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Wednesday, 26 May 2004

You Doan' Know Me

Topic: Belle de Jour

Taken almost verbatim from comments to Lemonpillows here, and a discussion in Missuh's comments:

The process of saying things on a blog, and thus, actually 'saying' them to almost everybody indiscriminately has rendered me awfully, in fact horribly, open IRL. There's barely nothing left I won't tell people I've just met, these days.

Suprnovr, someone I've known all my life commented in passing the other day that we "never talk about anything real", and I had to differ: pointing out that there aren't any great secrets left for me; anything I'd secretly wanted her to know, I've already said.
There isn't any deep held darkness left in my soul that needs unburdening, and that's largely thanks to the blog.
The blog and coming out, anyway.
It makes you see how silly the idea of 'privacy' is. What's there you can say that everybody else isn't also worried about or secretly fearing?

I did used to be like that - open, generous with my truths - some years ago, but events and situations made me become a lot more circumspect. It feels good to have lost it. It feels more like me to have lost it.

I dunno if it was actually coming out, years ago that did it, that first forced me to be myself in front of people whose judgement I truly feared. I had been teetering on this precipice of never speaking to my family again, out of fear that they'd disapprove (they couldn't have been more supportive), and a comment from Suprnovr forced me forward out of the stasis of hiding behind inscrutability: "if telling someone who you really are is enough to make you never speak to them again, then the issue is not really about who you are, is it? It's about the fact that you have no relationship at all with them."

I try very hard to show everyone as much of me as possible these days. I have to admit the blog has had an influence on that, and one of the reasons I started it was to gain more openness in my life, after a period where I found myself lying and hiding from *everybody*. It wasn't nice, and I felt more unsupported than I ever had before. After a year of that, of ignoring people who cared about me, for my own spurious reasons, I worry constantly that my friends needed and still need years and years of coaxing to feel that I trust and need them. As Krystal mentioned once, I had made it more than difficult to feel you were getting to know me.

It doesn't help that I was so incredibly nasty and cutting to people back when I was on the run from myself. I read things I wrote two years ago, and I don't even know the person who wrote them. Anyone with so little self awareness as to not even see the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that lay behind the snidey quips and cutting asides must have been either truly stupid, or really definitely on the lam from themselves.
Yeah, that was me then. Who knows if it's any better now?

It wasn't just those two years, though - as a teenager I had prided myself on being 'different' on being someone else to every other figure I had any relationship with. Nobody could pin me down. I thought.
It didn't help that I was always the kid at every school (eight! count 'em!) who was new, who came from somewhere else, who didn't hear so well, who had a funny accent, who everybody thought was queer.
One of my earliest memories is of feeling no-one knew me - kneeling in dirt in a wood, my knees damp, scratched and hurting, my hands smeared, a sharp stick in my right fist, stabbing the left palm angrily, till it cut, trying to make myself remember. Hissing to myself "it is the fifth of April, nineteen seventy seven, my name is Vanessa *******, I am seven years old and for as long as I can remember I have always hated my parents. They don't know me." The tears and the snot and the hissing and the blood and the dirt are all mixed up in my memory with the smell of the woods, the feeling of forgotten seven year old injustice that prompted it - but it worked. I remember.

I look back at the person I was, the adult, the teenager, the child - all the way through it, the person who hid parts of myself, and I wonder: did I know what I was hiding it for?
I mean, if there was a reason, a person, a thing, to gain access to all these hidden parts of myself, then that's ... well, that's a reason, maybe. Although I'd question how fair it is if it's *one* person. (How d'you know they can carry that load? And you want them to carry it forever?)

For me, there wasn't a reason - I just didn't want people to pin me down. But why? What would happen to me if they *did* pin me down? What would curl up and die if people knew who I was inside?

It reminds me of that Onion mock shock headline: "Mom finds son's blog!" - the killer was in the subheading: "Knows Him Better".
Why in heck is that something we're taught to avoid?

