On Voyeurism


I wish the word ‘voyeurism’ didn’t have the sexual connotations (denotations, actually). I like the sound of it, and it’s the closest word for what I want to write about. It sounds like ‘voyage’, a voyage of the eyes, voyage des yeux. I wish there was a word that meant something not quite as risqué as ‘voyeur’ and not as specific and masculine as ‘flâneur’I love the idea of flâneurism but I’m thinking of something more casual, more instinctive. Something in between.

I want to write about the kind of visual voyaging we are all guilty of, in a completely non-sexual way. The little voyages we like to take into other people’s lives.  It’s like spying, almost, but very innocent. We do it on Facebook, of course, and Pinterest, but also in cafés and on the street. Catching glimpses of people’s lives: the way they dress, what tattoos they have, what they’re reading, where they shop. We walk past a house and can’t help glancing through the ground floor window with the open curtains. Why? To see if they’ve spent a lot of money on décor, or if they have a lot of books, or art on the walls. Is it wrong to be curious?

We also take these voyages when we read other people’s blogs. We read about their happiness and their pain; about their travels, thoughts, recipes.  We look at how other people live their lives and let ourselves be inspired by them.

I’ve been following a blog for a little while now, written by a woman whose life is the complete opposite of mine. I think she’s about my age, but unlike me she has kids and a house with a dog and a lake with a jetty. She has time to make beautiful things like rainbow layer cakes for her kids. Even her photos are completely different from mine: soft, muted, understated. Photos of her kids, photos of food, photos of herself making stuff out of wood. She’s got all this stuff all in one place, a home she can work on and add stuff to. I, on the other hand, have to keep reminding myself not to buy too much so I don’t lug it around with me.

I have wanted to travel since before I can remember. My parents tell me that I used to talk about seeing the whole world when I was really little. When I was eleven, Harriet the Spy was my hero because she wanted to ‘see the whole world and write down everything’. It was because of her that I started keeping a journal, which I still do. Later on, when I was going through a period of hurt and loneliness, I vowed that I would never stay in one place long enough to get attached. I still fall back on that occasionally, when I’m feeling angry or frustrated. But mostly, I can’t believe my luck.

I love what I’m doing, but I love reading about this woman who is doing something completely different, and kind of wishing I could have what she has. The way she lives her life, so creatively, I find that really inspiring and beautiful. I wrote to her once, hoping to convey that, but she didn’t write back. Which is ok. Maybe she wishes she had what I have. Or maybe not. Maybe not everyone spends their time looking at the grass on the other side. Do you?

(Photo: House in Granada, Spain)


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