Friday, December 30, 2011

reflex grimacing

Returning home at 26 feels strange and uncomfortable, like you've swam back into the shallow end of the pool and there are flotation devices everywhere and the water suddenly feels too hot. There are reminders all around you of a former life: Airwalks in the closet, photographs of graduations and soccer teams seemingly at every turn, a "Little Miss Sunshine" ad ripped out from a magazine affixed to your bedroom wall (the bright yellow now a muted brown). It's suffocating.

Within hours, though, the rhythms begin to return. You share a glance with your mom as your dad launches into an overzealous defense of his latest favorite TV procedural. Your brother complains about having to sit in the middle in the back seat of the car ("Don't dwell in the sorrow," you say; he responds, "I don't even know what that means, but I know that's advice you've never taken.") You march into the living room to complain about the internet being slow and end up sitting down and eating 17 crackers and watching a half-hour of a football game and forgetting why you entered the room in the first place. You still feel like an impostor - like you're playing yourself in a play, kind of - but it all, at least, starts to feel familiar.

When it's time to leave, you pack up your stuff quickly (you never bothered taking your clothes out of the suitcase). Before your mom drives you to the train station, she asks if you want to take some bagels with you; you respond that you don't need them - "I'm going to go shopping when I get home" - and you look away from her immediately. You wonder if you'll ever stop reflex grimacing when you refer to your New York City apartment as "home" in her presence, and if you can really be considered an "adult," whatever that means, until you do.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"not sure if you remember me..."

Recently I e-mailed someone whom I've never met before but with whom I exchanged e-mails a few years ago (we had become Facebook friends at the time, too). Even though this guy - let's call him Doug - has been floating at the top of my gchat list for about two years now, and even though I see Doug's updates all the time on Facebook (I could name his three most recent jobs, tell you what neighborhood in NYC he lives in now... and I'm pretty sure I could pick a guy he briefly dated last year out of a lineup), when it came to writing this e-mail, I began it with, "Hey Doug, Not sure if you remember me, but...."

Doug wrote a friendly e-mail back to me and included somewhere in his first paragraph "Of course I remember you!" And since then I've cringed like at least twice a week thinking about my "Not sure if you remember me..." opener. There should really be some sort of Gmail tool that prevents all e-mails including that phrase from being sent! It creates the opposite kind of uncomfortable strangeness as when some disaffected woman at a party whom you've met a bunch of times shakes your hand and pretends she's never met you before. It's self-deprecating to the point of nauseating. The response is always "Yes, uh, duh, I remember you, weirdo."

But the impulse makes sense to me. Somehow it's extremely easy to convince ourselves - even though we see so much online everyday about people we barely know - that our own online presences are somehow obscured, hidden, secret. That girl Macy from high school whose wedding pictures I looked at last month certainly never looks at my profile! Even though Caitlin and I follow each other on Twitter, I'm sure she just glazes over my tweets without reading them! Even though Doug's on my gchat list, he probably looks at my name on his and wonders who I am! Actually though, this willful ignorance is probably for the best: I'm pretty sure that if we didn't all think of our online selves as "invisible," in a certain way, none of would ever post anything at all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


It sometimes feels like a good number of my "friendships" subsist solely on party invites. A former co-worker I haven't seen in two years, but whom I still dutifully include on every invite for a birthday party or housewarming. A guy I got drinks with once seven months ago whose Facebook statuses I occasionally "like." A high school friend who lives in Chicago whom I add to the BCC field as a way of saying "hi," I guess, even though we've been in the midst of a nine-month long game of phone tag and I think I'm the one who's meant to call her back?

Of course, these people never come to your parties. (The people who come are the 20-40 people you actually see regularly, the ones you expect to show up.) But you keep including them out of habit. You copy and paste your BCCed list from last year's birthday party e-mail and, sure, you delete a few people - a friend's former boyfriend, a past subletter - but there are a few relics you leave on. There's something nice about the thought that your "birthday drinks!!!!" e-mail might remind that former co-worker of that time you sprinted to a cab together holding two boxes filled with party hats. Maybe she'll write back a quick hello ("Sooo sorry I can't make it that night. How are you???"), though she won't respond to your (probably too enthusiastic) response. Or maybe she'll just think to herself "Oh, Josh," before archiving the e-mail. But either way, your having included her in the BCC field - however inconsequential it may seem - reveals that there's some part of you that wants to hold on just a little bit longer.