1. dear lauren – “smiling with your eyes”
April 7, 2009
so there’s this singer i like right now and she has this song, “24,” which is partly about watching the show 24. the song starts with the lyrics:
you are watching a program for exactly an hour
all of these hours they will add up to a day
you will sit there till they’re done
now there are twenty four to play
and there are rings around your eyeballs by the seventh or the eighth
but if you go to sleep tonight, you will be older
when you wake.
the song isn’t really about 24, which is good because i don’t much like 24; it just uses 24 as a device to get at something deeper. part of the song is about impersonation, about trying to be someone you’re not. the part i quoted, though, the part i think is best, is about time, about how it passes and how we pass it, how one of the ways we pass it is with TV. like, the way in the fourth line that the 24 hours “to play” could be the hours in a season of 24 or the yet unlived hours of any new day in the world. listening to the song, i wonder, is that why you’ve stopped filming your show? time, the hours in your life and the hours of your life on television and the space that hangs between them, is it the reason? does it feel like, when you have all these hours and hours of yourself recorded, these copied selves living outside of you, like shadows, does it make you feel drained, like there’s less of you inside of you?
does it make you maybe feel older than you really are? i know that even though i’m actually a couple of months older than you, i think of you as being so much older than me. not in a bad way, of course, not all wrinkly and gross or anything, you look great, but age in terms of how experience collects inside of us. emotional weight, psychic weight; the kind of things we can’t count calories for or do an extra hour on the treadmill to burn off. i guess i feel like you’re older than me because i feel like you’ve experienced so much more than me and that that experience has been captured and recorded as proof, in a way, and that that proof — the outer you of the show and the websites and the tabloids, the copied you — that proof is a supplement to the real you, an addition, an appendage, which makes you more. the proof can enhance who you are, of course, it can make you more in that way, but the other side of the coin is that it also carries with it things you might not necessarily want.
i mean, i’m not famous or anything, but in a way i know how it feels, too. i have a facebook account which i got when i was a sophomore in college, when getting a facebook account was a new and cool thing to do, and so i have this facebook account like everybody else and i don’t like it, i don’t even want it anymore. i haven’t really used it in weeks, i don’t like using it. my message box is full of messages which remain unanswered, my wall is overgrown, most of the pictures of me there are so old that i feel they should be cast in black and white or sepia. when young people die now, sometimes their facebook or myspace pages are left up as monuments to their lives. somebody i went to college with, someone i knew but wasn’t close to, he died last year and his facebook page is like this, still, and i’m still friends with him and so sometimes his little name and picture pops up in my friends box, in that jumbled randomizing that facebook does to remind you of people you know whom you may have forgotten. when i used to see his profile, when i would click the little name and picture, it always kind of creeped me out; it was like living with a ghost — his pictures were still there, his wall posts, his interests and the groups he belonged to, they were all there; even though he was dead, there were no dead links. after his death, right after but still months and months after, people continued to post messages to him, direct addresses, as if his facebook page were some kind of medium between the computer and the spirit world, as if facebook also exists in heaven and he got alerts on some celestial iPhone when somebody poked him or tagged him in a picture. i guess i could pretend the reason i don’t like facebook is weirdness of this, fear of ghots, but the truth is this is the first time i’ve thought of that person in probably nine months and my reasons are much more self-centered. i guess the reason i don’t want my facebook is because it ties me to this external me that is not like the me i feel like i am inside now, that is an old me or, worse, a fake me.
but there’s the paradox, right, the proof, how the proof is bad and good at the same time, important and unimportant, real and not. because even though i don’t want my facebook, even though i don’t like having it, i keep it, i can’t get rid of it. it’s because i need it, like, as proof of my humanity. some people, mostly old or loud or old and loud people, might say that that’s silly, that the only proof of your humanity you need is a beating heart and air in your lungs, that the proof of your humanity is how you treat other people. but today there are machines to make our hearts beat, there are machines to help us breathe, and when you join the peace corps or teach abroad you write a blog about it and when you’re rebuilding houses after katrina, you take pictures of all the good you’re doing and you twitter from the homeless shelter in between ladles of soup. i need my facebook because if i meet someone, someone i like or want to like or want to like me, i need that facebook, the pictures and wall posts and the number of friends that i have, i need all of them as proof that i exist, not just physically, but outside of myself. i need to show people those things so that i don’t seem like a loner or a weirdo or all the things i think about people when i meet them and they only have three facebook friends and aren’t tagged in any pictures. i need the proof, even if the proof isn’t what i want, even if i don’t think it’s good enough, just like the dead guy’s friends need to see his page and write on it so that they can remember him and think that he’s remembering them, so that they can write their fake letters which can only be addressed in spirit to a spirit. they need the proof, i need the proof, we need the proof.
