Monday, August 10, 2009

who am i?

There are many mes. (I refuse to use an apostrophe for a word that is neither possessive nor a contraction, but the plural of "me" does look very strange.) I don't mean in a clinical, multiple personality disorder sort of way. Rather, I wear different faces/hats/pants in different aspects of my life. Maybe it's more accurate to say there are multiple versions of me (also doesn't look so weird). They are more alike than different, but they are distinct. They sometimes overlap, they occasionally collide, and I find myself struggling to decide how separate I want them to be.

Most people have some separation of church and state, don't they? Separation between who they are at work/school/church/bingo and who they are at home/the bar/online/bowling, or where ever they feel at ease. For some these lines are bright and clear. For others they might be blurry, even nonexistent. I do have lines. They fade in and out, sometimes to my detriment, but they're there. Here are a few of the mes (there's that word again) I know.

  1. Work me: Veneer of professionalism. Moderated sarcasm and snarkyness. Confident. Capable. Reduced use of profanity. Somewhat detached. In the course of my working life, more of my true self has come out, but work me is still several steps removed from who I think I really am.
  2. Real life me: Who I am with people I know well. More relaxed. Funnier (I think). Laugh easily. Cry sometimes. Say fuck a lot. Give hugs. A bit self conscious. Avoid confrontation. Keep things light. 
  3. Blog me: Not so different from real life me. A bit more thoughtful. Certainly better edited (I think!). Brave enough to say things I might not say elsewhere. Wise enough to hold back some I might regret. I explore things I rarely talk about, and no one gets to interrupt me. I crave attention comments. I like to know you're there, and what you think.
  4. Twitter me: Almost no filter. Self-assured (mostly). Flirty. Hilariously funny (I'm certain). Brave in my relative anonymity, yet supportive and (mostly) friendly. As long as you can read sarcasm.  

Identity is funny. Mercurial, you might say. No one is who they were yesterday, yet we remain who we are (witness protection and sex changes notwithstanding). Identity and blogging have an interesting relationship. Some bloggers create a persona completely separate from who they are in life. A nom de plume. Their blog world is completely separate from their real world. Friends and family may not know they blog. Blog readers don't know their real name or their families names. Mr. Lady and BHJ are in this camp. Mr. Lady recently flirted with taking down the wall and revealing her real name on her blog. BHJ, by contrast, shut down his much loved (by me, anyway) blog and started a new one after being discovered by some folks from life he did NOT want knowing about his blogself. I respect this path. Sometimes I envy it. They can write anything they want, yet all the while flirt with potentially damaging exposure. It's a bit like working for the CIA. Ok, only a little, but still.

Others take the opposite approach. Heather's last name is in the title of her blog. Dooce, the most popular "mommy blogger" there is(?), shares her name, her city, photos of herself. I presume these people started their blogs to share their lives with friends and family. It made no sense to hide who they were. The fact they've become widely read and followed was not part of any plan, it just happened. In any case, they chose the path of openness.  

I'm somewhere between. I use our real first names, but not our last name. I talk about where we live. There are photos of us on the blog. My parents read and comment regularly. Many friends know I blog. I link to my blog on Facebook. I don't hide it. 

You might think Mr. Lady and BHJ's recent musings on this topic inspired this post, and perhaps they did. But the real trigger? Business cards. Yes, business cards. You see, I'm faced with another question of how separate these worlds should be. I'm looking for new employment. Do I put my blog on the card I'll use to look for a job?  In exploring what I might want to do, writing comes up as something I enjoy and would like to do more. This blog is an example of my writing. For now, it is the best, certainly the most readily available example of my writing. Yet I hesitate to reveal it to prospective employers, at least initially. I blog about my kids, but also drugs and kids toys that look like vibrators. I say fuck a lot. The name of the blog is badass dad. How seriously can anyone take THAT? 

I've already faced some consequences of the various versions of me intersecting. A comment I made on Facebook resulted in a talking to from my boss about setting a professional example as a manager. An email I got from a friend, misdirected to a colleague I didn't know, which just happened to mention ass fucking, also got me in some trouble at work. And my comment on Twitter about how in California we can buy booze anywhere and have all the anal sex we want raised some eyebrows when a coworker discovered it. (No it seems like I'm obsessed with anal sex. Another blog post for the resume!)

I don't like having to hide. But again, perhaps this is what everyone does, to a degree. This blog, Twitter, and Facebook have created a scenario where things that would traditionally have been semi-private are now quite public, and can have real consequences. This may have worked out well for Dooce. Not sure I want to bank on the same happening for me.

When I was an adolescent searching for meaning in the universe, I came upon Richard Bach's Illusions. New agey, yes, but exactly what I as a curious, thoughtful, lovesick, non-religious youth needed. There are many things about that book I still believe and work to hold in mind. One in particular I do my best to live by:

"Live never to be ashamed if anything you do or say is published around the world. Even if what is published is not true." 

I think it means own who you are and what you do. Be secure in your self-knowledge, and unconcerned with the opinions of others. 

But how do you do that in daily life? How does that stand up to the need for a paycheck? I'd love to work for someone who knows and embraces all I am. But I'd also like to pay my mortgage and feed my family. Can these things be one and the same?

The answer I came to was no, for now. No blog address on the cards. Name, phone, email. There's plenty of room to write on the card. If it makes sense, I can always scratch it in.

How about you? Are you friends with your mom on Facebook? Does your boss know you blog? Are your yous fully integrated, or are there streams you just don't cross?


Saturday, August 1, 2009

girls and their toys

As a father of boys, I consider myself lucky. When it comes to buying toys for my kids, I know if I get them something I think is cool, they'll be totally happy. Spaceships, super heroes, dinosaurs, pirates — none of this is a stretch for me. But what about all the fathers of girls out there?

I have a friend. A single father of an adorable little 4-year old girl. He loves her, and of course like any father wants her to be happy. He mans up and doesn't balk when she wants unicorns and princesses and frilly dresses and all manner of girly things. So he didn't think twice about buying her a pink princess bubble wand. All hearts and flowers and little stars, it looked perfectly innocent and completely girly. Everything seemed right in her little pink princess world. Then he turned it upside down.

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