I learned some lessons this week about blogging “anonymously” while “technologically challenged.” A few weeks ago, I asked the few friends who actually know about Undercover in the Suburbs to “like” a post of mine that appeared on RoleReboot.org. I foolishly did not realize this would appear in their news feeds. I found out this week that my friend’s colleague, mother-in-law, and husband all read my post after Facebook announced she had read it. The first two don’t know me, but of course her husband put two and two together and found my blog. Outed. Fail.
The next day, I was checking traffic to my blog and noticed a very pronounced spike. When I checked to see how all these people were finding my site, I saw the words Huffington Post in several of the referring links. My heart stopped and raced all at once. Could it be? I clicked on the link, and there was my article!! I was thrilled and horrified all at once. MY article on HuffPo! Ah, but did it have to be my article questioning compulsory monogamy, and on the “weddings” page no less? As I read through the comments I felt ill. I came home from work that night in quite a state. “Are all these people right about me?” I questioned Seth. The comments triggered my deepest fears that my writing and self-exploration is a selfish pursuit that’s going to harm my family. After reading through the comments, Seth assured me I was only attending to the most negative comments and that most of them were perfectly benign. Still, I had had no preparation for exposure to such a mixed audience. I was used to respectful debate, not personal attack.
“This woman is a certifiable loon.”
“This post is a break in the emotional intimacy of your marriage.”
“This article is me, me, me…”
“She needs a shrink, oh I forgot, she is one… I guess I would not go to her for help.”
“She might need a whole gaggle of shrinks to fix what’s broke.”
“No mention of the husband of kids, they are collateral damage to her mental weakness it seems.”
“Sounds like she wants some beaver on the side, and Seth isn’t going for it.” (Have to give this one credit for being humorous, albeit offensively so)
“Maybe it’s just me, but this lady seems selfish and immature.”
One of the things therapists often helps folks with is distinguishing between thought and behavior. It may seem obvious, but at times the two can become quite entangled. There is a difference between questioning the societal norms that lead people to marriage and monogamy, and actually straying from your marriage (assuming monogamy is the agreement between you and your partner). I guess using myself as an example in the post runs the risk of eliciting reactions to me as a person. Of course, if you take the post literally and not as a personal essay questioning a societal script, you would be concerned about my husband and children. However, I also have to ask myself how much of the reactions relate back to the expectation that women/mothers be focused on their families and completely satisfied with that focus. My husband and children are my #1 priority, but they are not my only priority, and I believe as a woman I should be able to write many articles which don’t consider their perspective at all.
Later this week I received an ominous email from a friend. It was innocuous enough, asking if we needed him to babysit on a certain day – except – it referred to me as “Lyla.” Not knowing where he had seen this, or who else knew, I panicked. I wrote back demanding he reveal the source of the leak. This time The Huffington Post and Facebook had conspired to out me. I had simply loaded the (Huffington Post page) where my piece was published. Later, I saw reported in my Facebook news feed that I had read it. I deleted that from my feed, but it was too late. There was a hole in the dyke (no pun intended). I simply clicked on a page, and I was outed. I feel like Facebook knows where I am and what I’m doing at all times. If I don’t tell them someone else does. Damn you Zuckerberg! He knows and sees all, and reports on it to random high school classmates, my very Catholic, republican cousins, my mother’s friends, my ex co-workers, my DAD. Who else saw that post on my news feed and found my blog? Dad, are you there? I’ll never know. My brother says I gave HuffPo permission to post that on my news feed. When? How? I feel like I’m going to look at my news feed one of these days and see “Lyla Cicero masturbated. 9:30 a.m.” Jeez!
Okay reader, I know what you’re thinking. First of all, ‘seriously, you don’t know these things can end up in your news feed?’ And secondly, ‘you have broadcast your personal thoughts all over the internet, and you expect no one to find out?’ The truth is I am quite conflicted about being open about many of the things I talk about here. On the one hand, I’m thrilled and amazed that people want to publish my writing, and that people resonate with the topics and can relate to my experiences. On the other hand, I’m feeling like what started as a pin prick could turn into a gushing wound with no way to stop the bleeding.
What’s done on the internet is done. Just by publishing that piece suggesting people consider polyamory before marriage could create limitations for me in the future. One need not look far to see the ways in which prior statements and opinions can impact folks later in life. And then there are my conflicts about coming out. Here I am writing about how invisible and unseen I feel, and yet, the idea of friends and family finding out scares me. I mean anyone could be reading this right now, even my great aunt the nun. She already picks fights with me about gay marriage.
So as all this was happening I realized I need to thicken my skin. I need to be able to stand behind what I’m doing and practice what I preach. And besides, if I’m putting all this stuff out there I must want people to know. I do want to be seen. Making an anonymous blog and trying to get posts published elsewhere is like leaving my journal out and then being mad that my parents found it even though I secretly wanted them to. I have to ask myself, isn’t there a part of me that wants to not be “undercover.” Then I can just know once and for all what the reactions will be. If folks will be disgusted by the things I think about, the way I identify, and think I’m a horrible wife and mother, so be it. And who knows, maybe I’ll be surprised at how many are accepting. After all, Zuckerberg, some of the people in my life know me a little better this week due to your not-so-subtle attempts at world domination.
Besides, I have already encountered some amazing people through blogging who are enriching my life, in some cases in person, and in others from thousands of miles away.
Just a small sample:
Fellow twin mom Deborah Siegal writes “Note to Self: Must Meet Lyla Cicero one of these days,” and links to my post on her blog.
Made-in-Italy writes on Tumblr in a post about “coming out as a feminist mamma” stating, “Lyla Cicero, who blogs at Undercover in the Suburbs, has nailed how I feel as a feminist mother living in Italy in this post at Offbeat Mama.” She goes on to quote my article, ending her post with “I’m with you sister!”
Another reader writes in an email “I feel like you give voice to many of my thoughts and feelings in very articulate, mindful ways (and this from a man).”
Kate the Great writes on offbeat mama, “I could have written this myself. But now I don’t have to, because you said it so well. Thank-you.”
Being undercover is risky, but for now, it is worth-it.
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