I Spy, by Alyoisius
I sometimes wonder how even with all of the tell-all memoirs, reality television and the existence of this little thing you may have heard of called THE INTERNETS, I still have such a hard time piecing together what life is like for other people.
Is it just me? Does anyone else get this?
I wish I could become invisible and observe people’s lives, just follow them around for days, weeks on end. I want to see what their mornings look like, I want to see what life is for someone else.
How does your marriage work? How does your marriage fall apart? What do your days look like? What is it like being single? What do you have for dinner? What do you think about in those few minutes between turning out the light and falling asleep?
I NEED TO KNOW.
This curiosity is only increased when I’m trying to find out about an experience I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for going through.
I wonder if I’m alone in this and then I think about existence of reality TV and I know this is something that we share, that the plethora of shows detailing the most mundane aspects of people’s lives (Storage Wars anyone?) must mean that others have this desire too. This is why brides-to-be love wedding shows, right? This is why we watch endless hours of programming about marriages and babies being born, right? We’re trying to explore what an experience feels is like for other people in the hopes that it will shed some light on what this experience will be for us.
Two of our dear friends recently had a baby. The husband half of the couple has been Adam’s best friend for years and the three of us go way back, to when they were living in a university bachelor pad with three TV’s perched atop of one another, decorated with a cheetah print blanket. It was awesome. He would wake up early and cook me breakfast in his boxers, we’d have long rambling discussions late into the night. I adore him.
And when he got engaged, I fell in love with his wife-to-be too. But they live 12 hours away and I didn’t get to know her very well. We simply didn’t have time to put in the hours necessary to forge a relationship. All of this changed when the announced their pregnancy a few months after getting married.
The thought that this bachelor party dude had fathered a child was incomprehensible to me, and the thought that that baby, HIS baby was now growing within her swollen belly made my head want to explode. It was like the dual experiences of pregnancy and THEIR pregnancy were two entirely different entities. This transformed me into a garbling idiot who couldn’t stop exclaiming, when we met up with them about six months into their pregnancy, “There’s a baby in there! YOUR baby!”.
As we got into the car after dinner that night Adam turned to me and said, “What is WRONG with you? It’s like you’ve never seen a pregnant lady before!”
And it truly was.
Over time I was able to wrap my head around this idea and she and I became a lot closer due to my obsessive interest in her “condition”. We kept in constant communication throughout her pregnancy and continued after she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in early May. I made her promise (like two giddy teenage girls making a virginity pact) that she would tell me everything, even the bad stuff.
She has and I adore her for it. She’s been my window into this world, I the fly on the wall. Through her I’ve been able to experience vicariously the reality of pregnancy, birth, adjusting to life with a newborn, how it changes your days, your relationship, your outlook on life.
I love her for this. Because for all the information out there, it’s increasingly difficult to find out what life is really like for people. I’ve written about this before, here and here. Facebook is the worst for this, which is why I have a fit and delete my account once every six months or so. It’s become an orgy of people you once knew competing in an endless cycle of who has the bigger house, newer car, more exotic vacation, biggest smiles.
It’s the hedonic treadmill come to life. A monster of Frankenstein proportions, bits and pieces of a life hastily cobbled together with photos and status updates, offering a glossy approximation of reality. The sheer volume of information is staggering, the amount of truth, minute.
I wish I could create a site like PostSecret, but instead of cataloguing people’s darkest secrets it would record the most mundane aspects of their lives, the things that have become so routine that they don’t even register
“I wake up at 6 every morning and commute for an hour each day.”
“I turn my head so my wife kisses my cheek instead of my lips”
“I eat popcorn for dinner at least twice a week.”
I guess these are secrets too, in a way. This is the stuff that will never get posted on Facebook. You’ll never post a picture of the stain on the carpet you simply get used to living with. No one’s interested in that. No one writes about that.
But I wish you would.
I’d love to spend my life researching people. Not even neccesarily the interesting ones that usually get studied, the exceptions, the deviants. But the normal people, the beige millions who fade into the background.
I imagine myself an old woman rattling around in a huge apartment, empty but for the hundreds of shelves stretching out throughout, filled with these boring tidbits, these small proofs of how others live their lives. Small normal secrets. The daily innumerable ways people decide to exist. The compromises that become routine. The trespasses that one gets accustomed to. The happinesses that become so worn that they are barely noticed.
I think that this is what Sociology is, why I felt so at home when I took my first intro course that I changed my major that same day. Sociologists take the smallest social rituals and dig into them, tear them apart looking for meaning. Sometimes its exhausting but mostly its deeply fascinating, because they do the research I can’t. They ask about evil and deviance but also about why people don’t talk in elevators, why we avoid eye contact on the subway.
And if you’d like to know something mundane about me, I just retyped this entire post after accidentally pressing my browsers “back” button and losing it all, seconds before completion. I screamed and swore (a rarity for me, I’m prone to imploding rather than explosions). This version of the post is a shadow, a skeleton of what it was because I’m so frustrated by trying to chase down and recapture all of those lost words, unfinished trails of thought.
Edited to add: my mom’s having a heart attack and I’m getting lots of emails – guys, I’m not trying to get pregnant! It is something we are planning on doing at some point, but not in the conceivable (Haha! See what I did there?) future. NO BABIES. Yet.