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Thursday, May 27, 2004

Hiding in plain sight

The other evening I received something out of the ordinary (at least for me): Fan mail.

I mention this not so much for it’s rarity, or to brag, but rather because it made me feel momentarily self-conscious about the public nature of this endeavor. I haven’t dealt with this topic before, so I suppose I should come clean about some simple truths.

You see, keeping a journal in view of the entire wired/literate world is a little crazy, and the sane journaler needs to adopt some rules to provide at least the illusion of control. First and foremost among these rules is how much (or little) to reveal about one’s self and family. Some choose to blog anonymously (sort of like singing from the open window of a 4th floor walk-up), while others use little or no obfuscation (more akin to walking around naked in a 2nd-, or even ground-floor apartment). Somewhere in-between is my comfort zone… what I've come to think of as 'hiding in plain sight'.

I’ll freely admit that I didn’t give too much thought to such rules before starting treppenwitz, as it was originally created to communicate with people I already knew (e.g. family and friends). However, as time has passed, and my little curbside window has gone global, I find myself regularly strolling around in front of several hundred people a day (not counting the scores of drop-ins from search engines) wearing not much more than a towel.

Therefore, I feel like a little post-hoc assessment / summary of my ‘rules’ might be in order, if for no other reason than to point out that I am wearing a metaphorical towel.

First off…all the names are real, but the 'innocent' have been provided a certain amount of protection through judicial 'filtering'. For instance, my wife had a different first name when we lived in the states, but it didn’t roll comfortably off of the Israeli tongue so she legally changed it to Zahava when we moved (and here, Zahava she shall always be).

You will see frequent references to my kids, but will almost never read anything about them that wouldn’t pass the 'First Date Test' (i.e. would I feel comfortable telling the anecdote in front of one of my children’s future first dates).

However, my extended family (parents, sibs, in-laws, etc.) and friends have (and will), always been referred to obliquely, or by their relationship to me, rather than by name. This is because I feel comfortable making decisions about my own anonymity (or lack thereof), but not theirs. If they decide to 'out' themselves or one-another in the comments section, I can’t help that… but I do what I can to provide a modicum of 'cover' in what I write.

Next, while I consider my family life to be fairly normal, it is not the idyllic '7th Heaven' (or 'Father Knows Best', for you older folks) existence that one might imagine if they knew us only from treppenwitz. If I write about something here, it is because I want you to know about it. Like most people, I’m embarrassed about my foibles, and I go to great lengths not to publicize the flaws in those I love. I don’t feel this is dishonest or even disingenuous. We all do this in our everyday lives… hiding 'The Stranger' (as Billy Joel so eloquently described the essential 'us') from all but our most intimate relations. I feel it is important to say this last bit because I would regret giving the impression that I hold myself, or my family, to an unusually high standard of conduct. We are all quite imperfect.

Lastly (for now, anyway), is what got me fixated on this line of thought in the first place: Communication from the outside world. I enjoy getting comments on what I write. A lot. I have also 'met' some wonderful people, and discovered some fantastic journalers from the simple miracle of receiving a message on my blog. I’ve also had some lively on/off-line discussions on politics, religion, family values, and writing style with people I would have never encountered without the medium of my blog. However, I’m continually amazed that people with such different experiences and backgrounds find my topic selection interesting. I suppose it validates my own reasons for perusing such a diverse group of bloggers/journalers (see my ‘Good Readin’ list) during my early morning browsing routine. Maybe too, it might suggest we aren’t that different after all.

Looking back over this entry, I realize I could have simply pointed out that what you read here is the truth, and nothing but the truth… although perhaps not the whole truth. It’s a balancing act that many journalers perform, between revealing everything and not revealing enough. But in the end, if done properly, it allows the sharing of ideas and values without ‘dropping the towel’.

Such is the process of hiding in plain sight.

Posted by David Bogner on May 27, 2004 | Permalink

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