Pseudonymity

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Recently, my dad was interviewed for a Big Deal National Publication, for a story they were doing on real estate in the area where he lives. He emailed me to tell me the exciting news, and right then and there I could have told him my great news, about FatFu (the blog) getting mentioned in a BDNP also. Not that that was my doing at all, of course, they were merely referencing the brilliant work of my brilliant coblogger (OK, Fu, I’ll stop now, I promise), and I was merely along for the ride. But at least they didn’t say, “Except for the work of Meowser, which is completely inane and should be ignored at all costs,” so I’ll take it. Yet I could not bring myself to tell him. The words got stuck in my throat. Fingers. Something.

My father does not know I blog about fat. Neither does my mother. Or my brother. In fact, a lot of people I know in meatspace don’t know. My boyfriend and my ex-husband know. That’s about it.

Just what kind of idiot blogger am I, not even telling my own family and friends what I’m doing? Valerie Plame probably wasn’t this secretive about her calling, at least not with people who were close to her. I mean, it’s not as if they don’t know I hold what most people consider unorthodox views about fat (i.e. that it’s not some kind of full-body malignant tumor, which is evidently a “radical” POV, go fig). I started doing this as a lark, really, I did not set out to become a fat blogger. I posted some stuff. People liked it. Fu asked me to join up with her. I did. Now it’s gotten to the point where I have to ask myself: what am I so fucking afraid of? And I suppose my answer is this: An argument.

Yes, an argument. Let me tell you something about my dad. He LOVES an argument — he and my stepmom will thrust-and-parry happily for hours over the most piddling shit you can imagine, like what color toilet to put in the guest bathroom — and he is crazy about Weight Watchers. He is 67 and male, and therefore the weight he lost with them (he claims about 50 pounds) is likely to stay off for good unless he goes on prednisone. As those of you who watch this space are well aware, we at FatFu (and elsewhere in the Fatosphere) give WW, if you’ll pardon the expression, a very wide berth. I do not love an argument. I do not love people I love being angry with me. I really don’t love it, a lot. A lot of people dread conflicts with loved ones, but for me it’s beyond dread, it’s like…well, discovering a full-body malignant tumor, actually.

But I also feel that the diet culture is toxic and destructive. And Weight Watchers is a DIET DIET DIET. Yes, it is, Dad, sorry. Marilyn Wann Rule Number 3 (or is it 4?): “If you have to count what you put in your mouth, it’s a diet.” And I want, someday, maybe very soon, to do more than just preach to the choir about it. The world desperately needs healing and liberation on the subject of fat, it’s gasping and choking for it, and I’m starting to feel more and more like just doing my stupid little job and hiding behind my furry avatar to express myself periodically just isn’t enough for me. If I want more than that, if I want my words to reach the general public and the unconverted, I have to take the risk of going public with my true identity and my true, still rather controversial point of view. This may also mean making my real name public knowledge. (No magazine or newspaper is going to publish me with the byline “Meowser,” after all.)

Another reason this scares the crap off my cracker is that I still have to work for a living. Not being eligible for private insurance, I am umbilically attached to my employer for this. As you might recall, I’ve revealed some rather intimate details about my life under this pseudonym of mine, stuff I might not necessarily want to tell the world with my real name attached to it, stuff that could cause an employer to be rather suspicious of me. (I have the kind of job where I got hired remotely and they do not know what I look like, but a Google search can bring up more than they want to know.)

Once I make it a known fact that Meowser=insertrealnamehere, I take a very real risk of being blackballed, which might actually be a lot worse than having an argument with my dad over Weight Watchers stupidity. (My mother wouldn’t argue with me; she just wouldn’t get it. And my brother might not argue with me too strenuously — he doesn’t like butting heads any more than I do — but his knowing heightens the risk of my dad finding out.)

And yeah, the Kathy Sierra shit scares me too. Call me a giant pussy, but when she got the noose pictures and Liss and Amanda had menacing people knocking on their doors in the wake of the John Edwards controversy, I told myself, “I will NEVER reveal my true identity online, ever. It’s not worth it.” Yes, I know that THE WOMANHATE TERRORISTS TOTALLY WIN if all women bloggers adopt that attitude. Blogging is not for giant pussies. But I AM a giant pussy! And in some ways it’s comfortable, in a devil-you-know sort of way. Being terminally inconsequential is always an option. But it’s one I keep eating out the lining of my stomach over day by day. Which is NOT comfortable.

So what would you do?

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17 Responses to “Pseudonymity”

  1. Christie Says:

    Man, that is definitely a predicament.

