Saturday, March 28, 2009
There is an inherent contradiction/conflict in my decision to create Were I So Besotted, both the embroidered pieces and this blog. I have always been a private person, and have always kept journals. My journals were never shared, except for the one I kept when I traveled with my best friend from high school when we were in our early-twenties. (She found it amusing that I re-read and edited my own entries.)
I never imagined a culture where people would essentially broadcast their own journals, their most intimate thoughts and experiences, via the world wide web. From YouTube to internet dating web sites to Facebook to every imaginable kind of blog, we now have access to the thoughts and motivations of millions of strangers. Who reads these blogs and makes posts to these sites? Probably everyone we know. How does this phenomenon influence our social interactions when we meet people face to face rather than via an on-line vehicle? How do we transition from an on-line interaction to a face-to-face meeting?
All of these questions compelled me to begin and to continue crafting the embroidered version of Were I So Besotted. Internet dating in particular was the crucible of my conflicted feelings. Were I So Besotted became a safe haven in which to vent and process many of my frustrations and uncomfortable experiences in both on-line and face-to-face interactions.
I first began internet dating in 2003. I was terrified and horrified by the thought of posting a profile and photo. Initially, I filled out an on-line questionnaire without including a photo, and very tentatively responded to emails. After some time, I began posting photos, and subsequently became more critical of how I looked in them and what I was projecting. Eventually, my photos became artier, funnier, a little hipper and edgier. I took on the persona of the particular site I used. In short, I assimilated within this on-line community.
Ultimately, I never completely shed my fears of self-exposure and vulnerability. Tried as I might to portray myself in a way that would produce the best matches, I still got many emails from men I considered inappropriate (20+years older than me; living more than 15 miles away from New York City; incapable of crafting a coherent sentence). I felt obligated to use this method to meet men, yet resented my lack of sense of control over the outcome.
The majority of my dates were disappointing. Some gave me material for nights out with friends who found me funny and wacky. Others were simply awkward in a banal, almost scripted way. Of course, some dates were wonderfully fun, yet the loving, communicative, more long-term relationship I hoped for never materialized.
Were I So Besotted contains hope amidst the disappointment. I began to believe that I could craft my own man through embroidery, even if I couldn't find him on-line. (I do really believed that if I think carefully about the type of relationship I want to find, it will eventually materialize. And, no I don't literally think I can stitch a boyfriend who will then appear in my daily life.)
The Men Who Want to Meet Me is a portrait of fictional boyfriends. The left-most man's t-shirt reads, "I will get you. I will totally get you. And if I don't, I will ask questions until I do, or you seem bored."
I don't expect anyone to "get" me without some effort from both of us. I do think we all want to find someone who gets us. And I fear that internet dating sites create the promise and illusion that an instant connection with someone, who like, really gets us, awaits.
Top left: "The Men Who Want to Meet Me." Embroidery on fabric. 2008.
Below left: preliminary drawing from my journal, done in February 2008.