Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Internet and Sleeping Dogs

Me in My Early Years Online
The problem with the online world is that is has presented us with a way to reconstitute the ghosts of the past. Yes, now we can reconnect with folks we may have gone to college with, known in high school or even grown up with as children. On its face(book), this doesn't seem like such a bad idea. I have both uncovered friends of long ago and been discovered by them. It's a heady reunion at first. We exchange excited emails, reminisce, catch-up. Then the weird part sets in. Email is not like snail mail. It's too fast and easy. My best friend in high school isn't necessarily someone I want to talk to every day, once a week, or even once a month. Why? Other than our past shared experiences, we no longer have anything in common.

This is probably more true for alternative folks than for traditional people. I'm not saying that my old junior high and high school friends weren't fun. We hung out, went to see our favorite bands, skipped school, shoplifted, did drugs together. Good times. But, even then there were red flag warnings letting me know that my life would be different from theirs. They were attracted to guys and I was not. They wanted marriage and children, the whole package. It made me gag. Around 1967, when I was in High School, I saw Gloria Steinem, for the first time ever, on the Phil Donohue Show. She spoke of a new movement called Women's Liberation. It was an aha moment! I thought, oh my god, I'm not alone. The lesbian thing hadn't really hit me yet, but I knew that the idea of subjugating my self, my ideas and personality, to a male was not going to work for me.I'd read all the stupid articles in Seventeen Magazine that talked about how you needed to pretend you were genuinely interested in your guy's football team in order to "catch" him. Why didn't he feign to share my interests as well? Questions like this weren't supposed to be asked.

When I told my high school friends about my feelings, my theories, my new ideas, they listened politely but they weren't driven by the same forces. I became Joan, their odd friend, the "women's libber." When we meet up via the internet they have husbands, ex-husbands, pastors, kids, grandkids, American flags waving from the porches of tidy houses. They might become uneasy when I write about my partner, my politics, my friends, even a book that I'm reading. We exist on different sides of the looking glass. I feel at a loss to explain myself because, the road less traveled is not well documented on television or in magazines.

I still care about my old friends and wish them all the best. But as people grow their paths diverge. I now have renewed respect for sleeping dogs of my history, having acquired a larger perspective regarding what lulled them into slumber in the first place. There are sound and valid reasons for leaving the past behind. That's a lesson I'm still learning.