The Queen of Oversharing

I like describing myself as the Queen of Oversharing. This naming is kind of a lie. I tell a lot of stuff about myself … but not really. When we were crashing and burning for the final time, one of the things The Morphine Man accused me of was talking too much and saying nothing. He said I told a million stories about myself, but they were all surface, I never let people get close to my real self. This is pretty true … but it’s also kind of a lie.

I do tell a lot of stories about myself—practically this whole blog is stories about myself. A lot of my stories are told for entertainment value. My stories about traveling, about my various experiences with hitchhiking, about bad boyfriends (The Morphine Man included, of course), about growing up in a very particular kind of small, insular town—these are the kind of stories that fall into this category. They’re almost like long-form jokes, told to amuse the listener, show you how funny, or silly, or charmingly naïve, or comically vain … or whatever I can be.

Some of my stories are “Learn from my wacky mistakes!” stories, instructive but comical at the same time. When I was teaching, there were a lot of stories about that, and I still tell some of those. I loved teaching, and I learned so much from my students, and so many of my experiences in the classroom make for good stories. Those are generally more heartwarming or educational than comical, but there’s plenty to laugh about in those anecdotes, too.

So The Morphine Man wasn’t wrong. I absolutely do tell a lot of stories. I talk a LOT. And most of that telling doesn’t reveal the deepest, darkest corners of my soul, but I would argue a) that no one wants to have to look at the cluttered back rooms of my soul all the damn time, b) that there’s more to seeing and understanding who a person is than watching them take rib-spreaders to their own chests and dump their heart on the table for you every time they open their mouths, and c) if you actually listen to the stories I choose to tell about myself—even the foolish ones—there’s a lot you can see about who I am and what’s important to me and how I tick.

Do I also keep people at arm’s length? Yes. A lot of the time I do. I’ve had a lot of experience with people showing e how totally they couldn’t be trusted with my confidence, with not feeling safe showing much more than my surface. So I got good at learning to look as if I was sharing while keeping my soft underbelly well protected. So The Morphine Man was right on that score as well. I don’t think this skill, this form of protection, is particularly unusual. Don’t we all hold our vulnerabilities close to our chests? With luck, we meet people we begin to feel close enough to, begin to trust enough that we stare more of the deep-dark-corners stuff. I am glad that I have a strong circle of these kinds of friends now. I wish I’d had them in the past, but the storytelling helped me muddle through.

Which was, in the end, the problem with and for The Morphine Man, wasn’t it? He clearly hadn’t become one of those people for me. Or, he had, during our first go-round … but he proved unworthy, using some of the painful things he learned about me to inflict more pain. So during our last go-round, I withheld myself a little more adeptly, waiting to see if I would feel safe with him again.

But this blog is one place where I truly am Queen of Oversharing. I tell things here that I never say to anyone. Those are the other stories I tell, the “full-disclosure” stories where I share some close-to-the-bone stuff.

Those are the stories I write and, just before I post them, I send my family a heads-up email, cluing them in to this information about me that they didn’t know so they can hear it before I make it insanely public.

So what the hell is that? Why do I feel entirely comfortable telling ugly, painful stories about myself online when I’ve never told my family or closest friends those stories? I mean, sure, there’s the anonymity aspect of “telling it to the internet.” No one is sitting across a table watching and listening. You don’t have to see or hear anyone’s response in real time. You create distance simply by choosing to write rather than tell.

All of that makes sense to me. But, like the things I said at the start of this essay, it’s kind of a lie, isn’t it? It isn’t as though I’m writing anonymously online. My friends and family know where to find me and some of them regularly read what I post. That’s precisely why I send my family those heads-up emails before I publish the worst of my mess. I want them to hear it from me directly rather than stumble across it on FB or during their occasional scan of my blog.

But, if I want them to hear these stories directly from me, why haven’t I told them any of these things directly? Why do I only choose to tell them because I have suddenly decided to share the stories with the world?

Last week I wrote a post about my current experience with apartment hunting. It quickly ballooned into a post about a lot of other things—my infertility, the mass of debt I struggle under, racism, fear of homelessness. A jumbled mix of ways I clearly don’t have my shit together. It was hard to post that because I like looking like a person who most definitely has her shit together. I know that under the surface and behind closed doors, I am an entire mess, but I don’t like showing that off. But that house hunting post pulled back the curtain on my well-crafted façade.

It’s a weird set-up to have created: now, people I don’t know well or at all can do the most basic level of search and learn all kinds of unkempt, ugly things about me. If these were the things I kelp close to my vest in the past, does my sharing them here mean I’m no longer doing that … or that this is just another form of TMI performance and I have an even deeper, darker set of personal truths that I’m holding onto?

Of course, the answer to both questions is yes. And I also suspect I’ll eventually get around to writing those stories here.

I already know there are things I am both itching to write about and desperate to keep buried. These are things I hide because they make me look bad. But hiding them also holds me back, and that’s frustrating.

Yeah. So … stay tuned?

