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September 05, 2007

Things I'm Scared to Blog About

I've been blogging for over ten years now, though we used to call it journaling in the old days. Putting my thoughts, and myself, out there on the internet, for the world to see. In some ways, it's not so different from writing essays to be published in print; in other ways, it's very different. There's the speed of it, the way you can write something and quickly throw it up, before you have time to think it over. There's the lack of an editorial team looking over your shoulder to tell you whether what you've written is actually appropriate for the general public (whether it's safe to publish). And then there's the immediacy of the feedback, the opportunity for two-way dialogue with your readers. It's a different world from old-fashioned publishing.

When you start to blog, you make a series of decisions:

  • do I blog under my Real Name?
  • where do I draw my privacy lines? what am I willing to talk about?
  • am I willing to tell truths about my friends, my family, even if it might upset them? to what extent?
  • how explicit will I be (about sex, or otherwise)?

...and sometimes you change your mind on these questions. Sometimes after you've gotten burned by exposing too much, you pull back, or conversely, sometimes, you decide you're just being chicken, and push yourself to expose more. I've been making those decisions in my own blog for over ten years, revising my standards, generally pushing myself to be as brave as I can be, without unduly trespassing on others' privacy. I think it's tremendously important, as a writer and a human being, to be as honest as you can bear to be with the world, and I thought I'd gotten to a pretty comfortable place, willing to talk about almost anything, at least as it pertained to just me. But here's the thing. Now that I have a child, now that I'm 'mommy blogging', I'm scared all over again. I don't know what's okay to talk about.

I'm scared that you, the readers, will judge me differently as a mother than you would have before. So far, as the mother of a young baby, I've gotten a tremendous amount of good advice and support from the internet, which I've really appreciated as I struggled with (and failed at) breastfeeding, as I drag myself out of bed after not enough sleep to give my daughter her bottle, as I watch Kevin escape to the office while I brace myself for another long day with the baby. I don't want to lose that support, but will you guys still like me when I admit everything I've done?

I'm also scared that my fellow mommy-bloggers, this new community that I'm tentatively entering, will reject me and decide that I'm a bad mommy, and that they don't like me anymore. I love reading the stories from other moms, and I'm starting, very slowly, to feel like I'm one of them. There's this thing in academia we call 'impostor syndrome' -- it's this feeling, even after you've gotten your advanced degree and gotten a job teaching, that you're really not qualified to do this, that you're just faking it, and soon someone will catch you and expose you for the incompetent fake that you are. Almost everyone experiences it, and eventually you grow out of it, and start believing that yes, you really do know how to do this new thing. That's how I've been feeling about motherhood, like a big fake, going through the motions, never sure if I'm doing it right. And other mommy bloggers have been a godsend, as I read about their own insecurities and fears. It's one of the great gifts of the internet, to know that we're not alone. But what if I really have gone too far for their comfort? What if they really aren't like me at all, and tell me that I don't belong? It'll be so lonely...

On another front, I'm scared that eventually, my baby will be old enough to read all of this, and that some of the stuff I'm talking about really will scar her for life (as I'm sure some readers will tell me that it will). Although if I'm still doing it, do I really want to keep some parts of it secret from her? Won't she suffer more from eventually finding out that her mom lied to her, than from learning (slowly, in small doses as seems appropriate to her age) the truths of her mother's life? I guess if I really thought I could keep some things secret from her forever, that might be worth considering, but I don't believe in secrets; I think they pretty much always come out, and do more damage in the revelation. (It's a double-whammy -- not only is my mommy doing this socially unacceptable thing, but she lied to me about it for years...)

Argh. In a sense, this is all ridiculous, because you know, I've been keeping a blog for ten years, and I've written about all the scandalous stuff already, in public. It's all out there, if you look for it. But there's a question of audience. I joined this group in part because I wanted to hang out with other mothers, and be read by other mothers (and fathers). I wanted their take on my parenting issues, and I didn't think many of them would make it over to my corner of the internet, which is mostly populated with geeky queer fringe liberal folk, many of whom are single and/or child-free. It's very tempting, now that I'm here, to write only about those topics that I think will be safe, and save the scary stuff for the other blog, where hopefully none of you will ever find it. (And I could password protect the whole site so an older Kavi could never read it. Plus figure out some way to erase all the other places I've talked about this stuff all over the internet. A really powerful virus should do it, right?) But just sticking to safe topics here is such a cowardly move; it makes my stomach hurt.

So here goes -- here's a list of the things in my life that I'm scared to talk about here, that I hope and plan to write more on in the future, whenever it seems appropriate to mommy-blogging.

  • getting pregnant at eighteen and having an abortion
  • having a lot of sex, with a lot of people, in college and for some years thereafter
  • writing a lot of smut (both erotica and porn) and publishing it online and in print
  • being bi, and dating girls, and occasionally falling in love with them
  • 'kinky' sex practices (and what that word actually means), like getting naked photos of myself (see above for one of the tamer ones)
  • choosing not to legally marry my (male) partner, even though we're madly in love, have been together fifteen years, have made our own promises to each other to stay together 'til death do us part, and now have a child together
  • having an open 'marriage' -- with both long-term other lovers and short-term flings, and figuring out how/if/when to tell our daughter about it

It'd be nice (she said, wistfully) if some of you might tell me that I'm not alone in doing these things. Or at least that you think what I've done/am doing is okay. If you don't think it's okay, well, that's your right. If I put this all out there, I'm opening myself up for criticism. I accept that (and brace for it).

But maybe you could also say if there are things you're scared of talking about? My fears are all about sex, but others' fears could include drugs, or alcohol, or violence, or mental illness, or abuse, or any other socially-frowned-upon topic. Come out of the closet with me? It's less scary if you're not alone.

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