even if the proof isn’t real. like, this is supposed to be this heartfelt and sincere letter, that’s how i’m writing it, that’s the form it’s taking. but of course, first of all, it’s not really even a letter, like with paper and ink and stamps, it’s not even an e-mail or e-card. it’s not a letter because i’m not sending it to you, you’re not going to read it, we’re not friends. i’m just using the form of the letter because it allows me to pretend to talk directly to you even thought i’m not actually, you know, talking directly to you, even though i’m talking a lot more about myself than i am about you. even though letters are private and this one is public, an open letter, a letter which isn’t closed and can be read by anybody and they can read it how they want it and think what they like.
and then, second of all, is this letter heartfelt and sincere? i mean, i guess it could be. i guess in some way or another i believe all the things i’m saying to you, otherwise how could i have written them? they came from inside of me me. at the same time, maybe i’m accentuating certain aspects of the things, selecting, coloring them, making them maybe more or less than real because i know that if i do that, it’ll make people feel a certain way and i want to people to feel that way because then they might feel a certain way about me and i want them to feel that way, whether it’s true or not.
i guess the truth as we feel isn’t the same as the truth that gets caught by our machines, the cached truth that you can search on google. i’m sure i don’t have to teach you anything about that; if anybody’s an expert on that, it’s you. but the untruth is true for me, too. like, for example, earlier, i said i wasn’t using my facebook anymore because it didn’t feel real to me and that was true, in a way; it felt like a true thing i was feeling at the time that i wanted to say to you and so i said it. but then another true thing is that i use my facebook sometimes anyway, maybe even often, that i just used my facebook a week ago to promote this song i wrote. i wrote this song which was like a letter, a fake letter, kind of like this, and then i posted it on the magazine’s facebook page and then the magazine heard it and liked it and they posted it and then other people saw that and heard it and liked it and they posted it and then other people saw that and heard it and liked it. for a while, it seemed like everyone was hearing and liking this part of me, this voice, this thing that came from inside of me and was then outside of me and was with all of them. i fed on the hits and the buzz, the hearing and the liking, which lasted a day, and it felt good, it was a good day, a great day, even. and then another day passed, 24 hours, one after the other, and as each hour ended there were less and less hits, the buzz was quieter and quieter, and then those hours were done and another day came and there was none of it left, no buzz, and it was like it had never even happened and i didn’t feel so great anymore, i just felt like me.
do you worry about that happening to you, losing that feeling? do you worry that you’re making the wrong choice, that when it’s all gone, you won’t be able to feel great that way anymore and what that will cost you, that loss, not in money but in feelings, in emotional currency? do you worry about only being you? i do. or maybe you know something i don’t. maybe since you’ve had so much buzz, so many hits, you understand something i don’t, something that heidi and spencer don’t either. maybe you’ve had so much buzz that you understand that the buzz isn’t it anymore, that you need to get away from the buzz more than you need to seek it. is that it? can you tell me? i really want to know.
god, here i am being silly again, pretending to ask you these questions that you can’t answer because this isn’t a real letter, it isn’t real or a letter, and i’m not being real and you’re not being real, even though we both are, somehow, in certain ways.
p.s. i was going to watch your show and tell you a little about what i thought of it, not in the long old way i used to but in this different way. i forgot to tivo it last night and then this morning, it’s still not available for streaming on MTV.com or on itunes and it’s not scheduled to rerun until 5:00 on MTV and i don’t have time to wait around for that so i guess i won’t be able to tell you what i think of your show. but you might want to talk to adam or liz or tony about that, that seems pretty stupid to me, personally, in terms of people who care about you and want to check in with you not being able to and that hurting you and MTV and everybody.