It’s been five but only to me.
To others it’s three, or two,
if they remember at all.
Life moves on, distance no friend,
search for shared words or memories,
fall back on blandness that cannot offend.
Smiles a little too fixed,
eyes darting to others for rescue.
My stories too long, your chambers too full,
no room at the inn for the perpetual wanderer.
After a brief honeymoon on Facebook back in 2009/2010, when I reconnected with friends I hadn’t ‘seen’ in 10+ years, I became a very infrequent visitor. But over the past few weeks, while attempting to sell household items, old toys, sports equipment etc. prior to our move, I’ve been checking in several times a day. With some dismay.
Buying and Selling on Facebook in Privilege Land
The number of items for sale in June/July in the Geneva area is unbelievable. You can have your pick of furniture, clothes, toys, inflatable pools, cars, bicycles, barbecues and electronics if you are buying. But no one is buying, because everyone is either on holiday or else about to relocate. By September, when the changing of the guard is complete, people new to the area will be looking for second-hand items… and there will be NONE.
The dialogue is straight out of Eugene Ionesco:
‘What do you mean, I need a minivan for a corner sofa? But I don’t live in a minivan.’ ‘Where is the nearest bus stop? Why can’t I take that solid pine chest of drawers on a bus?’ All waiting for you to utter the magic words: ‘Fine, I’ll bring it to you.’
‘How much did you say this was again?’ ‘Oh, you meant euros, not francs?’ “What, you live in France? Oh, no, I never come over the border…’
‘Yeah, I know I asked about the measurements before I came to pick it up. But now that I look at it, I realise it will never fit in my living room.’
Plus, of course, every appointment will need to be rescheduled at least twice. Busy, busy, busy lives we all lead, even though we seem to be trawling through Facebook very frequently.
I can’t believe how many people are selling unused Celine bags, unworn Prada shoes and Gucci tops. Someone has clearly been having a shopping binge or is of a vacillating disposition. Or there are too many husbands/lovers out there who still don’t get their women’s taste!
The Joy of Updates
I’m really happy that people are happy – don’t get me wrong. I am not one fat killjoy waiting to pounce on you. But it’s become a blast of trumpets (or vuvuzelas) rather than a conversation. Look at me, look at me!
Far too easy to click ‘like’ and believe that we are actually interacting. Whilst all along we are thinking how to top that story with one of our own.
I’m also inherently suspicious of people who are projecting too much joy – are they trying a tad too hard? A day out is no longer fun if you do not instantly upload the pictures for all to see. You cannot kiss your partner on your wedding anniversary in the quiet of your bedroom or kitchen without inviting the world along to peek.
My modesty feels assaulted when I see people patting themselves on the back in humblebrag mode. I am delighted that their children have achievements to share, but would rather not rub it into the faces of those who don’t.
The friend who’s constantly ‘too busy’ to meet up with you or invite your son over to see her son, and then you see her posting pictures of her walks and bike rides and having other friends over at her house? A cold shower, that’s for sure.
As for those who whine about the awful day they’ve had and how they deserve that glass of wine, the recent documentary on immigrants on BBC 2 Exodus: Our Journey to Europe shows you what a really bad day, week, month or even year looks like.
I say all this and yet I’ve been guilty of every single one of the above myself on occasion. That’s why I don’t want to play ball anymore. I can commiserate or share my small triumphs directly with my friends, the friends who I can rely on to cheer me up and save me when I am down, who are not envious about any success. Without half the world witnessing our conversation.
The Powerlessness of Politics
Facebook is also a great place to discover that some of your friends of yore have very different political views to your own. Somehow, it never came up in face-to-face conversation… or have you been away for too long and political views can change so dramatically as they approach middle age?
It’s become an ideological battleground (although meaningful arguments cannot really be conducted via quick messages and article links). Above all, it’s become a judgemental moral high ground: ‘How DARE you not change your profile picture to a French/Belgian/Turkish or whatever flag? How dare you not express your sadness or outrage? That surely makes you against us.’
I’m reminded of the Communist dictate: ‘Those who aren’t for us are against us!’ I refuse to succumb once more to the tyranny of ‘what is prescribed behaviours’. I can mourn in my heart, alone, in a darkened room. There is no need to have a competition of who can mourn the loudest online!
