Article

Lightsey Darst on writer's block and pinning recipes with your mother-in-law, Rule 34 and the black hole at the center of the eye.
January 15, 2015

By Slashme (Own work), reproduced under CC license, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been quiet for a while. One should write when one has something to say. But no, that’s not right.

One should write to find something to say. But no.

One should investigate. One should be inherently interesting. One should (for one, read “I”).

Topics recently rejected for essays:

  • what I look for on the internet
  • camel, cameltoe, rule 34, the equivalence of porn and existence, Pinterest is hell, weird Pinterest. . . = basic humanity
  • something Ferguson (rejected because you don’t need to hear about that from me) (but maybe that’s not the point) (oh but it is) (etc “good white people” etc you can probably write that one yourself) (which you really should, at least in your head, if only for the agony of it) (and then, if you’re white, please keep that essay in your head, because god knows we don’t need any more white people trotting out the complex ways they are/are not/but really are! good) (see, now I wrote the goddamn essay, goddamn it) (for more, see Brit Bennett’s takedown of this whole concept for Jezebel)
  • “doing big things” (divorcing, marrying, moving, having a baby, etc)
  • four encounters with strange men (re the Hollaback! video)
  • what counts as news
  • artspeak
  • art and silence
  • utility art (but fuck art, am I right?)
  • those two old ladies who are always gossiping in Russian somewhere over my right shoulder at every dance performance and cannot be shushed

You want to hear more about camel, cameltoe, rule 34, etc, don’t you? It goes like this: I was searching for more adult fashion to add to my “daily style” Pinterest board (follow me! I will give you good bad ideas!), and I thought, “camel,” that’s an adult color. So I searched for it. And Pinterest’s autocomplete suggested “cameltoe.” And “cameltoe wet.” And “cameltoe girls.” And “cameltoe panties.”

I know what a cameltoe is. It just never occurred to me that anyone would find it desirable enough to search for it on Pinterest or organize boards around it. That is, I’m guessing there are boards full of cameltoe. I didn’t actually click on cameltoe wet, not even for you, dear reader. I would like to get a job still someday.

I mentioned my accidental find to my love and he told me about Rule 34, which goes as follows: If you can think of it, there is porn of it. Apparently this rule was occasioned by some Calvin and Hobbes fanfic. Reader, I am sure you already knew this law -- or if not, it probably sounds right, now that you have heard it. Right and completely unsurprising. But, beyond the boredom of familiarity, how should we feel or think about this law? To me, it suggests something about porn and existence: their essential equivalence. That is, if something exists, someone can find it so stimulating as to burst the bounds of selfhood on it. This is what it is to exist: to be a potential object of erotic annihilation. The black hole that is the center of the eye: this is porn. This fixation, this capacity to be fixated upon, is the human universe.

Then, somehow, for this essay, I was going to make a bridge back to Pinterest, whose front page—full of crap inspirational quotes in bargain fonts (Camus did not say that, and neither did Marilyn Monroe, and neither did Shakespeare!), renovations and upcyclings and “life hacks” that will take your life and turn it into glue gun Gehenna, foods no one should ever eat and bodies that appear never to have eaten food, fashion for basic bitches and photo shoot ideas for all the occasions that apparently must occur to signify a successful female life (prom, graduation, engagement on an autumnal day with a woodland romp that’s not too woody but does reveal some decent sexual dimorphism, marriage [hay bales, scads of laughing bridesmaids, children imported from unpictured upstate relatives, rustic flowers, did I mention everyone is white?, ribbons, ribbons rippling in wind], weekly bump watch, tiny baby in parents’ hands, annual photos with cute kids and stupid oafish football coach dad who still has the hots for the MILF, then I don’t know what—gray hair and the great unphotographable gulf, I guess—but all with soft lighting, sun spots, and wisps of out-of-focus hair—

Where the hell was I? Oh yes, the front page of Pinterest will make you think that people are vapid, wicked, and miserable. But, dig a little deeper—and then I was going to do this digging for you—and you will find something worth following. Which I do believe. After all, I follow Katja Ollendorff, of the impeccable West Coast taste; and AphroChic; and some guy who goes gaga for saturated pics of galaxies and gemstones. And I exchange recipes with my mother-in-law. And that is the essence of humanity, isn’t it, pinning recipes with your mother-in-law?

So, I wrote that essay. Okay. But I am still struggling with it all: writing, not writing, expressing something people “need” to hear, what paragraphs such as these are, anyway. What is right right now?

I was talking to one of the participants in my group weightlifting class the other day (yes, I yell “Squeeze your glutes!” and wear a little headset like ‘90s Madonna, but I will tell you that story another time), and somehow the conversation turned to the candy and cookies she had been making. Were they chocolate-covered Oreos? I don’t remember now. Whatever it was elicited some involuntary appreciation from me. “I know,” she said, smiling. “I’ve been making some bad decisions lately.”

“Good bad decisions,” I said. That’s what we want; that’s the sweet spot.

Lightsey Darst is a writer, critic, and teacher based in Durham, NC. 

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