Is it some weird hangover of adolescence? Dammit, I wish I could smash a lot of my wrongheaded theories from adolescence - knowing what the worst thing in the world is, babies ruin your life, you already know everything, most other people are really stupid, your family must never know you better, there's a group of insiders who are really cool, nobody understands you, you are intrinsically good, it's not your fault - all of them are lies, and if our society didn't damn well encourage us to act adolescent until our late fifties these days, we'd be embarrassed to defend these points of view as adults by now.

Coming out to my family helped me, because it made me confront some of these issues, in passing. Issues like: How is it bad for my family to know me better? They can still select what they want to know, and reject what they don't. What, they don't live in the world?
If my family are hurt, and reject me, then I'll outgrow it, they'll outgrow it, and we'll mend it. If I hide from people, then what the hell shitty sort of a thin relationship do I really have with them? Don't I trust them or something?

I asked Duch, a friend of 14 year's standing, what she had thought during those two whole years when I wasn't communicating with her (not anything meaningful, anyway). What had she assumed was going on with me when the well of self-revelation and sharing ran dry?
"You just seemed like you were having a really good time."
That line scared the hell out of me - it taught me that my defences are *good*. Too good. If I need help, I have to ask for it. Why? Because I built too good a wall.
People won't question why you won't let them in. They're human, and they'll assume you don't need them.
But you do.

Anyway, I'm starting to rant, but this is a topic that touches on where I live at the moment: if I'm going to be true to myself, not lie to myself, then I owe it to others to be open.

If I'm less than open, there's something there that I fear.

And I need to know that thing, I need to analyse what it is. That's the way things are around here right now.

Hope this makes some damn sense without the key.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:35 AM BST
Updated: Wednesday, 26 May 2004 7:10 AM BST
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Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 5:25 AM BST

Name: Jen
Home Page:

It made sense to me. And I thank you for it.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 11:38 AM BST

Name: PB Curtis
Home Page:

It makes damn good sense, and I second Jen's thanks. Inspirational.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 12:04 PM BST

Name: Fluffy
Home Page:

Living with good defences is a lonely existence even if it means you dont get hurt. Like you said it also means you dont get to feel accepted or close to anyone.
I've found pretending that things are 'ok, fine and dandy' comes as second nature to me now.
The immediate responce to the casual question of 'How are you?' is 'I'm fine thanks, and you?'.
Going round my other halves family with a smile slapped onto my face perpetually and pleasentries dripping off my lips continuously is the norm.

I have found that lately i'm also being a lot more brutal in conversation to people due to writing on my blog. Not to people who arent 'allowed' to know me (in my head). And sometimes only fleetingly to people who are closer to me. But certainly more than before.
Sometimes i just dont care if i'm seen as unstable, or as a nutjob.
Sometimes it's refreshing to say openly that i've lost my marbles, and maybe someone might help me find them hehehe.
The main thing i have realised however, that i'm no longer afraid of showing people i care.
It's not so much about me letting them in, i still dont tend to do that. But more about me letting people know they are appreciated, or that i 'like' them. I'm not afraid to say that anymore. But then that could be more to do with the fact that i've been hurt alot, and i dont think i can sink much lower, or be hurt anymore than i already have by someone else.

Oh dear. I seem to have invaded your blog and written a post.
All i meant to say was, great post hahahaha.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 12:25 PM BST

Name: NC

Funnily enough I was thinking while on the bus to work that secrets are bad and give other people power over you. I've even known people to hide congenital medical conditions as if that was something to be ashamed of.

