i generally don’t look at it. for a long time i did not look at it at all so when i did look it fascinated me. i had no immunity! and there were all different gadgets and layouts i could fiddle with!
my usually wise and always witty BFF made me laugh really hard recently by telling me about a conversation he had with his therapist that apparently made his therapist laugh really hard. (there’s an anecdote lead-in for you.) my BFF abstains from facebook and was explaining that this is part of his jealousy of other people’s “worldly success.” and the phrase “worldly success” was just too much. the therapist laughed. (and he laughed! and i laughed!) i am imagining the therapist as a warm sober gentleman with a downeast accent but i have no idea. (this is my own therapeutic fantasy.)
it was the pictures of people smiling with their friends and families that made me avoid facebook—well, also the comments upon my quitting grad school—but i see what the BFF means about worldly success. all these fuckers i went to college with who live in houses and post about NPR and who they’re going to vote for! the twittering classes.
i had an especially shitty birthday three years ago. my pali class wanted to take me out. God knows why. we were “friends.” (we had lunch a lot because the class happened near lunchtime.) my pali class was three other people—one of them was truly my friend (but a whiz at worldly success and i was always fighting jealousy—with varying success); one of them i didn’t know very well but she did seem like a real you-know-what* and made me wary; the third i really did not like (he was always telling me i was a genius—fighting jealousy and failing miserably) but as we were both really miserable and really heavy drinkers we spent a lot of time together.
the professor of the pali class was the director of graduate studies was the guy who told me a frightening amount about his electroshock treatments, told me he thought i was crazy, broke me down, and convinced me to commit myself to a mental institution. (we will call him bill.) this happened the last week of october and my birthday is november 15th. my pali friends all knew what had happened because i told them. eating my noodles at noodles etc. as calm and banal as you please—‘wow, you were really playing hooky last week.’ ‘no i was in a mental hospital. bill yelled at me until i agreed i was insane.’**
why did i agree? mostly i was just tired of arguing about it. i thought that as bad and crazy as the hospital would be, it probably wouldn’t be worse than my department. and eventually i thought, well, if i really am crazy, i wouldn’t know it; it is my duty to submit to this spiritual trial and the judgment and discipline of my superiors; i must be corrected. (i concede that that last thought is at least bordering on crazy. but, you know. i get scrupulous. and i had a painful eye infection and a john of the cross audiobook.)
so my birthday came at the height of my curled-up-in-a-ball-with-a-john-of-the-cross-audiobook period. everything was heightened. obviously i did not want to go out and smile and pretend not to be miserable. (one afternoon while i was in the mental hospital, i got very haughty with one of the keepers who was getting very sarcastic with me so to punish me he called “code yellow”—no, this is not a real thing—it is a fake-official APB thing where ten people appear and put their hands on you and you’re injected with something sedative in a designated punishment room—common enough—but to me being in the hospital was such a nightmare to begin with, being punished in the hospital broke something in my brain and i had a miserably genuinely transcendent experience of numbness and the consolation of knowing that there was a limit to suffering. this was intense. MANY HAPPY RETURNS OF THE DAY.)
randomly it happened that my stepfather was going to be in town on business and he was instructed to take me out to dinner—this was so random that through hoping i convinced myself that he was bringing my actual friends to town with him to comfort and surprise me—or something—anyway, i was convinced there had to be some kind of comforting surprise at the bottom of it—and so i extravagantly needlessly disappointed myself. my stepfather is a nice guy and we get along very well but he is all about business and he was just following orders.
i combined him with my pali crew.
i called my mental friend and dragged her along on the evening for some kind of protection—and she did make me feel more secure, but she was still pretty disconnected from reality. (i didn’t fully realize this at the time—i knew that talking to her made me feel strange, but not the desperate strange i felt talking to the sane people, so.) she had gone through some kind of grandiose insanity where she thought she had to save the world from an epidemic and part of what she had to do was punch her refrigerator as hard as she could—the harder she punched it, the more people would be saved—so she had broken bones in her hand so seriously that she required surgery and a big serious cast—and i guess the only pleasant moment i had that evening was when miss c. asked her what she did to her hand and she answered, simply—regally even—‘i punched my refrigerator. hard.’
i felt very alone that night.
the least pleasant moment was when my stepfather was driving us all back from wherever we’d gone and my boon companion todd (who was drunk) started talking in detail about how one of his major hobbies was looking at all the failures he was friends with on facebook. and basking in his superiority. and i (who was drunk) told him that he was a horrible person—and i’d known it all along, and there was the proof—and he poisoned my life. (at that moment: whatever broke in my brain while i was the hospital snapped completely off.) (HOWEVER i think this scene would be the most excellent commercial for facebook.)
* (c word.)
** the whole thing started because i thought it was ridiculous that i should be a TA for a class that had one student and objected to this assignment. a little too vehemently. (extra credit: i talked about this during my “intake”—as a person who lived in the real world, the intake stooge couldn’t believe it was a real debate—and so it contributed to my being admitted as simply psychotic.) and i feel like i already mentioned this fact somewhere—if so, sorry.