It still grieves me to think of what happened with my blog and on Instagram. The way people tried to steal or imitate parts of my style and identity without giving me any credit for the inspiration was totally sickening. The way people twisted their truths and lives to resemble me so they could “compete” was gobsmacking. And while I never “fell for any of it”, it just really, really made me angry.
I had started sharing some things because people share things online in my generation. Then it started. And, at first, I ignored it all.
For years I ignored it…
But, at some point, I began lashing out. I think my life got a bit darker for a while and I lost patience and the perspective to deal with the constant nonsense from about 40 people… Yes. 40.
Some were admittedly more aggressive than others. They also become a lot worse towards the last two years.
I think the funny thing is, even though I’ll likely never receive an apology from any of these people despite their actions, I’m the one left feeling guilty. Guilty for having anything or being anything anyone could be intimidated, impressed or hurt enough by to feel the need to compete or be hateful. But, in part, that’s just the way it is nowadays. If you have real privilege people who aren’t as fortunate will either try to dismantle it or you with lies, they’ll start rewriting their own identity to compete to make it or you seem “equal to them” or beneath them OR they’ll act like you owe them something for your advantages.
Case in point: My ancestry. My ancestry on my mother’s father’s side (my grandfather) really is rare. Their level of wealth, the social connections they had, their English aristocratic roots dating back to the 12th Century (they were French before then), the way they influenced the American South and fought in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War (unfortunately, but heroically and honorably, on the wrong side) are extremely rare and frankly a bit “blue blooded”. Many people came to the US but few were quite like them… And my grandfather was a rare individual on his own merit.
I shared that all first because I was being open and then because I was angry… And, of course, the knighted Norwegian-American author on my father’s side is very rare too. It wasn’t just a meaningless honor he received in 1954.
Then there’s also the other things…
And all of these facets were not just some random connections or “cool things” that you find when you’re digging around on an ancestry site for kicks. They were and are much more authentic to who we still are as a family (ie My mother’s maiden and her siblings’ name was and is the actual name with the title from the 1100’s and that author, as a person, was closer in terms of family social dynamics than just some distant figure in our past.).
It was also just me. It was my current status and not just my background.
My life. My choices. My tastes. My style.
It was the fact that I was truly going to work in politics had I not gotten married. Actually, it was the fact that I DID work in politics for about ten years (without getting paid) and easily might do more in the future. You never entirely loose your fascination after all.
Those are all things to be proud of. Those are all things that are MINE. However, some people who are likely struggling with being mentally ill in some variation, sadly, couldn’t understand that.
I’m still angry and feeling guilty though. And I think the biggest reason is an odd one. It actually has nothing to do with the current climate of things in the world.
As an aspiring author who was planning meticulously for over 15 years to be a lawyer and who has a background in politics I’m never entirely…right. *clears throat* Right? Well, yes.
I rarely ever lie. And when I do it’s almost always for reasons of safety for myself or someone else. There are some things I cannot share about myself and never have online. (We all have some version of that) But…I do focus on things that remove the likelihood of certain conclusions being drawn. And no, that doesn’t mean I’m embellishing truths or glossing over things to make myself look better (as some might be hoping I mean). It means I hide.
And the thing that bothered me the most was that people were copying and competing with my persona. A persona that I created. Now, again, the persona was based on facts and it was “me” but…it was never a true portrait of me down to my actual soul. To truly know me takes time and I’ve come to suspect it can only be done in person.
Why would that bother me so much? I don’t know.
Maybe it was just the sheer stupidity of it all. Maybe it was how depressing it was to think that people would be so heartless or messed-up as to take my persona so damn seriously or misunderstand it and then ultimately “go wild” in their response. Or it could have been that people would have such a lack of appreciation for or understanding of themselves and their actual reality that they would need to steal things from someone else to feel safe or worthwhile.
…Then some people used my emotional months of too-open blog posts to threaten me. And that’s all I should say about that.
But really, only today has it hit me why I truly was so affected by it.
1. I think I really just wanted people to be happy being whoever the heck they are and not find me so upsetting that they had to mentally and emotionally attack me, imitate me or in some cases try to actually become me. You have to be proud of who you really are and not try to “fix” it all like plastic surgery to be something you’re not and never will be in this lifetime.
Of course, again, in the worst case some people may have even partially lost track of their own identity and reality to an unhealthy degree. And that’s just one of the dangers of social media, I suppose. It can become like a drug for some – like an LSD trip that resembles a cross between “Single White Female” and “The Shining”.
But, at any rate, I think we long to be known. And so, 2. I felt incredibly alone.
