Monday, March 27, 2006

Public Display

Lisa Simpson: ”I don’t understand, Dad. Why must we share our flaws with the world?”

Homer: “Because we’ll make lots of money!”

And with that, The Simpsons became the latest victims of the lure of reality TV last night in an episode that saw a wife swap turn… well, very funny.

I don’t often watch The Simpsons with evilkev, but it was quite a coincidence that I did yesterday, because I had been inspired by a post made by Bernita to talk about the shrinking gap between our private and public lives.

I know I shared here once about how, discussing a scene I was writing, involving sex, Kevin had cringed and said, “My MOTHER will read that,” to which I responded, “And she’ll think we have sex?”

It isn’t just the fictional writing that runs the risk of blurring lines for writers. Many of us have online presence, and there are aspects of ourselves that are there for all the world to see.

Which should probably have me very, very worried.

The truth is, when I first started posting on forums and such, I never even considered anyone would be paying attention.

It wasn’t long before I discovered people were watching, and in some cases with more than casual interest. I received emails from strangers asking for my opinions on the most bizarre things, referencing some off-hand remark I’d made somewhere.

At times, I’ve thought I was a complete idiot for not using a fake name.

But I’m a very open person, and something about the idea of having some secret online identity that nobody could connect to the real person seemed wrong, like I was a fraud.

Like nothing more than a cheap ploy to protect me from my own big mouth.

Now I have to consider the fact that anyone can find me online, and read my opinions on a wide range of things. For good or bad, better or worse, a lot of one aspect of Sandra Ruttan is out there for the world to evaluate.

Some of the comments that come up relatively high on a search for me include:

“And here's me thinking you aren't supposed to drink coke...” Wed. March 22 at Daniel’s blog

“John, I bet Stuart's singing "You Can't Hurry Love" in the shower right now...”
over at Stuart’s.

“I'd've bet money on the porn, but since you're hedging maybe it was the ponies.

4/12 for me.” Bet you’re all dying to take a look here now.

“Russel, are Bitchtits and Epileptic Bambi any good with pies?” Don’t ask.

“One man? So you're the bitch? Or do you have a different word for it over there?” This time at James’s blog, but about Stuart. Again. It’s like Stuart’s my only hobby.

Well, you get the idea. Clearly, the blabbermouth is known far and wide, and has a tendency to say things that make her husband blush and grown men cry.

Have I posted things I’ve regretted? Yes, on occasion. Usually on forums when I’ve completely lost my patience with someone being ignorant and offensive.

And it isn’t that what I necessarily said was wrong, but I just regret the anger that went with it.

Have people ever suggested I take something down off my blog?

Yes. Did I? No.

In a way, this is the ultimate trial run for me. The truth of the matter is that I’m a really shy person, initially. I mean, I’m very sociable, but the act of meeting people and getting to the point where I’m comfortable enough to be open with them…

Let’s just say the online introductions make it much easier for me.

This is something for all of you to consider, though. Especially the writers. When I started my blog, I didn’t have a clue why I was doing it. But if you’ve come on with the idea that you’re using it to promote yourself and your writing, then you have to make decisions about what you’re going to talk about and what you won’t touch, and how much of yourself you feel comfortable exposing.

Truthfully, when people close parts of themselves off online, others do see it. Stuart has been my role model. He’s both personal and witty and has made himself less of the six-foot-Scottish-Adonis that he is by being warm and vulnerable with his readers.

I could never hope to be a six-foot-Scottish-Adonis, unless we’re talking width and sex change, and for both the desire is lacking.

But the warmth I like.

And the vulnerability is something I can take advantage of.

A serious warning though: Experience has taught me you never know who is paying attention. I’ve had emails from people I would never have expected to hear from – some total strangers, some role models for me, people I really admire, some really bizarre and creepy ones that left me a bit spooked. It’s something to consider when you start out, and something to remember as you move towards publication. A part of you is owned by the public when your name is on a book, and only you can decide how much will be out there for them to know about, but once you put stuff out, it’s done and gone, and it’s much harder to tighten the boundaries.

For those who wonder at my openness, I can only say this. Much of what I’ve put out there could be put into the public domain by others. And whenever anyone originally from a small town does anything remotely interesting, there are plenty of people who will talk.

I’ve decided to control the information by talking about it myself. I feel better with the idea that there are no sudden shocks coming to anyone down the road, that I know of. If there are, I’ll be shocked with you.

A Newfoundland couple, both well into their 80s, go to a sex therapist's office.

The doctor asks, "What can I do for you?"

The man says, "Will you watch us have sexual intercourse?"

The doctor raises both eyebrows, but he is so amazed that such an elderly couple is asking for sexual advice that he agrees.

When the couple finishes, the doctor says, "There's absolutely nothing wrong with the way you have intercourse." He thanks them for coming, he wishes them good luck, charges them $50 and he says goodbye.

The next week, however, the couple returns and asks the sex therapist to watch again. The sex therapist is a bit puzzled, but agrees.

This happens several weeks in a row. The couple makes an appointment, has intercourse with no problems, pays the doctor, then leave.

Finally, after 5 or 6 weeks of this routine, the doctor says, "I'm sorry, but I have to ask. Just what are you trying to find out?"

The old man says, "We're not trying to find out anything.

She's married and we can't go to her house. I'm married and we can't go to my house.

The Holiday Inn charges $98.

The Hilton charges $139.

We do it here for $50, and I get $43 back from Blue Cross."


Bernita said...

Ah, we are much the same.

I still think though, that Kevin's mother could write some good sex scenes.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Probably Bernita!

I really don't know what it is about men that way. But then, there is always the parent-child sex hang-up.

