Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mike And Carol Weigh In

I have seen it asked in regard to the many social media outlets that we use today, why people put so much personal stuff out there. It's for FUN, right? It's supposed to be light and frivolous and....

Yes, it is supposed to be about all that. But it's also about connecting with other people.

When I started this blog, I was a stay at home Mom who lived in the Suburbs 900  miles away from my home and family. I was (and still am) a liberal and an atheist in a predominantly conservative Christian culture. All of that made me feel incredibly isolated. I tried to make friends, I really did. I tried playgroups, book clubs, neighborhood coffee klatches...they all eventually became bible study. They were perfectly nice women with whom I was perfectly happy to spend an hour once a week, even if they weren't exactly the kind of women I could see myself becoming bosom pals with. But I wasn't interested in studying the bible. Or prayer chains. Or personal testimony.

I can see you rolling you eyes. But this is not another rant about the pervasiveness of religion in the South or the many, many, many issues that arise from it.

No, this post is about transparency in Social Media. There are two kinds of transparency as I see it. There is the TMI variety, which involves oversharing of intimate personal issues such as vaginal dryness or excessive flatulence. Then there is the I just want to know I'm not alone variety. I'm probably guilty of both. When I practice the former, it's usually in an attempt to be funny. I don't care how old you are, the word vagina is always amusing. Yes it is.

When I practice the latter, it's because I have experienced so many moments of crushing aloneness myself. And the internet was my savior. I first came to the internet when it was in it's infancy, and it was a marvel. People from all walks of life, both savory and unsavory, sorted into neat little groups, and largely welcoming of newbies and neophytes. All I had to do was choose. The number of choices was as staggering as it was thrilling. I tried them all on for size; Breastfeeders, Stay At Home Moms, Debaters, Book Lovers, Makeup Lovers. It was absolutely intoxicating. Until I encountered the seedy underbelly of the internet message boards; the crazies. Wow. There are some iron clad lunatics out there, and they converged in terrifying numbers on the internet, no longer sequestered by the confines of polite society. This was their playground.

But despite the crazies, I managed to make connections. And what I found was that these "cyber" relationships were sometimes more honest and genuine than face to face relationships. It's a weird dichotomy when a relationship lacks validity but feels deeply meaningful. As the internet gained a foothold in our culture and stopped being the bastion of geeks and outcasts, some of that stigma evaporated. But there still remained an element of inferiority when it came to internet relationships. They lack the one thing that we really

Still, I consider myself a bit of a maverick, so I scoffed in the face of convention, and pursued internet friendships with enthusiasm. Sometimes that was incredibly satisfying. Other times not so much. But I took the bad with the good because, I reasoned, the same would be true of real life friendships. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't. And at least on the internet, I can simply ignore people who annoy me or piss me off, and not have to worry about an awkward encounter at the super market or hair salon.

Then blogging became a thing. I was very critical. What a bunch of navel gazing self-indulgent nonsense, I thought. I started this blog to mock the navel gazing internet contingent, as you might have guessed from the title of my blog. Ironic, isn't it? But you know what? I FREAKING LOVED IT.  It gave a whole new dimension to internet relationships. There was still give and take, but it was all within my control in my little corner of cyberspace. I could talk about whatever I wanted to talk about, rant about whatever I wanted to rant about, criticize whomever I wished to criticize. And the anonymity meant no repercussions in my personal life. There were no rules except my own. I had an audience. I had validation. I had a whole lot of ego stroking. But I also had the satisfaction of knowing that maybe I reached someone on some level. Maybe because of a struggle I shared, someone else out there felt less alone. That meant something to me.

Then the birth of Facebook happened. I dismissed Facebook as superficial nonsense. There was a character limit in the beginning, and I failed to see how any meaningful discourse could take place in 140 characters or less. But again, to my surprise, I grew to love it. It has changed and evolved over the years, and the character limit has gone the way of the dinosaur. Mark Zuckerberg is no dummy. Blogging as a thing lost popularity as Facebook and Twitter took possession of  the internet landscape.

When I moved to Facebook, I kind of treated it like an abbreviated version of blogging. The transparency remained, I guess because old habits die hard. I share a lot. I am very transparent. One friend recently remarked that I was even more transparent that she, which I gathered to mean....really, freaking transparent.

Some people find this puzzling. Some find it off putting. Some find it just weird.

Why? Why do people put their vaginal dryness out there for everyone to see? It's not appropriate! It's private!!

Here's why:

There's so much MY MARRIAGE IS AWESOME, MY KIDS ARE PERFECT, YAY LIFE!! crap posted on social media and it gets a little tiresome. You start to feel you're the only one who isn't having an awesome life and you wonder what you're doing wrong. It's almost as if people are posting just to make you feel badly about the fact that you're not awesome all the time and striving to do awesome things every day, and passing all that awesomeness onto your awesome kids.

I like to keep it real. What you see on Facebook is real, maybe more real than what you see in person. In person, I can actually be quite reserved. I don't open up quickly or easily.

And the reality is, life is not always awesome. Everybody struggles. Those who aren't willing to let people see their warts, while not lying in the truest sense of the word, aren't being entirely honest either. And I hope, that when I post something about how frustrated I am by my kids, my job, whatever...someone else might see it and think...."Oh thank God. Someone else is having a not awesome life too." I hope people think that I am genuine, if occasionally a little whiny.

Social media is a way for us all to reach out and connect with other people. There's no reason to be on social media, other than that. Personally speaking, I would like that connection to be real and meaningful and I can only do that by being real myself. It's okay to talk about vaginal dryness. It's okay to admit your kids are driving you crazy. Its okay to admit you're down, dissatisfied, unfulfilled, stressed out and pissed off.

