Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Year Older, A Year More Self-Involved

I have a stack of red-covered journals in my apartment that stretch back six or seven years. I keep them in my bathroom, a little pile of diaries that contain some of the thoughts I've had since I was in my late teens. They've got entries on all kinds of things: weight-loss goals, rants about friends, tear-stained entries about boyfriends (well, ex-boyfriends. Let's keep things honest here), to-do lists, and woe-is-me drama-queen entries about what a horrible person I am and how much I suck, et cetera, ad nauseum, boring. Typical angst from a typical mid-twenties citizen of the world.

I tend to turn to those journals when I'm super emotional. It's those apocalyptic moods where my binary brain can comprehend one of two options: 1) punching a locker like I was a high school hockey player or 2) scribbling down my thoughts in one long comma-free emotional purge. Since my apartment is tragically short on lockers, I tend to write.

And, for the past year, in addition to filling up those red-leather books, I've also been filling up this blog. I have to confess, with the inaugural entry about Chuck Klosterman, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was just ranting. I had just read Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and I needed to blow some hot air about it. I was seething, I was ranting, I was critical and a little potty-mouthed. Ipso facto: a blog entry.

Since then, I've written about any number of topics. My post on Leah McLaren garnered some decent feedback; my post on skinny jeans regularly pops up when folks google the concept. I've written about proms, girl crushes, names and the CBC. I've blogged about hoisery, Lost and George Clooney. Recently, my blogging has been a little stale. I've been cooped up in my apartment, waiting for the winter depression to become less of a valley and more of a gentle grade. But I never stopped writing.

I've had other blogs before, but those were way more personal, and as a result, way less interesting to look back on. They became little time capsules: they're who I was in the early years of school, right as I was striking out on my own. Now, I'm more confident - I actually have opinions about things that aren't, um, just about me. And this is my one year blogaversary, so it's all in the spirit of internet gabbing.

Blogs should be personal. I'm not saying make every entry about you, glorious YOU! - although that can also work, provided you're not a creepy narcissist who needs a personality recalibration after every day spent on the internet. But bloggers should have a POV. If I wanted pure news reporting, I would read the newspaper; what I want from a blog is a little bit of personality. Even the most frivolous types of blogs - fashion, entertainment, GOOP - are entertaining because their authors bring themselves into the code.

I like to treat my blog like a column. Is that weird to say? Whatever. It's true. There are things I'm not really interested in researching enough to blog cognizantly about - like who Ceasar Chavez is and why folks in the States get so uppity when he's running his mouth - so I tend to stick to things I know about. I've written a lot about bikes, and digital culture, and Toronto. That old saw, write "what you know," is still pretty good advice, even if you're not pounding your masterpiece out on a Remington while standing nude. In the future, I'll probably spout about things like owning a dog or taking Nia classes on the beach.

While you're keeping things personal, keep some things sacred. There are topics that I play close to the the vest: tight-knit family things, co-op stuff, body- and drug-related ideas. I tend to think, if it would make my mom or my boss squirm, it's not for writing about. Some folks have made the whole point of their blogs to be as confessional and personal as humanly possible. Not a bad thing, but just remember that people will find it, even if you think you're writing in a vaccuum.

And on that last note, for the love of god, bloggers need to spell- and grammar-check their work. It may just be a little spot for rants about your parents or a place to post pictures of your best-ever scrambled eggs, but it should be legible. I'm not going to require that your entries in the red-leather covered journals be Pulitzer-calibre work, because those are for your eyes only. But you know how, at the bottom of the webpage, it says "Publish Post"? Please, treat the damned thing like it's actually going to be read by people - published for reals, if you will - and treat your readers with respect.

I've had a blast writing this blog for the past year. It started as a place to rant, slowly morphed into a repository of writing ("Hi! Please hire me for writing gigs! Here's 130 awesome examples of why!"), and has always been a place to practice writing. It may be self-obsessed and passe, but blogging, for me, has turned out to be pretty damned fun.

