Thursday, September 8, 2011

A glimpse behind the mirror

A cyber friend recently asked why bloggers like me use elementary-school photos for our profile pictures. I can't speak for anyone else, but here's my thinking:

I started this blog about four years ago as an experiment in daily writing. Among other things, I wanted to see how honest I could be without betraying anyone's privacy. One way to do that was to obscure my own identity and by extension that of "my daughter" or "my son," say.

So I used the pseudonym Mia. Since I was often writing about the experience of having cancer, Mia was appropriate. It's the name of the Amore microfiber wig I wore during chemo. Other Amore model names: Tatum, Brittanie, Parker, Holli, Kendall, Brandi. Don't they sound like the street names of prostitutes? I certainly felt like a prostitute when I wore Mia—battered, shut down, severed from ordinary society, discouraged from speaking about my cancer life. The name also meant "mine" and "missing in action," two notions that also seemed appropriate to me.

The choice of photo was based on a similar goal: to be myself without revealing the identity on my driver's license. I've always liked this picture of my 7-year-old self, with its impish smirk and its push-pull of shyness and directness. And there was another reason I used a childhood picture rather than a current one. A year out of treatment when I started this blog, I wasn't used to my real-life aged appearance: the sparse, short, gray hair; the mottled skin; the defeated eyes. It's still hard to face myself in the mirror. (But as my friend M says, "Stop looking in the mirror then!")

So "Mia" and the picture of myself at 7 are attempts to be honest without violating my own or anyone else's privacy. And in a funny way, these subterfuges allow me to be a bit more frank than I might otherwise. Behind the hedge of anonymity, I can let the wild things roam free.

1 comment:

Jeanne Sather said...

Thank you for writing this. It sends my writer's mind spinning off on all sorts of tangents.

Since I do use my name and my city and sometimes the names of my friends (but not my sons, since they asked me not to, "this time"), I sometimes find myself in delicate dilemmas.

I've not published posts that I could/would have if I were using a pen name and a childhood photo.

You have a degree of freedom that I don't.