Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bloggers mustn't fool ourselves

I started my blog in June 2004 because I read an article on blogging and discovered that I fit the criteria of a good blogger: I spent hours in front of a computer every day and liked to write.

It was probably presumptuous to think that my blog would be interesting to anyone but me, but I anticipated a large audience that would find it riveting. This turned out to be a good expectation because, while it might not have been true, it kept me from putting anything on my blog that I wouldn't want everyone to see. It kept me from making a mistake that many bloggers, and now many Facebook users, make.

The mistake is assuming that my posts will go unseen by the people who I don't want reading my stuff. I've seen it happen: someone starts a blog and either does his/her best to keep it anonymous, or puts her name on it, but assumes that certain people will never see it. And then a certain person comes across the blog and the blogger has to face the hard reality that this person (relative? ex-lover?) that she would never expose herself to, has read everything.

I'm sure it's a horrible feeling, but it's completely avoidable. I've read posts by bloggers who stormed about how wrong it was of such-and-such a person to read her blog, apparently forgetting that once you post to the Internet, with no restrictions on your post, it's in the public domain. That creep you once dated and kicked out of your life can lurk in the shadows of your blog, lapping up your every emotion and opinion, for as long as you keep posting. Likewise, even though you might think your boyfriend never goes online, if you're writing about him, he will. Believe me, he will, maybe tipped off by a mutual acquaintance who goes online regularly.

I think you can only avoid this by either getting a restricted blog (and only give the password to people you trust) or not even trying to post behind anyone's back.

In 2004, I told everyone about my blog: parents, family, co-workers, dates, friends, acquaintances and anyone whose email address I had. I never write anything that I wouldn't be comfortable with everyone seeing (my mother, my boss, all ex-lovers, my creepiest neighbor, everyone). I keep this wide audience in my head at all times.

The other rule I keep is about who I blog about. For the most part, I only blog about myself. Occasionally I'll blog about someone else, but I usually ask that person's permission first. If you go through all my posts over the years, you'll see that I rarely identify anyone in my blogs. I think I've occasionally blogged about someone I saw on the train, but if I can't identify them, I doubt you can. If my husband is in the post, I definitely share it with him before I publish it (including, of course, photos of him). And if I had children, I wouldn't blog about them at all (although my feelings of insecurity as a mother would be okay). I consider children to be under the age of consent. Since a child can't conceptualize being on the Internet -- where nothing can ever be erased and all can be accessed forever -- a child can't really give consent to being portrayed on the Internet. Even if it were my kid, I wouldn't do it.

These rules might make for a claustrophobic blog that rarely leaves the inside of my head, but I'm at peace with them. Maybe the tight, inner focus of a lot of blogs indicates that many bloggers follow similar rules. They're good rules.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Regina Rodriguez

Back when I decided to get serious about music, I hired someone to build a website that told people my music. I carefully wrote the copy and gave him the photographs and lyrics to publish. It was 2001 so I didn't really know what I was doing. As early websites often resembled flyers transmitted electronically, so was my website very text-heavy with little actual music. I think I just had some soundclips on there. And lots of the color pink.

It was reginarodriguez.com, which was available and free when I first grabbed it. But I wasn't a consistent musician and I let the domain name lapse when I began to lose faith in my art. When I tried to get it back, someone was squatting on it and wanted hundreds of dollars for it.

Who would have expected the name Regina Rodriguez to be in demand?

I let it go and created another website using regrodriguez.com, but then in 2008 I gave up the whole music thing and let that go, too. Only my blog has stayed constant, perhaps indicating where my true interest was all along.

Just now I looked at what comes up when I google my spinster name "Regina Rodriguez." It turns out another Regina Rodriguez has managed to acquire my old domain name. Good for her. I haven't quite figured out the focus of her blog. The more recent posts aren't very text-heavy, but it's good to see that reginarodriguez.com is active again. Anyway it's not my name anymore, so I wish her the best!

P.S. Today is my half-birthday. I am exactly 44 and a half years old today and I had an appointment to get bifocals.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Growing old and staying thin

We all know by now that as we age it gets easier to put on pounds and harder to lose them. This is why I sometimes stare in wonder at thin women in their 60's and above. I think, "How does she do it? If our metabolism drops to zero when we get older, how is it that everyone over the age of 50 isn't a roly poly ball with arms and legs?"

I think I might know part of the secret now: poor digestion. As we get older, our digestive system isn't as strong and we can't eat the way we used to without paying a higher price. And oh, it can be a VERY high price.

This was the first December of my 44-and-a-half-year-old life that I didn't dive into every cookie tray and chocolate assortment with abandon. This was the first Christmas season that I attended a festive, food-centered party without eating one thing the whole night. How was I able to do these incredible things? I did them with a stomach that caused me extreme pain every damn time I over did it. That night that I didn't eat anything, I arrived at the party with a stomach ache left over from the weekend. I spent entire days in December feeling miserable with digestive distress.

But as awful as it was to pass up all those goodies that I only see once a year, the one positive thing is that I did not put on the pounds. I came out of New Year's Day at the same weight that I went into Thanksgiving. Incredible.

I suppose I should say, "Thanks, weak miserable digestive system. You saved me a lot of heartache and having to lose the same pounds all over again." But it's hard to feel appreciative of a stomach that no longer accepts dairy products without pain, tends to complain about wheat products and processed food in general, and doesn't let me sleep easily if I've eaten past about 8:30 at night.

I sometimes stare down the dim corridor of the rest of my life and wonder if I really have to finish it without any more cheese sandwiches or double-crust pies. It's best if I don't think about it and just focus on how peacefully my stomach goes about its business if I only ask it to digest protein and vegetables.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

I really don't like sunshine

Winter is my favorite season, followed by autumn, when the days get short and the darkness takes over. This year Chicago got a white Christmas with inches of snow falling on Christmas night. It must have been beautiful.

But I wouldn't know because I spent Christmas Day in Florida. I left cold, picturesque Midwest for a sunny climate on Christmas Day. Of course, everyone I talked to about it envied me. Yes, I got clear skies and warm breezes for a few days, but I didn't want a break from below-freezing temperatures. People find this hard to believe. They think that if I live in Chicago, I must be delighted to escape the chill. Maybe this is what I should say to them:

Imagine a child who grows up in a bright and sunny part of the world. Their years growing up are spent in brightness and warmth, but also under extreme duress. The child has experiences that cause it to associate bright sunlight with pain and emotional isolation. Eventually the child grows up and moves away from this warm climate, finding comfort in a darker, colder part of the world that feels peaceful and safe.

Once these associations are in place -- sunshine and pain, darkness and comfort -- this person grows into an adult who avoids direct sunlight and relishes cloudy days and chilly temperatures. Yes, it's completely irrational and against human nature. It's inexplicable in any terms other than those of trauma and the way the mind makes connections.

Imagine such a person and you might begin to believe me when I say that I love gray winter days and nights that begin at 4 p.m. If you can really get your mind around it, you might even believe me when I say that I intensely dislike sunny climates, preferring the cold and darkness that cover my home in the Midwest, where I feel safe. This is where I want to be.