Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Choose An Identity

This is not an actual photo of me.
In the movie, You've Got Mail, Tom Hanks has this voice over scene in a designer coffee chain where he's talking about the modern obsession with fancy coffees. It's been a long time since I've seen the movie (I was so disheartened when I got my hair cut like Meg Ryan's in that movie and instead of looking like the adorable girl next door, I kind of looked like Elvis Presley. I digress.) but he comes to the conclusion that our exacting coffee orders are a way for us to be someone. I'm not just some poor schlub waiting for overpriced coffee, I'm triple! nonfat! venti! cappuccino! (Incidentally, I am so not that. I am Double Tall Latte, should you ever be buying.) That scene never fails to crack me up because as my husband likes to say in his "Dr. Phil guest" voice: "It's funny because it's true."

As society becomes more homogenized, we find ways to delineate ourselves, stand apart a bit. In high school, I had a lot of friends that went to British schools and wore uniforms. The point behind the uniforms being that it is less disruptive socially to just have everyone wear the same thing. Except that even so, you could still tell who was "cool" and who was not. Things like whether or not you pulled up your socks, or how close to askew your tie was became status indicators. We can't help it. We're hierarchical animals. We seek out others who resemble us and we use tiny, sometimes trivial clues to identify our comrades.

I resist being pigeon-holed because I like to believe I am a unique snowflake. Not really. I resist it because I am claustrophobic. I believe it is unfair to boil people down to a few outstanding characteristics and think of them only in that way. I put off blogging for nearly a year because I had no idea how to fill out the profile information. I can put a list of my favorite activities: cooking, knitting, sewing, playing with my monkeys, long walks in the rain, listening to music, reading books, writing nonsense, stalking people, taking naps, learning intensely personal information about relative strangers; and it leaves a very incomplete picture. It actually paints a picture of some sort of deranged old lady. (Or old man, as the email spammers seem to believe I am. So many solicitations for golf memberships, penis enlargement and AARP memberships.) I also resisted the label "mommy blogger" because while I love being a mom (or Mama, never Mommy) it doesn't entirely define me - a fact for which I have fought hard these last seven or so years - and while I will write about my monkeys from time to time, that's not all I write about. The profile is like the turned down socks on the private school uniform - one look and you just know whether that's someone you'll be friends with or not. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.

One of the many wonders of Facebook is that it is an opportunity to hear from people you would otherwise never have bothered to keep in touch with. You get to hear who had a crush on you twenty years ago, who used to be afraid of you, who thought you were fabulous way back when. It's kind of like bookends on all those old insecurities. But one of the most amazing things about some of these Facebook reconnections is that people I haven't heard from in decades will pop up and say "I always respected so-and-so about you" and they are things that are still pretty true today. It's that link to something other, something prior. I have friends that I keep around because they knew me before I donned the identities of wife, mother, contributor to society, adult, taxpayer, etc. And oddly, they still know me now.

After this month of blogging every day and connecting through BlogHer, I am once again amazed at the ready connections that people make. I have been stunned speechless (almost) that some of the things that have been rolling around my noodle have hit a nerve with other people. I have been surprised and delighted to find so many wonderful bloggers out there doing just what I do - just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. I don't even know a lot of their real names, I don't know what they really look like or where some of them live, but I know what we have in common.

One of my very best friends from college came about because we both ended up in the same coffee shop one night completely fed up with ourselves and the people around us. We went someplace quiet to talk for a few hours and that few hours turned into all night. It wasn't really until we watched the sunrise from my car that we remembered that we were actually two distinct humans of different genders and the awkwardness that can arise from that. But until then, we were just two sets of ideas, eager to share, our words being our only identifying characteristics, and the comfort and sweet release of honest, uninhibited communication. I've thought about that several times over the last month of "meeting" new bloggers and reading new blogs. It's that same meeting of ideas and experience without the complications of "real life" but somehow, real life seeps in and you get a far fuller picture of people than if you simply met them on the street.

