continuation

7. a weird feeling about blogging lately.

i’ve been a blogger for six and a half years, which is long enough for the word “blog” to have left a sour taste in my mouth for two-thirds of those years.  i’ve seen trends come and go, i’ve seen people come and go, and somehow i’ve managed to outlast most of the coming and going.  i don’t regret any time i’ve spent on this site at all, though i do wish i could stop beginning so many sentences with I.

when i started bluishorange i did so for three reasons:

a.  at the time i was a web designer.  i’d kept sites on geocities and xoom before, which was where i’d developed an interest in the web in the first place, but i didn’t have a personal site then.  as a professional web designer who loved what i did for a living, i felt i should have my own website.  in fact, i had (and still have) a healthy suspicion of any web designer who didn’t have their own website.

b.  blogging seemed to me to be as good a way as any to get myself to write on a regular basis.  i’ve loved writing for as long as i can remember; in elementary school i vacillated between wanting to be a nurse like my mom and wanting to be a poet.  my elementary-school poetry was, of course, terrible.  i have a vivid memory of a particularly boring sunday church service during which i worked very hard to come up with a way to rhyme “steak” and “snake.”  one of my childhood poems still pops into my head from time to time:

i know a little old lady
her glue she doesn’t waste
for all she wants to do with it
is make it into paste

apparently i had a gift for meter if not content.  senior year of high school, my english teacher had us write a ten-minute journal entry once a week.  every monday she would time us while we tried to put our angst down on paper in a teacher-friendly format.  after five minutes had passed, i could feel my other classmates growing restless and bored, but when the ten minutes were up, i was always still writing.  the teacher graded our journals on participation and effort, but mine always came back with “what an interesting life!” written in the margins.

(that english teacher was at my ten-year high school reunion last month.  i sincerely regret not thanking her for the ten-minute journals.)

after high school i didn’t lose my love for writing, but outside of the odd journal entry or occasional poem, i didn’t really do it much.  when i heard about blogging, i though it as good an opportunity as any to hone my writing skills.

c.  i read weblogs for about four months before starting my own.  i knew all about blogger and pyra and the people who worked there, i read metafilter religiously, and i was constantly checking my favorite blogs for updates.  everyone was smart and funny and real, and i wanted to do what they were doing.  they seemed so much like me.  they were my people.

so in february 2000 i started bluishorange, with a design that prominently featured a photo of a fish in a blender.  all the reasons i started in the first place still apply to some degree: i still think web designers should have their own websites, i’m a better writer than i was before i started, and to say that i’ve met some wonderful people is an understatement.

but it’s different now, isn’t it?  i’m not going to be one of those people who talks about how much better blogging was before we let the riff-raff in.  it’s an antiquated debate, and anyway one of the things i’ve always loved about blogging is that the tools one uses for it tear down barriers to entry by design.  there are, however, a lot of weblogs out there now, so many that it’s become harder to find good new ones to read, and harder still to build one’s own readership.

the weird feeling i’ve been having about blogging lately is jealousy.  there are so many sites out there that are more popular, more successful than my own, so much so that they support their owners financially.  are those people better writers, better marketers than i am?  are they more diligent? (yes.)  or are they just flat-out better?

jealousy is always an embarrassing emotion to admit to, but there it is.  and it’s definitely jealousy.  but i’m more jealous of the attention than anything else, because whenever i ask myself if i want to be a blogger for a living, the answer is always no.  i started this site to hone my writing skills not for blogging but for something else.  my goal in life is not to have some post from 2003 in a web-writing anthology, and it’s definitely not to make my readers’ eyes bleed with flashy banner ads.  there’s not anything inherently wrong with those things (except maybe the latter), but they’re not my ultimate goal.

no, what i want is something more tangible.  as i once said to andy, “the best things are held together with toothpicks and tape.”  i want my name on the spine of an actual book, one that’s written by alison headley, not one that’s written by the author of bluishorange.  i want to hold my book in my hands; i want to open it and smell that book smell, the smell of ink and paper and glue.

inexplicable feelings i’ve had over the past week:

1.  unnecessary job-related anger.  job-related anger may not sound all that inexplicable, but i was angry at nothing.  well, really i was mad at the unevenness of the workload lately; for three days out of the week i’m bored to tears (once almost literally), then for the other two i’m buried under more work than i can handle.  this situation isn’t really anybody’s fault, which kind of makes things harder, since it means i’m angry at nobody as well as nothing.

the anger wouldn’t normally affect anyone other than me.  but recently i wrote my sister a long email while i was angry about work, and it made the advice i gave her sound less sensitive than i’d intended.  i’d like to get rid of this anger if i can, since my job isn’t important enough to warrant it.  “we’re not curing cancer here, people,” i’m fond of saying to my coworkers during times of stress.  this always puts things in perspective for me, though i’m not sure it helps anyone else.

