Monday 15 November 2010

Broadcast yourself.

I’m not sure whether I’m speaking on behalf of all bloggers when I say this (though it’s certainly the case for me) but, whenever you post, there is a tendency to tell your readers an awful lot about yourself that you’d never ordinarily reveal in real life.

During the life of Alright Tit, I’ve blithely volunteered information about the state of my nipples, the regularity of my bowel movements and the frankly ridiculous names I call my cat – none of which I’d dream of bringing up at a dinner party, even with my closest mates. (I’m ignoring the fact that P is forced to hear about these things on a daily basis.) And yet the simpler, more obvious things about me – my career outside of this blog, my husband’s name, the stuff I spend time doing out of school hours (the ‘hobbies and interests’ part of my CV, if you will’) – remain largely unspoken… for various different reasons.

I had a chat with Psychologies magazine last week for a piece in their January issue about autobiography, and we spoke about how, when telling your own story, there’s a propensity to keep back a certain part of yourself (unless, of course, you’re Liz Jones), hamming up elements of your persona in exchange for the stuff you’d rather kept private. It’s something I’ve thought a lot about since that conversation, wondering whether I might be guilty of making myself seem more bolshy or goofy than I might actually be for the sake of a better blog. But then, when you consider that mere hours after that very conversation, I found myself getting drenched to the point of see-through tights in a torrential downpour, swearing in front of a huddle of laughing builders as my brolly blew inside out, then wobbling over on my heel as I stomped off before being pulled over by the police for looking at my map while driving, I realise that, actually, I might not be hamming up my idiocy even nearly enough.

When it comes to the portrayal of yourself in real life, though, the case is quite different. Take starting out at university as an example. When you’re a fresher faced with the prospect of finding the right mates to see you through the next few years, you are what you’re into. Hence you become the Derby County supporter, or the beer-mat collector, or the Star Wars fan, or the one with the stack of Razzles beside his bed. At that delicate stage of your life, you’re not just careful about how you come across, but positively paranoid about it. And actually, the thing you’re known for becomes less and less relevant, because – whatever it is that comes to define you in freshers’ week – the act of ‘being known’ somehow becomes more important than that which you were so careful to ram down everyone’s throats. (Or, in my case, Ram down everyone’s throats.)

In later life, though, I think we’re as wary of what we hide as what we volunteer. Because, as a recent conversation with P revealed, if you are what you’re into, then I’m a walking TV set.
‘What do you think I should write about this week?’ I asked him.
‘Telly,’ he said, his answer out of the starting blocks before I’d even fired the gun. ‘You should write about how obsessed you are with it.’
‘Wha?’ I gurned.
‘You are though, love.’
‘Obsessed?! Come on, babe, I don’t think I’m obsessed. Am I really obsessed?’ I asked, wondering how I’d manage the Strictly Come Dancing/X-Factor results clash when Wayne Rooney’s Street Striker was recording at the same time.
‘Maybe not obsessed, then,’ he conceded, ‘Though you’ve got to admit, you do love your telly. But you never write about it. Nobody knows that about you. They know all sorts of other weird shit, but not that.’

P’s right, of course. I do love my telly. Especially event telly; the kind of tomorrow’s-water-cooler-conversation stuff in which everyone is so involved that it’d be a crime to watch on playback; the kind that the immediate reactions on Twitter have, in many cases, made so much more entertaining than the programme itself. But is that the kind of thing you readily come clean about? It’s a strange thing to admit to, loving telly. It isn’t, for example, in the ‘hobbies and interests’ section of my CV. (Which, in case you’re interested, currently reads: ‘First and foremost, I am a music fan, but when I’m not plugged into an iPod or at a gig, I’m exhaustively reading magazines – anything from Grazia to All Out Cricket. As a lifelong Derby County supporter, I try to get to as many games as I am able, the result of which is a brilliant sense of humour.’ Still using the Rams as an inroad, then.) Though, let’s be honest, telly ought to come before any of that stuff. The problem with that kind of confession, though, is the inference that you don’t get out enough. Hence the only arena in which it’s acceptable to admit to loving telly is when you’re Grace Dent and write about it for a living… not when you’re Lisa Lynch and use it as your excuse for getting in the way of what you’re supposed to be doing for a living.

