There’s an old country song entitled, “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” A few years ago I saw this retooled on a bumper sticker as “I Was Uncool Before Uncool Was Cool,” which of course means that said bumper sticker owner was, in fact, cool, because s/he was uncaring about being cool. But you see, I spent much of my life being really and truly uncool. By which I mean that I was always trying to be cool. So does this make me cool or uncool? And if it makes me uncool, does that make me cool? What do you learn about me by reading this paragraph?
In the most recent of a series of thoughtful posts on blogging, truth, and fiction, Elouise considers me as a “character” in the story that is my blog, trying to imagine me based on what a reader learns from what I reveal. I think the majority of readers of my blog have met me in person, but I’m not entirely sure: if you don’t comment, I probably don’t know you’re reading, although my server logs provide some interesting information. (Don’t worry. You’re not under surveillance.) But what if you haven’t met me in person? What do you conclude about me? Here’s what Elouise concludes:
- “…bespectacled dude, mid-50s…”
- “…Granola guy…”
- “…Somewhat unkempt…”
- “…Military brat…”
- “…Whoa…use of the term ‘homies’…Minus 20 years…”
Elouise only happens to be singling me out for this kind of analysis. Her larger interest is the way that a blog provides “pieces of a larger puzzle that only approximate the real person. Not until we meet in meatspace, does the abstraction disappear.” I’m not sure the abstraction ever does disappear, though. I’ve known Chuck for ten years, and yet we’ve communicated more in the last 12 months via the keyboard than we ever did before. And I’ve learned much more about him from his blog than I did through conversations. The “meat” Chuck and the “blog” Chuck are somewhat separate entities for me, and I don’t find myself privileging one over the other.
So what does this have to do with the first paragraph of this entry? I guess I care enough about what other people think of me to be somewhat troubled by the idea that my writing comes across as the work of an unkempt, bespectacled, granola eating, Birkenstock wearing, mid-50s guy.
Now, if I provide details about myself specifically in response to speculations by Elouise, does that violate some sort of prime directive? (“Oooh, a Star Trek allusion. Very interesting.”) I’ll refrain, then. (Except to say that I wear Doc Martens, not Birkenstocks.) But I do realize that the reason I keep a rough list of what I’m reading and listening to over on the left-hand side of my current front page design is to give readers a sense of who I am outside of what they learn in the entries that I write.