The way I see it is if someone doesn't like a person for who they are then they can go f u c k themselves. No ones approval is important enough for a person to have to mask and pretend to be what they are not.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 3:10 PM BST

Name: karen

What would curl up and die if people knew who I was inside?

this made me pause. and your post made sense.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 3:37 PM BST

Name: Nursie
Home Page:

oh HELL yes, I understood that. There is a great swath of life (my life) that your family (my family) doesn't want to know about. Not that they'd disown me if they knew, just that they'd rather not know. Just as you know that there are living creatures crawling all over your body, but its not anything you care to dwell on. They like to think that you are silent because you are "fine", and god knows, if your not "fine" they'd sure as hell rather not know the exact reasons why. Hmm...sorry now I'm ranting. Must go hash this out a bit.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 4:02 PM BST

Name: karen

is that a nervous laugh? because that seems like a nervous laugh.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 6:53 PM BST

Name: Lux

Am struggling with this now. Having a chronic disabling illness shouldn't be a cause of shame, but it's difficult. "What causes it? How long have you had it? What can they do about it? Are you feeling any better? When are you going back to work? What do your parents think?"

Very difficult.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 7:02 PM BST

Name: Vanessa

There's a difference between everyday social glue, and between masking deepseated problems or affinities so that you can keep people at a distance, though. You said:

"They like to think that you are silent because you are "fine", and god knows, if your not "fine" they'd sure as hell rather not know the exact reasons why"

My experience in trying to break down the barriers I'd set up for myself was that the above is not true. What happens is that people :
a. like to be able to solve problems, it makes them feel useful.
b. feel social discomfort because your relationship is not yet one where either of you is used to disclosure.

The outcome of both results in them appearing to fob you off. Your duty, as the person who *started* the disclosure is not to be fobbed.

Openness invites openness, confidences inspire further confidences and trust. It's a journey, not a destination. (You can't unburden one huge wail and expect people to adapt instantly to your new mode of communicating.)

Be gentle with them - they do want to know, but they just don't know how to know. You kept them at arm's length for years. Give them time.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 7:08 PM BST

Name: Vanessa

Yeah, for reasons, still, despite the nature of the post, undisclosed, I do sorta know what you mean. I guess you have to decide if you really want the support that comes with the openness, and if you do, how to phrase it so that they know what's okay to ask. Living with really long term conditions makes your relationship with illness - so to speak - very different in its responses to the average joe. I think people are just wavering between wanting to help and fearing that they might hinder, though.

You could direct them to places that inform them, and explain that you're not okay to talk about it right now, but would appreciate their support?
alternatively, you would only have to explain it once to them.

I find certain conditions very shaming, and so wish that I didn't, that I weren't so stupid. Takes time, though. I'm far from perfect. So long as I keep trying, perhaps.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 7:11 PM BST

Name: Vanessa

But thank you for responding with a questioning view - I reaally do appreciate it when I hear a dissenting voice on here.

Incidentally, have you been reading Miss Bunni Blog lately? Her post about her friend's girl, Sarah?

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 7:29 PM BST

Name: lemonpillows
Home Page:

Hell yes! I get that post completely. It's kinda wierd how my journey seems to mirror your own in some way - only you are far more open about it. I've hit a very big turning point in my life, and the thing that strikes me most is that my friends all *knew* what was going on, despite my best efforts to hide myself from the world. They all KNEW, all understood, years before I did myself, but that I either wouldn't listen/wasn't ready to understand/had to find out for myself.

To be completely open *does* leave you very vulnerable - BUT - it also means that your friends will know when you need help. If you are completely open with people, then they will know you need help before you ask.

It's a risk you have to take. Unless you want to live behind the walls for ever.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 9:53 PM BST

Name: Kat
Home Page:

Generally I am a very open person but there are aspects of myself that I don't share with certain people because I choose not to. The choice is mine to make, but even so I'm very easy to get to know because of this. People also tend to tell me things - complete strangers will tell me things about themselves in public places out of nowhere sometimes. I kinda like it, acutually.

That being said there really are no deep, dark secrets. There may be things that only one or two people know, but there is nothing inside festering. Confession is good for the soul.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 - 10:12 PM BST

Name: Vaughan
Home Page:

I keep meaning to post comments here, but somehow never get round to it. But I finally have done today, because I've just read this post and was moved to write a profound, emotional and carefully thought-out reaction. So here it is.

