Lately I am thinking a lot about the existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre and it isn’t because I am in the midst of an existential crisis or because I am having paranoid delusions that lobsters are chasing me*, rather it is because I am no longer anonymous. My real name is out there and my anonymity is a two-day-old memory.
Having a nom de plume gave me a great amount of freedom to be very open and honest without any concern of consequences. But now that my real name (the one on my drivers license) and my photograph is out there, I am feeling some amount of nausea and dread that comes from from the fear of the gaze of the other and how that gaze will impact my sense of self and my work, my writing and my relationships.
Old Jean-Paul Sartre, or as I like to call him, JPS, wrote a lot about the idea of how the gaze of the other impacts one’s sense of self and strangely his book Being and nothingness says a lot about the identity crisis I find myself in, and I quote:
I fear that now that my real name is on this blog, that who I am in a given post and on a given day will become my fixed and permanent identity even though it is just a post and just one day. I worry ( yes, I worry a lot and Igor knows about that) that people in my non-blogging life, both personal and professional will find my blog and not tell me that they did or worse, find my blog, tell me they did and then tell me that they can’t believe I said x, y or z. I wonder how seeing my name on my blog will impact their sense of me and how this might change the way they relate to me. Will they see me as fluid or rather will I become a fixed identity of the me they saw when they visited my blog? Will the parts of myself that are not on the blog no longer be seen as part of the real me, even though they are?
Let me give you an example of what I fear. Let us imagine that I am doing some errands and I ran to the store with my hair in a bad state, no make up on, and in an outfit not intended to be seen by others( yes, this on occasion happens). I have gone to the store to buy tampons, maxi pads, and a half gallon of ice cream. It is the middle of the night and I am sure that I will run into no one. As I stand in line to check out I get a phone call on my cell phone in which I have angry words, i.e I am not at my best, brightest or most beautiful( PMS inspired ugliness), happily there is no one around to see me (or so I think). I get to the cashier to pay and it turns out I forgot my wallet and have only $2.00 in change. I feel someone looking at me and it is an ex-boyfriend that I have not seen for decades. The experience is now made worse. Why? Because the experience has been objectified by an observer. And I am no longer the object I was to my ex, I am a new object that is not the real me. Okay it is the real me but it is not ALL of me.
This new object of me as “ex who is a hot mess ” has eclipsed the object that existed for him before that moment. The old object no longer exists for him. I know that the new object isn’t the real me (or all of me), but he doesn’t know that. That truth does not protect me from the shame of having that new object exist. Now that my name is on the blog the blog version of me might eclipse the other part of me that I don’t write about on the blog. Both selves are true and will continue to exist but only one will be seen.
I think the reason this is such a hot button issue for me is that my mother decided who I was at 13. She has not allowed new versions of myself to become part of her sense of me as a subject. When I explain that I am now something other she will remind me that she ” knows who I really am.” Actually, no, she knows the me that I was at 13 and even then she didn’t really know who I was—it just seems to be the version of me that she holds onto for reasons that are entirely her own.
Now, I am not worried that you are going to do the same thing to me but I am a little concerned that what is seen of me through the keyhole of the blog will not be the entirety of me and yet will be mistaken for the totality of me. As soon as I revealed my real name you knew things about me that I had before intentionally obscured. I think my chief concern is that people who had not previously known about the blog, but only known me in another context( work/social/academic), and when they see the blog it will impact their sense of me as a person and as a professional. I worry that to these imagined people I will no longer be seen as who I am but only as the me who exists on the blog. The funny thing is that when writing as La Belette Rouge I never once had any concerns about you not seeing the other aspects of me and that making the me that is here any less true or real.
One final note, I thought it best to assure you that in losing my pseudonym that I am not in fact revealing the ‘hot-mess ex’. Actually, I am pretty proud of my professional identity that you will meet if you go over to Freudian Sip. The truth is that the Belette me is me at my most honest and vulnerable so if you can put up with that part of me I doubt that you will find the non-pseudonym me to be any more objectionable. In my “Tracey” capacity I think I tend to be a bit more guarded, professional and less likely to spill my guts for all to see. I hope I can bring together the Belette me and the Tracey me in a way that works. I am, to be totally honest, scared. I truly don’t know what is going to happen and how doing this will change my writing and/or my sense of self. Did you see that? I wrote the word “Tracey”. Truly, that might be the scariest, most vulnerable and most courageous thing I have ever written on this blog.
*Sartre’s experiments with mescalin left him with the recurrent fear that he was being pursued by a lobster.