‘Why do people need to know that though?’ I asked of P.
‘Because it’s an honest blog,’ he said.
‘But I haven’t got anything to say about telly,’ I protested, after which he immediately reminded me of that day’s three-course lunch, completely hijacked by me and Mum on the conversation of who might get crushed by the tram in Corrie – or ‘Coro’ as it’s known in Derby, fact-fans. (But since we’re on the subject… Who I’d like to get crushed: Gail, Dev, Molly, John. Who I predict will get crushed: Ashley, Janice, Sian, Jim.)
‘Okay, fair point,’ I admitted.
‘Honestly though, babe,’ P went on, ‘If you’re serious about people knowing who you really are, they ought to know this stuff,’ he insisted, lifting up his left leg to back out a fart. (Ha. Two can play that game.)
‘But surely, whatever I write, it’s impossible for anyone to know who I really am,’ I said. ‘Only you can know who I really am.’
‘Probably a good job, eh?’ he said, gesturing towards my sleeping-mask-fashioned-into-an-Alice-band headwear.

I don’t want you to think by that conversation that I’ve been busy inventing a persona that’s not my own, or that the blogger you may (or may not) have been reading about isn’t, in fact, someone you thought you knew. (I mean, jeez, how much more of me could you know than the needless crap I’ve force-fed you already?) But I do think that anyone who blogs – however openly, however regularly, however honestly – has to admit that you can be as candid or explicit as you like in writing about your life, but the nature of autobiography is simply that there’ll always be stuff – be it important or inconsequential – that will never get told.

‘I do want what I write to be completely honest,’ I told Psychologies. ‘But yeah,’ I continued, turning away from a muted episode of To Buy Or Not To Buy to look down from the phone at my outfit of Ugg boots, checked pyjama shorts and a stripy t-shirt with balsamic vinegar spilled down the front, ‘I think it’s wise to keep certain elements of yourself hidden from view.’


The Impatient one said...

I suspect that however much you try, you will never hide your real personality... it's much too strong to hide behind a made-up persona! Ugg boots, nupples, cupcakes and too much telly - so what?
Thanks for your blog over the last couple of years - I've read it over the last week, I had a lumpectomy on Saturday morning after 5 months of chemo - and so much of what you have written has been - sometimes painfully - familiar. It's hugely encouraging to see you moving on to embrace the "new normal" - life beyond the bullshit. Makes me believe that I can too... Thanks

Anonymous said...

I like tv too. What I'm looking forward to is watching your book on my tv screen, sitting on the sofa, tissues at the ready. I really loved your book, best book this year.

In the movie will "P" finally be revealed :-) unless you just wanna tell all in your next blog? Go on.......

smurph said...

I don't think anybody could follow you on Twitter and NOT realise you have an affection for television. The best stuff, obviously. I'm extremely bitter that I'm now thousands of miles away and can't participate in X Factor debates real-time. I thought those shows were perfect for actually improving my social life and conversational skills. Jedward kept me going for weeks last year....

I'm also very glad that our wishlist for crushing on Corrie is the same. Can't look at Gail's mournful face anymore. And what's the point of Dev?!?

Still can't think about poor Jack :-(

Katelijne said...

I just think that there is a fine line between knowing someone and REALLY knowing someone.
Your blog is totally awesome and it has given your readers so much support that they all LOVE you. Gosh you're completely honest when you write and you make us laugh & cry, hehe!
But I simply don't think that one can really know a only interacting on the web. One can only discover a personality in "real" life... Mimics and gestures are as much a part of us as anything else and they cannot be shown through writing.
(at least that's my opinion)

But for the record (and this is not changed by anything I've just said): This block is totally and utterly amazing.


Karen said...

This is so interesting. People always say one of the things they like about my blog is that I am so open.

Like you I am pretty honest in my writing (okay maybe not quite as honest!) But sometimes I do hold back. This can be for a whole range of reasons: maybe being honest would involve being mean about someone else; maybe it would be disrespectful to people with M.E.; maybe it would make the post just one big moan and therefore dull. And of course, I want to make myself look fantastic at all times.

I've often wondered what it would be like to write anonymously. How would I write differently? (I'd probably just be a complete bitch.)

Oh and I hate XFactor, Strictly and The Apprentice. But do love other trashy TV (Lip Service, Private Practice, Gossip Girl) if that helps?! xx

Freda said...

I like the way you send yourself up, Lisa, but there is nothing wrong with the TV or anything else that builds community. It's the way they fit into our lives that matters. I'm a sucker for a weepy film or a period drama; can't stand the ritual humiliation of the Apprentice or the other one that offers/doesn't offer money to new inventors. P sounds wonderful (farting or not) - give him my best. You can remind him I am an OAP if you like! Every Blessing

Freda said...

I like the way you send yourself up, Lisa, but there is nothing wrong with the TV or anything else that builds community. It's the way they fit into our lives that matters. I'm a sucker for a weepy film or a period drama; can't stand the ritual humiliation of the Apprentice or the other one that offers/doesn't offer money to new inventors. P sounds wonderful (farting or not) - give him my best. You can remind him I am an OAP if you like! Every Blessing