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I am lucky in that my family have never responded badly to anything I’ve shared  or to the fact of my sharing. Their response is always a reaffirmation of how much they love me. (As I said: lucky.) Sometimes my mother worries about what parts of myself I expose because she doesn’t want anyone to use information against me. And I suppose there are ways info I share could be used against me, but I’m pressed to come up with a likely scenario for that.

I’m wondering how other people navigate this king of sharing/not-sharing line-straddling. Do you just dive in and tell all the things? Do you keep your telling strictly surface? How do your families respond when you go deeper, telling your more private-seeming stories in a public forum?


I’m following Vanessa Mártir’s lead, she launched #52essays2017 after writing an essay a week in 2016 … and then deciding to keep going.
I fell months behind on my #GriotGrind, and it seemed highly unlikely that I’d write 52 essays by year’s end. But then I decided to dedicate my NaNoWriMo writing to writing essays, and I’ve been catching up! Whether I reach the goal or not, I’ve written more this year than in the last two combined, and that adds up to a solid WIN in my book! Get ready for #52essays2018!

“We could work it out.”

incalculable loss frozen
across my heart.
landscape
bare,
music silenced.
finding
where
new paths open,
turning
there.

Again with the poems that come together with no help from me. And again with the poem that falls apart midway through. (And again with me collapsing in sleep before finishing. Feh.)

I’m determined to keep at this Zeno business,* but I’m really beginning to think I won’t crack this code. I’m sorry for that, but all it’s not lost. I’ve noticed that I have much less aversion to the rhyming, something that was a real problem for me with both the Rhyme Royales two years ago and the Nove Otto last year. That’s an interesting shift. And, too, I’m not feeling put out by the rhythm of the 4/2/1 lines these last few days. So, I’m not in love with the poems, but I’m appreciating the changes.

_____

(Had I not fallen asleep Tuesday night, this story would have been my SOL for the week …)

Coming up from the A train into Penn Station Tuesday night,** I passed a guy sitting on the steps. He mumbled at me, and I — because I just can’t ever seem to help myself — paused to talk to him.

“I can’t understand anything you’re saying.”
He nods, looks at his beer then back at me.  “I say I can’t stop the world from turning.”
“No  no I don’t guess you can.”
“Today’s my birthday.”
“Then happy birthday.” (And I started walking again. He wasn’t in distress. Just drunk.)
“I’m from Brooklyn … Flatbush … You single? … Don’t laugh … We could work it out.”

Um, yeah. I’ll just bet we could. Oh, the opportunities I’ve let slip through my fingers!

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* A Zeno poem has ten lines with this pattern: syllables = a/b/c/d/e/f/d/g/h/d, rhyme = 8/4/2/1/4/2/1/4/2/1.

** Yes, to mail my taxes at the last possible minute even though I did them back in February. What? You didn’t know I was queen of procrastination?

Reaching Critical Mass

Last weekend, I spent both days in my office.  Tomorrow and Sunday I’ll be back there again. 

I’m not loving this, but there just isn’t any way around it.  I have proposals due, and they don’t write themselves.  And they aren’t casual, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if we had some extra money for new programming?” kinds of proposals.  No, these are the ones that will keep the core of my program up and running, these are the do-or-die kind.  Not only do they need to be written, we need to get them.  Period.

I’m not working alone.  Last week, Mopsy and my boss were both here on Sunday, too.  And they’ll be here both days this weekend.  So there’s the whole comeraderie thing going on.  And that means a lot.

Still.  Two weekends in a row?  It has me feeling … stressed … worn out …   When, exactly, was it that I was lazing on that verandah overlooking the Caribbean Sea?  Feels like about 25 years ago right now.

But tonight I took a break.  Tonight I went to see a wild bunch of friends, one of whom arrived with Thin Mints and Tagalongs for me!  So maybe life’s not so bad after all.

Check out today’s slices over at Two Writing Teachers!

What Love Has to Do with It

My head hurts when I try to think of what is or isn’t true about AC, about me and AC, about what I really think is possible with me and AC.  I’ve been in Jamaica for a week.  I’ve spoken to him a dozen times, seen him once.

He’s fine, of course.  Not ideally fine — his little restaurant/bar doesn’t seem to be open, half of his property is overgrown, he’s down to only one dog — but he’s fine all the same.  His guest house has a spiffy new website, which it’s certain that he in his utter computer un-savvy-ness did not create.  He’s looking strong and healthy … he’s fine.

And — as I should have assumed would be the case — the moment he heard my voice, he was right back where we left off almost 18 months ago.  Never mind the complete lack of communication in all this time.  Never mind my belief that he has found a next friend.  Never mind that whoever made his new website wrote the copy in a way that makes clear she and he are a “we.” Never mind his insistence that he is a man alone, no woman, no lover, just his pining for me.  Never mind everything that says the “we” that is he and I is really only two people who know one another and nothing more.

