Wednesday, July 17, 2013


As a part of my moving prep, I've joined Pinterest. If you weren't late to the party, like I was, you know what this is, but for all y'all who aren't clear on it, Pinterest is a kind of Internet bulletin board. I'm not exactly sure when this happened, but at some point, designers and advertisers and techies all got together (I believe this explains how "sexy" and "chic" weddings have become) and made these things called "Inspiration Boards" wherein you put stuff you like: images, articles, processes, etc. Pinterest is like a giant, global, cloud-based Inspiration Board.

This photo is one one of my private boards, because really, you don't need to see what I'm considering for my home decor. I'm not sure where it started, because it only links to its own image. 

For a while, I just couldn't care less about Pinterest, but when it became clear to me that I needed a better way to show my husband potential furnishings than shouting to him across the apartment to, "C'mere and look at this!", I opened an account. (Of course, to see anything I was looking at, he had to open one too; that's how they get you.) So since I started looking at other people's Pinterest boards and pinning my own little tidbits of interesting stuff, a few things occur to me:

A) I think Pinterst is a giant place to buy stuff and to show others what you're buying. It feels like a way to market things, and I mean market ideas and images as much as objects, I mean "buying" as in buying into ideas, not just buying things. I've been pinning lots of yoga images: inspiring quotes, nature scenes, icons, and pictures of beautiful people in asana, or poses. This is the weird one for me, though: some of the poses seem really lovely and motivating--there are a couple of lovely old  mend and women in astonishing poses, and some very regular poses that we can all get into. But some other asana photos, that I've been reluctant to post, feature gorgeous, slicked bodies in poses that are pretty advanced. There's something that makes my stomach hurt in how spectacular and fabulous these yoga pictures can get. If we're spending as much--or more--energy on trying to get the best yoga picture as we are on trying to have the most present yoga experience, we might as well be at the gym preening for others. Yoga can give us beautiful bodies, but it doesn't always, and too great an attachment to that would be problematic, I think. It would certainly get in the way of my existence; some days it already does.

There's an article in the NY Times about yoga and instagram that made me shake my head and turn away. Likewise, Yoga Journal's June issue featured a spread of a woman in a bandeau and hot pants doing Sura Namaskar A and B to publicize the release of her book, a photo essay of the Ashtanga Primary series. I'd seen a video for the book on a crowd-fundraising site. Interesting, but not enough to get me to go in my pocket. The YJ spread is as stark and disciplined as Ashtanga yoga is, but if you're into scantily clad women in bendy positions, you could do worse than these images. I'm no stranger to Ashtanga; there's something so ordered about the practice that really appeals to me. Likewise, it requires, and cultivates, a kind of discipline that has eluded me my entire adult life, so I feel a sense of envy about it. But it's also really kind of cult-y. Without a tame ego, an Ashtanga yogi can get really insufferable.

So I'm a bit concerned about the potential for Pinterest to take interests of mine, like yoga or gluten-free, vegan cooking, or right now home furnishings and decor, and turn them into porn, which then makes them a tool for escape, judgment and a lack of self-compassion. Pinterest is a dream world, where I can covet a lifestyle in as many shades as I want that is in no way mine.

B) There are a lot of stay-at-home moms and wives on Pinterest. Is that still the term? Have we all co-opted Nigella Lawson's "domestic goddess"? What are we calling women who work in the home creating a life space and lifestyle for themselves and their families? (The idea answer is: friend, sister, lover, wife, mom, right, but there's some society label, too.) Whatever the label, there are lots of places wherein people are pinning "helpful" schedules for keeping an immaculate house. For the record, they involve things like running the dishwasher daily, sweeping and vacuuming daily, and taking out the trash daily. I don't know about you, but in my house, those chores happen as necessary, not with the rising and setting of the sun. Of course, it's not lost on me that part of my astonishment about how Pinterest is a bastion for women with real creativity, with real homemaking skills, who pack perfectly photograph-able lunches and live in homes that show like catalogs, is that I don't live that life. My home looks lived in. In a dusty, paper-clogged kind of way; the only thing missing is pet hair. I love decorating but hate cleaning, and I carry some baggage about being a good life partner means I can "keep a house". (I blame the patriarchy.) So when I see 101 ways to organize your homes, or tiny napkins folded into Origami cranes, I feel the judgment of all those housewives out there who do this stuff every day. It's probably not real either, but still, I feel like less. Which brings me right back to letter A).

C) It's been incredibly useful. Lest you think I'm completely down on Pinterest, it has absolutely been doing what I hired it to do. It makes so much sense to have a place where I'm putting pictures of furniture that we can afford and that I like, colors that I think would tie a room together nicely, tips on how to re-caulk a bathtub (!) crafty how-to's even I could complete. It's getting the job done. Of course, if my husband checked the board more often, it might facilitate conversation between us about which dining table would be best for the price, but that's a different problem to solve.

D) Like a lot of social media, it's addictive. I thought I'd just be dabbling a bit in furniture here and there, but after less than a month, I feel like I spend hours searching out lovely things--recipes, photos, useful lists, etc.--to pin on my boards. Just like so many other platforms, every time I get a notification, I'm checking the site, and for nothing, because nothing actually happens when someone follows me or repins or likes something I've pinned. It's just another way to over-connect myself to the Hive Mind.

So at the end of it, I don't know if Pinterest has added a lot to my life experience. I suppose the proof is in how easily, and affordably, my husband and I are able to furnish our next home. If I spend ten grand on Chevron curtains and chalkboards to write menus and furniture that I have spend an addition five grand in supplies just so I can repurpose it, well we'll know that Pinterest has won and I have lost--my mind.

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