Posting ads for 48 years
Back in 2006, when I was 24, my life was cozy and safe. I had just been promoted to associate editor at the publishing house where Iâ€™d been working since I graduated from college, and I was living with my boyfriend, Henry, and two cats in a grubby but spacious two-bedroom apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I spent most of my free time sitting with Henry in our cheery yellow living room on our stained Ikea couch, watching TV. And almost every day I updated my year-old blog, Emily Magazine, to let a few hundred people know what I was reading and watching and thinking about.
Some of my blogâ€™s readers were my friends in real life, and even the ones who werenâ€™t acted like friends when they posted comments or sent me e-mail. They criticized me sometimes, but kindly, the way you chide someone you know well. Some of them had blogs, too, and I read those and left my own comments. As nerdy and one-dimensional as my relationships with these people were, they were important to me. They made me feel like a part of some kind of community, and that made the giant city I lived in seem smaller and more manageable.
The anecdotes I posted on Emily Magazine occasionally featured Henry, whom my readers knew as a lovably bumbling character, a bassist in a fledgling noise-rock band who said unexpectedly insightful things about the contestants on â€œProject Runwayâ€ and then wondered aloud whether we had any snacks. I didnâ€™t write about him often, but when I did, Iâ€™d quote his best jokes or tell stories about vacationing with his family.
Henry, seemingly alone among our generation, went out of his way to keep his online presence minimal. Now that weâ€™ve broken up, I appreciate this about him â€” itâ€™s pretty much impossible to torture myself by Google-stalking him. But back then, what this meant was that he was never particularly thrilled to be written about. Sometimes he was enraged.
Once, I made fun of Henry for referring to â€œProject Runwayâ€ as â€œProject Gayway.â€ He worried that â€œpeopleâ€ â€” the shadowy, semi-imaginary people who read my blog and didnâ€™t know Henry well enough to know that he wasnâ€™t a homophobe â€” would be offended. He insisted that I take down the offending post and watched as I sat at my desk in our bedroom, slowly, grudgingly making the keystrokes necessary to delete what Iâ€™d written. As I sat there staring into the screen at the reflection of Henry standing behind me, I burst into tears. And then we were pacing, screaming at each other, through every room of our apartment, facing off with wild eyes and clenched jaws.
My blog post was ridiculous and petty and small â€” and, suddenly, incredibly important. At some point Iâ€™d grown accustomed to the idea that there was a public place where I would always be allowed to write, without supervision, about how I felt. Even having to take into account someone elseâ€™s feelings about being written about felt like being stifled in some essential way.