But There Are Good Things Too…
Despite all that, I admit that I like pictures of my (real) friends’ children, to see how much they have grown. I have a soft spot for cat pictures and even dogs are adorable (especially in pictures rather than in real life). I like photographic challenges of landscapes or skyscapes, but am not so keen on selfies, food pictures and holiday snaps. It reeks too much of being invited for family dinner at our neighbours’ as a child, and being forced to sit through a hundred decks of holiday slides. I suppose the difference is that nowadays no one is forcing you to look for the price of a dinner.
Soooo that’s exactly what I’ll be doing very soon, once all the stuff is sold or given away. Not looking.
Holidays are all about catching up with friends over dinner and drinks, whilst also having plenty of space to read on your own. So here are some villas that I would like to share with my nearest and dearest…
After a short summer break, the dVerse Poets Pub reopens its doors and celebrates its third anniversary. This is no small matter in a world where blogs come and go at lightning speed, especially community-based blogs, where we share our poetic thoughts and feel free to experiment. The poem below is based on Catullus and his famous Ode to Lesbia, and it’s dedicated to all of the talented poets (and moments of fun and serious talk) that we’ve had here at the Pub.
Let’s live and love then, my dear friends,
another glass of champagne? …don’t mind if I do..
and give old naggers’ disapproving frowns short shrift.
The sun rises and sets on repeat.
[Over and over and over and over…
//the joy of repetition really is in you.]
But we? Once our sun’s snuffed out, it’s the graveyard shift.
So cover me in poems, a thousand,
then a hundred more, then let’s start over again.
Oh… is that taking it too far? / No, wait!// Don’t turn away…
A million poems later, let’s fudge the score
so no cold calculating eye can quell our enthusiasm!
One of the pleasures of dedicating myself to writing (once more) is that I am rediscovering old friends whom I haven’t seen in years, and whose creative talents have matured like good wine. Our lives have taken such different paths, we are scattered all over the world, we may struggle with small talk and yet…
Our love of words unites us: in some ways, we are perhaps closer now, sharing the best of of our thoughts, than we were when we were living together side by side.
Let me introduce you to just three of these. First, Paul Doru Mugur, a friend from high school, the only one who kept pushing me (sometimes ruthlessly) to write. Here is a beautiful and rich essay of his about time, published in an online journal which he co-edits. He also translates Romanian poetry into English, has published several volumes of short stories and poetry, and is generally very active in the arts world – all while holding down a demanding job as a physician in New York.
Secondly, I have a niece who used to pull my hair as a baby, but whom I have barely seen since. She is now all grown-up, has just graduated from university, writes searing prose in Romanian and occasionally in English. We barely speak to each other at the big family reunions, but have grown close through our online love of writing. A facet of ourselves well-hidden from the rest of the family. Here is a poem in English, but I think her real talent lies in flash fiction or polemical pieces. Here is a lovely example called Tutus and Cigarettes.
Finally, a friend from university who writes like an angel. Her blog House of Happy has made me just that: profoundly happy. I think she has a direct window into my heart and head at times. Here is one of my favourite recent entries. I wanted to reblog it, but our different platforms means I will cut and paste instead (oddly appropriate for this poem):
Get some paper
Chop it up into small squares (a hundred freckles-wide by exactly four snails)
Retrieve bits of your life and write down trigger-words on the shell-and-freckle paper: trigger words are those words that drag behind them large, live memories, the type you can still see, feel, count, smell (but not always spell…); the kind that roll off the shelf, jump out of the bottle and burn your eyes.
Put them all in a hat, shake well.
Watch them settle inside, now still but still whispering their burnished secrets, a lake of life inside a hat.
Clutch the trigger word you caught tightly inside your fist.
(eat it up if you must – chew well, swallow carefully; this may be helpful but remains entirely optional)
In any case, hold that word, smell it, consume it or, better still, let it consume you.
Then write about it. Write as if your next breath depended on it.
Prose, verse, a picture, anything that would help you understand
why your heart still roars
although your life, bruised burden
and time itself
Oh, allright then, here is a terrible picture from those days, to counteract all these lovely words! And no, I’m not sharing which one of the wild-haired people was me!