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The Emperor's New Clothes
My blog is my little narcissistic home away from home. In my corporeal life, my friends and family tend to get annoyed if I spend too much time naval gazing, talking about myself, or whining about my real (or imagined) problems. In the blog world, people seem to enjoy reading about my foibles and frequently come back for more.

Of course, part of that return readership is no doubt related to the dialogue and rapport we establish on our blogs. But let's face it, part of the appeal of blog reading is the glimpse we get into someone else's life. That life may be one you envy, one you relate to, or one that makes you feel superior and relieved to be you. Sometimes it's all of those. Frequently it's all of those.

I know that I personally enjoy reading about politics, social issues, and things we can do to make a difference. But the blogs posts that haunt me are personal. They incorporate real experiences, real relationships, and real problems into hauntingly beautiful writing. It's like a never ending novel with my favorite characters. But I get to keep reading about Lizzie and Mr. Darcy's life after their marriage. I read about their restrained arguments, fertility problems, and intolerable in-laws.

Sometimes, I get to meet my favorite characters in person.

When I think about the things I leave off of my blog and cloak in "privacy," I frequently try to compare it to writing a novel. I ask myself "if I put this fight with my husband in a book with different names, would he be angry?" The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. But a blog is different. There is no line stating "any resemblance to real people is entirely coincidental" to hide behind. We aren't characters in a novel. This is my life out there for all the world to Google, read, and judge.

So how do I maintain that thin, but important, veil of privacy around those I love?

I do have certain rules. I don't blog about my sex life or my personal relationship with my husband. This has left some readers with the impression that T is annoyingly perfect. Trust me when I say he is anything but perfect. He's a hell of a lot closer to it than I am, but no one is perfect. But our marriage and the trust we have to share our innermost feelings is far more important than a blog post. T's issues are not mine to share. They belong to him. My issues with T are not mine to share. They belong to us.

I also refrain from blogging about family problems. As with my relationship with my husband, trust is more important than airing my parents' dirty laundry. That's why I have a therapist!

I don't blog about work. I have no desire to be Dooced, destroy my relationships with opposing counsel and co-workers, or be disbarred.

Those are the easy rules.

The hardest rules are those with my children. That's a post for another day because I don't have 5 hours to share my thoughts (and guilt) about their privacy.

What about other people I interact with or people from my past? They fall into a gray area. I can't avoid blogging about any of my personal relationships or this would be a pretty boring blog. But I do have to think about how I would feel if that person found my blog. Or how I would feel if anyone from my past found my blog.

I've written about a painful relationship and break up I had in my early twenties and my still, somewhat, unresolved feelings about the whole matter. How would I feel if my ex-boyfriend read my post about him? How would he feel? I don't think I would be upset. In fact, I know I wouldn't. I would never post something about someone I know that I wouldn't tell them in person if they asked.

But the ex? I have a feeling he might be a bit upset about my revelations about his more recent past. I would apologize for hurting him, but I don't think I would remove the post. If he had confidentially shared the information about his past, I would never have written the post in the first place. But he didn't and ultimately the post is more about me than anyone else.

I was forced to think about my invisible cloak of privacy because two people I knew in high school are now occasionally reading my blog (Hi, K! Hi, B!) one of whom I suspect had a crush on me once upon a time.... (Or maybe I'm projecting.) Somehow it's easier to think of strangers reading my intimate thoughts about a deeply personal topic than it is to think of friends who knew me and my ex-boyfriend, who knew the people we were then.

Happily Ever After was one of the most personal posts I've ever written. It says a lot about me and who I am now. And so, ultimately, I guess I'm happy to have anyone who knew me then, know me now.

When you're looking at me on display in all my naked glory? Just try to ignore the stretch marks.

This post is for Julie's weekly Hump Day Hmmm.

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Blogger Girlplustwo said...

i love the way you wrote about Julie's topic (your topic!) this week.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I've confessed at another Hump Day Hmmm Post, I feel free to post the snippy/funny anecdotes of my life. It gives me a release of tension, and let me think of and use creative aliases. But I draw the line at speaking about deep, deep marital issues.

I love your footer/disclaimer about not dispensing legal advice. It is very funny. And I'm sure you get pestered about it.

Blogger Sunshine said...

I do that self-edit too, wondering if there was something I wrote about my spouse that I wouldn't say to his face and wanted to complain and/or be upset with him about, would it hurt his feelings if I share it with the whole universe?

