The Cult of Side Eye: Fame and Blogging

4ed52b7429991528e46b0e4881512045This morning was a waste. Instead of curing male pattern blandness or writing the Next Great American Cocker Spaniel Novel, I hunted virtual big game. There were villains, unleashing side eye on the innocent, and they must be stopped!

You see, this isn’t my only home on the internet. Away from our wonderful world of sarcastic ranting, I run a small, personal sewing blog. It’s not exactly revolutionary stuff – pretty dresses, witty commentary, and sewing pattern reviews – but I love doing it. Unlike other parts of the internet, the sewing community is almost universally supportive, which provides a lovely mental respite. In the four years I’ve been writing it, there’s been nary a death threat nor a hateful body snark in the comment section. Meanwhile, my first big post for Spinsters earned both, in less than two days.

Unfortunately, checking my stats this morning was a wake-up call. A handful of people found my little slice of paradise, thanks to a site called Get Off My Internets. Despite an hour of perusing threads, I couldn’t find the link itself, but instead discovered an entire side of blogging previously unexplored. This is a site, complete with its own blog and forum, dedicated to making fun of other bloggers. There are threads for all the most popular blogs around, in which people discuss, tear down, and debate every aspect of those bloggers’ posts. From what I could glean, before running away screaming, a lot of that involves speculation about these bloggers’ personal lives. It’s a supremely meta, worldwide burn book. 

It’s, also, fucking terrifying.

First off, blog hate is understandable. The first rule of writing is that universal adoration is a pipe dream. People will find you annoying for all sorts of reasons, no matter how inoffensive your work seems. That’s just fine. I’m a believer in feeling your feelings, as Kate and Mae can tell you. (They’ve had to listen to this motto a thousand times, at least.) If your feelings say that I’m a man-hating socialist, that’s cool. Personally, I think have some redeeming qualities, but you can’t win ’em all. What scared me about this site wasn’t the hate itself, but the in-depth research and dissection happening in its forums.

There were threads debating whether someone had gained weight, because she was pregnant, or just because she’d eaten too many of her picture-perfect cupcakes. People discussed the financial details of bloggers, down to how much their husbands made at their jobs, and the imprudent travel habits of one D-I-Yer. The attacks were personal, detailed, and sounded like the most salacious tabloid headlines. Only…they weren’t attacking celebrities. They were attacking normal people, who happen to blog.

Is there no longer a line between blogger and celebrity? There’s no denying that the internet is a public forum, of course. We write with the knowledge, often with the hope, that other people will come along and read our work. And yet, most of us don’t blog out of a desire for fame. The statistics are just too dismal. There are millions upon millions of blogs, filling every niche from snarky twenty-something feminism to anthropomorphic basket-weaving. The number of bloggers who have earned traditional fame–TV show, movie contract, book deal sort of fame–is scant in comparison.

We started Spinsters out of a desire for community. Kate, Mae, and I would meet for dinner and rehash all of the ridiculous things that we’d experienced that week, from workplace sexism to dating disasters. Our stories were normally funny, but also touched on what being a modern, single, twenty-something meant. We decided to blog, out of a suspicion that those experiences were common to other women like us and should be shared. Since then, our lives have changed quite a bit–from promotions, to big moves, to marriages–but we still blog for the same reason. We believe that speaking out, that sharing our rants, reminds other young women that they’re not alone. Plus, it’s really fun to wax poetic about beards every now and again.

Who’s to say that other bloggers, who may now be popular through their efforts, didn’t also begin out of a sense of community? Surely, it’s one thing to dissect people who put their lives out there for actual media consumption, for traditional fame, and another entirely to denigrate normal people who are sharing things on the internet. In this modern age, when so much of what we everyone does is on the web, that harsh spotlight could fall on so many perfectly innocent people.

There is a reason we blog anonymously. Originally, I thought it was to protect us from the censure of friends and family, but maybe the world at large is more the threat. If one lifestyle blogger is open to weight comments and financial dissection from a community of haters, why couldn’t three funny harpies be next? The internet is a fish bowl. I suppose it makes sense that, somewhere out there, piranhas are lurking. We have been warned.

– Grace

Coincidentally, my dad just sent me this video of celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves on Jimmy Kimmel. It seems remarkably apropos, no?

Bridal Showers: Oh My God, It’s A Fork!

As a well-liked girl in my mid-twenties, in possession of all my teeth and the requisite little black dress, I attend a lot of weddings. The damned things are unavoidable. Second cousins, friends from college, and my next-door neighbors are all determined to have me drink champagne and throw rice at them. This is fine. I love a good wedding! Who doesn’t enjoy watching well-dressed people pledge their eternal love and dance awkwardly? Plus, there’s cake. I have no arguments with people feeding me cake. (Which, incidentally should be white with white icing. If you decide to forgo this old standard in favor of cake balls or pie or – horror! – an ice cream sundae bar, I will not-so-silently judge you for all eternity.)