It sure beats the MY LIFE IS AWESOME ALL THE TIME show. Didn't we get our fill of that from the Brady Bunch?

Heh. Wouldn't you love to know what Mike and Carol would make of social media? I'm sure they would find a life lesson there somewhere. Maybe, like their advice to Jan, it would simply be....

"Be yourself."

Thursday, October 03, 2013

I'll Tell You One Thing

The moment she walked in the door, it was clear that she was the kind of person other people sometimes refer to as "a character". People like that are usually a huge pain in the ass, but they're forgiven for it because they're colorful and interesting and funny. Despite their abrasiveness, you somehow understand that their heart is in the right place.

Have you ever heard someone say that about another person? "Well....her heart is in the right place." Which means, yes, she's insufferably rude and intolerably opinionated and hopelessly judgmental, but she doesn't mean to be. It's just her way. It's all she knows. She's really a very nice person deep inside.

She wasn't a member. She was with a friend, who was trying to weigh in unobtrusively, as the meeting had already started. The friend must have known it was a futile endeavor with her larger than life gal pal in tow, but she tried. While she perched calmly on the cold square of metal, her companion barged up to the scale and peered at it suspiciously, with no apology for the blatant invasion of her friend's privacy. Then her gaze shifted to me.

"I'll tell you one thing..." she began, looking at me over the top of her gold rimmed glasses....

Usually a statement of that sort is followed by something unsavory, such as:

I'll tell you one thing, I had no idea a wart could get that big.

I'll tell you on thing, I never thought my vagina would be the same after that. 

I'll tell you one thing, I've never seen anything like that come out of a dog.

I'll tell you one thing, a thong is certainly not ideal for Zumba class.

So you can understand why I was prepared for the worst. I couldn't have been more surprised at what came next.

"YOU are absolutely beautiful. Your haircut is just darling, your makeup is exquisite and that dress is the perfect color for you."

I was quite taken aback by the barrage of compliments. I had the distinct feeling that she was buttering me up for something, but I couldn't imagine what. I managed a feeble thanks and tried to usher her out of the weigh station. She was having none of it.

"Now tell me much weight did you lose? The reason I ask is because I have never met anyone who did Weight Watchers that lost any weight." She turned to her friend. "Kathy has been doing Weight Watchers for her whole life hasn't she? And she never loses an ounce! And look at that! You stayed exactly the same this week. Now why is that??" She turned back to me with scarcely a pause in her questioning. "Don't you think that's strange? I mean, why pay all that money to stay the same size? And all you Weight Watchers people are thin. I mean look at you. You have a darling figure. You've never been really very fat have you?"

Only then did she stop peppering me with questions. She skewered me with a gaze that could have broken the most hardened criminal (I learned later that she is the Mother of seven boys) and awaited my response.

I did the best I could to answer her questions. I showed her my before and after picture and told her an abbreviated version of my story. She was very impressed. I explained to her that people can follow the plan and still not lose weight. It's all about the choices we make. I told her we have people that show up week after week for years, who never make any discernible progress. But they usually don't get bigger either. That's it's own kind of progress, I told her. Then I pointed out various people seated in the meeting room who have had great success, one of whom has lost an astounding 130 pounds.

Suddenly, we were bosom pals.

She leaned in closely, placed her sharp elbows upon the desk and rested her chin in her hands. I noticed she had a healing gash across the bridge of her nose, upon which her glasses rested. It looked painful. She began to ask me less confrontational questions about my life, my family, and my job. Since everyone had weighed in and I had no customers waiting, I indulged her. I was pretty sure she wasn't the sort to be brushed off  and her friend would be occupied for the next thirty minutes anyway. In for a penny, in for a pound, I decided.

We had a nice little chat she and I. Which is to say that mostly she chatted and I listened. Even when she asked me a direct question, I scarcely got a chance to answer before she charged on to the next question. But she was entertaining, and I get paid to listen, so I didn't mind. It turned out that she gashed her nose tripping over her garden hose and she felt so stupid that she didn't go to the doctor for three days, during which her broken nose had partially set and had to be rebroken and set properly. She told me that she feels terribly isolated now that she and her husband are retired. She doesn't get out much these days and she was terribly excited that her friend was taking her to some kind of political rally called The 9-12 Project after the meeting.

"Isn't that just crazy? An old lady like me going to a political thing? I'm 70 years old! It's very conservative, so I don't think it will be all wild and subversive, but it feels very rebellious to me!"

As we neared the end of our chat, she said, "You have been so blessed. So very, very blessed. So have I. God is so good. Now I'll tell you one thing...(oh no, here we go again)...YOU are a lovely person. You're very patient and kind to talk to a nosy old lady. I'm going to go out on a limb and say you're a Christian. But maybe not! I don't know and I don't care. Because you're a lovely person. And we are both so blessed."

I honestly wasn't sure if I should be offended or honored, so I simply agreed.

"Well goodness, I should let you get back to work. Give me a hug."

I'm not a hugger folks. You all probably know that about me by now. I don't like to touch strange people and I don't like strange people to touch me. But before I could even process the request, she had embraced me. It was a real hug, with both arms wrapped around me; a long squeeze, and then another shorter one, followed by several astonishingly tender caresses on my back.

She released me and joined her friend in the next room where the meeting had just concluded.

I stood there, somewhat stunned, almost in a state of shock at what I had just experienced.

I was helping another customer when she and her friend began making their way to the door, so she waved and then blew me a kiss. I couldn't help laughing.

The she put her palms together and placed them under her chin.

You're in my prayers.

Now I'll tell you one thing...

People like that stay with you for a very long time.