Friday, December 16, 2005

Performing Apartment Therapy On Myself

Last night, Apartment Therapy had their holiday party, in a space that answered the question, "What would happen if my apartment were twice as long and somebody took all the furniture out of it and put in a hundred people?"

The space was a store called Built, which makes very expensive reproductions of Scandinavian mid-century modern furniture, all of which was moved to the back of the store for the occasion except for some benches along the walls that served as an impromptu bar/buffet. My friend Nora was there and as I scooped Chex party mix from the buffet, she got to be the lucky recipient of my truculent "I don't know anyone/I can't hear anything" complaints. At one point, my Super-Ego was ready to bitch-slap my Id and my Ego, who were acting like bratty preschoolers. Nora, behaving more sanely than I, suggested to our hosts that we all should have had name tags.

Now normally, this would be kind of a dorky thing. But in this case, where everybody knows each other primarily by their posting name in the "Comments" section of the Apartment Therapy Web site, it would be very practical. There have been a few people whose pictures have been posted at the site for one reason or another, but otherwise, unless you were at a smaller get-together where everyone had a chance to sit or stand around and talk, you wouldn't connect the name with the face.

Meeting people in "meat space" that you've corresponded with online for a while is always a little awkward. You figure, Are they going to be easy to talk to in Real Life? And if you make a jerk out of yourself in person, how will you "face" them online the next day?

As I left the party last night, walking up Broadway in Soho in a freezing drizzle, I remembered the first time I'd gotten together in Real Life with people I'd known from an e-mail list. It was a list for The Monkees, the made-for-TV-sitcom band whose members went on to reunite in 1986 and 1996 for some great high-energy oldies shows. People who had grown up watching the show, either on its original run in the late '60s or in syndication ever since, wanted a central place to exchange info on Monkees memorabilia, events and opinions on pop culture in general, and in 1995 the Internet provided it. Since there's only so much you can say about a band who had their last top forty hit in 1968, conversations gradually took on a more personal note and acquaintanceships, friendships and even a few marriages eventually developed.

Over the years, I've remembered my heyday--or Hey Hey Day, as the case may be--on the Monkees list as being this great social outlet where I was sort of a minor celebrity, or at least one of the core people posting to the list. But at the first get-together I'd attended, which was after I'd been on the list for about three months, I knew a few people who had posted their pictures, and nobody knew me. They were nice enough about it, but you could see the look on someone's face as I'd say, "I'm Melinda" and they'd shake my hand and go, "Oh...yeah, how are you?"

I had gone home feeling crappy about it, and figured, I'll unsub from that stupid list. But then I realized that I hadn't really posted that much, hadn't sent my picture to the Listers' Page, hadn't really participated much beyond reading. So I stepped up the posting a little, both on the list and occasionally in private e-mails when appropriate, and patiently established myself as a "voice." And since this was around the 30th Anniversary Reunion hoopla, there were many Real Life meetings of listers in 1996 and 1997.

So now everybody and their cat has a blog, and some of the lessons that I've learned in e-mail, in school, in life can be applied.

For one thing, I'm considering putting my picture on this blog. You figure, that's a simple thing, what's the problem? The main problem right now is that the utility that Blogger uses to do this is for Windows only right now, and I have a Mac at home. One of my New Year's Resolutions is to stop being so perfectionistic about a home page and just put one up and connect it to the blog, so that there is a whole Land of Brunobaby, with the blog being the everyday, interactive room.

But another conflict about putting up a picture is that I would feel an invasion of privacy from people I'm not looking to run into. Like, what if I'm in line at the supermarket, and someone too close behind me says, sotto voce, "Hello, are Chico and Ashley?" And then frantic musical stings will play in the background, and I will look desperately and wide-eyed at the camera as I flee for my life.

Amba from Ambivablog recently added her picture to her blog. From what she's posted, I know she lives somewhere in my neighborhood. What if I ran into her at the supermarket and introduced myself? Would she feel it as an invasion of privacy? When you're at your keyboard, your blog, you've got your Blog personna on, your Blog-sonna. But when you're out buying bread and wrapped up in your own little bread-buying thoughts, it's startling to run into somebody you even know well.

At any rate, Apartment Therapy does have a lot of reader participation things, like the Smallest, Coolest Apartment Contest, and this fall's Nesting thread. These could be good opportunities to network, and also to find out which contractors will put up new kitchen cabinets without leaving your place looking worse than they found it.

This pre-holiday weekend, we'll be doing some therapy on this apartment, primarily in the area of new window shades, a thorough cleaning, and going through the Shelves of Media exclaiming, "Oh come on, we never watch this one." The end of the year is a good time for sorting out stuff, and sorting out thoughts.

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