On the Boards

Hello Darling Ones,

I’ve been reading Nichole Perkins’ essay collection Sometimes I Trip on How Happy We Could Be, which is charming the daylights out of me. Despite being fiveish years younger than I am and a black woman from Nashville, Perkins and I share an affinity for many of the same pop culture touchstones. Namely, Janet Jackson’s “Control” album and what it meant for our self image when we heard her called “chubby;” what “A Different World” taught us about college; the endless allure of Niles Crane; and internet message boards.

Perkins’ book includes an essay called “Keyboard Courage” where she writes about being heavily involved in a message board for The Roots. She writes about the intricacies of being a member of the message board regulars, the petty politics and minor scandals. She writes about making lifelong friends and traveling to meet with those people.

I felt all of this in my bones. My first internet experiences were in usenet groups (these pre-dated message boards). I started meeting people from the alt.music.soulcoughing group in like 1996? 1997? Some of my best friends came out of the Paul Westerberg message board. Nerds of a feather flock together, I guess.

What I liked the most about this essay is when she discusses how participating in the message board made her a better writer. The line, “I like to be able to communicate without people looking at me.”

This is one of those sentences that stopped me in my tracks. I had to put the book down and ponder it for a minute. Had this woman succinctly summed up in the simplest way possible my drive to write? I think she did.

I too love communicating without people looking at me.

For me it’s less about having time to choose the right words, form a better argument, or fact check. My brain is pretty zippy and I can come up with some good stuff on the fly. Plus, I’m kind of an arrogant bullshitter who will claim something is 100% true even if I’m only 75% sure.

Instead, for me, it feels more about the purity of my thoughts or the words I choose. Divorced from my looks, which is a nagging thing always in the back of my mind, something I always needs to apologize for or explain, my words are freer, ring truer, and not bogged down by the weight of my appearance. When I write people aren’t distracted by my height, size, breasts, lips, or the weird thing my hair is doing. When I write I don’t have to guess what part of my body someone is looking at and judging. I have very little fear the judgement will come out in the middle of what I’m saying.

It was an unexpected revelation, and I kinda liked it.

Your truly,

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    1. Jodi Chromey 10.Jan.22 at 11:14 am

      I don’t know if i should say sorry or be thankful that I’m not the only one.


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