Imagine being a woman going to a favorite coffee shop every morning right after your husband dies. You put yourself together every morning just to get out of bed for that coffee. It’s your only thing to look forward to. You probably over-compensate and look a little more polished than usual. You wear a perky smile so as to keep others at a distance. Indeed, there’s almost nothing worse than false, patronizing empathy when you’re really in pain. Also, you’re hiding something.
It’s 1986 and your husband was bi-sexual. (No that particular part is not me or anyone in my family. And I’m not lying for safety reasons or otherwise.) Your marriage had hit a snag, as they sometimes do, and you both cheated. Only you cheated with your male, straight, golf buddy from your parent’s country club and he cheated with your also bi next door neighbor, Richard. …And Richard partied a lot. A lot. So, bubbly, lovable and engaging Richard your neighbor (and your husband’s secret lover) got AIDS.
Besides watching Richard die, worrying about his wife Linda and how it would affect her because she didn’t even know her husband Richard was bi, and trying to save your marriage…you had to worry about your own health, the health of your golf buddy AND you suspected your husband would die soon too. But, of course, you couldn’t openly discuss any of it.
Your husband, of course, also got AIDS. And in a confusing twist of fate, you discovered, after asking for dates and details, that your very broken marriage and the fact that you had ceased to share a room seven months ago, saved your life.
But, again, you can’t discuss it. You just can’t.
And then you start getting to know people at the coffee shop by name. It’s fun! …But, alas, some of the regulars start to assume you’re some pretentious jerk for various reasons.
But they don’t know you. Not really.
I mean sure, you tell them some things – the things you think are relevant to various conversations like where your son is going to college or that your great great grandfather started the town when he moved there back in 1827. Or you share things like how you can’t stand dark roasted coffee or putting raisins in potato salad. BUT…you always filter it all through your…”coffee shop persona”.
Again, they don’t really know you.
So, when you start being attacked in many subversive ways and some random woman comes up to you and tells you that she “too” (eye roll) has a friend with an uncle who was friends someone who was once friends with someone who started a town nearby…it amuses you and disturbs you for obvious reasons but also, and mostly, it makes you feel cold in a weird sort of way. You don’t really care that much about that social status on your part. It’s just a piece of who you are. But to her it was cause for really desperate competition and animosity and that’s upsetting. …She just randomly came up to you and started a conversation to tell you about the utter nonsense above…
Or when someone suddenly buys ten Hermès scarves (you often wear Hermès scarves) and feels the need to come up to you as you’re reading F. Scott Fitzgerald and drinking your coffee one Saturday, to tell you that they “bought some scarves” and that they did so with money they also tell you they had to get by selling their plasma…you feel…concerned for their financial state. It’s deeply upsetting.
It’s all weird. Very, very, very weird. Sooo…weird. And a little scary.
Then, finally, some man in line for coffee tells you that you’re evil. He tells you that he’d like to strangle you but he can’t. He says he doesn’t even have enough respect for you to bother hating you. And why? Well, because you’re a straight, rich woman and he’s a gay man who just lost his lover of ten years to AIDS. And he knows you’re a Christian and that your husband died and…he suspects…that your husband had so much more respect given to him at his funeral than his dead lover because your husband died of (what this man in line believes) is cancer…and what’s more to the point: He was straight. (Of course he wasn’t) …This man goes on and says that even though your husband was likely an alcoholic (he assumes you’re lying about this) who he thinks died of liver cancer (because he says he saw him all the time at bars with Richard), that everyone ignored your husband’s blemishes because he was (this man believes) what men are supposed to be.
You try to keep a cool head and tell him that you know his pain and feel real sadness for him. You say that you had a bad marriage and that you wish he’d learn that everyone has problems. But he says he doesn’t believe you. And that any woman who would discuss their bad marriage right after their husband dies is an evil bitch anyway.
…You confess that your marriage went bad in part because of your husband’s sexuality and other unrelated problems. You share that you met someone again, recently, who is a friend of your golf buddy (who you also share was your lover) and that you worry your relationship with him won’t work either because you worry that he too might be bi-sexual because he reminds you so much of your ex husband. You overshare. In public.
The man in line doesn’t believe you and says your version of sympathy is demented. He says you’re insane for making up a story just to make him think you can relate. And even if it is all true it all just makes him feel worse anyway so why would you be so heartless as to share it?
On your way out to your car you worry that the guy who is still filled with rage behind you will truly be a problem. Then, you find yourself being punched in the face by a random, big, bigoted, angry man who claims he, “hates fags” and calls you a “whore”.
You get in your car, miraculously, and drive away. You go to the police. You live in fear.
…That’s what this has been like for me…