Thursday, November 06, 2003

Childhood Memory #6(?): Voyeurism

I've always had this strange obsession with strangers and their lives. Remember? The family that lived on your street with kids and yet you never saw them because they never left their house. Once the girl came out and she was pale as a ghost. What did she do all day in there?

Any neighbor who dared on my block to be unknown was asking for trouble. A favorite trick of the evil girl Pam to drive the shy or retiring to the front porch for our observation was the burning bag full of dogshit trick. That Pam! She alerted me to many cruel activities available to the pre-teen when I wasn't being a victim of her cruelty myself.

What I always wanted to know was what the Tom Waits song asks: What's He Doing In There?

What are other people's lives like? Their thoughts? What's in their drawers? What are their sick secrets? What are they afraid of? Being left alone in someone else's house is one of the things that made babysitting enjoyable--although I was rather timid and would probably do a much more thorough search now.

It was also incredible when you would find a letter on the street or in someone's trash ('alley picking' was another Pam-directed activity)...Even the mundane writing of a stranger took on a kind of mystique.

Then of course was just outright voyeurism: Looking in someone's windows. That's still a favorite activity of mine although the people around here generally draw their curtains pretty tight. At the moment, given my unsatisfied nesting instinct though, I'm much more interested in the size of their condo than in them.

My dream of course was access to the lives of strangers. I used to think: What if I just called up someone in the phonebook? What if I wrote them a letter? Would they talk to me? Would they respond? Could I ask them anything without reservation?

And then of course, the internet arrived. The answer was 'yes.' Whether they would tell the truth of course was a whole other question.

I remember when I first came across a message board detailing personal facts...a self-help message board. I was shocked, amused, full of scorn that people would blab their darkest secrets to total strangers. After that point, I was hooked. But it didn't work so well for me. Even on rather wide-topic boards I would go off topic, make shit up (not lies--amusing anecdotes), take random polls and generally violate the venue restrictions. Mostly there was a lot of stuff that nosy me wanted to know about you--the person willing to spill his/her guts. Then of course came blogging.

And I found out that I am far from unusual in my fascination with anonymous others.

Connected Selves is a blog about ways people connect over the internet...

from SickCandy


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