Hey lady, you lady, cursing at your life....
Have you ever heard of BigMuscle.com? I've been "on" it for a while, and, after working in interactive for years, and being on a million sites (okay, a hundred, at least), I find it difficult to represent myself, well, with sincerity, on, um, anything online. I said "difficult." My great problem with Internet culture, and blogs especially, is that everyone is trying so hard to give up who they are, when everyone else is making a disposable identity. This makes for a bad dichotomy. It's as if half the world were writing memoirs and the other half were writing novels. And I mean this avowadly so in the first instance, and implicitly so in the second. This is the perfect example of how media has changed in an extraordinory way in the last fifteen years. Truth-claims for writing, whether online or elsewhere, have become very confused, but the online world is more and less sophisticated than the print-world: its boundaries are much more flexible. While we might be pissed off that that certain someone is not whom he or she said she or he would be online, we have learned to relax about it some; yet if a memoirist confesses to amplifying, extending, or even, yes, lying about his or her life on Oprah (or anywhere else [and where else does this happen, exactly?]), readers take great umbrage. (Alas, our current President and most others in elected government are held to a lesser standard.)
I don't know why this happens. Online, we let go of someone's misrepresentation (depending on one's experience and history), but on paper it's much more serious--it means something. Is the money we've paid for the paper and the incredibly well-financed cover and the PR the thing that prevents us from seeing a memoir as a story or as entertainment? And should we believe that any autobiography or biography is anything but a story? And lastly is any history anything but a story?
I had a few of these things in mind way back in 2003 when I wrote my first self-critical post on BigMuscle.com. To tell this story, however, I should tell two others first: the earlier is that I have a background in literary theory, cultural criticism, and psychoanalysis, so if you dislike one or all three of these options, you should probably stop reading now because my take will bore you. Latterally, BigMuscle is a funny "community" that allows you to post a profile with a number of pictures; it also requires your physical stats, including your geographical location; allows you to say as much as you might ever want textually, even, as some do, in a blog-style format; and lastly allows you to link out to other BigMuscle profiles, even in the thousands, so that your reader can see who you "like" in what in some cases is a vast list at the bottom of the your profile page.
So, here I offer up my first real post on BigMuscle. Read at your own risk.
We begin with the question of the gaze. Although the mouth is our first point of interaction with the world, and as much as orality typifies the way we greedily suck images inside ourselves as though they were some form of nourishment, it is a feeding that never satisfies. We begin instead with the gaze not in terms of our own looking but, naturally, the gaze of another, which, unlike our looking, does bring a kind of satisfaction with its own compliment of frustration and addiction. We throw ourselves at the world in fragments hoping to hook an eye, catch the gaze of another whose appraisal--of desire, delight, disgust, derision, or dread--will only feed something inside ourselves that demands that attention. We anxiously link out to other bodies we've constructed--bodies of words and disassembled parts--hoping to evoke a kind of wholeness, to trick the other and therefore ourselves into buying this wholeness with the coin of his gaze. But just as every signifier refers to every other signifier--and never to itself--we become lost in the web of signification, never finding a resting spot, a ground to stand on, a place that stays still, a signified. Or as Max Frisch says in one of his famous diaries, "I have only sought to explain myself but find I have only betrayed myself."
So, are you still looking?
OH YES, I JUST HAVE TO READ THE SECOND INSCRUTABLE BIGM POST!!