Cool or Creepy?

Friend: I saw your powertool ex-husband at [Boston restaurant] the other night.

Dorothy: I know you're telling me this for a reason.

Friend: He introduced me to his "fiancé."

Dorothy: And?

Friend: AND: she looked a whole lot like you, but not as pretty.

Dorothy: (thinking)

Friend: Hello? Did you hear what I said?

Dorothy: Yeah. I think that kind of freaks me out.

Friend: I think it's awesome. Maybe he's been pining over you for all these years.

Dorothy: That's even worse!

Friend: Really? You don't even have a little secret joy?

Dorothy: Okay. Maybe a little. But it's more ick than joy.

But I can't deny the little joy. I'm such a ridiculous child sometimes.


Chapter 36, Part 2

I've been thinking about how we can absorb other people's labels into ourselves.  We take on some of them willingly, incorporate them into our lives - mother, father, husband, wife.  Others - caretaker, cook, housekeeper, breadwinner - we mix in out of habit because other people have so long identified us thus, either verbally, or in action.

We can lose who we are and what we want to be to what other people think we are or want us to be.

I have never, truly, identified myself as a writer.  And the word 'yogini' is not a favorite of mine.  I identify myself as artistic (but not an artist), as a person with OCD-like tendencies, as a lover of words.  I identify myself as smart and relatively unemotional.  I am a good cook.  I appreciate good food.  I am a good listener and a good friend.

If you looked at my Facebook profile, you would get the impression that I identify myself  as a person who doesn't like identifying herself in public.  My profile contains minimal information.  Facebook then misleads people because they changed "Likes" to "Favorites" so now, friends who asked me to "Like" their band, page, cat, are listed as "Favorites" even though I only just like them - or felt obligated.  You'd see that I've been to some concerts and that I like the Bay Area from my pictures.  And that's about it.

If you read through this blog, you'd know somewhat more about me - that I'm fairly easily annoyed and don't tolerate willful idiocy well.  Or will you?  Are those things I know and therefore assume other people see?  Are those labels I want you to use?  In this case, you'd probably see it, too, but I shouldn't foist my labels on you.

Online personae vs. real-life personae make identity concepts even more difficult than they were before.  What I say to you here isn't always what I'd say in person.  The mask of anonymity  is supposed to (according to myth and Hollow Man) allow us to be our real selves.  But I think online identity has shown this idea to be muddy.  And I think it's muddy because the person we most want to lie to about who we are is ourself.

This led me to think about what makes us who we are. Is it how we label ourselves?  Is it how we present ourselves to others?  Is it our legacy?  Or is it everything?

Obviously, we don't all have lots of faces, but we all have a few. Mostly, I think they're fairly nuanced differences we project, but not always.  And with the addition of the internet, identity becomes more complicated than ever. Even what to do with our online identities after we die is up for grabs*, mostly.  What's out there digitally is, essentially, immortal.  Sure, all of it can be deleted, but that's only if someone knows it's there to delete.

If I died after writing this blog post, Matt could, technically go delete my Google account, my email accounts, my Facebook page. He has my passwords. But there's stuff out there that he doesn't even know exists. Not because I keep it secret, but because, as an enthusiastic user of things digital, I've created accounts/identities  I know I've forgotten about.

So it's conceivable that some piece will remain even after the known parts are gone. Is that forgotten piece still, really, me?  If I forgot about it, it probably wasn't a big or important part of me. It may even be an incomplete piece. Could someone get a sense of the real me from that?  Does it matter?

Does it matter how people I don't know identify me?  I'm not a public figure. I don't need votes or poll numbers, so do I care?  I don't know.

In general, I'd have to say that I don't really care what strangers think of me, but if we're talking about a remnant of something giving an inaccurate impression?  I don't know. Because in the end I don't know what makes me, me.

It's all of what I present and, simultaneously, none of it that forms my self identity.

We often talk about the importance of knowing who we are, but we are so many things at the same time that it's hard to sift through it to create a cohesive identity for ourselves that I don't find it at all surprising that some of us never quite understand ourselves - especially without help.  Am I Dorothy?  Yes, but I'm also not Dorothy.  Dorothy is part of me, but she's also things I'm not.  At least not anywhere else but here.  And this is why it's so hard to pin down an identity.  Whether I ever get it all or not, though, I'm still out here in my little boat, oars in the oatmeal, rowing, rowing, rowing - and maybe that's just how it has to be sometimes.

I read a couple of really interesting pieces on identity since I started this post a thousand years ago.  *Cyberspace When You're Dead by Rob Walker and this one, In A Flash by Dragnfly at SMITH Magazine.  And another one that's peripherally related, Thelma, Louise and All the Pretty Women by Carina Chocano.



