A friend asked me the other day why I read so many mommy memoirs. "I mean, when you're finally free to read, don't you want to escape your life rather than relive it?" she asked.
I laughed and said, "Sometimes. But mostly, I crave what Faulkner Fox calls 'intimate talk' in her memoir "Dispatches from a Not-so-Perfect-Life". Mommy memoirs, and mommy blogs for that matter, are a great way to feed my appetite for the kind of intimate talk that gives me insight into my own life."
After moving across the country almost 2 years ago, I joked with my new therapist that I was paying her to have deep, real conversations with me, since I didn't have any friends here with whom to have them for free. I couldn't handle having only "How old is your son? Oh, look at him swing!" type conversations with the moms on the playground or at the grocery store. I needed someone other than my husband to have intimate talk with, in person. In addition to helping me navigate the depression that was swelling inside me, my therapist answered my need to talk about real things, with a real live human being.
In her book, as Faulkner Fox looks for female friends in her new hometown in Texas, she looks for women who are as interested in having intimate talk, as fascinated by "the freakish, the human, the complicated", as she is. Me, too.
Now, thank goodness, I have one great friend here and a few good ones that are have reached the intimate talk level or are at least showing the potential to get there eventually. My sanity depends on this as much as Prozac and chocolate and books and kid cuddles and my husband.
Of course, I had great friends in all the places I've lived before here and they're still out there, ready for a phone call. But in addition to the challenges of time zones and family schedules, I hate the phone. Phone calls are not as hard as they used to be BP (Before Prozac), but they're still uncomfortable enough to be infrequent.
Plus, I want to see my friends nodding in agreement or shaking their heads in sympathetic disgust. I want to feel our laughter in the same room, ricocheting off the same walls. I want to receive a pat on my shoulder or a hug when it's really needed.
This need for intimate talk is why I read a endless stream of memoirs and blogs. Intimate talk is where it's at for me. And if I can't get enough in person - and it seems I can never get enough in person - I honestly prefer to find it in the written word rather than make a phone call.
What I love about blogs are also their weaknesses: their raw imperfection, their unilateral (or non-existent) editing, their limited point of view. At their best, blogs can expose tender flesh, they let you in to where the real gristle is. If what Anne Lamott says is true and we should never "compare our insides to other people's outsides", then reading my favorite blogs and memoirs helps me remember that no one has it all together, that everyone else's insides are as imperfect and blemished as mine.
A problem arises when I read some other blogs. You know the ones. The perpetually sunny, beautiful ones. The ones where the bloggers only share the shiniest, happiest anecdotes and the most flattering pictures. The ones which never mention children pitching a royal fit over nothing, where spouses always help instantly and intuitively, where the writer is preternaturally sunny and perpetually smiling.
The ones which serve only to polish the image of a perfect outside rather than expose something, anything, inside.
(A friend recently joked that she wanted to start a parody of such blogs. Where the children all happily jump out of bed, milk the cows out back for their own breakfast, followed by happily reading to each other out of books that they wrote themselves. That are printed on paper they made themselves. From trees they grew themselves. With ink they made themselves out of native plants they grew themselves.) (You get the idea.) (BUT I COULD GO ON.)
I suspect that many of those bloggers are simply choosing to focus on all that is positive in their admittedly impressive lives. Highlighting the good in one's life is an admirable practice and I strive for gratitude and positivity in my own life. But as a reader, and as a person, I want so much to feel something, to be moved. Being moved by love and joy is a wonderful thing. But it's all the more meaningful to me when the dark edges and frustrating challenges are acknowledged alongside the joy.
Plus, I refuse to believe that any one's life is exempt from darkness. And I resent the implication, however unintended, that this is so.
Perhaps it is not healthy that I want so much to delve into darkness. Perhaps it is simply a sign of my depression, or my generally depressive nature. But I think, more than anything, it's about how I connect. It's about intimate talk. It's about being real.
Faulkner Fox wrote: "The particularities of a woman's life, especially as articulated by someone bright and funny, were endlessly interesting to me."
This is why I read mommy memoirs. This is why I read mommy blogs. This is why I read YOUR blog.
Is intimate talk why you read blogs? Or is it some other reason entirely?