So where do I come down on any of this?  It’s as clear as ever that, if there is to be any change in his perception of our relationship, if there is to be a time when the door of possibility is firmly closed between us, the change will have to come from me.  I could stay away from Jamaica for five years, for ten, and he would be ready to embrace me when I chose to return.  Neither my head nor my heart knows what to do with that.

“I still love you, you know,” he said yesterday when I walked over to see him.

“You don’t really.  You just like me when I’m here.  It’s not the same thing.”

“No.  I love you f’true.”

F’true.  I won’t go so far as to call him a liar, but I will say that when he says “love,” it means something to him that isn’t the same as what it means to me.

Am I in love with AC? No. Do I love him? In some fashion or form, it seems that I do.  What that means, how it affects anything I do, how it bears on decisions I make … I’m not sure.  How many times have I told myself I’m through with him only to walk right back?  I’m not in love, but I’m clearly still willing to be tied, still feeling the connection.  I like to think of us as friends, but I know that’s not real, know there’s no friendship with AC, that for him we’re together or we’re not, no illusion of platonic affection.  So where does that leave me?

Tonight our adorable young caretaker will come and surprise us with a bonfire on the beach.  He will come up to the house and play dominoes with us until we can no longer stand his psychic domino skill.  He’ll let us tease him about how many girlfriends he must have and shyly smile and not answer any of our questions.

And all evening I will wonder if AC will come by, wonder if I’ll be happy to see him, if I’ll let him stay the night or send him back to his rose-colored house by the sea with a final and f’true goodbye.

I’ve been meeting so many men these last months.  Man after man after man.  And part of what’s been wrong with each of them has been just how much they haven’t been AC, just how much the sight of them or the sound of their voices hasn’t moved me.  If I met AC for the first time today, I would respond to him as instantly, as powerfully as I did six years ago.  A response so powerful I’m still feeling the residual force of it all these years later.

Neither my head nor my heart knows what to do with that. F’true.

What a Long Strange Trip, Part 3

After the twenty-nine levels of compatability failed, I let a friend talk me into trying more specialized sites.  And there are many: single parents, pet lovers, Christians, married people, trophy wives … you name it, there is a dating site for them alone.  I did some research and chose two sites, one for each predictor the others neglected: size and race.

The first site is all about helping black folks find one another.  That seems so clear, implies a certain outcome.  I do not, in actual fact, date only black men.  Vlad isn’t black.  Neither The Morphine Man, nor several other former paramours.  But the fact that I am black was hampering the process, so I signed up … and the first thing I saw was one white man after another. I will admit to a fair amount of confusion. But behind all the non-black people on the site, there are plenty of — surprise! — black people.

I think the most interesting thing I’ve found on these sites is that removing the issue doesn’t remove the issue.¹

On the fat ladies site, the men are — one should feel safe assuming — into fat ladies.  And they are, but the truth of that doesn’t in any way affect the concurrent truth that many are fatphobic.  “You need to show a full-length photo,” one man’s profile says. “If you don’t, then I have to assume you’re fat.”  Um, what? Trust me, sir, that any woman signing up on the Meet Fat Ladies site is fat.  Trust me.  What he means, probably, is that some level of fat is too fat for him.  But I’m sorry, don’t come to Fatland and then be all prejudiced against the fatties.

Another man worries about meeting women larger than a size 14.  Seriously?  Let’s just be clear: a woman who is a size 14 is. not. fat.  She’s not even anywhere near being fat.  A man hoping to meet small women needs to figure himself out and stop wasting my fat girl time.  Please, people.

Things are much worse on the black site.  From reading their profiles, it is clear that many black men have ugly and unfortunate beliefs about black women.  “Don’t bother responding if you have more than two kids,” says one.  Another makes clear that his ideal woman can’t have more than $3,000 in personal debt.  Many others say they don’t want their woman to be loud, angry, uneducated, trampy, domineering, demanding, dealing with baby-father bother² … 

What is that?  How can it be that so many black men think so little of black women?  I’m not really that naive, but I’m disgusted and disheartened all the same.  If you’re a man who’s looking to meet a black woman or a big woman, how are you served by posting a profile that is insulting to the women you hope to meet?  And excuse my bluntness, guys, but if you’re a raggedy-looking, broke-down man whose profile pictures look like you took them the morning after a three-day drunk, how dare you say even one disparaging thing about me.

I am supremely troubled and angered by this crap.  The prejudice against fat women bothers me, but most men on that site wax rhapsodic about the joys of “loving large.”  The anti-black woman bullshit coming from men who should prize black women above all others … that hurts.  I know many of the places it’s coming from, but it burns me.

Happily, not all of the men on these sites are rude and prejudiced.  Some have made it past the initial does-he-warrant-a-date screen.  A couple have even managed to rate a second date … And yes, I’m going to string you along and talk about them in another post!

__________
¹ This might be an important takeaway for the folks behind the new Huck Finn: erasing the printed evidence of racism doesn’t erase the fact of racism.  Hello

² And this from men with their own exes and children in tow.  I heard from a guy who’s never been married but has strewn nine children across the world … and he had the nerve to say he didn’t want any baby-daddy business.