Nonfiction: Curated For Appeal

Photography by Joshua Sears

Photography by Joshua Sears

Curated For Appeal

This year, the zeitgeist spells split selves. More and more of life is lived across media, says everyone. We, as in me, are fraying across platforms.

Everyone I know is overextended, but looking to live her life mindfully. Which life? I personally curate a gallery of women all answering to a similar name. These holographic identities gain solidity every day.

This week alone I’ve had two separate conversations about an individual’s platform specific personality, in which we evaluate its authenticity over coffee, as if we’re experts. I have a friend—sorry, countless friends–who refuse to entertain the romantic possibility of anyone who can’t engage in protracted cellular repartee.

No one meets in person anymore, says everyone. Or if they do, in an instant the meeting is heavily padded by interactions with online imprints, hosted in places the body doesn’t go. I fall in love first with a photograph, and then with a joke. Boy meets girl, meets everything ever published about you and your recently deceased relative, meets everything you’ve ever voiced online, into a cybernetic wilderness that echoes you back, word for word.

~

Let’s say there is a someone, and that someone is a him, and I like the look of him because he hints at something I can also find in myself. I want to know him first without being known. What tree do I hide behind first?

One is a way to know him without words. He posts images reflecting his gaze: a checkered dishtowel on a checkered floor, an American flag with a bite taken out of it, the snowy dent where once there was a watermelon packed in ice. My friend snorts derisively when she sees his feed, but we can’t all like the same flavor. “It’s just so white male poet,” she says. What does she mean by that? He brooks no personhood; there are no humans in his lens?

We are all specialists in online archaeology. I uncover his life lived in links. Each location, from the nebulous character count to our disjunct tangle of bodies, provides a new platform for self-expression. Google says he has been places; Google assures me he comes from a family; Google references a larger landscape: awards, deaths, graduation rosters, titles he has held.

I find out where he lives in less than 140 characters, and time stamped. I find out what’s funny to him, and how he likes it, and whom he’s willing to repeat. I am intimate with a fragmented catalogue intended to imitate brain waves. Do I fool myself into believing I can open a window onto how he thinks?

~

Look! He likes to call me a cunt. He tells me I have a fifth dimension soul.

Cunt is a synecdoche for woman right, but I’m not really clear on what exactly the fifth dimension measures. I think it must be a place between iterations of actuality. Alternates pattern into penumbra, alternates get hard with possibility. The fifth dimension charts negative definition: the shadow cast between me and me if. Who knew that the conditional took up space?

These love letters are like junk food: a shortcut out of appetite. I eat his desire till it makes me sick.

We talk about houses. We talk about glass houses. We talk about glass houses shaped like domes, clean rain running off clear curves. We are building transparency, a place where we both can live. Our yearning begs concretization. Where are you right now, he wants to know.

The only sound in the whole house, I tell him, is of my fingers tapping keys. We rest for a moment in that. It feels so good.

~

Who will break first? Him, I’m sure of it. When he finally gives himself up, it’s a kind of cannibalistic pleasure. Yeah okay, I tell him, I’ll get a drink with you.

We’re going to become embodied and it’s a major step.

~

At 8pm, I am sitting on my striped couch, wearing eyeshadow and eating salsa with a spoon. Either I’m a narcissist or I want a peek at the cheat sheet he’s bringing with him: online, I peruse selves.

My search results are all the same, one story picked up everywhere. There is a photo of me at 13, smiling like I’m thoroughly stoned, and another of me at the same age in an ankle-length ice blue down coat.

On another site of pop-identity, you can click quick through years of how I’d like to seem, a flipbook of evolving self.

If you knew me online and nowhere else, I think I’d make a pretty good impression. I look a lot like someone you’ve probably already dated. I have done my research. I am built to impress, curated for appeal. All I want is to be beloved; what do you say, champ?

~

In person, there is the actual. He went to this party. I went to bed. Do we have mutual friends? Maybe our romance can only occur in dimensions where we can audition new types of self. These physical surfaces keep getting in the way. Every time he touches me I feel sad.

Does media mitigate the real?

In other places, I can turn him on and he can turn me off.

There are theorists who are speaking about the real self as emerging out of overlap, as if the truest form of identity were the center of a Venn diagram. There are theorists who say what matters most in constructing core is what we feel strongest about, but that this iteration is rarely visible, because we almost always experience ourselves contextualized. There are theorists who are crying apocalypse of self, who claim that technology is what makes us unrecognizable or forces us all to answer to the same face. There are theorists who believe in the self dying from over-exposure, from informational access, who are scared of going schizophrenic because they’ve seen too much.

I am parroting someone else when I say that I think there is a myth being perpetuated in the conception of the self as singular and in the claim of identity fragmentation as a new world’s disease. I, as in we, am heir to this manifold lineage as some being unraveling in concurrent dimensions of self. So what if my selves are all off living their own lives, while I try to govern them? Who says one attachment should extend across platforms, into other salient dimensions? Written, I am not me, but distilled into direction. Have you ever felt this? The sanctity of being of your own translator, of holding court and coming out with a verdict, of getting it all quiet so you can be the one to say: I am irreducible into body. I have a fifth dimension soul.

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