I’ve gotten some criticism over the years for being too open, too direct, too honest. “Dahlia, you reveal too much,” is a popular refrain. In fact, one of the reasons my father stopped speaking to me back in 2001 was because he disliked the blog I had back then. Even though I wasn’t airing his dirty laundry, it made him uncomfortable that his daughter was publicly sharing her struggles with life, sexuality, and identity. He thought it made him look bad.
I stopped writing a blog partly for that. Not because of my father, because he was already long gone, but because I grew tired of having to think about my life, and I grew tired of being public. When I was in Berlin, so much of my life was already performative that I wanted to draw the line somewhere. And then when I moved to LA, I made a conscious effort to retreat, to take down what was already out there about me, to become private, reserved, less prone to displays of opinion and personality.
And I hated that word “blog.” I hated what it represented: the solipsistic, narcissistic, and self-involved navel-gazing, the white noise, the endless speculation about the mundane, the pithy snark, the gossip and the drama. Ugh. Sometimes the Internet is just too much. I mean, we already have Facebook. Who needs more extensive over-sharing?
But then I went to this online marketing seminar last year, and one of the things they said was that every author needs a blog. As a writer, you put out books so infrequently that you need a place to have regular, consistent contact with your “community.” It’s an integral part of having a brand in the twenty-first century.
Okay, I sighed. I’ll have a blog. But I had no idea what to write about. Because I was not going to put more white noise out there. I did not want more ironic hipster snark. So I decided to start with my book Lovergirl. Already written in diary format, it seemed perfectly suited for both the blog and the online serial — and that’s where it began.
But things end, as they do. And Lovergirl finished.
So what to do next? I couldn’t abandon the blog. Something like 80% of blogs are neglected and ignored. I didn’t want to be that person. I needed to maintain the blog. But I needed content. So what to write about?
I decided to write about myself. I decided to try to tackle the seemingly impossible task of plumbing my life for material while still struggling to avoid the solipsistic navel-gazing. I’m not sure how often I succeed, but I make an effort to tie my own personal struggles and revelations to bigger pictures, to make them somehow relevant to people whose lives exist outside of my head.
Part of it is the teacher in me. If one man learns how to treat a woman better, I have accomplished something. If one person becomes less ashamed of their anxiety, then I’m happy. If anyone learns from my mistakes, that’s really all I can ask for. If there is some positive response to come from this blog, it is less about it being a forum in which I muse about my own issues and more about it being a place that can inspire or comfort or educate others.
Will it backfire on me? Perhaps. Perhaps it already has. “You should share less,” I’m told. “Portray yourself as stronger. Don’t reveal your weaknesses.”
There is definitely something to be said for that. And I’ve done that. I’ve spun myself that way before. But I’m not interested in doing that right now. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and right now I want to examine and then communicate. If it makes me a guinea pig, subject to criticism and concern, pity and disdain, then that’s fine. Because the opposite, the superficial and the slick, the perfect and the polished, bores me.
I spent seven years hiding who I was, making myself palatable and unthreatening, and I am done with that. And I’m not convinced that this blog presents weakness. If anything, I hope that it shows my determination to explore and experiment, to place myself under the same (if not stronger) scrutiny I would apply to anyone else.
I’ll confess, I ask myself sometimes, “What would Carrie Bradshaw do?” Because writing about sex and dating and personal angst is not always desirable. I’m sure people will stumble upon this blog and run as quickly as they can away from me — and certainly from the prospect of dating me. But maybe that’s the price I will have to pay, because shoving myself back in the closet is no longer an option.