Checkered Past

A college professor belonged to a local band named Checkered Past.  Being the curious sort that I am, I went to find out what that phrase actually meant.  I learned the basic meaning refers to someone who’s had bouts of doing good and bad things in their past.  Ok.  That wasn’t good enough for me.  I dug deeper.  A little more specificity came when I found a website defining the phrase as, “A checkered history means that the history of someone or something is partly good (white) and partly bad (black), like the alternating black and white squares on a checker board.  Ok.  I understand checkers (and chess, which is what would come to my mind to such a phrase) are games that have been around for centuries, so this definition made a bit more sense.  But I was still not satisfied, so I dug deeper still: I found the origin of the phrase, which meant “marked by dubious episodes; suspect in character or quality,” came around 1350–1400, from the Middle English.  I like Middle English.  Methinks I can wrap my head around this.

Who has NOT had dubious character episodes in their past?  Hell, I was a teenager once.  As was everyone I know. Many people never stopped being a teenager, regardless of how old they are now, but that’s a story for another post.  My question is this: at what point does one’s normal life of ups and downs, thrill-seeking, risk-taking, reckless youth, and everything else that goes with coming of age turn into “dubious character” to the extent that one becomes labeled as having a checkered past?  And how exactly is that label derogatory?  It’s similar to psychologist’s saying that Type A personality is a “condition” that needs to be fixed.  That competitiveness and impatience for unnecessary obstacles is something that needs to be weaned out of a person’s psyche.  Why, so nobody will argue when they ask us all to drink the Kook-Aid?  Right.  I saw Logan’s Run.  And “The Wicker Man.”  I know what can happen when an entire society succumbs to “groupthink” and nobody thinks to ask questions.
I’ll take my checkered past and my Type A personality and be just fine, thank you very much.

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