. I’d sing a lot. I’d make up games and play them with myself. I’d daydream. I engage in self reflection a lot now; don’t believe I would come up with anything new from the experience.

  22. Quossum Says:

    Are you kidding? I’d love it! All that time to read and write!

    Think they’d let me have a sewing machine and fabric? Darn.

    I’d wear my “So Many Books, So Little Time” t-shirt and just set to. Self-reflection doesn’t bother me–I’m sure I’d do some of that, too.

    (Of course, I wouldn’t love the “being incarcerated” part, just the “23 hours a day to be damn lazy” part. Sa-weet!)


  23. AmyMc Says:

    If I had my computer I’d be fine.

    If I didn’t, I’d freaking go nuts!

  24. Theresa Says:

    Apparently Paris didn’t like what she saw in her moments alone.

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