2.  a brief pang of sadness when i found out that neil patrick harris is gay.  why should i be sad?  it’s not like we used to date or anything; in fact, i don’t even know the guy.  but he was my first celebrity crush.  in junior high i was obsessed with watching doogie howser, m.d., and i couldn’t figure out why until my friend kim made fun of me for having a crush on doogie howser.  “i do not!” i protested.  “and his name is neil patrick harris!”

once i discovered that it was, in fact, a crush, i went ahead and embraced it.  cutting pictures of him out of magazines proved difficult, since my mother never let me buy bop or tiger beat, so i found whatever i could in the newspaper.  i rented all the movies he’d been in and taped the show so i could watch each episode over again.  my fear of embarrassment prevented me from writing “alison harris” or “mrs. alison patrick harris” on any of my school folders, but i definitely did it in my head.  eventually i got over that crush and moved on to someone else; i can’t remember who.

and now neil patrick harris is gay.  oh well.  i’ll still always think of him as doogie howser.

3.  a bizarre desire to go out, get incredibly drunk, and do something stupid.  last night i was wasting my youth sitting on the couch making jewelry while watching veronica mars dvds.  it was the one where veronica goes to the eighties dance with meg manning, and meg’s secret admirer turns out to be veronica’s ex-boyfriend duncan, but then deputy leo shows up to be veronica’s date.  a good episode except for that storyline about the russian mafia and the guy in the witness protection program.

and then i saw the scene where logan arrives at the dance, drunk and dressed as tighty-whitey-wearing tom cruise from risky business.  he’s running around yelling about how everyone had better wang chung tonight, “wang chung or i’ll kick your ass!”  that line makes me laugh every time.

it gave me the sudden urge to go out on a one-night bender and yell at everyone to wang chung until i puke in my hair and someone has to shove me in a cab.  which makes no sense because one always tends to regret those things later.  so instead i made another pair of earrings and watched the episode where the vice principal hires veronica to find the kidnapped school mascot.  why is their mascot a parrot and not a pirate?  probably because keeping a costumed person in a cage wouldn’t go over too well with the school board.  anyway.

4.  regret that it’s already the fifth and so too late to participate in NaBloPoMo.  this makes no sense either.  the time constraint is, like most time constraints, an arbitrary convention.  i could have my own personal BloPoMo from november 23 to december 23 and nobody would arrest me.  PoMo makes me think of postmodern, anyway, so i could turn my 23-23 BloPoMo into a PoMoBloPoMo and write about things in increasingly strange ways until my december 23 post is nothing but dingbat symbols, and nobody would arrest me then, either.

i worry too that NaBloPoMo would be good for my routine, but bad for my writing.  there would be days when i would have things to write about, but there would also be days when i wouldn’t.  on those days my participation would force me to phone it in.

5.  strange feelings of missing people.  i miss a person i shouldn’t really miss, and i miss another person i don’t really know.

the first one is my own fault, and i’m confident i’ll deal with it, as i have before.  the second one is a bit stickier.  because when i say “person i don’t really know,” i mean that this person doesn’t exist, not really.  you see, i’ve always had this picture in my head of a person who is perfect for me.  his desirable qualities are usually picked up from friends i’ve had, books i’ve read, and people i’ve dated before.  he’s changed quite a bit over the years, but he always shows up whenever i’m single and feeling a bit lonely.

it’s lame, isn’t it?  it makes me sound like one of those teenage girls who has a handwritten list of qualities she wants in a husband, or worse, like i have an imaginary boyfriend.  neither of those are the case, though i did have such a list as a teenage girl.

really, though, how ridiculous is it to be twenty-eight years old and miss a person who doesn’t exist, who will never exist?  it’s been a long time since i abandoned the notion that there is such thing as a soulmate, that there is one perfect person out there for everyone.  relationships work because people make them work, not because they were meant to be in any way.  sadly enough, there are relationships that are doomed to fail from the beginning, but there are no relationships that are guaranteed success, at least not without a lot of effort.

but i still can’t help missing this fictional person.  lately i’ve decided that my perfect fictional person has a lot of hobbies, like i do.  we’d spend our days immersed in our own separate activities, then reconvene later and talk about what we had done.  that separateness, that aloneness, would be really important to both of us.  i’ve also decided that he understands my occasional lack of conversational transition.  i’d be able to bring up an earlier discussion with no warning, with no preface at all, and he’d know exactly what i was talking about.

i’ve shed quite a few of my romantic notions over the years, but apparently i can’t seem to let go of this one.  i can’t decide if it’s an okay thing to hang onto, or if it’s just another thing about which i should grow the fuck up.

