I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Let’s call it the real reason my knees are bruised and torn up in this picture.
It’s something I’ve thought about for years, something I once got so passionate about I pitched it two years ago as a cultural think piece to a magazine that didn’t quite grasp the concept. It’s since been articulated by other writers in important magazines and newspapers all over the globe, which hurts my writer’s ego, but let’s not dwell. (Dear Editors of Publications I Pitch, I have good ideas.)
Here’s what I’ve been thinking: social media has created the maddening illusion that everyone’s lives are perfect.
Facebook is the virtual equivalent of your high school yearbook. Everyone is vying for space on the page and no one wants to look like a loser. So what do we do? We post pictures of our lives at their most exciting. Jet skiing in the Bahamas with my bestie! Front row at Jay-Z! Climbing Kilimanjaro. The view is auh-mazing!
Even the boring stuff seems exciting when photographed from the right angle. Shopping for bananas! The laundry is done! Look it’s my belly button lint!
We upload our best photos. We broadcast our most joyful news. Sometimes, despite our compulsion to put only our best face forward, we share our miseries. Why? Because misery loves company and eventually you need your virtual friends to provide virtual support.
I’m not slamming Facebook. I use it just like everyone else uses it. I’m just pointing out something I know you already know: that nobody’s life is perfect. Even your gorgeous friend with the high-paying job in San Francisco, who drives an Audi and has two kids in Montessori school and a spouse who works in cancer research and dabbles in rose gardening, doesn’t have her shit together all of the time.
We used to blame magazines for perpetuating unrealistic standards. Now we’re doing it on our own.
As a blogger I’m especially aware of this fact. Pinterest makes people feel like they’re inadequate party planners. (Who MAKES all this crap? And is Annie Leibovitz documenting it for Martha Stewart?) Twitter makes people feel like inadequate comedians and LinkedIn makes people feel like inadequate professionals.
Blogs are no different. By their very default, blogs are designed to make their authors’ lives appear better online, or at least it feels that way to me when I land on certain blogs. Seriously. Is this woman REAL?
Here are some of the (very flattering) things my blog readers have (wrongly) assumed about me:
1. I’m a health nut who only eats only organic, non-processed foods.
(Truth: I’m a vegetarian who belongs to an organic co-op, but I still cook and eat my fair share of crap, including my all time fave, Kraft mac and cheese. Mmmm … artificial dyes.)
2.) My child is happy all of the time.
(Truth: He’s happy a lot of the time, but even when he’s in a bad mood, he’ll smile for the camera. He’s a people-pleaser and a born entertainer.)
3.) My marriage is fun all of the time.
(Truth: No marriage is fun all the time.)
4.) I’m a successful writer.
(Truth: When magazines start responding to my pitches, I’ll be a successful writer.)
5.) I’m always positive.
While it’s empowering to be in total control of the message you want to send. It’s just as important to be honest – especially when your blog is as personal as mine. Take for example these photos.
Today Henry and I did some cupcake baking. I took some photos thinking they’d be cute for the Lance, but midway through our little home ec session, my kid had a major meltdown. He threw a cooking utensil, broke it in half and ended up in time out apologizing (through tears) for breaking his mother’s stuff.
I could have easily posted these photos without including this anecdote and you would have never guessed anything was amiss.
Oh how precious. Henry is baking! And he’s wearing an apron! That child is an angel.
Some of you – the ones who think I’m uber healthy all the time – might have assumed I concocted this batter from pureed butternut squash, coconut oil, organic chocolate, almond milk and quinoa flour, but those of you who know I can’t be bothered with complicated recipes rightly assumed I used a store-bought mix. (Pillsbury’s Funfetti to be exact. It’s my sister Heelya’s favorite and the cupcakes were for her.)
Had I not caught the mixing bowl after Hank attempted to push it off the counter, these photos would have been of a puddle of batter on the kitchen floor.
Remember: pictures don’t tell the whole story, which brings me back to my original message: about the skinned knees.
On Saturday, I fell running. I fell HARD. I left the house angry. Joe and I had gotten into a fight. Marriage isn’t always easy. Having a child adds stress. Work (or lack thereof) adds stress. Life, in general, adds stress. Things were tense in my house, so I left the house to go on a pissed-off run.
I was running fast and without music. I was preoccupied and not paying attention to my feet. Suddenly I hit a crack in the sidewalk. Really it’s barely a crack. Let’s call it a SEAM in the sidewalk.
My toes hit the seam and I went down. (I’ve NEVER fallen on a run before. Roller skating is another thing.)
My knees slammed into the sidewalk. My palms too.
A girl running toward me stopped to ask if I was OK.
“It happens to the best of us,” she said cheerfully, unaware of how badly I’d been hurt.
“Yup,” I groaned. “I guess today it was me.”
My knees were throbbing. I picked myself off the pavement and turned back in the direction of my house. Blood was running down my legs, so I took a quiet side street to avoid possible encounters with neighbors. I hobbled one mile back to my house, hobbled past my husband and straight into the bathroom to lick my wounds.
“Is everything OK?” He asked.
“I fell,” I snapped.
In 24 hours we’d hash out our grievances and harmony would return to our house.
My knees however, would still hurt like hell; a perfect reminder of my imperfections.
As with many life lessons, I learned this one the hard way. When you’re mad at your husband, don’t run away. Stay home and talk it out. Going to bed angry won’t kill you, but running angry just might.