Friday, February 5, 2010

On Virtual Voyeurism

I used to love taking long walks at night through quiet neighborhoods. From the darkness of the sidewalk I often got glances of life inside those houses. I am not a voyeur of the peeping-Tom variety, but there is something so intimate in catching glimpses of a family sitting down to dinner; a man washing dishes staring out into the darkness; a woman watering her plants in the living room while listening to music. There is something comforting about seeing some people live lives like yours and something so exhilarating about seeing others live ones quite different.

That is one of the things I love most about reading blogs: getting little glimpses inside distant lives. I know they are only glimpses. I know all writing, even auto-biographies and memoirs, are limited to what the author wants to exhibit—there is no tell-all. We choose what stories to tell and how to tell them: we edit details; we add flair; we tone down; we exaggerate. Even when we think we have been as honest as possible, it is still, at best, one side of the story. Yet, there is always a grain of truth, a moment of authenticity that gives you a sense of a real life being lived.

Even though this is decidedly a personal blog, there are personal things that I don’t write about, that I choose not to write about. Some stories are not mine to tell. Others involve people I don’t want to hurt or expose.

Limiting the personal is especially an issue when it comes to my husband. I am not perfect; he is not perfect; we have struggles like every couple. I share some of my annoyances with him. I try to be honest about my defects and failures. I even mention arguments we have had. But just as I would not want to leave anyone with the idea that it is much rosier than it is, I also don’t want anyone to think it is bleaker than it is.

The writer of a lovely blog I read recently came under attack for something very personal she wrote. She was writing about the ups and downs of marriage, particularly, a current low point—no details, just that she was struggling. But she opened her heart, made herself vulnerable, and someone said something insensitive, as is bound to happen eventually in the blogosphere. It made me want to say something, to come to her defense.

What I have come to understand about human relations, is that even with those who are closest to us, who spend years by our side, we can never truly comprehend their depths: the motives, the desires, the intentions, the pain and suffering, the reactions, the losses, the bitter disappointments, the dreams, the joys of another human being. So, why judge so harshly someone you don’t even know?

Anyone who has been married past the initial “honeymoon” phase, and perhaps even sooner, will tell you that marriage is hard work; it is both bliss and agony; it is a haphazard assortment of shared joys and individual resentments. There are complications: children, jobs, financial strain, natural disasters, car problems, stress, gloom, loneliness, sickness, disagreements, insensitivities, egos. Fortunately, there is also joy, beauty, security, companionship, laughter, and intimacy to balance the scale.

It reminds me of a poem I have loved forever by a poet I adore; a poem I translated into Spanish for my husband back when we were dating and going through a rough patch; a poem that, for me, gets to the very essence of human relations, how complicated and vulnerable we are as individuals and how both sweet and bitter it can get when we come together.

Simple Song

by Marge Piercy

When we are going toward someone we say
you are just like me
your thoughts are my brothers
word matches word
how easy to be together.

When we are leaving someone we say
how strange you are
we cannot communicate
we can never agree
how hard, hard and weary to be together.

We are not different nor alike
but each strange in his leather body
sealed in skin and reaching out clumsy hands
and loving is an act
that cannot outlive
the open hand
the open eye
the door in the chest standing open.


mosey along said...


Thank you. You summed it up beautifully eloquently, and that poem is perfection.

Sara said...

Lovely post and very thoughtful and personal as well.

I had to put comment moderation on my blog because a few individuals can't seem to handle that a personal blogs means I will write about myself and they were leaving me nasty comments about everything including some very personal things. No one knows that now because I won't even publish the comments. I hope your friend realizes that some people are just so miserable that they will say that sort of thing to anybody.

Bex said...

I could have written this post, from the peeking into people's windows (catching a family at dinner in the actual dining room is my favorite) to the reason you read blogs (obviously a peek into a life is better than just a peek in the window) to your comments on marriage. I read the post you're talking about and it meant a lot to me, that rare glimpse into someone else's marriage, the fact that other people struggle as I do. All over the blogosphere it's "24 reasons I love my husband" or "I am so grateful for my Love, my Only One," and "Everything they say in the fairy tales is true." And reading that often makes me wonder, is my relationship subpar? Were we not meant to struggle, to go through hell and back sometimes, to argue and resent every once in a while? Because from where I stand it doesn't look like a fairy tale, which always ends at the beginning. So it was refreshing to see such raw honesty.

The poem is beautiful. I have a post brewing about love, but like everyone else I'm afraid to share love's harder bits with the Internet. Let's see if I can work up the courage.

Annje said...

I should have also written that I think in being a voyeur, there is a responsibility to be respectful of what you are privileged to see of the lives of others. I would no sooner throw a rock through the window of a family eating roast, just because I am a vegetarian (which I am not, just an example) than to lambast someone's blog post because they express something that differs from my own point of view.

Bex, I can't wait to see your post on love. I get tired of some of the fairy tale depictions of love and marriage, especially if it is so one-sided and isn't balanced with the other side of the coin--which is frustration and resentment and hard work. On one hand, I think it is human nature to want to show off the beautiful and hide the ugly, and I can also understand not wanting to air some things on the internet... but I prefer a balance that is more realistic, and those are the blogs (or posts) I really appreciate.

Maggie May said...

What would I do without people like you in the world? It is hearts and minds like yours that are the balm for everything that is hard.

Wendi said...

Very well put, and a lovely sentiment.

mrs.notouching said...

That was one great post. Thank you.

Phoenix said...

This is beautiful. I just wrote a post sort of railing against people who leave unkind comments on others' blogs - you nailed it perfectly with your thoughts.

Wonderful poem, too - so timely with this subject.

Danielle said...

What a interesting poem. I like different stuff like that. I bet it sounds beautiful in it's native tongue.
Marriage is pretty dang hard and it's hard not to judge people. I wish people had more tact sometimes.

Bex said...

The post you linked to brought tears to my eyes, literally. I went and picked Jack (he's nine months btw) up right away for a cuddle. Unfortunately he doesn't "do" cuddling. There are far too many things to look at out there.

I also have a response for your comment, which once again made me think. I'll put it out there as soon as there's some peace and quiet around here. Which may be never.

txtingmrdarcy said...

Hi Annje- I found you from reading Kim's blog over at Mosey Along. This post is beautifully written, and I'm definitely going to keep the poem to remind myself of perspective as I take the steps to cohabiting in the next few weeks.

I'm hooked. :)