6.  vague embarrassment about having revealed number 5.  because it is a bit embarrassing.  but it’s the embarrassing things that make us us, isn’t it?  as a writer, i don’t want to hold those things back.

one of my favorite lines ever from a cameron crowe movie (though i’m not a huge fan of his), is from almost famous.  near the end, william’s on the phone with lester bangs (philip seymour hoffman), and lester says, “the only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re being uncool.”

parentheticals

sometimes at night i go outside with the dog and a glass of wine and my laptop and sit at one of the picnic tables in my apartment’s courtyard.  maude roams around sniffing at whatever dogs like to sniff at, while i sip cabernet and write or surf the internet.  i do this partly because it’s been nice out lately, but mostly because the wifi is good out there.

for the past few weeks i haven’t been able to do this without encountering my neighbor matt.  he lives in the apartment next to mine, and he never walks by without trying to engage me in conversation.  i’ll be really into whatever i’m doing on the computer, and then i hear someone behind me say, “hey, gal,” and i know it’s matt.  we’ve introduced ourselves, which is how i know his name is matt, but he obviously doesn’t remember my name, and has yet to ask again.

(sidebar: what’s so difficult about saying, “i’m sorry, what was your name again?”  everyone forgets names now and then, so i’ve always thought it best to admit to the forgetting as early as possible, to prevent greater embarrassment later.)

matt has asked me what kind of wine i’m drinking (cab).  he’s asked me if i watched the game (what game?*).  he’s walked by twice in a row and then said, “do you ever feel like you’re going in circles?” (yes.)   he’s asked me if this is my dog and is she friendly (yes and sort of).  after hearing that i’m a web designer, he’s asked me to offer his credit-card authentication services to my employers (that’s not really what we do, but thanks anyway).  lately he’s been requesting my presence at a nearby bar, offering to introduce me to everyone there (how would he introduce me if he doesn’t know my name?  “everyone, this is gal.  gal, everyone.”)

(*sidebar #2: when people say “did you watch the game?” to me, it always reminds me of a running joke my sister and i used to have with my dad.  when we were in college, he would say, “your football team won this weekend,” to which we would always respond, “we have a football team?”  i’m still not sure he even followed the football himself; headleys are just that fond of the running jokes.)

(sidebar #3: one of my favorite headley jokes has been passed down from my grandfather to my dad.  whenever my sister or i complain about our hair, my dad says, “why don’t you get it cut in a nice short little bob?  it’ll be so cute and so easy to take care of.”  i suspect this is only funny if you’ve also heard your grandpa say it to your aunts.)

most of the time i have no problem chatting with my neighbors.  in fact, there are several in particular that i’m quite happy to say hello to.  but when i’m outside drinking my wine and writing or trying to find maude under some shrubs, i guess i’d rather be left alone, or at least keep the chatting to a minimum.

the other night when i saw matt, i told him that i’d received a visit from the maintenance people, a visit i was pretty sure was intended for him.  they’d left a work order on my door about inspecting my garbage disposal; the work order had matt’s name but my apartment number.  “yeah, my disposal’s been broken,” he said, “but i guess they came to your place by mistake.  thanks for telling me.”

sure.

last night maude and i were outside in the courtyard again, and matt came over, again.  we said our heys and how-are-yous, and then he said, “hey, remember that night when you told me about the maintenance thing?”

“yeah.”

“well i had a friend with me, and she thought you were really attractive.”

“oh?” i said.

“yeah, she did.  she wanted me to find out for her if you swing that way.”

“well,” i said, suddenly shy, “i, uh, actually don’t.  but that’s, um, really flattering.”

“oh, okay,” he said.  “i’ll see you later.”

and it is flattering.  but on the night matt was talking about, he didn’t have a friend with him at all.  he was alone.  i suppose it’s possible that his friend was looking out the window of his apartment, or that they walked by me later and i didn’t notice, but i doubt it.  if occam’s razor is to be believed (and it is), then he was probably asking if i swing that way because he wanted to know.

(sidebar #4: if i’m going to be selfish about it (and who wouldn’t), the flattery couldn’t have come at a better time, as i’ve been feeling less than attractive lately.  my hair looks funny, i’ve gained a few pounds, and my acne is flaring up.  when i used to complain about my acne to ryan i called it my “leprosy of the face.”  sometimes i wish i didn’t have a body at all, that i were just a head in a jar labeled “alison headley,” like on futurama.  i bet all that formaldehyde would clear my acne right up.)