    All I can suggest is, can you use a ghost-writer name instead of your real name? Reveal your “real name” except it is NOT your real name?

    As for telling your family I think that is a personal choice and there is no right or wrong answer. Perhaps continue waiting to see if it feels right.

  2. wellroundedtype2 Says:

    This member of the choir says, “Amen.”
    I feel you.
    I too blog in secret.
    I’m also undercover across what some may consider enemy lines.
    I too worry about my identity coming out.

    I think what you contribute is so important that it’s better you do it under your pseudonym than not do it at all. And you are certainly not alone — many other bloggers are just as anonymous (although their pets are not).

  3. Nudemuse Says:

    I used to be really worried about anonymity. Although anymore I don’t have anyone I would be upset about reading whatever it is I have to say. I have published porn under my real name and other things I’m sure someone sometime might hold against me or threaten me with however, I refuse to co operate in it.

    My personal opinion is fuck you if you don’t like it.

    However I do whole heartedly understand your concerns and at the root of it I think you have to do what makes your heart feel ok. If that means anonymity, do it. This is yet another area where I feel that your personal comfort and sense of safety rules. Don’t beat yourself up. If people are going to listen and get your point, your byline isn’t a huge deal. At least I don’t think it is. What you say is more important I think than me knowing your name.

    And entirely OT whenever I read your posts I say Meowwwwwwwwwzer outloud. Seriously.

  4. Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Fat Advocacy And Not Wanting To Be Seen As A Barker Says:

    […] To steal a phrase, “I hold what most people consider unorthodox views about fat (i.e. that it’s not some kind of full-body malignant tumor).” And — as I admitted at dinner — I sometimes hate to talk about my views on fat, because doing so tends to get other people to classify me with the folks who wear tin foil hats to fend off the aliens. It’s not a comfortable feeling. […]

  5. Lindsay Says:

    Long ago, i made use of a pseudonym. Somehow, someone in my family found out about it – i’m not even sure who.

    It wasn’t a big deal until i used that pseudonym while being interviewed by a Village Voice columnist for an article he was doing on the community i was in at the time. And i think it was my brother who happened to find it.

    (Side note: there are some… interesting interpretations in that article. I didn’t then and don’t now agree with everything there. And i’ve walked a bit further down my spiritual path and am no longer associated with that group for a large number of reasons.)

    I thought this writer was just getting information about the stuff we were talking about, that he was talking to a fair number of people in that community. I had no idea that i would be mentioned at all – let alone be the first person mentioned.

    When it came up in conversation with my dad? He laughed and said “well, we always knew you were cosmically goofy.” In that sense, i’m incredibly lucky to have understanding family members. On the other hand? I still don’t tell them i blog about FA*, because there’s a part of me that wonders if they might consider it worse than “cosmically goofy”.

    So i say, if you’re not comfortable revealing your secret identity, don’t do it. Yeah, FA needs to have the Loud And Proud representatives… but we also need the ones who could be anyone.

    * – i don’t go to any great lengths to hide it, but i don’t think i’ve ever brought it up with them, either.

  6. Liz Says:

    I suggest a realistic pseudonym. It worked for Dear Abby and Ann Landers for years, after all.

  7. Angie Says:

    I blog with my art, so I include my name in the information about my artwork. I try not to reveal anything too controversial about myself, and such.

  8. Rachel Says:

    When I was asked to appear on The Morning Show, I had to ask my editor for the time off and tell my family and of course, everyone wanted to know why they were asking me on.

    “Well, you see… I blog about fat rights…” Yeah, you would have thought I had suddenly sprouted a new fat head.

    I’m very transparent online, perhaps too transparent. But when I went on the show, I suddenly had to “come out” as a fat rights activist. I mentioned this at the Think Tank and others, too, had similar experiences.

    Now, after the show, my mother-in-law has become a regular reader of my blog. Kinda weird, huh? I actually like her better than my own mother, but I do post a lot of personal kinds of things. But she has had similar experiences with crash dieting and low self-esteem and such. My hubby has told me how much his dad would always put her down for her weight. She told me after she started reading my blog that she first started dieting to lose 20 pounds. Twenty years later, she’s still trying to lose those 20 pounds, plus now about 40 more. After reading my blog, she now wonders had she never dieted, would she just have 20 extra pounds instead of 60? So, that was kind of cool.

    As for online anonymity, I would totally take a pseudonym. Writers do this all the time; why can’t bloggers?

