|This is not an actual photo of me.|
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.