Recently a friend articulated concern that my blog is not entirely anonymous. In many ways I regret that: forfeiting complete blanket obscurity. I was so desperate for readers, you see, that I doled out the blog address like sweeties to anyone who was prepared to write it down (actually … that’s not strictly true: I think I recall bombaring everybody on my contacts list with it when I sent a mail shot to alert them to my new email address, including my somewhat startled gynaecologist and equally perplexed bank manager). And being a lazy correspondent (I know: an anomaly given the way I talk in cyberspace) I thought it’d be a handy way for anybody remotely interested in keeping vaguely in touch with this particular family’s movements at a – then, blog inception – precarious time in our lives, to do so.
But I wish I’d been more secretive.
Fellow bloggers, some despite creeping fame, manage to keep their identity firmly and warmly wrapped in the cloak of inscrutability. Some bloggers guard their anonymity fiercely and are only called, and sign themselves off, Iota, or Potty Mummy. Some I have corresponded with outside the veil of blogland; they have sworn me to silence: don’t reveal my real name. I won’t, I promised. I wonder if the bloggers whose notoriety has led to publishing deals and columns on broadsheets miss their anonymity? The freedom that it lends to language and story telling? Some bloggers disguise themselves so well that readers are deceived even as to their gender.
My concerned friend wrote, somebody alerted me to blogger who posts as mzungu chick; she was getting absolutely hammered on her blog. Nasty nasty nasty stuff in the comments, You know I love that you, x and y talk about your lives so openly, but I worry about you and horrible people knowing about you and where you are, what you do etc.
I told her she was dear. And not to worry. I’m a housewife in the middle of nowhere in Africa; you’d have to really object to my fairly benign posts about pickling, dogs, kids, walks on dams and bread that won’t rise to come this far out to shut me up. You’d have to really, really mind what I wrote about to make the journey worthwhile.
No, of course, I don’t wish I’d hung onto my anonymity because I fear for my life. Or my safety. Or even because I’m scared my feelings will be hurt. Nor even so that I could rant unabated about the cows I rant inwardly about most of the time. No, I wish I’d hung onto it so that I could be a little more frank in my writing. Universal worries stalk us all: it would be liberating to throw some into the – usually very supportive and responsive – arena of a blog. But not when you know that some of the people who might read you absolutely know who you are. I don’t want to out my dilemmas or my failings as mine. I just want to out them as another invisible, un-named (at least not insofar as my own name) blogger’s.
There have been a few recently – of those universal worries, of those failings, of those dilemmas of keep-you-awake-at-night dimensions – that I’d have loved to have described. To spin words about a worry usually helps to untangle it. And the unravelling is often hastened when you can throw it into the forum of blogsphere. Once, overcome by loneliness, I wrote a post which generated a – for this particular blog– huge response. Readers weren’t just kind; they proffered practical suggestions as to how to feel better. I couldn’t have told some friends and acquaintances how I felt that day. But some friends and acquaintances discovered anyway (because, foolishly, I’d handed out the blog address willy-nilly) and a heartfelt and overwhelming isolation was translated – a little bit smugly in the odd case – as ‘she’s not coping, you know’. That I didn’t mind. What I minded was that my husband read my blog that day. And he knew it was me who felt lonely and sad and lost.
My friend Janelle says I must just write what I want, ‘Just write, man’, she urges, ‘who cares what people might think of you or what you say or how you say it, man!’ And she laughed and threw her arms open as if to gesture I ought not to care what anybody in the Whole Wide World might care what I blog/blab about. She’s like that: a cheerful two fingers up to stuffy conformity. But then my friend at Ngorobob House admits a wee bit sheepishly and in mildly confessional tone, to owning a second blog. And she won’t give me that address …
The thing is: it’s not what other people think about me that I mind. (I stopped caring about that sometime in 2001, when most of the people I knew had a view on an action I had taken and most felt at liberty to vocalize their disappointment and disgust vociferously). No. I don’t care what anybody thinks of me. But I’d hate anything I said about the lives of any of those I love most in the world to impinge upon them. I can spill my own secrets, that’s my prerogative and I’m big enough to cope with the fallout.
But not theirs. Never theirs. Because then they won’t be secret anymore.
They won’t be secret enough.
So. The question remains. To be (me)? Or not to be (me)?
Or you, for that matter?