I had a lot of fun talking about navel-gazing in my essay this month for Skirt! For those of you who haven't gotten your hot little hands on the print edition (we're in 12 cities now - no excuses!), I'm sharing it here because my friend JAZ at Wicked Winter reviewed it so eloquently that it made ME want to read it.
I’ve had my own personal web site for more than four years now—a blog, if you will. I started it for kicks, but soon began to use it as a repository for observations about myself that were either (a) not well-developed enough to become an essay or (b) not interesting enough to say out loud. Or both.
As a result, what I have is four years worth of navel-gazing, sometimes so deeply I’m in danger of turning myself inside out. One example from my list of “50 Things You Can’t Tell by Looking at Me”: I adore tiny vegetables. I will eat any vegetable, even weird ones, if they are tiny. Fascinating, yes? Not really. Yet I had four perfect strangers email to tell me that they too enjoy a tiny vegetable. Afraid of frogs? I am. It’s called “ranidaphobia” and when I shared that bit of information (I don’t swim in pools at night unless someone has done a frog check first) on my blog, I’m fairly certain I heard a collective “OMG WHO CARES” from the Universe (or at least the online version of the universe). But then I had no less than eight people contact me with sympathy, advice, and mutual identification.
Want to see a picture of my cat? No? I’m putting it up anyway. Did I mention that she’s a long-haired cat but in this photo she has just been completely shaved and has a SWEATER on her tiny hairless body with her big giant head poking out? And that she’s really pissed off about it? My cat photo just got a whole lot more interesting, at least to the blogosphere. I got more comments on that cat photo than on any other post that year, ranging from “how could you torture an animal like that?” to “I could DIE from the cuteness.” And I still correspond with the woman who e-mailed me to ask for the full-size photo so she could print it out and put it on her bulletin board because it made her laugh.
When I tell people I have no secrets, I mean it. They’re all out there in their vast and mundane glory for anyone to find. Cat photos are just the tip of the iceberg. On my site, which anyone can find by Googling my name, I’ve written about my most embarrassing moments for the world to read. The time my skirt fell down while I was dancing in front of about 150 people at a Joan Osborne concert. My bad teenage poetry. Summer camp. The time I cried during a massage. That I stuffed my bra with Kleenex in the fourth grade after reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret a few years too early.
Who cares about all of this introspection, meaningless confession, and minutiae? I do. After all, it’s my navel we’re gazing into so raptly, is it not? And if a few other people out there hit me with an “I know how that is!” every now and then, it’s just a bonus. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who ever accidentally farted (audibly, BTW) while on a date. Or that someone else in this world owns a copy of “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” on DVD. Or that three people (besides me) are willing to admit that they find James Gandolfini from “The Sopranos” sexually attractive. Besides sharing my innermost thoughts with perfect strangers, blogging is a great way to communicate with friends. I can’t count how many times I’ve been with a group of friends and started to tell a story, only to have a friend finish it because she’d already read it on my site. The other upside of having my own site: Free stuff. I once received coupons for three free cartons of eggs just because I wrote that I thought Eggland’s Best eggs really do taste better than the ordinary egg. And after writing that I love to read graphic novels when I’m overworked because they’re easier for my brain to process than regular books, someone sent me a copy of Craig Thompson’s Blankets, which now has a slot on my “100 Favorite Books of All Time” list, graphic novel or not.
When I overhear someone on a cell phone, say in a grocery store or pharmacy, discussing in great detail the merits of super versus super plus or plastic applicator versus cardboard (hopefully with a friend or family member on the line), I want to tap them on the shoulder and firmly advise them to take it online. “Think about the time you’ll save by boring the crap out of all of your friends at once instead of one at a time,” I’d say. “Think about the cell phone minutes you’ll save!”
Whenever someone asks me about my blog (usually in the context of “what the hell is a blog and why do you have one”), right after I ask them if they’ve watched CNN at all in the past five years, I explain that it’s all about identification. The addictive thing about writing for the cyber-universe is the call and response. I tell you that I think Smart Dogs (soy hot dogs) are better than regular hot dogs; you tell me that (a) you agree wholeheartedly or (b) why you think my vegetarian hippie ass is trying to bring the pork and beef industries down single-handedly. I tell you that I’m over 30 and recently painted my bedroom pink; you tell me that you’ve been waiting for your husband to get his own place so you can do the same. This is what it is: We recognize each other in the mundane. We’re not alone out there. And we love tiny vegetables.
Kelly Love Johnson is managing editor for Skirt! She has a slight overbite, skipped second grade, and thinks “Xanadu” was the best movie ever. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.