Friday, April 2, 2010


A few months ago, in the throes of insomnia and a TV coma, I stumbled across a show called Is She Really Going Out With Him? Despite the cute titled - and theme song, which played as an updated version of the classic Joe Jackson heartbreaker - the show itself was a celebration of all things douche. The premise is simple: take one long-term relationship between a relatively normal girl and a self-involved jerk, add cameras and ultimatums, and watch it on TV. You tend to see match-ups like the one I witnessed: she was a stunning nursing student who wore PVC leggings, and he owned his own hair straightener. Their abiding conflict was that she wanted to get married and he wanted to get bottle service in cheesy Orange County clubs.

The conspicuous consumption, the emphasis on gifts as a prerequisite for reconciliation (he eventually gave her, not a diamond ring, but an emerald necklace the size of a frying pan), the asinine behaviour, the mugging for the was just so douchey.

I'm not sure when the word "douchebag" became such an easily tossed around pejorative. It's clearly been around for a while, but I can remember a time when a popped collar and a snide remark wasn't going to earn someone the label. It has certain 1980s overtones, at least for me: it's always seemed like something surfer dudes would say to a particularly harsh bylaw officer for frowning on their sparking a jay on a public beach. It's possible that it's one of those words that magically appears when you're old enough to hear it. Unlike the big-gun curse words (and you know what I'm talking about if you took French immersion and remember that magical day you learned the French word for seal), there's a plethora of minor names to be called and swears to be sworn. Douchbag seems to fit right in there: it's kind of gross, lends itself well to being spat out in disgust during an altercation, isn't the H-bomb in terms of offensiveness, and evokes a a very specific type of jerk in this day and age: the mirrored-sunglasses-wearing, tanning-bed-using, collar-popping, line-saying ass who is in love with his own self.

When did our culture start liking this guy? I know we're all self-obsessed and superficial, but the douchebags presented in pop culture are so flagrantly unappealing. Anyone familiar with the show Jersey Shore knows what I'm talking about; for people (like me) who got 20 minutes into that trainwreck and had to turn it off, this is the guy with gel in his hair who refuses to move over on the sidewalk for strollers. I thought we hated these people. Why are they getting their own television shows?

I think part of it is helplessness we feel when we encounter a class-1 jerk in our daily lives. There's a sense of injustice that pervades dealing with these people, since they just seem so horrible that they should have, by all rights, been smote by the hand of God. Television, with the editing process that goes along with it, allows us to feel a gleeful schadenfreude when the assfaces inevitably get fired (for being morons), rejected (for bathing in cologne), or punched (for being themselves).

I also think that a certain part of us admires the douchebag, though. They seem to represent a tiny slice of our ids, in a way; the part of us that wants to be loud and obnoxious, the part of ourselves that considers us to be the smoothest ladies' man to ever grace the dancefloor. The douchebag subsection of society has a brute self-confidence that's simultaneously appealing and repulsive. Most people consider how they're perceived by those around them, and modify their interests and habits to be more likable. The douchebags, on the other hand, have faith that they are liked simply for being themselves, and concentrate their mental energies on picking up the girl in the short skirt at the end of the bar.

While I understand the appeal of the douchebag ikon, I am loathe to see the trend become too widespread. We're already a generation that's pretty into ourselves, what with the iPods and the Facebook and the whatnot (and, God, could I sound more crotchety?), and douchebags just take that to its natural end point. If this type of confidence was plastic surgery, most of us would settle for a nose job, while the douchebags have pumped up their breasts to the size of small moons. It's just too much. It becomes cartoonish.

Cartoonish makes for riveting TV, but the thought of actually living in proximity to one of these charmers in my life makes me want to throw myself in front of a train. Which is, I guess, the appeal of the TV influx of douchebags: it's a combination of "know thine enemy" and a laughable example of the 21st century's contributions to the ever-growing trainwreck that is Western pop culture. They confuse and delight me. They annoy me and freak me out. They are a mystery to be savored and ultimately discarded, like one of the bottles of premium vodka that is their lifeblood. Drink 'em in.