I love birthdays and Facebook.
I'm rarely on FB, and every time my birthday rolls around I wonder why I'm not. The generous culture of it floors me - happy birthday, like like like! But I also love how technocellular is it, i.e. I may see the guts and string of my life, but I also get to see yours.
This year the first birthday wishes came from friends far away, friends who live in time zones where their tomorrow is still our today. My Aussie friend is a newer friend and work acquaintance who posts pics with his boyfriend, his dog and the design work he does for a magazine. He's a screenwriter, a good one, but he posts nothing about that ever.
An old friend now lives in Zurich. I say now because I consider her a good friend, yet she moved there over twenty years ago and I've seen her maybe twice since. Seeing her online makes me go to her homepage and holy sh!t there's her brother! A flash of a vague memory erupts, we're in our twenties, maybe at The Ballroom, maybe it was Area. Her daughters are close to twenty and look at them! They're gorgeous!
High school FB friends start posting birthday wishes, the early risers first. Most of them I barely knew in high school - I was a burn out and they weren't, but my town was small and I've known most of this group since kindergarten. I feel a swell of love for them, as I do every year. One always posted about her husband and kids, then about two years ago her posts went through a one day at a time feel, a today is the first day of the rest of your life vibe. Divorce? AA? I look at her homepage and take a closer look. She looks good. She looks clean and sober. I hear you on that one, sister who I don't know, but do.
I get a private happy birthday message from another acquaintance from way back when, someone who lives in a small New England town and always has. Small Town Guy is married, but has been in the closet forever. I know this because a close friend here in NYC (and FB) who's far out of the closet emailed me some time ago and asked why my Small Town Guy who he doesn't know and never met is trying to friend him. That's when I realize that Small Town Guy has a secret life and must be trying to find a community he can be less secret in, albeit online. I feel a pang of sadness for him. Then I think damn, you're hiding in the LGBTQ (is for questioning) world of today? But, see, lately I've become aware of just how much angst I have over how others see me, how I sand down my aggressive corners or how I have a moment of panic when someone posts a photo I'm in where I don't look great.
That thought pinballs me to, do my business acquaintances and friends know how old I am?! I go to my FB account and there's my birthday date. With the year I was born. Does the year show?! Fu@k it. Does the year show? Fu@k it.
I get a post from a high school acquaintance - she's a grandmother?! How old am I? Soon after there's a post from a friend the same age who has a six-week old baby. How relieved am I?
I start scrolling my general feed. There's a post from the first studio visit I ever had. This guy posts everything - nothing is off limits - which I love. Small Town Guy should definitely friend him. There's a post from the first curator who put me in a show. You never forget your first. Oh! My work has gone up at auction (it sold well, thank you very much) and I've shown in non-profits. Those fu@kers always post the year. My birthday is out there.
Egad. Get off the age thing. Look at these people I went to high school with. We look great!
Scrolling more, there's the guy I lost my virginity to. When FB was a novelty we said hello! Hello! I lost my virginity at the Swiss Chalet attached to a Denny's. The following morning there was a knock at the door from the chambermaid. Being polite I opened the door and the chambermaid was the guy who sat behind me in homeroom. I screamed and slammed the door shut. I think I'm FB friends with that chambermaid ...
Right after I see my de-virginizer's post I get birthday wishes from the girl I met him through. Her mother and mine were great friends. And that sends me down the rabbit hole of remembrance: This girl's best friend ended up working for my stepfather, Nachum, a Holocaust survivor. He was much older than my mother and they were opposites in every way, except when it came to feeling feelings. Which was don't. My stepfather had a factory that blew up - oh my god she looks amazing! A post shows a picture of a woman I went to high school with who was a quiet little wallflower. Sh!t did she blossom.
Posts are like shiny objects - I look at that and that, then jump the tracks to that. My friends are interesting and funny and are in the world, so I read the articles you post, I look at your pictures. Yet all that bouncing around makes a piece of me click off and I need to step away. It's why I'm not on FB much.
When I'm in the studio working, whether writing or drawing or handling the business of writing and drawing, I'm all in, distractions off. When I'm not working I need time to stare off and do nothing. Living in New York City with its constant hum contributes to this need for pause, but living here also lets me spontaneously meet friends for coffee and lunch and stuff going on locally. If we move out of New York City my relationship to FB will change for sure. Maybe then my post-birthday like of Facebook will sustain itself for longer than a week. I hope so. I really do.