Recently I’ve been struggling with posting here. It’s not that I have nothing to say, far from it. It’s that there are people out there who feel I shouldn’t be saying it. People who have found my level of openness to be upsetting complained, and that makes my life difficult. One solution suggested was moving this blog somewhere else and becoming entirely anonymous. Even the friend whose idea it was for me to start blogging supported that notion. “Be anonymous,” he wrote. “The writing is the important part, not the being seen.” Mmph. The writing is an important part. The most important part, even. But I don’t agree that being seen – or not – is irrelevant. I can’t.
Have you ever been truly invisible? Obviously I don’t mean in the literal sense; I don’t have Harry Potter’s cloak tucked away in my closet. But invisibility, for me at least, is not unfamilar. As a kid I wasn’t very popular, and by “not very popular” I mean I spent much of my childhood being systematically tortured by my peers, and this time I am being literal. Just finding a seat on the school bus was like running a gauntlet; I would come home with bruises covering my legs from being kicked as I hurried down the aisle. Why? Who knows? I was a big city girl who moved to a very small town at a young age. I stuck out. I spoke differently. I thought differently. I wasn’t very happy and my low self-esteem made me that much more of a target. They called me fat, they called me ugly. They called me every name you could think of, really, chanted them at me until I hid in the bathroom stalls, sobbing. (The more things change, the more they stay the same.) I was miserable, and no one stuck up for me. Later, there where periods where they ignored me altogether. There were days, weeks even, where no one spoke to me in school. I would play a game with myself where I would count the words I had spoken during a school day, including to teachers. Often the number was a single digit, sometimes it was zero. Forget being invisible, I felt like I was actively vanishing… slipping away until I might just disappear altogether. If you thought being invisible would be preferable to the constant abuse I’d suffered previously, you’d be wrong. Not being seen was worse.
I found small ways to act out. It was the 80’s, and after seing ‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” video, I got my hair cut but left one long piece, which I braided like Aimee Mann’s hair. That got me noticed – and mocked – but I didn’t care. Noticed was a good thing. A year later, there was someone else with the same hairstyle, but that didn’t matter. I had found a way to be seen.
I already mentioned that I don’t make friends easily. Larger groups freak me out. I feel overwhelmed and sometimes go silent, fading into the background. Even in things like the PTA, I choose worker bee positions where I can contribute but remain behind the scenes. I want to be seen, but it’s awkward for me… it doesn’t feel natural. Financial problems add to all of this. I don’t have the money for many social activities, so I remain behind while others congregate. Once I missed a friend’s birthday celebration because it was in a restaurant, the kind of situation where everyone chips in a little to pay for the birthday girl’s dinner. I didn’t even have enough money to pay for my own dinner, so I stayed home. This happens over and over, for things big and small. I’m not present, so no one sees me. It leaves me feeling painfully disconnected.
It’s no one else’s fault I have no money, and it’s not my intent to make anyone feel sorry for me. I just want to set the scene, so to speak. I want to make it clear why this “being seen” business is not such a small thing, after all. When I write, people notice me. It feels like throwing on a cloak of visibility. Like magic, I slip into the foreground for once, and my voice gets heard. My voice. I’m noticed. In person, when someone notices me, I often don’t know quite how to deal with it. The baggage of my past, I suppose. Being noticed is nice, but awkward. I squirm when I’m the center of attention. But when I write, all of that goes away. When people notice me here, it feels amazing. Bright and shiny and warm and reaffirming. And validating. Tremendously validating.
So when someone suggests I take this blog – my words – and slip off somewhere to a dark corner of the Internet and hide, it’s a problem for me. Anonymity is sometimes warranted, and I get that. This blog is semi-anonymous. If you got here through my Facebook link, then obviously, you know who I am. Otherwise, though, I’m still pretty much hidden. Anonymous, but not invisible. I spend enough time feeling that way. For me, being seen is a big deal. It has value. It tethers me to the rest of the world, so I don’t feel like I am slipping away. My words are part of me, possibly the best part. They belong to me, and censoring them, or disassociating myself from them, goes against everything that matters to me. It feels like having something stolen. Something priceless, at that. So while closing down this blog and vanishing might make some people happy, and might even make things easier on me in certain respects, I can’t do it. If I run and hide every time someone doesn’t like something I have to say, or worse, I stop saying it altogether, what would that say about me, about my voice? Nothing I would ever want said.
So here I am. Hear me. See me. I’m not going anywhere.