[EDIT 28-Jul-20— this pre-pandemic concept did not age well.]
I have arrived! Time to unpack. And by “unpack” I mean explain who I am, what I am doing here, and what in the world “Pantsless in Portugal” means.
I long believed that my compulsion to write gave me a purpose, a way for me to serve the world, a way to explain, even soothe, the otherwise disproportionate suffering I experienced, and a way to justify my need to verbalize emotions I could not regulate. Whether spiral-bound notebooks or diaries gifted to me, I filled them with the innocent musings of a seven-year old, then the darknesses of a tormented adolescent.
The internet was born; I graduated to keyboards and screens. My experiential outpourings (from Prodigy to livejournal to the earliest days of Ivy-League-exclusive facebook) engaged a small group of early-adopter friends or didn’t, and it rarely occurred to me to measure my writing’s — or my soul’s — worth on that basis. My creations, even the unpublished ones, were messages I flung into the universe with passion. As far as I knew, the universe appreciated it or someday would.
Technology then developed to quantify digital validation, and to disabuse me of the notion that my writing is a gift of value. Social media’s dark edict to the artists: we can now grade your art, and your grade is based on mass appeal. In the same way I lack that in life, my writings lacked it in our new online world, rendering them narcissistic and meaningless. Macro-level recognition is neither my desire nor purpose, but lack of engagement discourages me; succumbing to that feeling feels petty and further demoralizes me.
Creative-types must create, whether or not blessed with unique talents, with or without hope of achieving wealth, fame, or even personal solace through the process. One can follow my post-livejournal adult life through writing-related diversions — Yelp reviews memorialize my move to a new city; an anonymous dating blog sees me attempt to recover from a pointlessly-devastating breakup; having children led to a shared photo blog; the 2016 election’s rubble inspired a feminist initiative I couldn’t sustain without an audience I didn’t have. Most recently my writings have included a political twitter in which I dare the universe to figure out who I am and fire me (or worse) for trashing Trump, a “TMI” filter on facebook that I shut down due to some upsetting backlash, and a published blog through the Atlanta Jewish Times where I rant about the unproductive Israel dialogue and/or start mini-blog projects I immediately give up because no one is reading.
And then there were pants. Or, there weren’t pants, rather.
After returning to work post-baby#2, my writing manifested increasingly in facebook posts with my self-deprecating reflections on business trips. This is quite logical. With two tiny offspring at home, business trips were pretty much the only opportunity I had to write anything; stream-of-consciousness comic relief was about the best I could churn out. And though eternally despised by me (I had recently returned to it after having deactivated four years earlier in a huff — more on that later), facebook was the easiest place to know that someone was going to set eyes on my musings.
One day I posted: “In episode 1,000,000 of packing fail… 3 hairbrushes, no pants.” In my next few travel shenanigans posts, I addressed the subject of pants and at some point used the word “pantsless.”
It’s not like tons of people interacted with these posts. My “pants” related posts received no more digital interaction than other posts. I continued posting about pants and the lack thereof mostly because it amused me, and because occasionally people would post amusing comments in response. “Pants” is a funny word. “Pantsless” is a funny word for a funny concept. If one has things to say about these topics, why would one not say them? All this to say: the initial pantslessness narrative was pure whimsy, untainted by motivation for external validation.
But then something odd began to happen. An astonishing percentage of my facebook friends would reference “pants” to me in person — some to tell me they thought my pants posts were great; most to drop a line like “I see you’re wearing pants today!” Some of these people had never interacted with a single facebook post of mine, such that I had forgotten we were even connected on facebook. My husband even got several in-person compliments.
Why, this phenomenon (people feeling compelled to approach me in person and joke about pants after never once having offered evidence that they read the posts at all) was even more amusing than pantslessness itself.
Takeaway? Readers might actually like what I write without “like”ing it. A fitting theme for a new medium (ha ha) I’m testing to scratch that perpetual writing itch…a medium on which I have no network and no energy to make efforts to drum one up.
As for Portugal — my post while in Lisbon for a conference began: “ I AM NOT PANTSLESS IN PORTUGAL, despite how lovely that alliteration would be.” A friend commented: “Pantsless in Portugal should be the name of your travel blog.” Despite that I’ve only ever been to Portugal once, and that this probably isn’t a travel blog, I like it.
Pantsless in Portugal it is, then.