Pamela Ribon: Sealed With a Squish
May 30, 2000, Tuesday: First the backs of your legs get a bit numb and tingly. This usually soars up into your bottom, and you feel like maybe you aren't really sitting down or standing anymore, but rather floating around. You can't feel your toes. Your chest gets a bit tighter, and you can feel your heart hitting your ribcage. Your breath is quick. Your cheeks are flushed. You can feel every strand of hair on your head. Your ears tingle. Your fingers feel detached. You can shake your hands, you usually shake your hands, just to make sure the blood is still flowing there.
It feels like you drank a pot of coffee. You find yourself with an incredible amount of energy. You bounce up and down, or jump around, just to have something to do, or you'll just explode.
Your head is completely blank. All you can think about is how you've got to not suck.
Your mouth is terribly dry.
Your throat tightens, just a bit.
Your stomach is shaking hands with an organ you aren't familiar with.
You can't help but smile.
You feel invincible.
That's the feeling. That's the feeling right before you go on. Right before someone sees your work for the first time. Right before you make them laugh. That's what it's all for, really. I'm an addict for that feeling.
Pamela Ribon is a dynamo. It's difficult to imagine when she ever stops to take a breath. On the weekends, you'll find her onstage with local comedy theatre troupe Monks' Night Out or by herself in a one-woman show. During the week, somewhere in between her dot-com day job, her weekly column for the Austin-American Statesman's "Technopolis" section, her freelance work dubbing anime into English and writing catty recaps of trashy television shows for Mighty Big TV (www.mightybigtv.com), Pamie, as she is known to her readers, apprises the world of her life through her online diary Squishy.
Being a self-proclaimed "whore for the audience," Pamie was probably destined for this whole online diary business. While she kept paper-and-pen diaries as a girl to only moderate success, she was prolific when it came to stories and letters, typing fiction on a clunky manual typewriter at the age of 10 in a walk-in-closet-turned office, or writing 200-page missives to friends on a dare. The strongest indication that she was an online diarist just waiting to happen, however, came in high school. "I would write a story, and it would get passed around to everybody. And every week or every other day or whatever I would write the next chapter. People I didn't even know were coming up to me and asking, 'When are you writing the next installment?' I had no idea how much this was being circulated through the school, through my friends. It was just one notebook; I'd just write in it and it'd be passed along, and it'd come back to me and I'd write some more."
To bring you up to today, you need only change the notebook to an iBook, and the high school class to about 15,000 friends and strangers around the world who check in on the progress of her story every day. Between the hit counts, the long list of awards (including a legacy award from Diarist.net, the zenith of the online diarist community) it has garnered, and the amount of discussion and links it generates on other diarists' sites, Squishy is currently one of the most prominent online diaries there is.
Typical of her girl-power persona, Pamie started making Web pages in 1994 after her boyfriend at the time said that the Web was "not really for girls." She ran an online "identify the movie quote" contest that gave bonus points for successfully connecting the film by the notorious "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." Squishy was born in June of 1998 after Pamie, during a visit to San Francisco, met a friend of a friend who kept an online diary. Pamie started reading her site, and through it became acquainted with Beth and the Mighty Kymm (see "Eight Prominent Online Diarists"). Like many before and since, Pamie was inspired to start her own. "I thought, well, I need to write every day anyway because I was doing sketches for the comedy troupe, and writing every day would get me to improve," she explains. "It just kind of blew up."
And blown up it has, so much so that the audience can sometimes become a little overwhelming. "I think that some people feel a sense of entitlement. They feel like they know you. That they know who you are. That you're their friend. And it's flattering that they're concerned and that they care, but it's also ... they couldn't possibly. They don't know how I talk, what I look like, what I sound like. What I really am." Though she's never encountered any stalker-like behavior, Pamie has had her share of too-close-for-comfort brushes with readers, but she realizes it's par for the course.
"I'm a performer," she stresses. "So I'd really rather enjoy the constant feedback I get now, as opposed to when I first started out and got two or three e-mails a week.
Pamie's pop-culture sensibilities, sharp wit, almost manic energy gushes freely from her Squishy entries. When she's not writing about the quirky adventures of the performing life on Austin stages, relating conversations with her boyfriend Eric in her signature script form, rhapsodizing her weird cats, haranguing the Central Texas heat, she dips into her reservoir of stories about her delightfully bizarre family that moved dozens of times during her childhood.
But does she talk about sex? It's usually the first thing that people want to know about online diarists. Sure, Pamie talks about sex, but don't go looking for bass-slapping booty action. Since Squishy is read by her parents and many other relatives, her discussion of sex -- and, ahem, women's health issues -- tends to be suitable for prime time, and for her large teenage readership.
Squishy isn't all lighthearted, though: In it we follow Pamie through a tense cancer scare, through friends moving away, through the death of her cat Lilith, and through a difficult decision to leave Austin for the greener acting pastures of Los Angeles, which she is planning to do this fall.
After years of performing, onstage and on the computer screen, Pamie feels ready for the next step. And you can count on Squishy being there.
Squishy is online at www.pamie.com.