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New Blog Discovery

Back in the early 80s I used to read (usually on my friends’ refrigerators) a cartoon strip I loved, called Dykes to Watch Out For. I haven’t seen one of those strips in years, but a friend just sent me a link to a blog of the same name, written by the cartoonist herself. The strip still exists and is widely syndicated and read, apparently; the cartoonist/author has recently written an autobiography; and there she is, Alison Bechdel, bless her, writing a deliciously literate and thoughtful blog, attracting MASSES of commenters who discuss & argue about interesting subjects like celibacy, bipolar disorder, and the ethics of writing autobiography, among other things.

I was immediately transfixed by this new blog discovery and spent several hours reading the blog and its comments, although it is nearly 11 p.m. my time, and I haven’t made myself any dinner yet. I wanted to leap in and start commenting (at length, as is my wont) on all the hot subjects being discussed in her commenting community, though the most intriguing line I read (of hundreds) was AB herself, wondering if she should “stop frittering away my own autobiographical urges in this seductive, ephemeral, slapdash medium.” Yeah! I often wonder the same thing, although it isn’t my autobiographical urges I may be frittering away (since I don’t believe in autobiography); it’s my LIFE. But then. The blog is part of what my life IS. The blog is part of how I realize my life, etc.

So rather than hijack Alison’s blog with my comment, I decided (although my stomach is rumbling and I really do want to get something to eat soon) I would just make my comments on three of her hot topics here.

1. Celibacy. Celibacy is the greatest gift I have given myself in my long life, and I do want to write an ode to it some day when I have time to write an ode, but for now–in this slapdash medium–let me say this: the beauty of celibacy is that it has lifted me out of the energy-drain that consumed most of my adult life. Now, if I hadn’t enjoyed a wild, varied, and wonderful sex life for forty or so years, maybe I wouldn’t feel that way, so I’m not advocating this as a course for everybody. Or anybody, actually, other than me. For me, it works, mainly because I am not able to create a healthy sexual-and-emotional relationship. God knows I tried. And tried. But when I become sexually and emotionally involved, I tend to neglect EVERYTHING ELSE, including my health, my mind, friends, kids, books, music, nature, writing, my day job, and all my other passions. I know other people who are able to have loving relationships and not drown in them. But not me. I drown. So what I have discovered, since becoming celibate in 97, is the wonder of everything else there is in life. I intend to keep this. I’m happier this way, and maybe because I’m old enough that my hormones are no longer raging out of control, I don’t feel deprived. Well, maybe a little, once in a while. But when I consider the alternative (being CONSUMED), a little deprivation seems preferable.

2. Autobiography. The problem with autobiography and memoir, as I see it, is that it’s all FICTION. Everything is fiction. Everything is just how someone perceives it. One of the fictions that most helps me to understand my life is that my mother had multiple personality disorder. It is what some people have said about her, and accepting it as a plausible explanation for her behavior helps me to understand why I could never figure her out, why her version of anything and my version of the same thing were always wildly different, why her version of the same thing this week was always wildly different from her version of the same thing last week, why I have always doubted my own perceptions, and why I needed (until I started blogging) to keep a diary. Perhaps the only subject on which my mother has ever been consistent is her belief that she is perfectly sane and that I am a total nut-case. So how could I possibly view autobiography as other than fiction?

3. Ethics, authors, and blogs. I agree with the idea that we claim and know our lives by writing about them and making our lives visible; the notion that the more “personal” a story is, the more it touches the personal in other people’s lives; and the notion that we write best what we know; but there is no way I can write my story without, as Joan Didion says, “selling people out.” I’m uneasy with selling people out. The ephemeral nature of the blog makes the “selling out” seem less egregious (maybe because I’ll never get any money from it? maybe because very few people will ever see it?) and so I can go on, sort of like Dickens in his cliff-hangers, telling my story HERE without feeling nearly so much compunction about it as I would if I tried to publish it. More on this point: one of my partners had, according to one story, bipolar disorder. She never agreed with that story, but her son has just made a fortune by creating (to my mind) a monstrous distortion of her in what I consider a vicious, lesbian-bashing, feminist-bashing, self-aggrandizing book and the trashy movie made from the book, which he swears is TRUE, a “memoir.” My son remembers her as a rather different monster from the one her son writes about; yet to my eyes she was never monstrous. Complex, moody, unpredictable, yes; difficult to live with, yes; compelling (to me), yes; but monstrous, no. And so I have more suitcases full of feelings about the whole subject of autobiography than I’m going to be able to unpack before I faint from low blood sugar. But I do want to read Alison Bechdel’s “autobiography” when I get a chance. And I want right now to plug my favorite “autobiography” by a person with a mother who had things going on in her brain that made her unable to dwell in a “usual” universe: Daughter of the Queen of Sheba, by Jacki Lyden. Brilliant, brilliant book. It’s Lyden’s love of her mother, love of her Self (amour propre at its best) and her ability to weave that love into the story of her own struggle to rear herself and some younger siblings without a responsible adult to help her out, that makes it so resonant with my experience and so deeply reassuring to me.

3. Last point for tonight. One of the things I admire about Alison’s blog, Nacho’s blog, T.’s blog, Conor’s blog, and many of the blogs I enjoy devouring, is that they foment (I am choosing that word with intention) community, of a sort, among people flung out all over the planet, who couldn’t possibly get together around one table at one time. Of course the blog community is usually dominated by the voice of the blogger, but what I love about Alison’s blog is that it is dominated by the commenters! Viva! It’s a community of talky, thought-provoking, dissimilar and yet (usually) mutually respectful people. So I whoop with joy that it exists, and I go on blogging, and reading blogs, and commenting occasionally, and treasuring comments. I also revel in reading Stephen’s blogs, that don’t generate comments at all but are such dazzling wordcraft that the dominance of his voice seems completely justified. There is more I can say, and probaby will, about “this seductive, ephemeral, slapdash medium.” But now I really am going to go make some dinner.


-1 responses to “New Blog Discovery”

  1. Pam I says:

    But what did you think of the Maoist Orange Cake recipe?

  2. admin says:

    I totally missed it. What Maoist Orange Cake recipe? What do you think of it?

  3. Jaibe says:

    Ha! It is some kind of running joke I have half missed myself, but you have a lot more hours of reading in front of you to find out. But there is a picture of it on one of the blog entries, so that will be a starting point!

  4. admin says:

    Thanks, Jaibe! I have put off grading a huge stack of student papers till now, so no more blogging hours for me till I hack my way through these. But I will come back to it and search for the cake recipe/joke.

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