...wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.*But I am not so sure that this applies to me right now. I have, by virtue of participating in the political process with an adorable 9 year old, been thrust from a comfortable anonymity into the glare of the public spotlight. Nance, my Blog Friend Forever, heard the news of a shooting at a Congress on Your Corner event in Tucson and just knew that I was there. She just knew. She and her friend Susan U used their computers to triangulate the Safeway and the hospital and the address from the brownies I had sent her at Xmas and it became apparent to them that it was my neighborhood. She left a message on my home phone, begging for information. She was distraught.
Little Cuter recognized the need to know which existed in the blogosphere and in the real world and wrote Tough. It's one of my favorite posts. She informed and reassured and she did it with style. I am so very very proud. I haven't asked her if she thought about the issue of privacy and I don't really care one way or the other. It was inevitable that my protective shield would be pierced. It was just a matter of time.
My family and friends have always said that I should write a book. In the 20th century that's what you told people who were facile with the written word. The digital age gave those of us with the inclination to opine the blogosphere in which to stretch our wings, and I took advantage of the situation. I love it. Or, I did once I figured out how to get started. My real self was unable to scratch out a paragraph worth sharing. Little Cuter wondered if Ashleigh Burroughs (my tall, willowy, blonde alter-ego who's been in my pocket since high school) might be able to do it. Ten minutes after she made the suggestion, Ashleigh was merrily typing away.
As Ashleigh Burroughs I could write about gun control and Tea Partiers and nasty high school girls. There were no personal consequences to the real me. Those who knew my real name kept the secret; we were a cabal of friends and family who could be trusted. If a post wasn't just quite perfect, I didn't have to worry that Ms. Eiler, my 12th grade English teacher, was cringing as she read it, her red pen scurrying over my ellipses and verbal contortions. Ashleigh existed in her own personal space, and no one could touch her. I kept her safe.
I was a little blogger, with no real chance of being anything more. I had my loyal readers and my dedicated commenters (love you Nance and JES and Tepary and Ca88andra and Meg) most of whom were personal friends or other bloggers. Within my sphere, I had a certain amount of notoriety, but mostly I was a little fish in a very very very big pond. I was not Dooce. I was not Ronni Bennett or Rain with her multiple blogs. I was Ashleigh Burroughs, happily typing away in The Burrow. Life was good.
Then I got shot. Suddenly, my story was a national one. TBG recognized that he had to get out in front of the vultures and turn the story from gore and guilt and madness to friendship and love and the wonderfulness that is America. He was everywhere, answering questions and directing the conversation. The media will fill a void with the most sensational, dramatic, disturbing visuals they can find. The story will be anger and hatred and hostility because that gets the ratings.
But that was not my story, and it certainly was not Christina's story. We were a couple of girls on a Saturday morning outing, without evil intention. Without any intention, really. We were hanging out. It was important that the story be told from the correct point of view. From our point of view.
Anyone who has ever spent 15 minutes with TBG knows that he is the most private of private persons. Sharing his story in public (read public as anyone other than immediate family, and even then.....) is antithetical to who he is. When the hospital spokesperson asked for a volunteer from the families to speak to the press, no one moved. Reluctantly, he raised his hand. The hospital was being so good to us, it seemed almost rude not to help them out. He anticipated a small conference room with 5 reporters holding notepads. Instead. he found himself in front of a phalanx of cameras and screaming questioners and rude producers sticking their cards in his pockets. In his pockets, denizens. Strangers were touching my guy. It took a cordon of hospital personnel to get him out of the room.
From that moment, it was game on. TBG versus the forces of evil. My guy defending me against the world. Have you seen him on tv? Except for the fact that he needs 3 weeks of sleep (don't we all!) he's been unbelievable. With no training in media relations, with no preparation by anyone other than himself, he has calmly and intelligently and cogently asked Americans to look at the mentoring and the public service and the friendship and he has deftly avoided the negative. He told America who I was, and I love the picture he's painted.
But Ashleigh Burroughs has been outed. My little refuge here in The Burrow is now a public space. I've gone from 11 followers to 74 ....oh ....77.... and people are using my real name to communicate. I am overwhelmed (and just a little saddened) by the change. Given what's been going on, though, it's a small blip in the larger issue.
So, allow me to introduce myself. Blogosphere, this is Suzi Hileman. Suzi Hileman, this is the blogosphere. Welcome to the conversation.
*from Advice to Writers by Billy Collins, published in The Apple That Astonished Paris