Last weekend I went to the A Practical Wedding book talk in Brooklyn. It was a lovely event, and getting the chance to meet a bunch of #nosybitches was just as fun, delightful, and heartwarming as I expected it to be. But you’ll have to turn to their blogs for a recap of that, because I want to get meta on you guys.
One thing Meg addressed in her book talk was the boundary she maintains between her Real Life and her Blogged Portrayal of that Life, and how valuable that privacy is to her. She noted (quoting other wise women of Internet Note whose specific identities I cannot recall) a) that anything you put on the internet no longer really belongs to you [see also, that weird (although flattering) moment where you see one of your wedding photos on somebody's "wedding pinspiration" Pinterest board] b) anything you put on the internet you are opening to commentary, some of which may be negative (cf., the nightmare that someone could pin a picture of you on a pinboard titled “BARF” or “Who does this bitch think she is?” or “Great Snaggleteeth of Our Times”).
I feel greatly ambivalent about this subject. The thing about my blogging style that gets the best response is that I’m open and honest. And writing openly and honestly (I just typed hopenly, which is a cool not-word) is the most self-beneficial thing I do with this blog. It helps me process my feelings, and it connects me to my readers in a very valuable way. I still get emails thanking me for the post on depression I wrote that ran on A Practical Wedding almost a year ago. Honestly, I see the writing and publishing of that piece as the dividing line between when my depression was its worst and the gradual climb through recovery I’m still going through now. And the value of that writing experience was a big part of what pushed me to write a draft of my memoir.
But when I work on editing (let’s be real: rewriting) my memoir, I feel this terrible hesitation. What am I working for? Would I really want people to read this? Not because it is terrible (it is terrible, but I remain confident I can edit it comfortably past the point of terribleness), but because it is too revealing. But the honest telling of my story is the only thing that would make it worth reading. It helps that I’m clever with words and a good storyteller, but it is not nearly enough. The HERE’S THE REAL FUCKING TRUTH aspect of my memoir is its only shot at being actually valuable.
But that transparency also makes me feel terribly vulnerable. Writing on HitchDied, I am only exposing myself to dozens of readers, not the thousands that Meg has. And when I contributed to A Practical Wedding, I was shielded from the negative comments by strict moderation. My other (terribly neglected) blog, Double R Diner, which I started last year with the hopes of finding a vibrant community of readers like the one I’ve enjoyed with HitchDied to ramble feminist-style about pop culture with, gets a small fraction of the traffic HitchDied does, but much if not MOST of the comments lef there are, well, mean. (In contrast, I’ve NEVER had to take down a comment on HitchDied, and I’ve been insulted by… maybe one? I can’t even remember. So I couldn’t have been that insulted.). When you explicitly say you are being feminist, there’s a certain section of the internet dedicated to hunting your blog down and lengthily commenting to explain why you are not only wrong but also a terrible person (I’ve taken down the worst personal attack-type comments, but feel free to browse what remains for some great examples of mansplaining). I KNEW that would be the case, because well, I read feminist blogs, but I didn’t expect it to be so demoralizing. It’s the primary reason that blog never got off the ground. I didn’t feel like putting in the work on a new post just to get yelled at. I’m not tough enough.
And that’s when I’m talking about what I thought about the latest Britney single or episode of The Simpsons, not how my heart felt when my parents died. So I’m conflicted about putting in the work (because it would be SO MUCH WORK) to finish my memoir and, oy gevalt, maybe even try to get it published. Because the only way to do that would be to shed the privacy I’d suddenly need again if my memoir found a readership. I don’t know if the emotional transparency I’m talking about is prudent for anyone, and even if it could be, if it would ever feel acceptable to me.
I’m not sure what the solution here is, but I have a sinking feeling it is “scrub myself from the internet and get a real job.” Which I’m pinning on my BARF board.