Unfortunately, sometimes one of your closest friends decides to don the veil. This means one thing, kittens: you will attend her bridal shower. I know. It sucks. Don’t worry, it happens to everyone. This past weekend, I myself even fell victim to one of these quiche-ridden events. We will get through this together.

The Bridal Shower, A Primer. What horrors await you and how to survive them sanely.

  1. Small Talk With Your Elders. While some of your friends will surely undergo this shower with you, most of the attendees will be friends of the bride’s mother. If your friend’s mum is a former trapeze artist turned roller derby queen, you’re in luck. Her friends will be awesome. They will regale you with stories of their lion hunts in Africa and that time they made out with David Cassidy backstage at the Grammys. If she’s a suburban mom with highlights and a BMW, prepare yourself. You will be asked: what you do for a living, if you’re married, if you think what you do for a living is keeping you from marriage, and if you know that fertility drops sharply after 30. In my experience, it’s best to lie. Lie like a rug, my darling chickpeas. It’s not that you’re single, it’s that you just got out of a bad relationship. (No need to elaborate that said relationship was with your old iPod. Those click wheels are so finicky!) If you’re happily in a relationship, but not ready to get married? Let it slip that it’s not legal to get married in your state yet. The Man is so harsh on kissing cousins, yo! Your goal is to get these ladies moving on to someone else. You need to get some more champagne.
  2. There Will Not Be Food. Look, I know your friend is having this event catered. I know it’s noon on a Saturday, prime lunch hour. Logic would say that you’ll be fed. Don’t believe it! You’re going to need to grab some Chick-Fil-A beforehand, readers. What your friend, her mind clouded by an extreme pre-wedding diet, really means is there will be display food. It was chosen to be photogenic, not filling. A dozen mini-quiches on a bed of lettuce, a party tray of vegetables, and an artful tower of cucumber sandwiches – this is the fare of a bridal shower. If you’re lucky, there will be a bowl of crackers next to the Low-Cal Ranch Dip, with which you can stave off starvation. When groups of women attend social functions together, we like to pretend that we eat like birds. This is fucking ridiculous. Perhaps it’s unladylike, but I will always prefer a cheese-heavy fajita to a cup of pasta salad. Woman cannot watch brides unwrap bowls on carrots alone.
  3. There Will Be 1950s Undertones. We are well into the 21st century, but bridal showers exist in a time warp, my dears. Prepare to hear jokes about how long it took the groom to propose, how your friend must learn to cook, and how that apron she just opened will be great to don with heels & pearls while she vacuums. In the real world, most of these attendees are normal, awesome women. When a girl gets married, however, many feel the need to pass on ridiculous wisdom about maxing out her man’s credit cards and suffering in silence when the groom watches too much football. It’s best to just bite your tongue. No one wants to be that girl who was pepper-sprayed at the shower, after starting an argument about the gender breakdown of sports fans.
  4. You Will Play Soul-Crushing Games. Similar to elementary school holiday parties, you may find yourself called upon to do IQ-diminishing “fun” things. Expect to be wrapped head-to-toe in toilet paper by your fellow party-goers. This is meant to recreate the bride’s wedding dress! Charmin is so much hotter than Vera Weng, y’all. Alternately, there may be a quiz about the groom’s vital statistics. If you wrote that his nickname is TwinklyBooBooBear, you get a point! If you’re lucky, your hosts will pass around “Vow Sheets,” on which attendees can write their own vows for the bride & groom. Hooray! This is the time to make your minor grievances against either party known. Some popular choices are: I vow to stop making fun of your penis size to my friends! I promise not to be an asshole and cheat on you again with that girl from college! I swear to cut your ironic hipster mustache in the dead of night!
  5. Prepare To Be Amazed By A Fork. You use kitchenware everyday – pots, spoons, even plates. How different can bridal shower gifts be? Oh, just wait. When your dear friend opens up a crystal bowl she registered for, because one of the perks of getting married is choosing your own gifts, the room will erupt in squeals of joy rarely heard outside a Justin Bieber concert. Someone will remark on what a wonderful size it is, how hard to find! Someone else will enunciate the uses of such a magnificent specimen – you can put Christmas ornaments in it or pistachios! At some point, the bride will open a silverware setting. That setting will then be passed around, so everyone can properly appreciate it. When this happens, have something encouraging to say. I usually go with: Oh my God! It’s a fork! How wonderful! Said in a joyful manner, as if you’ve spent the last two-and-a-half decades twirling spaghetti with your fingers, this will seem befitting of your envious single status. One day, someone will assure you with a pat on the hand, you’ll deserve a fancy fork too.

Hopefully, this will help you in your time of need, lieblings. Arm yourself with champagne, a wide, manic smile, and diversionary small talk. You’ll survive. Just remember – grab something to eat first, because there will not be food.

– Grace