Comment not to be taken out of context...

Boy Kim said...

"He thanks them for coming"?

That's very considerate of him.

Lady M said...

Oh I laugh way too much. I am such a LMAO person. I have to stop it... I keep telling myself that, but then I read someone else's view - and I'm cackling gleefully again. Putting that darn LMAO out there for everyone to roll their eyes.

But - it's so true! I really am laughing when I write those four letters. I really am making the dog look at me funny because I'm guffawing into the computer screen and spewing sodas through my nose.

I am - however the weirdest person. If I click with you... If you are an honest down to earth person, who doesn't judge people - who shows their true colors and likes to laugh at inane things, then I will be there with you and be comfortable.

But if you're a back-stabber, plotter with evil intent in order to up yourself, if you're manipulative and like to hurt other people - then I'm your kick-me dog.

I'm quite probably the most passive aggressive person I know.

I will let someone walk all over me, because I hate conflict - it makes me feel uncomfortable inside and I hate to hurt someone else's feelings no matter how evil they are acting. I become insecure. Especially in an employment arena.

So online - I can voice who I am internally - the "REAL" me... the one I am with my friends... With no insecurities, no worries and no problems. Because I am who I am.

And if someone sees who I am online - I only hope that they know, beyond a reasonable doubt that I am a nice person.


Hey - I truly enjoyed your post Sandra.

Lady M

Sandra Ruttan said...

Boy Kim, laughing MY ass off!

Lady M, you are a lot like me. I'll take garbage, take it take it take it, and then I just reach a point of no tolerance.

And it's really really not a good thing!

But I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I'm planning to write on forum follies later this week, which was the original for today, preempted by Bernita and Simpsons colliding on the same day. (Fate, or was it LUCK? We know what Konrath would say.)

Erik Ivan James said...

I've probably put too much of me out here.

Good joke.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Keep putting yourself out here Erik.

When you're famous more people will read my blog then!

JamesO said...

It's an odd thing, blogging. I've poured out my soul over at SirBenfro, and told the world things I've never told anyone before. I don't regret any of that at all. When I become famous it will all still be there, and if anyone thinks the worse of me for it, I'm afraid that's their problem.

But some caution is required. I headed up one post 'I hate my job' and proceeded to say why I felt unable to continue working on a particular project. Not a fault of the project, but a fault in myself, as I explained fully in the post. Unfortunately, I named the project, and when one of the funding agents (from the Welsh Development Agency, if memory serves) googled it, the first thing that came up was 'I hate my job'.

Fortunately for me, I'd left the project by then, so they couldn't sack me. I did have to grovel to my boss quite a bit though.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

Hehehe. Reminds me of the time when hubs read a short of mine and commented, "When did you start cursing?"

I'm like, er, buh, um, well... I'm a writer dammit! Now leave me alone!

E. Ann Bardawill said...

I sent my mother a link to my Springtingler story.

"Honey," she says, "You'll have to explain it to me. I just don't get it."

I love my mother.
She always makes me feel hip.

James Goodman said...

I have no regrets. I post what I post. Sometimes, it's received as intended and on very rare occasions...I do offend. Moreover, on even fewer occasions, that was my intent. :)

Trace said...

I struggle with that, Sandra. I like to be honest, but some things I am just very careful about.

Sandra Ruttan said...

James, oh boy! Yeah, maybe a little too much information!

Dana, too funny! And same to you E. Parents and husbands, I tell ya...

James G, you try to offend occasionally? You're pretty sly!

Trace, being careful isn't a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all. There are some who wish I was a lot more careful...

Kate said...

I'm careful on the internet because I've had to be in real life. My phone number isn't in the phone book. When I'm talking to people I don't generally say which town I live in. I'm not impossible to track down but I don't make it easy for people.

I don't have a blog but if I did I'd have to think a lot about what I was prepared to say about myself on it. But I'm happy to give my honest opinion on lots of things.

James Goodman said...

Only when I heard through the dreaded grapevine my (former) nemsis (from the day job)was reading my blog looking for information to use against me in the board room, lol.

Stuart MacBride said...

"and has made himself less of the six-foot-Scottish-Adonis that he is"

Well, I've made myself five eleven and a half if that's what you mean.

And I'm not vulnerable. I'm a big scary monster that eats children for breakfast and makes lanyards out of their innards. Whatever lanyards are.

Sandra Ruttan said...

James, LOL! Priceless!

Stuart, all this time I thought most men didn't want to talk about shrinkage.

(Shall I just call you the Scottish god then? That would be the other Scottish god, not to be confused with the supreme Scottish god...)

Jeff said...

Sandra- This is an excellent post. I agree with your comments about being open and honest online. One of my pet peeves is people who try to present themselves as someone other than who they really are. I'm not saying we shouldn't be cautious about sharing certain personal information about ourselves online, but at least we can present ourselves in such a way that truthfully reveals our personality.

The joke about the elderly couple is hilarious! LOL

btw- I stopped in by way of Jason's blog. I like your site. :)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hi Jeff - thanks for your kind words! Glad you like the site. It isn't as sweet as Jason's. He's so nice.

Drop by any time. We're a bit of a wild bunch, but we do try to have some honest fun.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, yeah, sorry Kate. Who are you again? Is that your real name? You live in Argentina, right?

Kate said...

That's right. Argentina.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I agree never entered my mind to make of a fake me put out here...the real one is just way to weird!

I'm also like James...the few times that I've offended people...I meant to!

And Stuart... a lanyard is a neck chain made by weaving four strands of some material in to a long rope, attaching the ends together with a hook. and using it for a key or whistle...sorry that's a leftover identity from summer camp days!