so while you're alive you might as well show your bare ass."
I've been reading Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters (2009), by Scott Rosenberg.
That, and other stuff I'm looking at about online social media, has got me thinking about my history as a blogger, and about a central question it poses:
How naked are you wanting to go?
The Internet took this question out of the private or artistic spheres--diaries, bedrooms, poetry, portraiture--and forced it on computer users.
Right away, we have to decide how honestly we're going to fill this in:
All my life I've wanted to get naked down to the bones.
In my first computer tutorial, in April 1992, I drew this self-portrait on Mac Paint (below). There was nowhere to share it online of course. I printed it out and pasted it next to a self-portrait as a sea creature in my visual journal.
But I'd grown up feeling ashamed (the psychic equivalent of dental pain), and I wanted to hide too.
I labelled my journal the Stay Out Coloring Book.I'm sorry I was so afraid, but since I was, it was smart of me not to expose myself too much.
LEFT: My first computer tutorial, April 1992, from my visual journal. (Thank you, Fred Zinn!)
(Hey! Remember that classic Mac bomb screen of death? I'd totally forgotten it till I saw it in this drawing (click to embiggen).
It meant the system had crashed, and you'd lost all the work you hadn't backed up.)
Because I worked in a college library, I got online earlier than I would have on my own.
The World Wide Web was barely two years old in 1992; Gopher was operating out of the University of Minnesota, down the road.
But the new library director who came on board was frightened by change, and we never used these. Our computers served as superTypewriters and mail-delivery systems.
But e-mail! What a dream.
I started to spend my evenings at the circ desk writing. I bombarded friends and wondered why most of them didn't write back in kind. Weren't they bug-eyed with delight too?
I really needed a blog, but they didn't exist yet; and when they began, I didn't find them for a long time.
I was afraid of a lot of things, and one of them was men. If I hadn't been afraid, I think I'd have made friends with the sort of guys who'd have introduced me to cool computer stuff. (Yes, I was even afraid of nerds and geeks. I know.)
I finally found blogs through just such a guy: a friend's husband who'd blogged from almost the beginning. I commented so much on his blog, he encouraged me to start my own. (Thanks, Tim!)
He also gave me great advice:
"Don't stop blogging. If you don't have anything to write, post something from the NYT."
I started blogging "flightless parrots" (named after New Zealand's kakapo, right) on September 10, 2004.
By September 13, I was already talking about how slippery it was to present myself honestly:
"I was playing around with different ways I could describe myself.I wrote almost every day. I rarely mentioned my mother's suicide (less than two years earlier), but looking over some of the posts I'd saved, I can tell it's the ever-present baseline.
Here are two descriptions of me, both true:
1. I'm a half-Sicilian ex-janitor who lives with a parrot.
2. My ancestors came from Scotland, some of them. I worked for many years as a college librarian, and I keep a pet bird."
I posted this quote as my guiding philosophy:
"When I think about people with whom I have the deepest sense of community, I think of people who have been able to share with me their contradictions, their brokenness--thus allowing me to share mine.--Parker Palmer (He's a Quaker; that's why he uses the cross to symbolize suffering, courage, and renewal.)
When we present ourselves to the world as smooth and seamless, we allow each other no way in, no way into life together. But as we acknowledge and affirm that the cross is the shape of our lives, we open a space within us where community can occur."
So, I wanted to be emotionally naked. (There was no easy way to post pix, so physical revelation wasn't an issue.)
Or I thought I did.
But I ended up exposing more than I really felt comfortable with.
The work left me feeling, as I wrote, "like a sock that is turned inside-out. All the tender inside is pulled to the outside."
Twice at parties, friends of the hosts--people I didn't even know read my blog--told me they liked it. I realized I wasn't anonymous and invisible, which kind of freaked me out.
Then some blog-friendships hit rough road, and I didn't know how to ride that out.
I ended up deleting the whole blog in 2005.
I've written about this before, but I guess I'm still doing the autopsy.
After a two-year break, I missed blogging so much, I risked starting this blog in October 2007. Maybe one day I'll stop blogging? But I promised myself I'd not delete a whole blog again--that ended up feeling too violent.
What does blogging honestly mean to me now?
I'm not sure.
I'm not particularly afraid anymore (or not of the same things).
Emotions and men don't make me want to run for cover (usually).
Posting photos of my ass veiled in 3M window film doesn't bother me (much).
And I've come out about so many things so many times, the closet door fell off.
But it's still hard work to uncover the naked bones. It's still tricky to handle the fragile sea creature without damaging it.
My blog is still where I try to strip off. (Sometimes more, sometimes less.) I'm often more interested at midlife in uncovering ideas than raw feeling (that was reversed when I was younger), but the work is much the same.
My blog is my Come In Coloring Book.
I'm glad to be here.
I'm glad you're here too.