Saturday, January 26, 2013

Don't Talk About It

I find it odd how the more ways Americans find to communicate, the less about themselves they choose to reveal, unless of course we count bragging (I don't). This reserve is certainly understandable in terms of personal data or security, but that's not what I'm addressing here. I'm talking about our new cult of no personality.

How many times have you heard people say they make it a point not to express strong opinions on the internets, particularly women, who then blanket themselves in babies and pets, unlike those opinionated, uppity bitches (cough)? I like babies and pets. That doesn't mean they're all I like. And why does this need to be expressed all the time, anyway? Is it some real-women-do litmus test we must all be sure to pass at every moment? What about the babies and pets who may or may not care to serve as social shields, if they were given a choice? Socialization's a bitch foisted upon us as children but spineless is a choice in adulthood, and it's a depressing one to witness time and time again, the self-Stepfording half a century past the 1950s, my least favorite decade and alas our continued model for gender norms. Separation. Approved topics. No controversy. Nothing that could potentially offend anyone, an impossible standard. Driving this seems to be the way we monitor one another for unapproved remarks or behaviors, which is most visible in how we treat celebrities: like they're super humans who don't, and can't, screw up, even badly, without being discarded. I'm not talking about car-crashing on the part of paparrazi-stalked starlets or wife beating on the part of sitcom stars, both of which are heinous. I'm talking about things like Cornel West not being "allowed" to criticize Obama--from the left, how refreshing for us leftists--and also be happy to meet the president and shake his hand without being pilloried as a hypocrite, as if contradictory ideas cannot exist within one human, let alone be enacted. You can't be romantic and not like weddings, I've been told. You can't talk about the hardships misogyny brings without being a man hater is another implication I've been backhanded with, in the form of various stalkers at this blog and elsewhere who hate out of all proportion to the mere reality of a person who is not them posting an opinion or experience they do not share. It's the drive-thru model; people can just be ordered up to reflect back what we think. Or else! They're from Kenya. They're immoral. The racial, social or philosophical group they are part of is rendered void or insert negative adjective. It smacks of a people who have never learned to cope with disagreement, these expectations of sameness, of non-offense. And that's a tad hysterical, no?

Part of this pearl clutching seems to spring from these weird, rigid boxes we like to sort both ourselves and others into, as well as the way we're always looking for explanations for things that are not necessarily problems, such as how someone could have a private medical procedure another person does not like, why he or she is really still not married, why she or he really got divorced, etc. We don't seem to be minding the right business, like why we're more interested in the minority of cases of welfare fraud as opposed to why our tax dollars are being used to kill people overseas, or even something as simple as what we find enjoyable about other people, beyond how their lives mirror and thus validate our own. I don't have to advise anyone to read the comments sections of most sites as an illustration of the vitriol dished out beyond the gaze of its recipients. It's a known, accepted reality--because spineless in the sense of letting abusive anonymous typers type whatever they want, regardless of its often total lack of relevance to the topic at hand, feels safer to many site administrators than the apparent spine required to hit delete on that shit. And I personally feel that's exactly backwards. Which is not to say we should all confront everything all the time, because what fun would that be?, but burying our head in the sand and letting the bullies have it clearly isn't working. See: Wall Street.

On a day-to-day level, I don't like what our reticence, our reluctance, including my own, to engage the real, the flawed, does to conversation. I don't like feeling crazy for discussing the above topics in an honest manner or worrying that I'll be judged for doing so, as I have been numerous times. And so I do understand this reticence, this reluctance. But what does suppressing really accomplish when what's being suppressed is not the vitriol but everything else--the weird, the unpopular, the uncommon, the dreaded controversial?

It erases.

And yet it's also the case that I sit here worrying about people finding this blog in a way I didn't used to when this blog was both more popular and more the norm in terms of people still talking in long, messy paragraphs, putting themselves out there. I sit here worrying that I've offended people for talking about behaviors I find forced and problematic, that they think I'm talking about them in particular, something we seem to do a lot: take the words and make them first and foremost about us. If we agree, smileys! If we don't, well, we're clearly being criticized by this person and who does she think she is? Well, I was once a nomad who was found in New Orleans, the only place I've ever wanted to stay forever until it became unsafe and unrealistic to do so, so now I feel like it's back to that, meaning who I am is not static. Before we all started ah communicating so much, I thought the latter reality was seen as a given for all non-robots. But now we must be tidy.

Good luck? I know I'm too ________ to fit that role reboot. And so I worry. I worry about prospective editorial clients finding this blog and deciding _______ or dudes I date informing me of their opinions not to share them, but to let me know my feelings on, for one example, the TSA are unpatriotic. So, though I strive to remain open, "I found your blog" is a statement that has come at times to be more of a negative than a positive for what follows and as someone who writes well beyond blogging, this is a poison pill, this desire for me not to express--i.e., embarrass (thanks)--myself that has been communicated in a variety of ways, including through silence.

But is saying nothing really a lifepath to be proud of?

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