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.

* * * Please connect! I love comments! * * *


Mama_Bear_Sarah said...

same reasons i had to move my blog and make it less "findable," unfortunately.

people don't like to the hear the truth, especially the more painful truths. and i don't have much of a filter myself. i find now that all the things i want to blog about, i don't because i can't deal with the stress of the possible fallout and accusations from his family that i'm exploiting him or destroying his legacy as they so eloquantly put it.

Janelle said...

You have done far more interesting things with your blog and grief journey than I have with mine because you were able to be very real--in secret. I ended up sticking to a lot of generalizations because if the real stories came up under my name someone would be very insulted.

I truly love what you are doing and how you are reaching out in so many authentic ways to other widows/ers.

If the truth be told, part of why I ended up doing my book in poetry form is because you can hide name and change genders. Okay so a more significant reason is that my poetic descriptions carried more power than my prose. But your prose tells it like it is. So hide your identity as long as you need to.

Nicole Sands said...

The sole reason I censor everything I say... I don't want to offend anybody. And I don't want those who care for me to turn their backs, finally realising I was right to call myself a bitch!

“Sure, I could give you the URL – but I’d have to kill your partner first." - One of the funniest lines I read in a LONG time!

annie said...

I simply don't share my blog on purpose. If someone finds it, is is via someone else or by accident.

I don't generally censor though I do try to word things carefully (that doesn't always help judging by your FB page today - but I think grief promotes selective reading comprehension sometimes b/c we are spoiling for a fight and determined to find offense even if we have to misunderstand to do it).

I've blogged personally and for other sites for so long now - openly and honestly - I sometimes worry I could never get a real job again if I needed to. Water under the bridge.

Bitterlee said...

My ten-year old livejournal is used for the purpose of real flaming and venting. When I started my blog, I wanted people to know who we were and who we lost. Sometimes I wish it was more anonymous, simply because I'm a Christian who has a potty mouth and most of my bretheren freak out a little. But I am who I am, and I'm ok with that. Vagina stories will have to stay hidden in El
Jay Land ;)

Anonymous said...

Oh I hear you. I have a supa-sekrit support group on FB who are gracious enough to allow me to vent my spleen to them when I need to. That way, I can get out the vinegar and then blog the stuff that's generally OK for public consumption, still with a degree of anonymity. Of course, I've still password protected the odd post to protect myself if the need ever arises.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to read your perspective on this. When I started my blog, just a few weeks after my husband's suicide, I made a deliberate decision not to hide behind a pseudonym or keep the blog unsearchable. I'm me, and I'm real and honest... and sometimes more raw than people in my life can handle, but that's their problem, not mine. I do wonder how I'm going to handle it when I'm ready to start dating again, since my family (including my parents-in-law and teenage stepdaughter) read my blog... but that's a bridge I don't need to cross for quite some time.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Sarah, Point taken, and you're not the first one. So sorry you went through this.
Janelle, I certainly don't think I've done "far more interesting things" but thank you. I loved your book and will be sharing on it soon.
Nicola, thank you.
Annie, yeah, I wonder if I can ever toe any line again after all this.
Bitterlee, WAIT!!! I don't know your LJ!!! :-)
Deararl, thanks for sharing another way to do it. I didn't know about password protecting posts when I started but yes, it's an option now. Perhaps I can do some hybrid and still tell my boss' vagina story...
Hourbeforedawn, I thought about being public as part of my testimony but I just wasn't as brave, or was more afraid of my own ugly parts, or something. Thanks for sharing your story, and taking it one day at a time.
Hugs to all!


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