I haven’t had much to say now that I’ve been on Huff Post Live and all, now that I’m practically famous in my own mind. I may have stunned myself into a deer-in-the-headlights kind of a thing for a while there, and stunned deer don’t have much to write about.
But it’s a snow day today and I’m home with Ella who is sick (again – poor little mite!) so hello, blog post! It’s one of those days where you really do not want to go out in 7 degree arctic conditions dressed like an Eskimo to battle the snow and the skittish Mommy drivers wielding their minivans to get your kids to school; one of those days where it takes you 45 minutes to get all the way to school but just as you’re pulling into the parking lot your child says, “Mommy, I don’t feel well.” And you look in the rearview mirror and see her there, a tiny little ball of paleness. All big eyes and broiling temperatures. You feel her forehead and start up the car and turn right around and you drive all the way home again, cursing your Mom-self for not understanding that she was sick sooner – like when she said, “I have an itchy throat” on your way out the door.
Motherhood is like that – full of patchy gray areas, awkward places where you feel you should have thought about things more or figured them out sooner, that you’ve somehow wasted everyone’s time and might need a parenting class or something. So anyway we’re home now, all warm and cozy, and instead of writing my novel (which is about Facebook, if you really must know, and yes, I know it sounds stupid and not literary, but no, it isn’t chick-lit) I’m going to write this blog post even though I have no idea what it’s going to be about really, except maybe about friends, maybe about stuff that happened on my Facebook page <—- hint, hint.
(Dare you to keep reading.)
I had lunch yesterday with my ECBFF (East Coast BFF). We don’t get to meet up very often because we are busy moms, but when we do grab time together I remember why love her, why she’s the Gayle King to my Oprah: because she leaves all the perfection at the door. There is no state of perfect with her – there is just real. (I will say though, that she blow dries her hair perfectly on a daily basis, and it’s always gorgeous and blow-dried, but that’s where it stops).
She is my ECBFF because she’s Velveteen. She’s one of a small number of girlfriends on this coast with whom I can be utterly myself, because the way she lets herself be real gives me permission to be real, too. You know? We often talk openly about the way marriage can be brutally difficult, or how we love our children but how they can *&^%$#g challenge us. I have many married friends who are parents, but few who can drop down out of their ego and say what’s really going on in their lives, sans the pretty facade – that illusion of perfection in their marriages, or in their parenting. My close girlfriends are all imperfect, and okay with letting me see their imperfections. Frankly, perfection bores me. The only thing that really interests me, with anybody, is truth, is Velveteen conversation. Facades make me acutely uncomfortable, and the older I get – the less time I have to help others perpetuate their facades.
The whole notion of facades has been on my mind because I’ve been writing about Facebook – I’m peeling back the virtual facade up there to find out how closely people’s real lives really match up with the online persona
they we are serving up for the world’s consumption. Is any of it real? If so, how much of it is real? Am I real, or virtual, or virtually real? These are questions I’m asking a lot lately. Actually, it was my husband (who is not on Facebook) who suggested I write a novel about Facebook. He sees it as an irresistibly delicious sociology project.
So the other day I asked him why he won’t get a Facebook account – he had one briefly, a few years back – which he abruptly took down. He was up there just long enough to get the jist of people’s status updates. Anyway, I posted about our conversation on my page, and it got a big response from all the lurkers and people who don’t interact as often or as publicly with Facebook as I do – they came out en masse to give it a “Like” or to talk about his comment:
Some people were slightly offended at the mere suggestion that we might all be bullshitting each other up here, and felt that if he knew their group of friends, who are all real, ostensibly, then he wouldn’t have that opinion – which means that the people he knows are fake. But for the most part most agreed with his opinion. My husband’s wariness of Facebook is one of the things I like about him. As many of you know, he’s from ‘the auld sod’ – Ireland – a much older, historically rich culture than my youthful American one. The best parts of him draw from that ancient, Celtic well of wisdom that he can dip into and that to me feels much older, wiser, and more grounded than my whippersnapper American one – which is just a little more of an upstart, brash and somewhat transparently egoistical. So he sees Facebook as an ego-based and Narcissistic expression of our need to see ourselves reflected online. Kapiche?
Am I getting too deep here?
Have I offended Americans again?
My husband does not see a life presented on Facebook as real, but as manipulated, artificial.
I can see his point – for example, I manipulate what my Facebook friends see of me by only posting photos of myself that I agree with, the pretty ones, not the “fat photos” or the millions of ones that suck. There are no photos or video clips of me shouting at my children. This in itself is a filtered manipulation, because it doesn’t give a fully-rounded picture of who I truly am as a parent and as a person. And I don’t post status updates about stuff that might be going on in tandem with the wise status updates I’m trying to pen. I might be posting what I imagine to be a wise parenting tip of the day like, “Stop what you are doing – get down on the floor and play with your child,” – while in the real world at that very moment my child is asking me to get off the computer and play with her. I’m nodding and mumbling, “Not now, Mommy’s busy writing a parenting blog….” So yeah, I can see his point there, because that, my friend, is effed-up. Isn’t it?
But on another level – in my experience my online reality is kind of a virtual scrapbook of our family, and who puts a photo of themselves going potty or eating Cheezits late at night in the bed while watching Netflix in their scrapbook? Not me! Not anyone. Why? Because no one wants to see that shit, is why.
Also, my husband tends to think that the people you meet online are not really like they are in real life. But I have met people online through blogging and Facebooking who I’ve gotten to know in real life and become actual friends with (like my VBFF (virtual BFF) Mary Lauren at Mary Lauren Writes, January Soden (my soul twin) at The Dawning of January, and my MBFF (Malaysian BFF) Alison at Writing, Wishing). In my experience, the people I’ve met online are surprisingly like their virtual selves, only even better – and they have become real friends. To me – not artificial, or manipulated, not anything less than a friend I’d meet in real life. What a surprise, what a gift.
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