Thursday, April 21, 2011

Loneliness and the Virtual World

So six months ago, I ended a relationship. We had been living together for several years, and it was very sad when it ended. When I moved out, I knew that I needed a place of my own, no roommates. In order to afford such an apartment, I had to move to a particularly inconvenient part of Brooklyn. It is 20 minutes away from hip bars or fancy grocery stores, and although that may not seem so inconvenient to those of you living in AMERICA, in NYC that is a social death sentence.

I chose my apartment in order to nest, but I am finding that I spend more and more time away from the nest, and that when I am home, I am suddenly lonely. I have always been a fairly solitary figure, and lately I have found a deeper appreciation for my own company. But then there are those times that I feel desperate. At my old place, I could just walk out the door and go to at least 15 different places in a five-minute walk radius. Here, that's not going to happen, and even if it did, I would still have to walk through the projects.

So I have been spending a lot of time online. On Facebook, Twitter, even LinkedIn when I'm desperate. And, of course, online dating. Now a few of these online dating connections have become real world connections, and that is very nice (and clearly necessary). What disturbs me is how often I feel the need to check my profile, see who "visited" "me," and generally take the whole thing waaaay too seriously. Because although there are some very nice gentlemen callers I have met, there are also a lot of assholes. And malcontents. And penis pictures.

I am also disturbed that when this desperation/loneliness seizes me, I need to fill up the space not just with online flirting, online status updates, etc., but it is also necessary to read The New York Times, watch TV, and scan YouTube. I am something out of Existenz. And I hate Cronenberg.

But the rub is, that if I disconnect, I do lose this community. Maybe I gain something, like self-reliance or mental clarity, but what is the point of all of that alone in a Brooklyn apartment?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Just Kids" by Patti Smith

Every girl should be introduced to Patti Smith at the age of 15. Overly literate, annoyingly "poetic," dirty, smelly, and tough and sexy as hell, she is neither the precociously perfect nor the pneumatic jailbait currently offered up as models of femininity. She's refreshing--and terrifying--because she is so imperfect.

Her unevenness and imperfections are part of what make "Just Kids" so enjoyable, not just from a fangirl POV, but also as a literary experience. There are maddening gaps in the story (what do you MEAN you didn't talk to Robert for all that time???), Patti's narration is completely unreliable, and there are times when you don't know who she's trying to convince--the reader or herself.

The book focuses on her young relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, a portrait of the artists as a young man and woman. Mapplethorpe is crucial to the Patti Smith-mythos, and her deep love and respect for him is evident and extremely moving. And yet. And yet, he can be a total ass to her and she just accepts it. Accepts that he blocked her from going to Ethiopia to search for Rimbaud--not because it is a ridiculously pretentious project (it is, but that's Patti), but because he's scared that she'll get eaten by hyenas (he's PROTECTING her get it? because she's an idiot.). Her fear for him while he's out hustling, skating the edges of a sexual underground (while still sleeping with her, FYI) doesn't stop him from doing shit.

Mapplethorpe isn't the only incredibly hot artistic genius who screws/over our affable Patti. Jim Carroll would rather shoot up. Sam Shepherd forgot to tell her she was married. Allen Lanier left her for long stretches to tour and fuck groupies. Her benign responses to such bad behavior speak to either extremely low expectations...or the unspoken crimes that she committed against them.

Ann Friedman has already written about Patti and creative ambition, and the evolution of her putting herself first is fascinating. For instance, when she decides to first smoke pot. No more good girl Patti waiting for Robert to get his shit together to go to Max's--she learns how to roll a joint so she can work, like an adult. She takes hash and goes to the piers with Mapplethorpe and ends up with "Horses." This is a long way from the woman who wrote, upon seeing Stieglitz's portraits of O'Keefe: "Robert was concerned with how to make the photograph, and I with how to be the photograph."

It's shocking to me that Patti Smith, PATTI SMITH, didn't immediately see herself as THE poet, rock star, artist, and adventurer. And maybe the dirty secret is that she actually did, but the most bad-ass woman on the planet is still worried that you'll think she's stuck up or that she isn't good enough to just be herself.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Fat

So despite the name of this blog, I didn't really expect to write too much about body image. Frankly, I'm kind of sick of talking about it as a "feminist issue." I mean, with everything else that we have to deal with--violence, racism, exploitation, fucking CONGRESS--I am supposed to add my ass-size to agenda? Please.

But that does not mean that I do not obsess over my ass size. And my thighs. And my gut.

I was feeling good about myself this weekend, and so I bought myself a bathroom scale for the first time in several years. Now, I know that I am at my fattest right now. A cocktail of various medications and recent situational depression have ensured this. So I shouldn't have been shocked by the number I saw on this scale. But I was.

Reader, I nearly cried.

I nearly cried because I felt so unhealthy, so ugly, so irreversibly unlovable. I should point out that during this recent fat period, I have resumed yoga, gotten laid, and rediscovered a sheer joy in my own company--and yet, that all felt beside the point when I saw this number. This number eclipsed all of that, leaving me with self-hatred and self-pity. Lord, I almost thought of buying Dexatrim or getting mono. I was like an after-school special.

I grew up skinny. I was picky, pain-in-the-ass eater whose mother was a registered dietician. I never felt fat until I was in college, and then I was surrounded by feminists who taught me to revel in a little extra chunk-age.  I learned to cut back a little and exercise, but not buy into the patriarchy. Age has slowed down my metabolism and the real world has slowed down my feminist response.

I calmed down a little. I am trying to make healthier decisions on what I eat and move my body a bit more. But I am still weighing myself every morning and spending time with hunger gnawing away at me. I look down at my stomach and wonder when my body decided to turn itself against me, or when I turned against it...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What is a Good Job?

So I got home late the other night, around 9pm, and there is this guy hanging around outside my apartment building. He immediately starts explaining that he is waiting for a friend (because that's not shady) and starts talking to me in a loud voice (ditto).

"I live over there," he says, point down the block. "And we love you guys, boy, we love you."
"We don't see you around much during the day."
"No, I'm usually at the office. I'm just getting home now."
"Oh yeah, that's right. You people have, what do they call them...good jobs." Pause. "I don't mean that in a racist way."
"No, of course not. I was just wondering what you meant by 'good.'"

Richie or Ricky or Ralphie or whateverhisname then proceeded to ask me for a job. I told him that we didn't have any openings, but I would keep him in mind. Finally able to extricate myself from the conversation, I walked up the stairs and heard him muttering my name to himself and repeating, "I'm gonna remember that."