Invariably after being sucked into the vainglorious vacuum of Facebook I develop decompression illness and have to re-acclimate to real life in gradual stages to keep my head from exploding.
Diving into Facebook is like sneaking peeks at the National Enquirer while waiting in line at the grocery store – you simply can’t help yourself once you start. Imagine Gwenyth Paltrow’s shame at having to forego underpants to accommodate her latest sheer gown – we can only pity this exploited slave of fashion, forced (at least in retrospect) to go commando against her modest wishes. Or consider the tragic plight of Victoria’s Secret Angel model Kylie Bisutti, who realized to her Christian chagrin that men were ogling her nearly-naked body. Who knew, when hired to pose provocatively in lacy push-up bras and skimpy thongs, that that might happen? All Kylie wanted to do was spread those wings to honor God and her husband.
So is everyone out there stark raving bat-shit crazy? While I’ve long suspected that I am (at least crazy, but perhaps thus far without all the adjectives), I’m not out flaunting it on the runway. I need to believe that a thread of normalcy stitches the rest of the world together. There’s a certain comfort in thinking it’s just me who’s quietly unraveling.
“I even let Junior take The Bendz to prom,” wrote a Facebook acquaintance. This doting father dotes primarily on himself – the posted picture of his son standing beside his Mercedes is all about the car, not the kid. The Bendz? Is referring to your $100,000 vehicle in this casual fashion supposed to fool the rest of us into thinking that you’re just one of the guys? We’re not fools. (OK, we are – but I wanted to tie in with “to fool,” so I’m giving us the benefit of the doubt for a moment, here: We know a bombastic braggart when we see one).
My car has a name, too, so I understand that impulse. My car is Bessie, as in “old, faithful, reliable, run-down, nondescript, and dented.” Like me. Like most middle-age mothers.
Mothers are more like refrigerators than cars, though. It’s one of my pet theories, so I’ll risk repeating it. We are large faithful featureless appliances, utterly taken for granted, waiting patiently in our assigned corner of the room to dispense whatever is needed at any time of day or night. We are always there, always fully stocked and always ready to be of service. We give freely. We make no demands. We even hum, if things are running smoothly
The bends strike when I’ve been submerged too long and deep in Facebook. Resentment bubbles in my blood, and Missy the Frigidaire starts longing to be Missy the Mercedes. I read those glowing and glorious accounts of the lives of others and start to drown in unfavorable self-comparisons. And I’m not a strong swimmer – nervous dog-paddling barely keeps my head above water.
I know better than this, of course. That guy with The Bendz? Probably has been impotent for years. That woman with the perfect children? Probably a lonely alcoholic. Those perfect children? Since when are children ever perfect? (OK, I do have friends with perfect children. I’m intensely jealous, since mine are certainly not). That beautiful tanned couple smiling in the tropics? Probably on the brink of divorce. That stunning 55-year-old who looks 35? Anorexic and shot full of expensive Botox. That man with all the trappings of success? Has only his cat for company, and the cat’s only using him for food. We’re all a pretty sad and lonely lot.
This does get a little tricky when you have Facebook friends who know you in real life. If I post about my marvelous counseling job, they know perfectly well that I’m a clerk in a counseling department. If I post glowing status reports about my basement remodel, my real friends know that it’s an endless do-it-yourself-on-a-budget struggle of personal incompetence. If I post a flattering picture of myself, they know it’s one of 150 unflattering ones, and that I happened to be caught at just the right angle about eight years ago. If I post about my Writing Success, my real friends know that just means managing to send an email or two. If I brag about my impressive vehicle or my impressive children or my impressive social status, my real friends just snort. Supportively, of course, but a snort is a snort.
There’s really no need to invent happiness on social networks. Drugs can do the trick. I discovered this weekend that women who consider themselves abject failures as mothers can simply feed their children morphine to bask for a time in filial love and gratitude and appreciation.
Older son wound up in the emergency room last week with a kidney stone, of all things. Husband happened to be the parent on duty at the time. When Husband called me from the hospital, I confess I sat there at work rolling my eyes and thinking, “Honest to God, these men can’t handle anything.” I figured Older Son had thrown his back out shoveling the 15 inches of snow we had on the first of May and that Husband was over-reacting.
I stand corrected and in shame – just like Gwenyth without her underwear or Kyli strutting around in hers. I was wrong; Missy’s males needed to go to the emergency room. The hospital pumped Older Son full of opiates and sent him home to pass the time and pass the stone. He is fine, now, and I can cherish the memory of a drug-hazed evening full of fond family warmth and affection. I will not boast about this on Facebook — sounds too much like mothers who give their babies bourbon to make them be quiet. Me? I give mine narcotics to make him talk to me.