This is what I want you to see.

standing on my balcony looking into my 3rd Bulgarian kitchen
standing on my balcony looking into my 3rd Bulgarian kitchen

We’d been married a week when my in-laws came to see our first apartment. My husband, my mother-in-law, an aunt and uncle stood in the bedroom.

“Can I look in the closets?” my mother-in-law asked.

“I’d rather you didn’t,” I said.

She stepped closer to a closet door. “But you were so excited about having two walk-in closets.”

“I do love my walk-in closets,” I said. “But that doesn’t mean I want people looking in them.”

“Oh,” she said. “Okay.” She moved away from the closet and I sighed with relief.

My husband’s aunt said something thing and I turned away. A while later I walked into my kitchen and my mother-in-law was there opening the cabinets.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I wanted to see how you had your wedding presents put away,” she said and opened another cabinet.

“Um,” I said. “Really, I don’t really want people to look in my cabinets.” I thought of my mother who had died seven years earlier. She wasn’t the sort to open other people’s cabinets. “I mean…”

“Oh, Marta. They’re just cabinets.”

In writing I intend to reveal certain things and keep quiet about others. Perhaps you glimpse things I don’t realize are showing. How private can a writer be in this modern age? And would it be better if the web could forget the things we reveal?

5 thoughts on “This is what I want you to see.

  1. Sounds like someone had a different perception of personal space than you did. *ahem*

    I’ve never been a snooper either or a nosy type – if someone wants me to know something they’ll tell me, is my thinking – and that’s how I am with what I reveal as well. But you are far classier than I would have been.

    The things you unintentionally reveal in your writing here on your blog, I think a lot of that is your personality shining through much more than intimate details. And those things are really the reader’s perceptions and could be entirely off base. It could also be a persona, and not how you are in real life, you know? So “reading between the lines” always has to be taken with a grain of salt, unless you REALLY know the person doing the writing.

    The expiration thing is an interesting premise but I’m not sure I agree with it. I think of the Internet like a snake, and we know what it is when we pick it up. I think information – and I’m talking more in terms of things like news articles and such rather than personal blogs per se – but information should always be available, IMO. I think it keeps revisionists at bay a little bit.

  2. As writers, some of our most valued possessions are our online identities. We have to guard them viciously, protect them, make sure we project what we want people to see. It’s easy to become comfortable, relaxed, unguarded and expose something we don’t have.

    I’m sort of in favor of the web forgetting, but depending on the information. Something I want to refer to in perpetuity, like facts, figures, information, reference material. Personal things should definitely expire, I think. How to enforce, though?

    I don’t think you’ve ever said something here which made me gasp in surprise and wonder. I think you’re fine. But this is why I use a web identity on my blog and the ‘Net rather than my actual personage.

    Not that that will help much. But it makes me feel better.

  3. In writing I intend to reveal certain things and keep quiet about others.

    Does that mean when you put pen to paper you, umm, reveal/hide certain things by nature/habit? Or are you talking about conscious decisions to reveal Fact X and Y but keep Z under wraps as you’re writing, in the telling of the story?

    If you’ve noticed that you (consciously or unconsciously) tend to hide/reveal the same kinds of information, from one story to another, that may or may not be a problem, depending on what kinds of information you’re talking about. Hiding/Revealing on an ad hoc basis, depending on the story/scene/dialog — that seems (to me) to be no problem at all.

    About the Internet: You know the bit about how aliens have been listening to our TV broadcasts for, like, 60 years — because the transmissions go up and out, not being confined to Earth? I’ve hoped for a long time that the same thing is true of the Internet: that when something is posted, somewhere in there a copy of it is being beamed Out There. Not necessarily intentionally, just… Out There. There’s something comforting to me in the thought (or fantasy) that in a few billion years, after the Earth is gone, the entire contents of (say) the Google Books archive, plus Wikipedia, plus all of YouTube, plus all the blog entries and comments and family photographs and political arguments and conspiracy sites and email messages and Tweets and even “naughty” sites and, well, everything — that it’s all still out there, bouncing around from one wall of the universe to another, waiting for the aliens to figure out the Internet Protocol so all the little bits and packets can be re-assembled and so they can be fascinated (if not exactly blown away) by the whole thing.

    Of course, it gets messier on the issue of giving fellow human beings access to “it all.” There are plenty of legitimate reasons for keeping some things to ourselves; it’s not just twisted, evil, or plain-old unpleasant things which might completely change someone’s life for the worse If Only They Knew.

  4. Hm. Veddy inteddesting. I have a few things locked away which will never come up in a public forum, but for the most part, I let it all hang out. Although I’m an extremely private person, I take a “tell them before they find out on their own” approach. Since I’ve been blogging my fear of exposure has gone down a lot.

    As far as the expiration date concept, I think that could be good for us, as long as it was a long enough time. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have a whole file cabinet drawer devoted to my journal so I could forget certain things. However, I resist any sort of regulation of the Internet, so I don’t know if I’d support it.

    BTW, thanks for letting me know about the book. 🙂

  5. hmmmm, I like the idea of some sorts of internet data being given an expiration date (like threads in hypochondriacs’ discussion forums which simply terrify anyone looking for real information on real diseases), but I don’t know where the line would be drawn. Would our blogs only date back to Aug. ’08? I’d HATE that not only on behalf of my own writing, but on for the other blogs I read. When I find a blog I like, I often go back to the very first entries to start from the author’s first tentative steps with him or her.

    As for revelations in writing… I’ve heard some writers say that they do not commit too many details in their work b/c they don’t want to limit their future options. Once a character has grown up in the warmest climes of Arizona, then she cannot complain to her fictional children that she had to walk twenty miles to school in 4 feet of snow uphill both ways. These writers like to play close to the vest and dole out information only as absolutely needed. I like that in a writer – keeps their story lines cleaner and allows room for the reader’s imagination.

    Your mother-in-law is insufferably nosy. Did she think that the inside of your cabinets led to somewhere not indicated by the outside of your cabinets? The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was JUST a story. Your spaghetti noodles are no more interesting than anyone else’s. Now, as for bedside tables, those are always interesting. 😉

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