Whitewashing your life, or why I blog

Blogging: An exercise in vanity. Source: Flickr user Ana Santos.

It seems that, to be a Cool Lady Blogger, one must be very skilled at presenting a thoroughly beautiful and flawless portrait of one’s life. Essentially, you must be a good storyteller. My biggest beef with the scads of Cool Lady Bloggers is the continuous presentation of this perfect, shiny life, as I’ve written about before. I get so weary with the immaculately dressed moms, the beribboned babies, the glowing white kitchens, and the Anthropologie-inspired explosion of twee crafts.

I self-righteously thought I was above this life-whitewashing trend of bloggers–until I had a recent conversation with Jonathan. It was a long and good conversation and I’m glad we had it. He carefully pointed out that my keeping a blog is keeping me from honesty and vulnerability. In many respects, this is true. I need to keep the blogger’s mentality of life whitewashing out of my real friendships and I deeply appreciated his reminder.

I understand that, for the most part, one does not keep a blog to be vulnerable and intimate. After all, the whole of the Interwebs can read anything you write. I am probably not going to tell you about what made me cry today, Internet. But there is a certain virtue to carefully cultivated honesty. If you’re a popular blogger, honesty about the grittiness of your real life unfortunately opens you up to the hoardes of Totally Insane and Mean Anonymous Commenters. But that’s the risk you run when you say anything about anything on the democratic forum that is the Internet. Honesty and willingness to suffer the slings and arrows of the crazies is why I think people keep coming back to Dooce. Heather Armstrong told the World Wide Web about suffering through postpartum depression. She didn’t have to do that, but she created a lot of credibility, trust, and sympathy with that decision. Today, she supports her family with her blog. Millions of people have watched her daughters grow up through her website. It is perhaps a false intimacy that is created–the feeling that I know this family–but isn’t that what the Internet is for? False intimacy?

Either way, my conversation with Jonathan made me think a lot about why I blog in the first place. I never have a good answer when someone asks me this question. I feel kind of defensive when I try to explain it, and I should, since a blog is nothing more than a concentrated exercise in pure vanity and narcissism.

Here’s my best shot at an answer: I like to write. I have been writing since I was a child. From the age of seven onward, I have been keeping scads of personal diaries, notebooks, and prayer journals. No one reads these life records except me. But I’ve realized that I write best when I think someone else might read it. Since I’m not a journalist anymore or anything remotely close to a novelist, a blog is my main creative outlet, as sad as that may be. Even if no one is actually reading it (like my dog blog, for instance. As I confessed to Jonathan, I’m writing to myself there and I am OK with that), the illusion of an audience makes me a better writer. So, that’s why I blog. It’s not noble. But at least it’s kind of honest.

Love/hate with the blogosphere

I read a lot of blogs. I’m very devoted to my Google Reader. It’s very organized. I have it set up in lots of folders, which are arranged in order of how much I care about the blogs in a particular folder (for example, “Friends” are at the top and “Food blogs” are at the bottom).

I do most of my reading out of a folder I labeled Cool Lady Bloggers. These are the queens of the fashionable Internet. You know who they are: Joanna Goddard, Naomi Davis, Heather Armstrong, James Kicinski, Alice Bradley, Maggie Mason, the women at Design*Sponge, and nearly every cute wedding blog, and so forth. I love them all. I feel like we’re friends because I’ve been reading their blogs for years and looking at pictures of their babies. But today I was musing about the 300+ Cool Lady Bloggers I read and came to a few conclusions. I am going to share them because I have no self-awareness.

Reasons why I often loathe Cool Lady Bloggers:

  • Often pretending their life’s, like, perfect and stuff. We know it ain’t. We know you don’t just “whip up” cupcakes like that for every party. (The great bloggers–like most of the names I mentioned above–are the ones who actually share mishaps and trauma with grace. See Dooce; she’s the pro at this.)
  • NO ONE KNOWS the difference between “stationery” and “stationary.” NO ONE.
  • If you just keep re-posting content that someone else created, that’s not blogging. That’s just image dissemination. I will unsubscribe you so fast…
  • Heavy photo-editing of one’s life. (Just be like me, Lady Bloggers: Take terrible, noisy pictures instead!)
  • They don’t have real jobs. They get to sit on a couch and drink giant mugs of tea and read stacks of novels with their puppies and fresh babies all day. And then they go walk downtown in super-cute dresses and take pictures of themselves. And then they get up the next morning and do it all over again. OK. So maybe that’s not true and that’s just my jealousy talking, but if often appears that way. I know full-well that the mommy bloggers don’t have life that easy.
  • Everyone is usually just talking about the same stuff for one week.
  • Taste is universally shared. If you do not DROOL over letterpress “stationary” and GUSH about Anthropologie’s window displays and GASP over moody photographs of girls draped in rowboats, then you do not belong. You must leave the Blogosphere immediately, never to return; your entrance to the gates shall be barred by a pair of Zooey Deschanel doppelgangers with red lipstick and yellow dresses, fending you off with bouquets of flaming peonies.
  • Senses of humor are hard to find (again, see Dooce ‘n Friends for the considerable exception to this rule).
  • Senses of the English language are even harder to find.
  • Talking constantly about how much you addooooore vintage clothes, especially vintage dresses. Time is up. This is no longer going to make you cool. EVERYONE loves vintage clothes. Even your mom.
  • Product endorsement pieces just make my heart sad. Even though your credibility is bolstered by the fact that you are now legally required to disclose post sponsors, it is overwhelmingly weakened in my eyes that you took the deal in the first place. I know that some of the CLBs are literally supporting their families with their blogs, and so it’s understandable, but it severely compromises the respectability of one’s voice.
  • Their nail polish is never chipped.

Reasons why I la-la-la-love Cool Lady Bloggers:

  • There is a strong sense of familial loyalty amongst them. It’s a tight-knit Internet community and lots of the famous ones (like the Heather, Maggie, and Alice mentioned above) are actually friends in real life. I love that. Because the Interwebs are, like, huge, but you’d never know it if you hung out with these ladies. If you wrong one, you have WRONGED THEM ALL.
  • They give me a lot of good ideas for life improvement–Maggie Mason practically invented the Life List.
  • They give me pretty things to look at when I’m bored.
  • They share about their lives. Because, really, what’s more interesting than looking at pictures of strangers and pretending like you’re friends? (I sometimes wonder what I’d do if I saw Naomi Davis in D.C. I’d probably run up to her and ask for her autograph like a toooootal fangirl.)
  • They are predominantly dog people. I can’t actually think of any of my favorite CLBs who are cat people. This is the main reason why I love them all.

OK, so the “loathe” bullet points all just spring from envy, I know. But I had to get it out there. That’s all I have to say. Happy Friday, CLBs! Learn the difference between “your” and “you’re,” because I promise that there is one!