To my niece:

It will take a few more years, but life becomes much less embarrassing. Even in a couple of years, your parents and grandparents and I will all lose our innate ability to humiliate you.

After a while, you'll realize that embarrassing shit happens to us all. Usually, and most horribly, at our own hands. After you get your first (and only) restaurant job - as hostess - and then, at the end of your first week, miss the last step of a wood staircase and go sailing across the restaurant with your skirt over your head and don't die of embarrassment, things get easier. And easier still after the day you spent swimming with a crush, unaware that the water made your new swimsuit completely see-through. Or the time you accidentally sent the rather explicit email intended for your best friend about your crush to your crush instead. Once you lock yourself out of your apartment with no pants on, fly headlong over your bicycle handlebars on a busy San Francisco street, walk back from lunch with your skirt tucked into your pantyhose, knock over the Caesar salad tableside service cart while trying to get your arm in your coat, you're all set for the time you sneeze and have a giant string of snot shoot out of your nose while you're doing a presentation. It'll be a piece of cake to fall backwards off a bar stool while you're trying to be cool and coy with that dude you really like and snort-laugh at a relatively unfunny joke told by a dashing celebrity at an Academy Awards party. By the time you split your skirt on a date, you'll be laughing so hard you won't have time to be really embarrassed.

Really. I promise. Because it happens to everyone. And at the very least, you can take comfort in knowing that all of the incidents listed above are from my own repertoire.


Chapter 36, Part I

“A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?” -Albert Einstein

I have a tendency to live on the depressive side of life.  It's in my genes.  Between both sides of my family, at least 95% of us are a tad, well, 'off.'  We have a couple of full-blown schizophrenics, one with schizoaffective disorder, one with bipolar disorder, several with serious, clinical depression, even more with shades of OCD, a host of anxiety disorders, and a few eating (mostly overeating) disorders.  So the fact that I get a bit blue at times is no real shock.

I find that I am a bit depressed lately.  There's no "why" - which is hard for Matt to understand.  It's just how it is.  I have been horribly depressed in my life.  I've had the bell jar descend.  This isn't what's happening now.  I'm just a little down.  But it's enough that I find I don't have much energy to do things.

I have no real desire to write.  I have no real desire to even leave the house.  So I've been thinking a lot.

I am older than Mozart when he died, older, too than Janis Joplin, James, Dean, Jimmy Hendrix, Emily and Anne Bronte, and Sylvia Plath.  Who would they have become had they lived longer?

I am eligible to be President - not that I want to be, but I could be.  That thought, though, brings up a lot of things I could be/have been.  And that brings me to all that I have been:  All of the renditions and editions of me that have passed through the world.

I have left parts of myself - pages, chapters - all over the country, balled up or ripped out or just forgotten in a diner booth somewhere.  I have picked up new pages, written new chapters, added paragraphs, too.  I have cobbled together a whole identity, with the additions and subtractions evening out over the course of my life; these amendments being made in an effort (though not always successful) to improve myself.

I don't know why the idea of identity and labels  have been on my mind so often lately, but they have.  I've thought  of how we present ourselves, how we remember ourselves, how we change personae to to fit situations.  It fascinates me.

Can we change at will?  Some of us can, I think, and sometimes.  Mostly, though, while the potential  is there, we don't want to change.  We can't imagine  being other than what we are.  Which is why so many of us become trapped by our own limited vision of ourselves.  Addicts cant let go of addictions, we can't put down  old, worn out dreams that belong to past lives, past selves.

Not that it's an everything-must-go situations, but as I think about where I am, I realize that, at any point, I could have become anyone.  And it makes me feel a little better that I still can become anyone.


Friends with money?

I recently lost a friend to wealth.  She married someone famous, which helped her further her own career.  This was awesome for her.  In the last few years, though, she's lost her grip.  Whereas I'm stressed about mortgage payments, getting my health insurance right, and paying off student loans, she's stressed about getting her beach house renovation done before summer, whether her au pair can travel with them, and what 'service' they're going to get to take care of their penthouse in New York while they're away for the summer and possibly longer while her husband is on location.  It's like trying to be friends with Oprah.  She's forgotten what it's like not to be able to do, literally, anything she wants to do.

I realized that our friendship was over when she said something about the beach house being 'only' 3,500 square feet, after saying she saw a dress at Carolina Herrera that she thought I should buy.  Yeah.

We really have nothing left in common besides a past.  It's not like I've declared that we are no longer friends.  It's just that I realized that we aren't friends anymore.  Life has taken us in very different directions and we just don't have anything left for each other.  I like her.  She likes me.  And I will remember our youth together fondly.

But goddamn, if she hasn't forgotten what regular people are like.