September 25, 2008 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | | September 25, 2008 |


Blog: Dooce

Topic: Confessional

Review: If Perez Hilton is the most popular blogger in America, Heather Armstrong may be the second most popular. And here’s a woman who fucking deserves it. She has created, in Dooce, the leading example of what a good confessional blog is. Popular to contrary opinion, if you’re smart and interesting enough, you can actually make life’s mundanities compelling. Indeed, if you hate personal bloggers who prattle on and on about their kids, their dogs, their marriage, and their tedious personal problems, it’s only because you haven’t been reading Dooce.

The back story goes something like this: Heather Armstrong, a Southern girl raised Mormon, goes to Los Angeles to become a graphic designer and recover from her Mormonism. In 2001, she started Dooce, where she wrote satirically about her experiences at a start-up company. Apparently, her bosses liked to abuse drugs. A year later, she was fired for writing about her job. Soon thereafter, she and her husband moved to Utah, where they live on the income generated by one of the most popular blogs on the Internet. On it, Armstrong writes extensively about her marriage, her pregnancy, her post-partum depression, her skin cancer, and her dogs, but mostly Dooce is considered a parenting blog. She is partially responsible, in fact, for the proliferation of Mom blogs over the last few years, in part because Armstrong proved that there was money to be made in honest, real-life confessionalism (see also Ask Moxie), as opposed to the generic puff-pieces shat out by most parenting publications (“Secrets of Scribbles!” “First Birthday Party Fun!” Ugh.)

What makes Dooce such a good read, however, is not the topical material; it’s Armstrong’s voice. She’s a sassmouth, dirty-talking, quick-witted blogger who has a unique talent for extracting humor out of the banal. It doesn’t hurt, either, that she’s able to mine/exploit her daughter for good material. Take, for instance, this recent exchange she had with Leta, who is four years old:

“I only have one job.” “Oh, really? Leta, what would that job be?” “Work.” “Work?” “That’s right. Work.” “Where do you go to work?” “At my job, where else?”

But more than the humor, Armstrong captures the magical moments of parenting that a lot of Moms (and fathers) can relate to, including this, one of my favorite passages of late, where she talks about the blossoming, evolving feelings of being a Mom (especially one institutionalized for post-partum depression):

There are very simple times that I’m with [Leta], when I’m brushing her hair or watching her read herself a book on her bed, when the feeling that comes over me is not unlike how it was when I was a kid walking through the gates at an amusement park knowing that I was going to have the most awesome, most memorable day. And it’s not the feeling of riding the roller coaster or being allowed to eat an entire bag of cotton candy, it’s the feeling before all that. It’s the excitement, the anticipation, the general sense of being in one of my favorite places. When Leta was born I thought I would automatically feel this way, and many women do. But I did not. And I did not know if I would ever get here. So many women reached out to me to let me know they had gone through the same crisis and came out the other side, and it was the hope they gave me that pulled me through. If you happen to be in that place right now, I want you to know that it gets so much better. And one day you’re going to be having a complex conversation with that baby who is screaming her head off right now, and you’re going to go, holy shit, I made it. You will make it.

Armstrong can get achingly sentimental, but never in a manipulative way. For new parents, I highly recommend checking the Leta archives; Armstrong has a series of monthly newsletters, tracking the growth and development of her daughter. It’s amazing, really, how infinitely relatable they are. If you’re a parent who doesn’t have a lot of friends who are also parents, the Internet is a magical place where instant connections are everywhere. And Dooce may be the most magical place of all. When it’s not provoking laughter with Armstrong’s brand of irreverence, it’s playing a symphony with your heart strings.

Sample Post: From Leta’s month seventeen newsletter:

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You’re in this stage of life where the only way to communicate to us is by complaining, and that’s the thing about kids. You can get away with it because you don’t know any better, and as your parents we have to accept that sometimes, more often than not, all you do is complain. When you’re an adult and pay bills and the government takes more than a third of your income, sometimes it’s just not nice to complain all the time, even when you can’t have the remote. EVEN THEN, LETA. People don’t want to hear it all the time because they’ve heard it a thousand times already and at some point you just have to suck it. This last paragraph is more for me than it is for you because when you hang out with someone who does nothing but complain all day you, like me, may want to put that person out on the sidewalk with a sign around her neck that reads, “FREE, OR BEST OFFER.”

What I’m trying to say is, this month when people ask me about my week or my day or even the two hours I’ve been awake with you, instead of barfing all over them and lamenting the fact that damn, Gina, this is so hard, so very very hard, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, wah wah WAH WAH WAH, I’m trying to look at them and say, “She calls me Mama, now. I never knew that word could be so amazing.”

Rating: Bitchin.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives in Portland, Maine. You can reach him via email, or leave a comment below.

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Thankfully, Wonderfully, Amusingly Self-Absorbed

Dooce Blog Review / Dustin Rowles

September 25, 2008 | Comments ()




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