Fountain of Tears
I guess it says a lot about modern life when you find yourself having some of your most significant exchanges via email or social media. There was a time when I was extremely skeptical about any communication happening with someone whose eyes (or heart) you could not look directly into – it seemed so strangely narcissistic - but then there were the amazing benefits of making friends with, or maintaining friendships with, people you might not ever be able to meet, or meet again, in person, and some of them quite unguarded, so I too lowered my guard.
In the really old days, people wrote. Letters whose urgency, and perhaps veracity, had expired by the time they reached their intended reader. Telegrams that were brief and impersonal, but important and effective. But people also talked. Vigorous debates, news and insights and confessions shared, and the person with whom they were choosing to share within their immediate vicinity. This required either consideration, thoroughness and forthrightness, or a crash course in dissembling and avoidance. In any case, most of the time, you knew where you stood with the people most important to you. They directly told you. Or they artfully deceived you. Or they vanished conclusively and left you to do the math.
The Shadow Knows
But we are in a brave, or rather, craven, new world it seems. Recently I joined the Bandwagon of Evasion by resigning from a job by email. It could be worse, I told myself, at least I didn’t just not show up and let them figure it out when my Linked In profile suddenly showed a new employer. It does seem that the way to find out what’s going on in people’s lives, sometimes even people you count among your nearest and dearest, is to check their Facebook posts. This used to be called stalking. Now it’s called keeping in touch.
Which of Us
Not to air dirty laundry – as if any laundry can be concealed for long living in the small town that is our virtual reality these days – but for the past several weeks I have been undergoing what in modern terms can be referred to as a change of relationship status. I have made great efforts to secure a confirmation or denial of this change from the other principal player in the drama, first in person, then via email. Granted, the man is not a talker. Maybe the five years between our ages represent that crucial generational shift in which people stopped talking and starting texting, stopped hugging and started “liking.” I eventually determined that the lack of denial was about as much confirmation as I was going to get. Then I joined Facebook. Then I found myself checking the status of the person I was still living with but not yet sure was my ex-boyfriend. Oh my God, I thought, I have gone over to the dark side. The Luddite Confederation will soon be revoking my membership.
Good thing the LC sends all its official notices out on vellum inscribed with a quill pen. It will take the Board of Revokers at least a month to assemble the materials and locate a willing and able carrier pigeon to deliver their missive, which will lie unread in a bird bath if I change addresses or they unwittingly choose a particularly wayward pigeon unsuited to its job, which, if it happens with people, why not pigeons? Meantime, back on Facebook, last time I checked, my maybe ex was still “in a relationship.”
Alone in a Crowd
Until yesterday when I checked again and it was there – single. And then I updated my own profile, to which I have been slowly adding content since its launch only a week ago, and I also entered my relationship status as single. Then and only then did it feel as if the relationship had ended. After all, if it’s on Facebook it must be true. The eagle –eyed among my online acquaintance (and his), will notice this status change. For anyone else, there will be no other clue to the estrangement of two human beings, the disentangling of two lives once physically and emotionally intertwined. As long as we are each still posting, with the same thumbnail icons, all must be well.
Except that I am decidedly old school. Not that I am intending to play the woman scorned, but whatever role I embody, it will definitely not be the woman silenced. I plan on writing my way through this, in my journal, and in posts longer than Twitter or Facebook permit, and talking my way through this with actual human beings who can observe the emotions crossing my face like subtle ripples on a still pool, who can tell by my voice exactly how okay I really am or am not on any given day, and can lay a hand on my shoulder along with real words of comfort or welcome humor, all the time offering their own faces and voices up for scrutiny to determine the depth and validity of their character - and their sympathy. And the saddest thing is that even as I wrote that it sounded like an impossibly high standard for friendship, when really, it should be the bare minimum.
Eyes of the Beholder
The thing about social media is that it creates a sense of intimacy that is entirely protected and controlled, which in my old school mind is the opposite of intimacy, which is messy, vulnerable and risky. I am not unaware of the irony of my joining Facebook at a point in my life when I feel most alone, most like I could create any identity for myself, and would actually welcome a little intimacy of the protected and controlled sort. But anyone who really knows me - and at this point readers of this blog, some of whom I have met and others not, but all of whom I consider true friends, do know me – knows I am not about being controlled or protected. And I will look you in the eye and tell you so.
I hold a place for absent things
The images in this post are all from my archives. Images of solitary figures have always appealed to me, because they are so pure, so true, and so joyously alive, even in postures that suggest loneliness or loss. In 2011, I crafted a special post for Valentine’s Day, and in honor of being in what I believed to be a solid partnership at the time, assembled and presented every image I had captured of two figures together. They were not easy to find, but they were there. Now they are gone. But as long as I have eyes and heart open, there will be more.
This post is dedicated to the twos and the singles, and everyone in between. May you find love one way or another.