I laugh every time I leave a comment on Blogger because it always instructs me to "Choose an Identity". It cracks me up because I did that ages ago. I could be anyone I wanted to on this little blog of mine, but over the last month, I've discovered that I can't be anyone except who I am. I'll enter my log-in name and my blog address, because I know that Blogger isn't really asking me an existential question any more than Facebook is really asking "What's on your mind?" (although I must admit to a certain amount of mischievous desire to create alternate identities just for fun). My mom always says "You can't hide who you really are for very long." A notion that's both scary and liberating. Even when we try to hide behind intellectualizing or humor or whatever, who we are leaks out between the cracks. So this intense month of daily posting is over for most of us (I signed on for December because I need external motivation sometimes) but my hope is that the connection continues. Stay tuned. There will be a lot more crazy leaking out through the cracks and if you're very careful, you just might catch some magic out of the corner of your eye.


  1. I have spied plenty of magic right here in front of me as I've read your words. I hope the connection continues and I look forward to reading more.

  2. Haha. Uniforms... I agree. And coffee. I am a triple americano with honey and cream. Glad you signed on again!

  3. Yes, you are a word magician. I'm also thankful for this month and all the blogs I've discovered.

  4. This was all sorts of fabulous. You had me at the Elvis line, and the rest proved to be just as perfect.

    I'm amazed--shocked, thrilled, still a little unbelieving--at the genuine connections I've made with people I've never met. Just a handful of years ago, if someone would have told me that the people they interact with while seated at their desks are their real friends, I would have absolutely taken pity on them. Pathetic.

    What I didn't realize is that when we read one another regularly, we see the person emerge--often more quickly and more intimately than if we worked with them or lived in the house next to theirs. I have nice neighbors, but for the most part I have no idea if they had happy childhoods, if they feel sad on rainy days, or how they feel about gays in the military. I know these things and many more about my blogger and Facebook friends.

    Oh, and I'm a tall decaf, extra cream, and I'm definitely adding you to my blogroll.

  5. Tall drip, extra room for cream (and sugar). Hey! I'm a cheapskate. What can I say?

    The NaBloPoMo connections still feel surreal to me. I woke up this morning and wondered if anyone was still going to read my blog now that November was over lol. And then I got 6 more comments on various posts.

    Also? Congratulations for completing NaBloPoMo November and all sorts of I'm-proud-of-you for signing up for NaBloPoMo December! You go!

  6. I am a plain coffee person myself. Sometimes I like some milk to cool it.

    I'd like to join others in congratulating you on making it through nablopomo. I'd like to further congratulate you on not making your last post ABOUT nablopomo as I (and I'm sure many, many, others) did.

    That alone is enough to make you a unique snowflake. :)

  7. I have enjoyed reading your posts and look forward to reading more of your beautifully written posts! And I'm all about the crazy leaking through the cracks with some magic attached. :)
    PS...I'm Hot Chocolate with a shot of Caramel or a Chai Tea Latte. Loved how everyone picked up on this. :)

  8. Thanks everybody! I was really afraid that once November was over no one would read any more! Also, I'll know exactly what to order should we all end up in the same cafe.

  9. I wanted to comment when I read this earlier, but it made me think of this Carrie Fisher quote from her book Delusions of Grandma I just had to dig out to share: "Sometimes she completely forgot what she was like. Which was extraordinary since she was quite like herself--that is to say she had amassed a considerable accumulation of person, complete with quirks and tastes and peculiarities and sensitivities and recollections of encounters."

    Looking forward to the leaking--crazy, magical and otherwise. :)

  10. @Masked Mom - That is such a magnificent quote! Thanks for sharing that with me. Now I may have to read Princess Leia's book!

  11. I have the same issue with my own profile, though it didn't stop me from blogging. Having to put down in words who I am or am not is just too hard... and I do feel I have failed miserably. One day I might change it.

    P.S. I really enjoy your writing style and I hope you continue on.

    P.P.S. Ditto on the needing to read Princess Lea's book ;)

    Nadia @ Red, White & GREEN Mom


Thanks for reading and taking the time to say hello!