When I walk home from the grocery store, the first thing I see as I exit those automatic doors is the towering gorgeousness of a 13th century church just inside a 12th century city wall. And every time I see it, I think, “I need to blog about that.”
This is, I’m starting to suspect, a symptom of a nascent “lifestyle blogger”–someone who blogs frequently, using usually instagramed or picniked photos, about everything from their breakfast to the way their shoes look against the pavement. Heavy on the color saturation, easy on the text. Usually with an underlying thesis of something like, “I love my freakin’ life!”
“What are you reading about?” asks my husband from across the room.
“Oh…just…the news…” I call back.
Because I’m an intellectual, dag nabbit! Or, at least, I want people to see me as one. So I’ve often found myself concerned about the appropriate level of smarty-pants-poseurness I should be showing. (This, I realize, only shows how insecure I am in being thought of as an intellectual person. But part of me wonders if every intellectual person in the world feels this way and we’re all being poseurs together…or at least 99%.)
Intellectuals are “supposed” to be forever interested in reading the NYT and forever horrified at anything that smacks of someone taking their privileged life for granted. I’m “supposed” to be able to make witty jokes about obscure philosophers and make refined judgements on post-modern literature in my facebook status. I’m “supposed” to be above things like incredibly upper-middle class Christmas card photo shoots in the Normandy countryside–in fact, I should probably feel somewhat aghast at them.
And the thing is that I do feel aghast! And the thing is that I don’t at the same time.
I read these blogs, and write my own, and think of how silly it all might look. What are my orange tulips I found in a street market compared to the suffering of women in Sudan? What are your colorful Zara outfits compared to climate change? What does that particularly good cupcake shop matter in relation to the tragedy of modern slavery?
Why not be happy about the way a blue vase looks against a white window sill? Why not share a photograph of your baby wearing hipster glasses because it’s funny! Why not document your walk around the block, or the blanket fort you made for no good reason, or even the day you sat in bed and blogged about blogging? These are things that are happening. These are lives that are trying to find as much beauty and happiness around them, in real time, every day, as they can.
I realize that my stereotype of “being an intellectual” is exactly that, a stereotype. But I think that there is still a little truth to it in that we’re never “supposed” to get too emotional or too happy about any small thing. And we’re “supposed” to be at least a little vocally angsty about something world-changing, that we are more or less really doing nothing else about.
And my stereotype of “being a lifestyle blogger” is exactly that as well, and these (all) women truly do have more complex lives that go through pain and anger and fear just like the rest of us. But I think that there is truth in the stereotype that they are never supposed to get too angsty or too revolutionary about any thing–at least publicly.
And if you’re someone like me, in the middle, you live a split and confused life–noticing how lovely damp cobblestones and flower baskets on thatched-roof houses can be, but feeling like highlighting them in your blog would only make you seem in denial about the “real world.”
When is it okay to stop feeling guilty about being content? Will anyone ever believe you? Do you think it’s ever possible to really, truly be genuinely happy when there’s pain and suffering in the world?