Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Give Me Back My Compartments

Our preacher gave a sermon one Sunday about compartmentalizing your life and only allowing certain people to see certain parts of you. He said that's not the way to have a relationship with God, or with your church; you need to be yourself, all of you -- the good stuff and the bad stuff -- with your church family. You can't hide pieces of yourself from God.

And I remember thinking -- "No, I can't hide pieces of myself from God. But I can sure hide pieces of myself from my church family--cause y'all are a bunch of Baptists, and I write about sex with werewolves."

Now, I like my church and I like my preacher and as Baptists go, my church is very liberal (we have gay people and everything). But I'm still not sure how they'd feel about the language and content of my books, and I'm not ready to find out. I try to keep that part of my life under their radar.

I'm very comfortable with compartmentalization. Consequently, I'm not a huge fan of that Zuckerman kid.

I don't hang out on Facebook often, either as myself or as Kinsey--Facebook bugs me and I much prefer Twitter--but I've friended lots of my church family, and I'm in a bunch of their groups. I will go on Facebook and talk about going to a party, or needing a drink, or having a nigh uncontrollable urge to lock my child in a closet for a few days. My church family know I'm not Baptist by belief or inclination; I attend this church because I grew up there and because Hub won't go to Mass with me. They don't expect me to behave like a "regular" Baptist. But I still don't think they want to listen to me curse like a sailor or read graphic sex scenes I wrote.

I've also friended work acquaintances, and I'm not sure how my employer would feel about my second job.

So I've told friends and family who know about Kinsey not to friend her. (I refer to my pen name in the third person. No, I don't need treatment.) (Seriously.) (Shut up.) I try real hard not to let my two lives--the life in what the geeks call "meat space," and my writing life--intersect.

For the longest time, I thought that would keep my mother from finding out my pen name--for some reason, she's always wanted to read my books. I've always known that would be a bad idea. In spite of my best efforts (I think someone squealed, she insists she just "remembered hearing it somewhere"), she discovered my books. Of course she was shocked and appalled and mortified and sickened and fervently wished she'd never read them, and all I could say was "You remember all those times I told you, "Mom, you really don't need to read my books? What I meant was, Mom, you really don't need to read my books. Next time I tell you to leave something alone, leave it alone. Geez, what are you? Seven?"

And now she wants to friend me.

I love my mom. I mean, I'm 47, and she's still my mommy. Same for my sister, who's 44. We're close to our mother, we love her dearly. But she's our mom, not our friend. We don't discuss sex with her (oh God, no). We try not to let her see us drink much, or to find out about when we do. We don't yell at our kids (much) in front of her. My mom is a bit of a prude and no matter how old we get, she still scolds us and worries about us like we're teenagers. So it's to her benefit, and ours, if we compartmentalize our lives, right? But if we become Facebook friends with her, then she sees everything we say or do on Facebook. Right now, if she wants to peek in on us, she has to physically go to our Facebook pages, and that just confuses her. So we continue to ignore her friend request, and we hope she doesn't think to ask us about it. (And yes, I know how silly it sounds for women in their 40s to relate to their mother this way. But it works for us.)

It got me to thinking, though. Don't we all compartmentalize? You're not the same person at work that you are at home. Do you want your coworkers to see the person your kids see? I, for one, certainly don't. Do you want your kids' teachers to know that sometimes breakfast is ice cream, and sometimes bedtime is after 10, and sometimes they only smell good because you rubbed them down with baby powder and body spray before you dropped them off at school? No, me neither.

So you can't say any of that on Facebook. Which seems to negate the purpose of Facebook, right? I mean, if you have to be as circumspect and discreet on Facebook as you are with all the different circles of your life, what's the point? Maybe I'll take my Facebook page private and be very picky about whom I accept as a friend. I haven't decided yet.

I'm mostly reconciled to the drastically reduced expectations of privacy we live with now; I think it's the price we have to pay for the technology that's made so many aspects of our lives so much better. But honestly, I do feel sorry for the 20 somethings who have to watch what they say and do now, for fear of losing a job some point in the future because they got drunk and stupid while in college. It's all well and good to tell people "don't put incriminating photos of yourself on the Internet!" But what about ending up in someone else's picture? Are we no longer allowed to do stuff we might regret one day? Maybe there needs to be some kind of unwritten rule that anything done before you're 24 can't be held against you by future in-laws or employers. [Note that I'm not talking about the dumbasses who post photos of their wild beach weekend and then call in sick to work on Monday. I believe that stupidity is actually a firing offense.]

Do I sound old? I probably sound old. For the most part, I think the 21st century is way better than the 20th. I like technology--I couldn't have either of my jobs if it weren't for the Internet and all the technology that accompanies it. I just wish we had a little bit more control over how much people see of us, and over who gets to see what.

Does that make sense?

If my mother finds this, she's going to be so hurt...


Meg Benjamin said...

I know just how you feel, Kinsey--I've had the same reactions a lot of times. On Facebook I find myself wanting to comment on things that strike me as desperately wrong and stupid, but Meg can't do that (yeah I do the third person thing too). I guess I could set up a page as myself, but I think FB frowns on that. Back when I used to teach, I didn't tell people at work about my books. Now that I'm retired, I figured, screw it. It's like Ray Wylie Hubbard used to say about "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother"--"Yeah, I wrote it. Want to hear it again?"

Maria said...

I just want to know if we're related cause it sounds like your mom acts like my mom and I know I'm way more comfortable with my life being compartmentalized! Yeah and lets not get started on the FB situation where I've had to ignore friend requests from relatives and work peeps

Kim B said...

I hear ya! Facebook has really become a contact log for me. I was in charge of my high school reunion a few years ago and found a lot of people. But I rarely post anything more than a funny comments made by my kid. I get bored with the people who get on there and complain CONSTANTLY! Our mothers are very similar. She would take my word for and not read it though. When I told her what I was reading she made sure to ask - do you read those dirty books like Kim - to all female relatives.