Bloody hell.

That's a good 'bloody hell' by the way. I don't think I've ever had a lot of what I think about blogging and opening up to people put down quite so eloquently. Certainly I've never managed it.

Thank you.

Thursday, 27 May 2004 - 12:25 AM BST

Name: Nursie
Home Page:

Hmm yes I guess that's true, to a point. Since I'm not someone who wonders aloud "So what's been bothering you, lately?" I'm not likely to hear that myself...and since I am an upfront, impatient and brutally honest type of person, I may actually tell anyone who asks me just what, exactly, has been bothering me. In detail. With charts and graphs. Which might make them not want to ask me again. Which might have been my aim. Or a kind of test for them. I really must stop that. No wonder I'm alone on Saturday nights. Sheesh.

Thursday, 27 May 2004 - 5:11 AM BST

Name: chrysalis

First thing that jumps to mind is that I feel as though you have rubbed salt into a wound. Whilst I am busy processing....I will share the second thing that came to mind.

"Through the fish-eyed lens of tear stained eyes
I can barely define the shape of this moment in time
And far from flying high in clear blue skies
I'm spiraling down to the hole in the ground where I hide.

If you negotiate the minefield in the drive
And beat the dogs and cheat the cold electronic eyes
And if you make it past the shotgun in the hall,
Dial the combination, open the priesthole
And if I'm in I'll tell you what's behind the wall.

There's a kid who had a big hallucination
Making love to girls in magazines.
He wonders if you're sleeping with your new found faith.
Could anybody love him
Or is it just a crazy dream?

And if I show you my dark side
Will you still hold me tonight?
And if I open my heart to you
And show you my weak side
What would you do?
Would you sell your story to Rolling Stone?
Would you take the children away
And leave me alone?
And smile in reassurance
As you whisper down the phone?
Would you send me packing?
Or would you take me home?

Thought I oughta bare my naked feelings,
Thought I oughta tear the curtain down.
I held the blade in trembling hands
Prepared to make it but just then the phone rang
I never had the nerve to make the final cut."

-Roger Waters/Pink Floyd

Thursday, 27 May 2004 - 2:11 PM BST

Name: jatb

May I be open too?
May I unburden to fmc, explain what made me so angry that I've not spoken to her in 5 years? May I show her?

Your freedom to be open is a luxury we do not all have. If I am less open with you than you would wish, remember those constraints.

Thursday, 27 May 2004 - 9:03 PM BST

Name: Vanessa

I didn't think you were less open. are you?

Yes of course you can tell her - I said that on Sunday, nuh? and i referred to it in this post, in the reference:
"It doesn't help that I was so incredibly nasty and cutting to people back when I was on the run from myself. I read things I wrote two years ago, and I don't even know the person who wrote them. Anyone with so little self awareness as to not even see the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that lay behind the snidey quips and cutting asides must have been either truly stupid, or really definitely on the lam from themselves."

i mean it - tell her - it's silly for you two to still be mad at each over something I did, and fmc doesn't know that unless someone tells her.

I hadn't thought of being open as a luxury - more as an onerous responsibility.

Friday, 28 May 2004 - 2:52 AM BST

Name: Jen W
Home Page:

The post was brilliant. And understood. It's the last line of your last comment that strikes me hard, though. Because to me, being open is not the onerous burden. The weight comes to bear on my mind more often than not from the strenuous effort I (we) extend at being, and remaining, closed.

Monday, 31 May 2004 - 4:42 PM BST

Name: Saltation
Home Page:


live life as a social game, and the best you can possibly hope for is to win

Tuesday, 1 June 2004 - 4:49 AM BST

Name: Vanessa

But isn't the 'social game' - not itself life - the absolute @#%$! of a @#%$! of an arse of a @#%$! of life, rather than the other way around?

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