Monday, May 27, 2013

When weakness is actually pain

I'm so embarrassed that, for once, I don't know where to begin. I just opened a "New Post" then sat here for a full minute examining the dust pattern on my laptop keyboard, how there's none on the alphanumeric keys I use all the time but an orbital ring all along the never-used keys out on the edge, such as the one with the globe on it and that one with the envelope on it. Whoever designed this keyboard must have done their behavioral research and known to leave those keys out of the way. Whoever designed this keyboard knew their shit.

OK, I'm stalling. I'm being flippant. I do that.

Last night I got dressed up for a big nightclub event, I drove to the club, I polished off the almost half a purse-sized bottle of fiery Absolut Citron left over from the last time I went out to a club and pre-gamed, I went into the club, I had an OK time and then a not-OK time, I drove (the not quite two miles) home. I came inside and went upstairs to my office room. I flipped open my laptop, on which I pretty much always have Gmail and Facebook logged in and ready to go in side-by-side browser tabs. And then I actually hit the "Post" button after writing this abominably petulant post -- you know the type; you've seen them before; we all have, and I myself have rolled my eyes at them: 

I'm deactivating my Facebook account and taking my blog offline. If you need to reach me, I'm still at [my e-mail address] or [my cell-phone number]. 

Then I went to bed.

I woke up to a string of concerned and imploring comments and e-mails. (My favorite e-mail said that "Facebook is already dumber and less fun" without me.) And once again I felt like human garbage, utterly undeserving of this caring outcry after posting such a pouty, drama-stoking teenager type of status update.

The thing is -- at the time I posted it, I was being completely sincere. At some point during the past several years I began to increasingly rely on others' opinions for validation. Yeah, I know -- a certain amount of that is just plain old human. But in my case, it contrasts with how I was in my teens and most of my twenties: I did my own thing, I went my own way, often in near-isolation (this was before Facebook, after all), and I liked myself just fine. I didn't equate my self-worth with however many "likes" or blog hits I got. 

So last night I got to thinking, during the three-minute drive home, that I should just eliminate Facebook from my life, forget about comparing myself and my life and my (meager) accomplishments with those of my (in many cases highly creative and successful) peers. Forget about feeling sad that girls I grew up with are now moms, some of them several times over, and I'm not, and I've always wanted to be one, and I can't get my eye off the ticking timebomb of my "biological clock," can't stop Googling things like "how old is too old to have a baby," can't help noticing that pregnancy websites have age-segregated advice sections ending with "35+" (I'll be 35 in September).

But at the same time that I felt the need to cut myself loose from an environment in which I'm constantly comparing myself to others, I felt the need to... evaporate. Vanish, in a virtual sense. I had just written a blog post about my granny dying, in which I tried hard to honestly examine my feelings about this (because, as I've indicated with the Joyce quotation placed atop this blog, I believe that such feelings are often universal) and not just post the same old lazy, corny pap that everyone always posts in times like these. I thought a lot about what I would write, both at the computer and while my visit with her was happening. I strived to strike a balance in tone between respectfulness and uncompromising honesty, free from easy sentimentality. 

I posted the link on Facebook, and it got nary a "like" or a comment. (This was before the ever-awesome asplenia left a truly touching comment on that blog post, just this morning.) Meanwhile, I watched in my newsfeed as mind-bogglingly banal posts that went up around the same time (pictures of food with captions that said "Nom nom nom," pictures of cats, old-timey-cartoon odes to coffee and booze, re-posted news articles) -- most of which weren't even original content, just re-posted stuff -- raked in the "likes" and the comments. I would attribute that to people not knowing how to react to a blog post about such a sad topic -- but earlier in the day I'd posted a photo of my boyfriend and me with a rundown of the fun things we had lined up for his birthday, and it elicited nary a peep, too.

I'm aware of what I sound like here. 

Sulking about something as fucking inane as how many Facebook "likes" I get -- how much more needy, how much more petty, can you get? 

Yet it left me with the feeling that I didn't matter, that I wasn't appreciated. 

This sense was somewhat affirmed when I went out to the big club event down the street. I spent time getting all gussied up, pre-gamed in my parked car expressly so that I would be able to dance, went into the club and up to the lounge bar and drank two (vodka-containing) screwdrivers -- and all that booze, all that toxic devilwater, did me no good. I wound up sitting on what looked like a Barcelona chair (fun fact: years ago I went through a random interior-design-nerd phase) like some kind of wallflower for the beginning of the night, until I finally sidled up to Kier. Kier and I and another friend stood with our elbows resting on a low wall, kind of like when Charlie Brown and Linus are sharing deep thoughts, watching the people on the dancefloor. 

I looked out and waited for the magic elixir to kick in, but it never did. Then some new friends arrived, friends I have always admired, and they glided out onto the dancefloor with ease, seemingly without need of booze or other aids. Meanwhile I had agonized and compromised my principles and poisoned my liver, all for nothing. I felt mortally flawed, and I hated myself. 

