Wed 28 Jan 2009
i went to bed last night with a conversation i couldn’t speak aloud running through my head.
my OB – or rather, my former OB, as Dave, my mother, and various medical professionals have begged me to swear that i am never, ever putting anyone through another of my “special” pregnancies – has become something of a friend. which is great and weird at the same time, likely on both sides. she was here last night with my book club, and when the conversation turned to twitter i flipped open the laptop and showed off the shiny silly wonder of social software and explained how i feel like i “know” most of the people i follow because we’ve been reading each other for years through my blog. oh yeh, i have a blog, sez me. nearly three years. and then my eyes caught on her face and i wondered if she were wondering like i’d be wondering about trust and the strange double-edge sword of professional intimacy and being a character in others’ stories, and whether there was anything in here that in a town this small she’d rather not have broadcast and the words came chirping up in my throat oh! i said nice things about you! but i swallowed them because they seemed so trite and obsequious and sometimes the elephant in the room is perhaps better left alone with the cake crumbs than spoken of, or to.
but what i wanted to say, what i went to bed still trying to give voice to in my head an hour later, was
i only started this two weeks before Oscar was born. after the bedrest was over, and almost exactly a year after that day in Room 2 when you said “i’m sorry, it IS amniotic fluid after all” and you called for the airlift and i still somehow thought everything would be okay but it wasn’t.
i started it because i’d been a mother since that day but not in a way i could speak of and i was facing down another birth and apparent, hopeful normalcy and “real” motherhood and it frightened me because i had no idea how to reconcile those selves and all the subjectivities relating to motherhood that i’d ever seen reflected in culture didn’t resonate with where i was and i figured if i could write, maybe i could reconcile the mess in my own head.
but we don’t talk that way at book club.
i don’t talk that way out loud much at all. unless i’m teaching, and even then, i stumble. verbal me and written me have different fluencies, different contexts. written me is comfortable with the language of the subject, the myriad of selves we humans portray and embody and understand ourselves to be. written me could negotiate motherhood with all its fierce love and exhaustion and bewilderment and grief and mundanity in a way that verbal me still trips over, feeling exposed and guilty if i articulate the ambivalence of parenting aloud.
the kids? oh, they’re good. baby has colic. ummm…but she’s a joy. cue smile.
i woke up this morning to the news that John Updike died yesterday, and i thought, yes. that’s it.
i feel like i’ve been watching the blogosphere – or at least this corner of it – run out of steam lately. i suspect we’ve collectively hit a place where our revelations feel like deja vu…like i could write this but so-and-so wrote in the same vein last week and hell, why bother? so many of us don’t, self-silencing because the sheer volume of what we’ve put out here has made us aware both that we’re not alone in our experiences of parenting but also that we’re, well, maybe not particularly special in our experiences of parenting. saturation.
but i also see an overall sea change in the ecosystem we release our posts to, when we do write them.
what blew me away when i belatedly discovered that i wasn’t blogging in a vacuum out here was the richness of the subjectivities mothers were exploring in their writing. like the seething mid-century suburbs of Updike’s Rabbit series, the public veneer of motherhood hid complex inner lives and a multitude of aspirations and secrets and feelings and validations. i didn’t see this version of mothering on tv, or in most of the ads and products aimed at my burgeoning belly…at best i found commodified hipster defiance without other content, at worst the same vapid recycling of mother-as-tender-selfless-fulfillment image that’d been hanging around Tide commercials since my childhood. but in blogs, i found conversation and exploration, stretching of these images, poking fun at them and at ourselves. i found moments of honesty and disillusionment and connection. i found a place to speak truths that verbal me could never say aloud…and people who would say, “i hear.”
it was no sheltered idyll, detached from a crass real…by the time i wandered into it, the blogosphere was actively trying to figure out how to make money, and new aggregator sites popped up all the time. but it was an economy that hadn’t yet figured itself out and narrowed its options. many fine writers found recompense for their words; many more found the recompense slim. pros and cons and implications of ads were discussed. comment whoring was owned up to. the subject as mother/writer/marketer became a common one, an overt one…and we were all marketing, even those of us who never ran an ad.
we still are, except the market has flattened out and the meta-conversations are no longer so fresh. lately, i feel like the mass, stereotypical mainstream mommy images have re-emerged to suck up too much of the conversation, subjectivities once imposed on us taken up as self-fulfilling prophecy, especially on the commercial side of things. snide tones that once seemed refreshing or ironic now resonate with weary, petty bitchiness. the aggregator sites drip with celebrity gossip and cheap wit and outrage and clearly they succeed so this must be what we’re buying with our clicks, our comments, but the tireless self-promotion of it all feels brittle to me. our little ecosystem of multiple possibilities is more toxic, the subjectivities narrower.
and yet i’m still here, blathering on. and reading, just from a smaller pool. and still happy with blogging, for what it is. because twitter’s 140 characters don’t quite allow me the scope to say more than the kids? oh, they’re good. baby has colic. ummm…but she’s a joy. cue smile.
and if you’re still here…i’m glad. and if you’re my former OB, i promise not to write about you anymore.
if you have a blog, how would you describe its subjects, the yous that populate it?