The best thing in my inbox every day is Vanessa Herald’s TinyLetter, A Fierce Practice, in which she shares beautiful photos of thought-provoking quotes, writes with grace and deep thoughtfulness about the world and beings around her, asks big questions, shares encouragement, and occasionally tears into what seems an increasing tendency for people to “curate” their lives in ways that make their lives look less like lives than museum exhibits. Vanessa is a self-described imperfectionist, which I think is fantastic and real and the perfect antidote to all of this curating.
“Curate” is one of those words that’s starting to annoy me via overuse. If you’re not a member of the British clergy or a museum director, I’m not sure how much curating you should really be doing. To curate, in its newest, non-clerical sense, is “
“Curating,” to me, implies a level of intent that feels like something new, something inextricably linked to our use (and overuse) of the interwebs. Maybe what we were doing before was more like editing–we were leaving out what didn’t fit, what wasn’t relevant, what a particular audience didn’t need to know. Now, we take selfies with chins tucked, bodies turned sideways, duck lips. If I see another woman post something about how her man is The. Best. Husband. EVER!!! because he did the dishes or remembered that she has a birthday or that they share parenting responsibility for the children they mutually created, I May. Lose. It. COMPLETELY!!! And don’t get me started on soft, romantic lighting that makes your mixed drink look svelte and sexy, or professional family portraits at the beach where everyone is wearing matching formal wear, or all the other myriad kinds of posts that really seem calculated not to let people know what you’re up to but to make them wish they were up to it, too.
All this curation makes me grouchy.
Don’t get me wrong. I am in favor of fun and joy and really good food and the beach and kittens. It’s the intent that seeps through so much of this curation that bugs me. Intent, and simultaneous obliviousness. Every time I see a “Best. Husband. EVER!!!” post, I think of all my friends who’ll see that and think of relationships that didn’t work out. Every time I see a 5,000-photo album of baby pictures, I think of all my friends who’ve struggled with infertility, or who never found the right coparent, or who’ve struggled to adopt because they’re gay, or who simply don’t like babies all that much, because let’s be honest here, babies are not for everyone and insisting that everyone should want them and that a person’s life is incomplete if they never have one is just stupid-headed. Food porn makes me think of friends with eating disorders. Marathon-porn makes me think of friends with serious health struggles. Travel-porn makes me think of friends who would love to travel but can’t for a thousand reasons.
Ugh. Okay, I’m just a curmudgeon. But I think that it’s often possible to tell when something is posted to honestly share, and when it’s shared to inspire envy. Tone matters. Words matter.
I’m sure that part of my reaction stems from my ambivalence to social media. It can be a wonderful thing when it brings people together. It’s great that people can share those adorable baby and puppy pics with family members too far away to visit. It’s fantastic that we can help each other celebrate our achievements. But so often, we use this interaction as a substitute for interacting with people who aren’t far away. We use it as a panacea to make ourselves feel better about what’s off-camera. Those Best. Husband. EVER!!! posts always make me wonder what’s really going on behind the scenes. If a dude doing the laundry or cooking dinner is something to be celebrated, what is the day-to-day like? Give me the pictures of the screaming babies and the skunked dogs and the mountains of laundry, because then I know what your world is really like. Then I know how I can help you, how we’re alike, what you need, what’s in your heart and on your mind.
In the spirit of anti-curation, I snapped some pictures of my home this morning. There are some lovely spots that keep me sane. There are some certified disaster areas. And there’s a lot of in-between. You could argue that this is curated, I guess. I didn’t take a picture of every single thing. But I didn’t arrange things. This is what it looks like here, right now. And what makes this un-curated, in my mind, is the intent. I’m tired of perfection. I’m tired of people trying to present and curate their lives and homes. I want an antidote to the panacea. I just want us to be real.
Yikes!! I’ve spent so long un-curating my life that I forgot to switch out the laundry and now I have no idea what I’m going to wear to work.