  9. BigLiberty Says:

    I feel for you, Meowser. I also post anonymously — which is something I’m not quite used to doing. However, I also have to work for a living (and I don’t make much doing it, either, so losing my job would be devastating), and I don’t work for a variation-friendly kind of place (we’re ruled by a sort of President/CEO/Mussolini, who can arbitrarily fire).

    I don’t want my workplace to know about the abuse I suffered, or that I’m an Aspie. The ‘fat’ stuff — well, let’s just say that we’re a math software company and the creation of a ‘BMI calculator’ has come up in conversation. Not a conversation with ME, at any rate, but it’s something that’s there.

    I also don’t want it known I’m talking about the abuse I suffered. I’ve had death threats levied by this individual, with details on how they’d be carried out. So I’m going to go underground, with the hope that I can still help people in these kinds of situations and remain anonymous synonymously.

  10. Twistie Says:

    To come out or not to come out is a very personal decision. Whether you choose to remain Meowser, take a more realistic nom de keyboard, or out yourself completely, I think your contributions to the community are helping people and should continue. I know I’ll keep reading and keep learning.

    It took me a long time to come out to my face friends about the fact that I write fanfiction. Some were excited about it, some confused, some wildly supportive, and some have preferred not to discuss the matter further. I will say it turned out that nobody stopped being my friend or argued much with me about it. I found myself wondering what I’d been so afraid of.

    But having an avidly argumentative father on WW is not the recipe for an easy time coming out as a fat activist.

    Whatever your decision, you have my support – for what it’s worth. You need to do what works for you.

  11. mccn Says:

    I think it’s entirely up to you whether you tell your folks or not – no reason has to be good enough for anyone but you, to support that choice, and it’s no one else’s business. It doesn’t make you a bad blogger – or a bad person – not to tell them. I hate arguments, myself, and a lot of times, I just omit telling my own dad things to avoid them. I didn’t used to do that, so I can say, from comparison – both of our lives are better this way. I avoid the angst and stress, and he doesn’t have to deal with my not wanting to be around him and feeling bad about him. Whatever you do, please yourself – that’s all that matters here.

  12. JeanC Says:

    Back in the old BBS days I had a ‘nym, but that fell by the wayside when I ventured out into the world wide net. I am not secretive about my blogging, but I haven’t told my mom or aunt about it, nor about my personal website. My brother knows, but hasn’t told them.

    As said, whether or not you are out of the blogging closet is a personal choice. Everyone remembers what happened to Dooce. I blog openly, but avoid things that could get me into serious trouble with my job, some things I won’t blog about such as patrons and co-workers, except in the most general and vague terms. I also tend to be a big vague about the hubster.

  13. kate217 Says:

    No matter what you decide, we’ll still love you.

  14. lanphuong Says:

    Where we tonight shall camp?….The top blogs of the day. the newest report , see and reply me some comments. Thanks.

  15. meowser Says:

    Thanks so much, everybody! I’ve got some stuff to think about, that’s for sure.

  16. SP Says:

    Could you publish under your real name without identifying yourself as also being the Mysterious Meowser? If someone were really working at it, they might be able to match the Meowser voice to the [actual name] voice, but that does require someone to genuinely work at it. And then the things you said here would remain reasonably pseudonymous, and you could publish only the things you’re comfortable saying in public. (Which might, and probably would, evolve — but could evolve at its own pace.)

    I avoid conflicts with loved ones too, and recently spent an extended period of time around my parents, smiling politely as they managed to demonstrate all the ways they messed up my head with regard to the acceptability of different body shapes and sizes, bless their little hearts. But I love them. And they probably aren’t going to change. And I would hurt their feelings if I called them on some of the things they said. And I really, really hate conflict.

  17. Patsy Nevins Says:

    You have to do what you feel is right for you. I am not a good one to judge, since the person I love most in the world has always told me that I am TOO open & honest & forthcoming online. I have always used my own name & I do talk about personal things. I have been through a lot & my journey has been a long, painful one (I am 58, after all, disabled from birth, & an abuse survivor), but I a not ashamed of who I am, or what other people have done to me which was not my fault, I know of no other way to be than honest, & I hope that being out & honest & fat, disabled, & proud may help others with some of their own issues. However, this is something everyone must negotiate for him or herself. My own viewpoint that my life is my own, my body is my own, & how I live is no one else’s business may not suit all.

    BTW, both my parents from hell are dead &, truth be told, if they were not, I would much prefer to do something to piss them off than something to please them anyway. My sons are adults with their own lives & it is not my job to live according to their standards. And the person I love most in the world loves me unconditionally…at least partly because of my ‘tell the truth & shame the devil” attitude. Getting older helps, too, you really do become more independent & less worried about others’ opinions with age.


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