Saturday, September 01, 2007

Middle Name Meme Becomes Musings

I volunteered to tag myself for a meme Laura did the other day. I'm supposed to give you a wee bit of info about myself by using each of the letters of my middle name. My middle name only has two letters so I figured, easy peasy! Turns out it wasn't as easy as I thought. What do I tell you that's new about myself? Some days it seems as if I've already blabbered on about every small detail of my life.

Just recently, however, a handful of events led me to realize how much I don't share on my blog or with my online friends. Nothing huge, just a cluster of a few small confusions and assumptions. Curious, I tracked back through my blogs and online communications, trying to figure out how a person might have turned left at my story or idea when I myself had actually turned right. I was surprised to discover how patchy my online persona is in relationship to my real world.

Obviously there are things in everyone's life that best remain private or intimate. (No, I'm not really a man (I had an online friend once who allowed everyone on a list we met on to believe for years that she was a man before admitting otherwise. Although it wasn't like it changed anything about our social relationship, or hurt me in any way I could define, I still felt really really angry about that for a long time.) I'm also not a cereal killer or anything else exciting like that - although I've been known to spill a few Cheerios from time to time. ) Then there are topics that are plain ol' boring. I try to avoid those. Often it's not that I intentionally leave things out. Instead I simply get busy and never get around to posting topics or events or thoughts that I had every intention to share. I try hard not to rant too often. I leave out small passing resentments or frustrations that might be blown out of proportion if I put them into words (family read my blog) because they are just that, small passing emotions.

But I always thought, those exceptions aside, that I'm pretty much a "what you read is what you get" sorta gal. I've always thought of myself as being more open (i.e. blabby) and honest (i.e. blabby) than a lot of people are online. I'm not restrained enough to pick just about one facet of my life to share, like some who choose to only blog about their craft or their gardens or their travels. I blog about all those things and more. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But apparently each post is a puzzle piece, not a whole, and no matter how many pieces I share, there will always be spaces, pieces missing. It was surprising, a bit frustrating, a bit amusing, to realize that people sometimes fill in those missing spaces in unexpectedly false ways.

In the end I decided it was a good realization to stumble into, because it reminds me not to assume I know what's there in the blank spaces of other blogger's lives. It's hard enough in "real" life not to jump to conclusions about others who you know, see, spend time with. How many times have you assumed someone is happily married only to be shocked when they're divorced before the end the year? Or label someone as super committed to their career only to find out they have a painful history of infertility behind them? I've assumed someone disliked me personally only to find out years later they envied me. I'm still embarrassed at how I jumped to the conclusion that one of my son's friends was stupid because he came from a poor family (yes, I know, I'm sooo embarrassed! *Blush*), only to have the kid, a third grader at the time, sit at my dinner table and discuss one of his favorite authors (Tolkien) and his interest in quantum physics. Or the time I struggled to figure out why the new Black (African American?) sports announcer on the television news was talking about vitamins - turned out he wasn't a new sports announcer, he was a doctor doing a new nightly medical news piece. I saw a Black guy and thought - Sports! Fell into that stereotype hole and climbed out of it again with a very bruised sense of pride.

I pride myself on NOT stereotyping but sometimes it happens so fast or we don't even realize we are doing it. And once we fill in the blanks in what we know about someone with what we think we know, and that assumption gets ingrained in the story we carry about someone for a while, it's hard to remember what is true, the dots, and what is what we drew in freehand, the lines between them.

Now, I'm supposed to tag as many people to do the meme as I have letters in my middle name. I hate tagging people so if a couple folk could tag themselves in my comments, I'd be very grateful. 'Cuz, y'know, I don't want to assume I know who'd like to be tagged and who would hate it. I might be drawing it in wrong!


Blogger amy said...

That takes courage, to admit to the conclusions you yourself have jumped to. I hope I'm not making assumptions, to think you are brave in being so honest? :-)

7:46 AM  
Blogger Blame It on Paris said...

OK, funnily enough, when Shabby in the City first tagged me, she joked that everyone she tagged would come up with the shortest middle name possible--Sue. And I joked back, well, they could come up with JO, that would be even shorter. And...yours really is Jo!

Stereotypes are tricky. I'm teaching a class this semester which tries to negotiate what "Frenchness" is and teach students to negotiate between stereotypes and useful knowledge about another culture. Humans have to operate on generalisations & assumptions. (I once decided I was going to study artificial intelligence instead of French. During that period, I learned that one of the biggest challenges to genuine artificial intelligence was that no one could get computers to generalize. Every tree they saw had to be individually identified.) So it's clearly essential to our intelligence. And yet it can make us so dumb!

Interesting, human minds, aren't they?

Thanks for playing!

4:40 AM  

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