Pleased to Meet You
February 15th, 2010

I know that I will not post photos.
Or use names.
I will not reveal any identifying details about
where I live.
Perhaps you could find out
if you really wanted to.
You could find out where I am
who I am.
But you probably wouldn’t know me any better.
Even if we met for coffee.

These words were written by Jen of Momalom a little over a month ago.  That’s how long they’ve been swimming in my head; diving deep and swirling around the depths, and then popping back up for air every now and then. 

I too abide by these bloggy rules: no last name; no family names, no cities; no alma maters; no employment details.  You don’t “know” me, so I keep these things private. 

And yet, you do know me.  Some of you know me better than others.  But you do know me, at least a little bit.  You know where my mind wanders.  You know about my goals for this year.  You know of my beliefs about friendship.  You know about some of my insecurities.  You know pieces of advice my mother handed down to me as a child.  You know about some of my hobbies.  And you know bits and pieces about my childhood and family.

The paradox of blogging is that many people who know my last name, place of employment, social security number, and other identifying details of my life don’t know any of these, arguably more substantive, things.  They don’t know that I blog.  They don’t know much about my personality.  But they know my address, what car I drive, when I walk my dogs, what my son looks like, and when I’m out of town. 

And so this begs the question… what is it to know someone?  To “know” me must you know my e-mail address or cell phone number; my shoe size or jeans size; my date of birth or home town?  Or must you know the murky things that lie beneath the surface; the quirks and idiosyncrasies; the fears and vulnerabilities; the pride and affections; the interests and passions?

As I think about the people who know both data sets, it’s not a large group.  My family.  GAP’s family.  A few friends from home.  A few friends from college.  A few friends from graduate school.  And one or two former coworkers.  It’s actually a surprisingly small group.  And I’m not sure how this makes me feel.

Is this isolating?  Do I wish a broader range of people knew the full version of me?  Or do I feel protected by the fact that the number is so small?  Does it mean that I struggle to develop meaningful relationships?  Or does it mean that I am selective?  Is this number something of which to be proud or ashamed?

In spite of a month of wondering, searching, and pondering over Jen’s words, I don’t have answers.  What is it to know me?  I don’t know.  I believe that you know me a little bit.  You know some very important things about me.  Do my neighbors know me?  Yes, a little bit, but not in the same way.  Is one way, at its core, superior to the other?  I’m beginning to think not. 

It is you who respond to my writing with thoughtful comments and affirming perspective.  But it was my neighbor who stored a few hundred ounces of frozen breast milk when our side of the street lost power for a day last summer (a bachelor, no less!).  It is the payroll clerk at my company who knows exactly how much money I make.  But it is my sister who reaches out when life’s transitions wear me down. 

Knowing me – really knowing me – is not a part-time job.  I am complex and layered.  I am not a quick read, despite the illusions of transparency I give.  And I suppose that this makes me happy.  I don’t want to be simple or uncomplicated.  I want to be known; but only by people who really want to know me.  Only by the people who are committed. 

But you probably wouldn’t know me any better.
Even if we met for coffee.

I hope you’ll get to know me better over time.  I hope I’ll get to know you better over time.  But just as a heads up, I don’t drink coffee.

7 Responses to “Pleased to Meet You”

  1. Nicki Says:

    If no coffee, then we can meet for a water break!

    These things have crept up on me as who reads my blog has expanded. I use to always use the kids’ names and now use numbers. I am pretty much an open book, though. Now you have given me more to think about.

  2. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    “Knowing me–really knowing me–is not a part-time job.” I LOVE this statement!

    I’m not a coffee drinker, either. Tea is good.

    I also struggle with that balance of share/not share. I think probably too often I err on the side of over-sharing. It’s a sticky issue, isn’t it?

  3. Anne Says:

    I so resonate with this. I wonder if it’s a false sense of privacy sometimes–not sharing details. And yet, it makes me feel better. Really thoughtful post, and one I’ll think about as time goes on. but I still think you’re missing out when it comes to coffee:)

  4. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities Says:

    No coffee? Uh oh. That might be a deal-breaker :) I think this is a really important question, namely what it is to know someone. I believe that we never fully know someone, but what is the threshold of knowing? At what point do determine that we know someone? I am left with the thought that if we never really know ourselves, if we remain opaque to our own self-inquiry, how can we even begin to know someone?

  5. Jeanna Says:

    One of the reasons that I enjoy reading your blog is that I get to learn more about you than what we have time to discuss over crepes. In addition, your thought provoking questions allow me to learn more about myself at the same time. Living your life changes you, so “knowing” someone (or even yourself) is a moving target.

  6. becca Says:

    I dont’ think anyone knows me as well as the people who read my blog these days. This is where I’m most comfortable. Where I truly spill it. Yes, I talk about these things with a few key people as well but I’m not as comfortable in many instances to speak the words I write. I’m not trying to uphold a reputation in my blog, I’m not trying to impress, I’m not afraid to complain, I don’t fear appearing too sensitive… it’s me, just pure me. Yes, I fear opening up TOO much at times but it’s what I need. To have this place.

    I loved this post. And I love getting to know you!

  7. Eva Says:

    Gale, thank you for sharing these thoughts. In our era of technology and so many communication vehicles, we inevitably create multiple personas. We’re already juggling our family self with our work self, our social self, our real self… then add on a blogger self, Twitter self, Facebook, etc. It can be overwhelming.

    Personally, I keep my circle of friends very small. I’m private and hesitate to reveal too much about myself in person, but I probably share more on my blog. I’ve also been thinking lately about loneliness – and wanting more friends. The challenge is how much am I willing to work to form new friendships. How much do I want to share, how much do I want to invest for friendships that might not pan out? Maybe my small circle of friends is good enough for now.