I think it's ok to divulge personal information, but sometimes it's better to keep it personal...I totally get it.

Blogger Nancy said...

I agree, personal is personal. But some of the "just this side of personal" topics ... seem to be easier for me to share with the unknown reader. It's therapy.

Oh, and no one will call me playing 20 questions like a friend or family member would =)

I like your format, just enough to make it personal, but with respect to your family's privacy.

Blogger blooming desertpea said...

I wouldn't want my friends to read my blog, nor my family, even if I don't write anything about them. But maybe I am just not there yet.

Writing things about others is not as easy as it seems but I think anything can be written if we write it under the code of respect.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a particularly vexed topic for me, which is why I purge so frequently. You'd have to work hard to find my sister, but she wouldn't have to work hard to find my blog.

Blogger Bon said...

i have a lot of the same rules as you, but i chafe at a few of them. not the marital stuff, because that feels private to me and like it can be worked out in private. but some of my "real life" i'd love to work out in writing because there's really nowhere else to work it out, too much dysfunction and absence in certain primary relationships for me to do anything except fix my attitude towards it, since i cannot fix the other people's way of approaching it. and for that, i someimes wish i wrote more anonymously.

Blogger Defiantmuse said...

I was actually thinking a lot about this topic last night. There are many things I would like to blog about but I know it would really bother Mr. Egg. So I don't. It's a fine line to walk - the whole purpose of a blog is to have a space to express yourself but taking into account other's feelings about being included in that. There are also many comments I'd like to make about our family but I hold myself back for fear that they'll read it and I'll never hear the end of it. Although it's not much of a secret that we come from white trash, is it? Oops. Did I just type that? I think I did.

Blogger Velma said...

I've been pondering this issue a lot lately, too. No one in my real life reads my blog, as far as I know, but I can't fool myself into thinking I'll always stay invisible. And if those realities intersect, then what?

Hmmm... lots to think about. Thanks.

Blogger Julie Pippert said...

A long time ago I found the Internet and subsequently its message boards. Having been duly warned about the scary and dangerous freaks I'd meet online (where are all those weirdos? am I the weirdo?), I used a nom de web. It was an emotional time in life, and I tried to adhere to my better self personal standards (versus my gutter side, which is not vanquished), but sometimes I failed. But I became as invested in that fake name as I was in my own, and the times I found myself wanting to go dickwad, I squelched it because it would require a new name. I knew how it felt to be maligned by veiled people I knew. I could never do that.

I learned a lot from that.

And I think it's the source for my POV on this issue.

So when my husband unthinkingly set up my blog with my real name, I left it. How better to be true to myself than to be myself, online.

But also I think what we say and do wrt others is as reflective of us as them, KWIM?

Great guidelines and explanations.

Blogger Gwen said...

While I like your post, I did not like this topic, not one little bit. It just made me feel guilty all the way around, because what constitutes good manners seems to be, Emily Post notwithstanding, more than a little subjective. This guilt has nothing to do with you, by the way, and everything to do with me.

(at least I have the same husband rules. whew!)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But our marriage and the trust we have to share our innermost feelings is far more important than a blog post. T's issues are not mine to share. They belong to him. My issues with T are not mine to share. They belong to us."

Dead on, LM. I was recently irritated when an "A List" blogger carried on for days after a vacation with her husband didn't go as planned and she complained about and humiliated him on her blog and Twitter feeds. While I could identify with her hurt feelings and disappointment, I couldn't understand for the life of me why she didn't have more respect for her husband and her marriage to work it out offline.

Certainly, my husband's issues affect me, and I could excuse myself in writing about them in that they are a par of my story. But I guess I haven't felt so compelled to tell my story that I'm willing to disrupt our bond or the trust he has put in me as his partner for life.

Blogger Moondance said...

This is a big issue for me, too, as you know. I have been struggling with starting a new blog, becasue I, like Julie, have become too invested in this name and the relationships I have with other bloggers, to touch upon some of the deep family-of-origin issues I need to explore in writing. I've told only a few trusted frineds where to find me online, but I have to decide if I want them to see that part of me.

But above ALL, I have this line between personal and professional life where I don't want to do or say anything slightly questionable or offensive that may diminish me in the eyes of any current or potential client. I don't know where I got that from, or why I am so afraid of it. it may not even be true. But someone in law school must have said or done something that makes staying ananymous to casual googlers so very important to me. But within that anonymity, I'm just me, and anything goes.

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