When you write for the internet–and I’m not complaining about it, because I love it–readers form an idea about you in their heads from the first sentence. They think they know you, the real you, not the one you present to the online world. It’s hard to get them to change their first impression.
Writing about yourself online opens up a chasm. You allow these people in, gladly, and most of them are lovely. They’ll send you emails about your work and how much it means to them. They’ll stop you in bars to tell you. The internet opens up millions of doors and the people who walk through them can change your life. Writing for the internet is beautiful that way because it reminds you the world is full of people whose words can enrich your life.
But others, hidden behind the cloak of anonymity the internet can provide, are nasty. They’ll hone in on your weak spots and attack. They’ll call you ugly, fat, stupid, vapid, stuck-up. They tend to fixate on your appearance as if that’s all you’re worth. As a female, it sometimes feels that way. Your body, your face, your brain are all fair game for them.
You see female writers you admire ripped to shreds and you’re terrified that will happen to you. When it does happen, it comes as a shock even though you know it’s inevitable. We shouldn’t have to fear this, but we do. Because as a woman, they don’t just go after your subject matter; they go after you, the person. You could write about world issues or fruit stands or water supplies and still, someone would be criticizing your appearance. And even when you try to focus on the good, it’s the bad that creeps in and ruins your day, defeats you. But these are things you want to say, and say them you will! You want to be brave, to be honest.
If you write about your looks, they’ll call you vain. If you write about feeling vulnerable, they’ll tell you to grow up. Anything you write about is subject to someone else’s opinion; no matter what you say, it’ll send someone off. “You’re asking for it,” they say.
You should be feminine, but you shouldn’t be too girly. You should be smart, but not too smart! Your words shouldn’t cut too deep, they say. They shouldn’t hold heavy amounts of truth, because that’s scary. You can’t be too honest. You can’t be too raw. That’s not a woman’s job.
The men will add you on Facebook, sending you messages about your looks. They’ll never mention your writing.
I think it is lovely to be a woman. I’ve always been unapologetically feminine, poured into pencil skirts, swishing my hips, wearing lipstick. It’s old-fashioned, probably, but I’m comfortable this way. I feel at home in a body conscious dress, say what you will. I know I have a body that attracts attention, and I refuse to apologize for that.
I think femininity in all its many, many forms should be celebrated. And if I choose to celebrate mine by writing about makeup, about pink hair or thigh gaps, then that’s my choice. I can have my cake and eat it too. That’s my right. That’s any woman’s right: to be herself, to feel comfortable in her skin, to present and embrace her version of womanhood no matter what it is, to write about it and not be afraid to say what she wants.
It’s so easy to follow someone’s life via social media. You can follow me on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook. You can see who I hang out with, where I like to go, how I choose to curate my life. I allow you that access; to be honest, even if social media didn’t exist in the magnitude it does, I’d be sharing things anyway. It’s just in my nature. You’d be reading my LiveJournal the way you did in 2003 or something. I like to be “let in” to other people’s lives, even if I don’t know them personally. I like to see the world through their eyes, filtered or not.
And the truth is you can get high on it. You get high on the Instagram likes, you get high seeing your stories and pieces shared all over Twitter. You get high on the compliments, but the mean comments hurt. They hurt! Even once you’ve developed that thick skin, you’re not immune to a sting or two. You tell yourself that one person’s comments don’t matter, but those nagging feelings of failure are hard to shake.
The version of myself I present to the Internet is a little different than my real self, but she’s still me. She’s the good parts: bubbly, a little ditsy, charming, light on her feet, knows her angles. Real Kara is not a treat to be consumed that way. She’s an introvert, she’s selfish, vulnerable, vain, sometimes petty. She hides. She hates her hair. She might walk around like she doesn’t give a fuck, but she does.
It gets hard to separate the two. Internet Kara is the girl I want to be because she exists on a plane well above words, but Real Kara isn’t quite there yet. Words will always find a way to hurt me.