Then a couple of people said things that hurt me, unintentionally -- a girl photographer who'd participated in a group photo shoot in which I was mostly nude and wrapped up in electroluminescent wire ("el wire"), who hadn't seen me since that photo shoot, said, "You look better with clothes on." At first I couldn't believe my ears, that someone would say something so rude and downright mean -- and then I figured it must have been some kind of joke misfire. Some kind of lighthearted reference to the fact that the last time she saw me, I was mostly naked (I wore a little pair of "modesty briefs" for the shoot but was otherwise nude). 

Wounded, I found Kier, and told him what she'd said. I must have been ranting like a madwoman or something, because he said, "How much did you have to drink before you came in here?" And yes, obviously I had pre-gamed -- and in fact I had a screwdriver in my hand when he said this -- but I felt humiliated and defensive, and so instead of answering wonderful, concerned Kier, I stormed out of the club. Tore out of there, partially spilling another friend's drink (I remember the cold splash of liquid on my hand), like some drunken Cinderella past midnight. 

It was after that, driving home, when I decided that I should disappear. That I can't handle criticism or anything less than a steady stream of accolades from my friends and peers. And I would be lying if I said there wasn't an element of "They'll all be sorry when I'm gone!" 

I went to bed halfway expecting my "I'm committing virtual suicide" post to be ignored, especially seeing as how I'd posted it so late. I figured I would delete it in the morning. And I did, but not after a good dozen or so friends responded to it, either in direct comments on the post itself or in private e-mails or texts, asking me how I'm doing, what happened, saying "don't go." A few merely posted frowny faces, which I found moving in their wordless, iconic simplicity. 

So being a self-hater from way back, in the aftermath of this tempest-in-a-virtual-teapot, the temptation to self-flagellate and downward spiral and hate myself even more is great. But this time I'm forgiving myself. Because I know that I'm not merely some shallow drama queen who needs to gobble up "likes" Pac-Man-style for food. 

That post was written within a miasma of deep emotional pain. I'll just be a dork and admit that I love Facebook, both the keeping-up-with-friends part and the sharing-my-stuff part. And my psychologically astute friend, the one who said it seems as if I derive some sense of catharsis from writing and sharing this blog, was right, too. So for me, saying that I was going to obliterate my Facebook presence and blog was me saying that I was ready to carve my fucking heart out. You can think that sounds melodramatic, but the reality for many of us is that our virtual lives have become our real lives. 

I was ready to carve it out because I no longer felt valued, I no longer felt I had something of value to offer to anyone. There was a time when I was more self-sufficient, when this wouldn't have mattered quite so much, when I almost viewed myself as a heroic rebel for being relatively alone in the world, a misfit in nearly every sphere of my life. But now, it seems, I care more about being accepted and respected than I used to. I care about that a lot more now.

And I don't think that's a good thing. I would like to get back to where I was happy to go it alone. I'm going to work on getting that back. 

Also, I'm not going anywhere. You have my permission to not believe me if I ever say that again.


  1. Man, do I love your stuff. I don't even know you, but I read every one of your blog entries that appears in my Facebook feed (some of my friends are your friends). You are honest in a way that no one else is.

  2. I am so relieved!! Yay! It's funny because I have those thoughts sometimes too, like "FINE I'll just turn everything off, fuckit." It's silly to react that way but it hurts my feelings too when I don't get any affirmation from a post I share, even recognizing that people may appreciate it without clicking a button to verify that (since I am not online as much or see as many friend's posts, or click "like" as often). Sigh. I have a love/hate relationship with living out loud too. I love the connecting and I hate how vulnerable it makes me feel sometimes.

    I understand where you were at the club -- in the place where you were already feeling vulnerable and wanted to be embraced wholeheartedly. Maybe especially because you felt flawed, you wanted to be welcomed and sought despite frailties. I'm so hard on myself that a negative comment from another person smacks me so much harder than it should and I really need to shelter in places where I don't feel judged.

    That was not a kind thing to say, what that girl said. Also, I saw those photos and was astounded at your beauty, so eff her. :) Also, you are loved that much more because of your frailties, not in spite of them. xoxoxo, me (ps. may email you about some other stuff you wrote here which is too personal for me to post.) And thank you for the shout out, warmed my heart!!

  3. Oh one more thing. A few years ago, a friend of mine lost both her mom and sister to breast cancer within a 4 month period. She showed up at work and there were some girls who not only did not sign the office card but they didn't even say "sorry" to her and they knew. She came home from work crying that people were so insensitive, wtf is wrong with them? I wrote a post that night on FB about how people often feel awkward around loss and don't know what to say, what they don't realize is anything is better than nothing. We just need to not feel alone at those times. But I really do think people feel overwhelmed with the magnanimity of loss and like there are no words that will do it justice, and so they say nothing. :(