Why I write an anonymous blog
It was a no-brainer, when I started this blog, to use a pseudonym. I was a single mother with a young child, living alone. I was angry, and expected that I could use the forum to say nasty things about everyone in my life: my dysfunctional family, Gavin's family, my nemeses in the neighborhood association, local politicians, George Bush, my lawyers, and even my friends. It’s not that I hold my punches in person, but I know myself well enough – and as a Mom, I’m prudent – to know I’d have more fun with a mask on. It would be prudent to shield my real life friends and associates from my deepest everythings.
Perhaps it would have been more mature to simply respect about my friends' feelings, or solve problems offline before blogging about them. I am -- demonstrably -- more capable, better with people, than I thought that dark night as I opened my Blogger account. But why take the chance and lose what seemed like the last shreds of the world that cared for me?
At 40, I accept that I have a chronic problem with honesty, I’m direct to the point of bluntness sometimes, with tendencies toward oversharing and occasional exhibitionism. Also, I was volunteering for an advocacy organization while working for a company that prohibited employees from lobbying: it made sense to keep two different worlds separate.
If you want to be really honest online, it helps to lie about who you are. At BlogHer09, I heard a particularly ugly testimony from a woman whose husband encouraged her to write a blog, and then used what she wrote there as evidence against her having custody a few years later, when they ended up in divorce court.
My stage of life dictated staying quiet, too. I was planning to date and talk about reentering the world of single people at 40, with a kid and a loss and my usual attitude. What if someone found my account of a date and changed their mind about how it went? Would it be better to lie to them about having a blog at all?
As it turned out, I have never really been mean here – there’s been more than enough else to talk about. I got remarried, and don’t feel as vulnerable any more. And when I was dating, I didn’t have any excess energy to write about the experience. If I had a bad date, I had to go home, grab a beer, and start window-shopping on Match.com right away; if I had a good date… well, I’d be too busy to write. I wrote those dates up two years later and I doubt most of those guys would even recognize themselves.
Being a widow is about not fitting in any more, and even though I wasn’t probably ever in real harmony, anywhere, it was still convenient to be Dr. Jekyll in public and morph into Mr. Hyde after dark, or online, or in another universe.
Anyway, having a little secret and then not keeping it very secret was a terrific way to act out my passive-aggression. I loved being able to tell people in social settings, “Oh yeah – I have an anonymous blog.” (Poor suckers didn’t know whether or not to ask how to find it.) If I was feeling punchy, I’d let them walk away wondering which big deal on the Internet was me. If I was feeling polite, I’d follow up with, “Sure, I could give you the URL – but I’d have to kill your partner first. Ha, ha. No, seriously, I only write about death and dying so you probably wouldn’t like it.”
Being anonymous is more provocative on Facebook, where I often friend my readers, who mostly use the channel for their real-life friends.
But this fake identity was growing to become the one that was making an impact on the world. The Fresh Widow was helping people, generating her own ideas, and building up a little community. To do anything in the real world, I needed the credibility and connections I’d built up online. As this avocation turned into a hobby and then something like a professional pursuit – as I was accepted to speak at a national conference – I am at the stage now where, slowly, I am “coming out” and connecting this persona to my real name.
There’s still one reason I’m holding out, a little: I have this awesome story about my boss’s vagina. And there’s no way in hell I’m going to be Googleable until after that story gets told and fades.
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