Certain kinds of people are attracted to the kind of blogging we do, our open sexual catalogs, real feelings, opaque details, fears of discovery.
We’re introspective and have things to say; we have a need to share and a reckless sense of hope that someone else out there might want to read what we have to say.
We crave acceptance and interaction, but are embarrassed to admit it. I suspect we’re tender, creative, and equally shy. We might might be wildly different in person, but one thing we all share is a need to connect.
Why not just write this all down in a journal? Pulp and ink? I’ll tell you why: community.
When I began blogging it was on a different platform many years ago. Four, to be precise. I barely remember the name of it, but I experimented with my anonymity. I noted the sex and age of my child, for certain, and I even shared the URL with some of my lovers (Troy was a huge fan of reading about himself). I might have even named my city and my profession. Rookie mistakes, if you ask me. I tore it all down when it stopped feeling like a safe place and for a few months I was blog-less, adrift.
I tried writing in my journal, the one I could cradle in my hand, but the words never flowed out of the pen-tip like they did out of my fingertips.
I decided to resurrect myself on WP and within weeks I blindly stumbled upon Gillian Colbert’s Black Door Press blog, a special haven of sex-positive, creative writers and journalists. (If you Google it now you get nothing; enough time has passed that it’s slipped through Google’s fingers. It’s just a heap of bones in my memory.) There were people there who were cloaked in anonymity — just like me — for fear of losing their jobs or their husbands and wives, of being labeled a pervert, immoral or an asshole.
But something magical happened in her sphere: No one judged.
Instead, we entered each other’s blood stream and felt the pain, the loneliness, the bleak and starving strains on the heart. We cajoled, but were objective; we didn’t hold a punch, but we were quick to kiss and hug, make sure the other knew it was born out of love that we questioned this or that or stated clearly that it wasn’t for us. We gave creative feedback on fictional works, played with each other’s art.
Gillian was the arbiter of it all. She bore her soul to us like no one since or ever before. I’d never seen anything like it.
She cracked herself open right down the middle and showed us all what she found to be the ugliest parts of herself and it only made us love her more. It encouraged us to do the same: to be bold, honest, ugly as sin. Fucking real and fearless because we knew — we knew — that no one was going to hurt us in our struggle, in our vulnerability and exposure. It would not have been tolerated. Period.
We were safe here.
Gillian was also a prolific writer. Her internal schedule demanded that she write almost constantly. She had month’s worth of posts piled up and she once told me that whenever the comments began to pour in she never knew to which post they were responding. It could have been something she’d written months before. Yet they were always timely. How did she do that?? I wondered. I never learned the secret.
Her art was words. She was a master and a clinician all at once. A small-framed woman with a bob and a twisted mind who’d masturbate in the bleachers under a coat at her daughter’s soccer games. She gathered us all up in her little arms and held us close and up to a standard I was proud to meet. I was a member of this circle. Not an elite one, but one that only required a desire to join and I was in. I was so in. I felt at home.
I participated in all the contests, the writing games. Gillian came up with writing prompts, we’d pass around an erotic story and each add a paragraph and she’d publish the finished product. She’d collect photos we’d submit — photos we’d never ordinarily share — and we’d play a guessing game. Who’s who? No one had ever seen my smile before that game. Only my tits and ass.
I want that back. All of it. Of course I want Gillian, too, but she’s slipped away into the ether, moved on to hopefully better things. At least I met amazing, influential people through her black door. Some I’m close with, others I admire from a distance, and some have followed Gillian beneath the dark waters of real life and blog-life expiration. LSAM and Noodle, Nick (the commenter), Mike, too, Bi, Ginger and Cruel, Z, True, Cara, HH & Lo, AM, Theo, Jayne, Fay, Deviant Diaries, Cheating Whore, Gideon Jagged, Chris de Voss, Kyle Mew, Rincewind. More whose names are escaping me at this moment — forgive me!!
Some have cryptic abbreviations in my head, others are fully named. I don’t know what most of them look like or how they sound, but I know these people. Their inner thoughts and turmoil, their humor, their lustful fantasies, their creative brilliance. I know things about these people that they have yet to share with a real life person. Others, through this community, have learned to open up and fold their two lives together. Some continue to be artists of their own making weaving fantasy and truth with smoke and mirrors. There’s also a lot of fun shit, light and free.
Those are just the folks I associate with Gill. Since she left, I’ve met new people with new energy and without hesitation I can say that each one is another flower in a beautiful bouquet. Everyone is still accepting; it’s like this inexhaustible reserve of love. Where does it come from??
But before you think I’ve smoked some kind of hippie love bong and have lost my mind, not everyone agrees with me and my decisions. I had many, many readers who thought The Neighbor was the devil incarnate and I should dump him, some think I’m a piece of shit for writing anonymously without consent, and still another wasn’t very happy with me for not talking to her first before I responded to a post of hers she had on a national platform. By all means challenge me, but don’t judge me. I may or may not end up agreeing with you, but that’s ok. We’re not all the same person anyway, right?
Still: I feel accepted here and I like to think I’m diplomatic and open to all discourse. Even if I come out on the short end and look a fool. I’m not infallible; I’m just a writer. Some folks aren’t going to drink my Kool-Aid.
However, because I experienced acceptance in the very beginning I continue to be free to be Hyacinth, separate from the woman I am in real life. I don’t have to make sense. I show my tits, occasionally my ass, I bitch and moan about my complicated relationship, I write erotica, I shout to the moon about being in love, I leave thoughts like droppings all over the internet, and I avoid the spaces where the tone is negative. I don’t know the language of snark. My inner compass rejects it, but I don’t reject the people who partake, I just steer clear and let them have their space. I have my own, after all, and I use it for me.
This space, at once a playground and meeting place, is also a lens. What I see in the bathroom mirror is vastly different than what my iPhone captures. The community gets to see my frailty and responds with kindness because they know that being that kind of ugly couldn’t exist here. There’s no oxygen for that animal in this place. And I’m ok with being objectified because my sexuality is my own and it’s more powerful to have choice than be told I have none because someone might wank off to me. Wank away, I say! You have the same agency as I do, sir or ma’am!
If I had to guess, I bet that most of us want what I’ve described: community, acceptance, a place to do their art. It’s within all of our reach, but we have to make it happen — it doesn’t just happen to us — and we don’t want snark or judgment. That’s creative death, cheap thrills and empty wins! We want love and respect, intelligent discourse, constructive feedback and thoughtful critiques.
LSAM, Cara, and Noodle wrote posts recently that reminded me of this. Different takes on what seems to me to share the same heart. If I may put words in their mouths: for LSAM she was close to Gillian and she has felt the cooling the most as Gillian’s sun faded away; for Cara she wonders where hers is; for Noodle she feels that our once tightly knit community has unraveled.
The enigmatic Gillian isn’t here to be our Bloggy Godmother anymore, so we’ve been rudder-less for two years — a freaking lifetime in Blogland — and while I believe it’s impossible to recapture that exact thing that she stewarded, I bet we could come close if we tried. It’s obviously not come naturally to me or anyone else to step into her shoes, but if we put our heads together we could patch it all back together into something just as wonderful.
Who wants to try?