A False Sense of Anonymity

I was naive to think I could get away with writing a blog and not having everyone I know find out about it.Turns out my walls were pretty transparent. The first hint at the breach was when Tiger brought up something that sounded eerily like part of a post I’d crafted here. I’m not 100% convinced he’s read this, but this morning it occurred to me that a few comments he’s made sound too much like he’s aware than I can chalk up to coincidence.

You see, I once had a blog, I wrote about Mommy stuff, mostly. I liked having it – I could connect with others in my same situation and talk about things my kids did with humor. Then my ex-mother-in-law (who may be reading this now!) left a rude comment on one post and, from what I could tell from site stats, looked at what I wrote several times a day. I felt like I was being scrutinized and so one day I made the decision to abandon that blog and start over.

From that choice sprung this blog – and I decided to narrow down my focus from general parenting to the effects divorce had on my life. I wanted to be able to share my feelings with others going through the same thing. I wanted to maintain a sense of privacy.

But a strange thing happens when you write, even if it’s memoir-style, non-fiction. I can’t be the only one who does this, as it’s not a completely conscious effort, but the truth gets curated between the time my thoughts form in my  brain and when they make it to the screen as I type. I had friends I knew were reading the blog so I may have left out details of certain events to spare fielding questions. I didn’t want to spill everything for the whole world to see.

I tried to mold things that happened into something more like what I would have liked to happen. Take my post about going out with Tiger for the first time, for example, or the one about his texts. I wanted to make it sound like I didn’t care about what this young guy thought of me, but of course I did. Anyone with any sense at all could read the posts about my dating experience with him later and see that I was more concerned about what he thought of me than I wanted to let on.

Now that I wonder whether he or others have read this, I look back on what I wrote with a much more critical eye, or, more appropriately, the eyes of people wrote about, and I realize some of my posts don’t accurately capture how I truly felt about what I was describing. In part because I was trying to convince myself to feel a certain way or in part because I wanted to be seen a certain way.

When you write about how you perceive something, or how that something makes you feel, you can write about it one day and the next day realize your emotions and thoughts have already changed. I didn’t want to like Tiger, because I thought I shouldn’t, so I focused on trivial reasons to dismiss him. I wanted to make light of the fact that I’m nearing 40 and a part-time waitress so I wrote about things restaurant customers do that irritate me. I wrote about how I don’t identify myself as a single mother but there are times I call myself one, anyway, because it’s simpler and more people understand what it means than to say divorced, co-parenting mother.

It makes me sad to think anyone would read what I wrote here and take it the wrong way, or take it personally or out of context. It makes me feel foolish to think I wrote anything that could be interpreted as unkind about others.

This is completely off the cuff, I’m barely editing as I go along… just realize that when you read a blog or a book or an essay, you’re reading the parts of life that the author wants you to see, not the whole picture. There are loopholes in language and storytelling that help a writer tailor a story to what she thinks the audience wants to hear. Or what she thinks she believes.

So, Tiger, family members, friends, if I’ve written something you want to talk to me about, please ask.


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5 thoughts on “A False Sense of Anonymity

  1. I’ve had to deal with family members criticizing my stuff or feeling offended by my take on certain issues. Sometimes it makes me want to stop . . . but I have never fully let them get to me. You have never been unkind. Far from it.

    • Thanks. I think it was more jarring to realize that people I didn’t know were aware of the blog were, possibly, aware of it. All because of tech gadgets! I feel like I have to censor myself so much if people who know me personally are reading, and I hate that. I try NOT to, but as I said, in hindsight, when I read over past posts, I can tell where I did that.

  2. Dear God! I know this ALL TOO WELL. My ex actually sent me an email, when my blog was a baby, correcting something I’d written about. I have had parents at my preschool approach me and tell me that they read my blog regularly. It worries me, a tiny bit, because of what you said about trying to capture how you feel at a certain moment. And how sometimes it doesn’t come across as you intended it to.

    I wrote a post about stuff my ex has missed in our children’s lives, and got some bitchy comment about how I am obviously “not over him” and that the essay I wrote “proves you think about him all the time”. I tried to explain to that person, to little avail, that I sat up in bed one night and wrote the essay in about 20 minutes. And that it was just a snippet of what goes through my mind in an entire day.

    Anne Lamott: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

    Keep on writing, sister!

    • Thanks for the encouragement! It left me questioning whether I should keep going or not. I do think I’ll stop writing about people I’m seeing until I’m sure they are 100% out of the picture!

      Yes, the potential for misinterpretation or misrepresentation is what worries me most!

      LOVE the Lamott quote.

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