I’m a woman. This may come as a surprise to the one or two of you who haven’t been paying close attention.
Over the past several years, I’ve deliberately worked to keep that fact, if not obscured, at least vague and unstated. I’ve spent many years being a moderate-to-very paranoid person, for reasons both reasonable and neurotic. I once attracted a cyberstalker (the kind who hates you, not the kind who loves you), in the Olden Dayes when I used my full name on the Web and talked openly about my personal life while getting into messageboard fights. My stalker cracked one of my email accounts, using information she’d gleaned from things I had stupidly shared online, and generally made my life miserable for a short time.
So, lesson learned on that front, but my paranoia just got worse over time as the Internet got crazier and crazier and I learned more and more about how people could injure each other using information they got from your blog or your forum posts. My then-husband, who by this time was grateful for anything that deflected my attentions away from him, was of no help, and either fed my paranoid notions or derided them while ignoring my deepening mental health issues.
Then my husband finally left me and my relatives turned their backs on me, and I pretty much told myself, “DON’T LET ANY OF THESE PEOPLE FIND YOU AGAIN BECAUSE THEY WILL EITHER HARASS YOU OR MOCK YOU FOR YOUR FAILURES AND PROBABLY BOTH.” I started using more obscure handles online, and was deliberately cagey about who I was and where I lived. Every time I lost another job or gained weight or had a financial crisis, I thought about what THOSE PEOPLE would think and say about me if they knew what I was going through. Sometimes I would torture myself by Googling their names and marinating in their happiness and success without me in their lives, and imagining how they would laugh or cluck their tongues if they knew I was delivering pizza for a living. “THEY CAN’T FIND OUT ABOUT THIS.”
Those of you who’ve read my archives of conversations here will realize that all this paranoia didn’t come from nowhere. I’ve been in abusive relationships for literally my entire life. Daddy, big sister, even Mom in her well-meaning-but-man-what-a-messed-up-woman way. Bad boyfriends, bad bosses, a bad marriage. My life has been sculpted by the people around me, and as an adult I’ve chosen the same kinds of people to be around out of habit. Better the devil you know, as the saying goes.
But as I’ve mentioned before, I’m medicated now. The medication, while doing nothing to repress my colorful imagination, nevertheless has proven to greatly reduce my general anxiety and the worst of my ideations. I no longer panic when I catch a glimpse of someone I dislike in the grocery store (“WHAT IF THEY SEE YOU BUYING PEPTO-BISMOL THEY’LL KNOW YOU HAVE DIARRHEA AND TELL THE OTHER PEOPLE WHO HATE YOU”). I no longer Google my ex-husband or any of the ex-people in my life (“LOOK AT HOW HAPPY HE IS WITH HIS NEW WIFE AND WHAT IF HE FINDS OUT YOU’RE ON FOOD STAMPS HE’LL LAUGH”). And I no longer avoid mentioning that I’m medicated (“EVERYBODY IS THINKING THANK GOD SHE’S FINALLY MEDICATED BECAUSE YOU’RE SO CRAZY AND EVERYBODY THINKS IT’S ABOUT TIME YOU CRAZY WOMAN”).
It’s actually kind of a big deal for me to do this, to “come out” and say that I am a woman, even though most of you probably already figured it out a long time ago (daddy issues having most likely been the biggest clue). I’ve spent so many years being coy about it that it’s become second nature for me to obscure details and use gender-neutral language and not mention my boobs. This is actually taking some effort for me to write. And on top of everything else, I believe it’s an accepted fact that just being female online can draw you all manner of highly unpleasant attentions of various flavors. When The Internet Knows You’re A Woman, anything you say or create gets filtered through the Vagina Detector, and I wonder if she’s hot and wow she must be PMSing this week, yadda yadda.
So, this is hard. But I think I’ve gotten to a point where I no longer need (“need”) to keep so much of my life private. I still choose to keep my first name out of this, as well as the real names of the other people and ex-people in my life. Y’all don’t need to know where I work, or where I live, or what I look like (for now, at least). But I started this site as a form of self-therapy, and therapy requires honesty, and honesty means not being evasive about something that’s such an elemental part of who I am. Future posts, when I’m able to make them, will reflect this.
Thanks again for stopping by.