Monday, 15 April 2013


I have been in a few scary situations in my life.

I have driven down a motorway in a thunderstorm, when all my headlights did was succeed in elucidating the rain coming down in opaque sheets in front of me. I have watched my father cry on a day so cold his tears froze to his face, knowing there was nothing I could do to make it better. I have witnessed a man getting beaten up on the Tube - and to this day, it haunts me that I didn't step in to stop it. I jumped off the train at the next platform and ran around the station trying to find an official, but it was late at night and I couldn't, and I cursed Transport for London for not having CCTV on the underground to record the events.

But none of these things were quite so scary as Friday evening, when I left my date in the living room, googling a Fight Club stream, while I went to sort out dinner. When I came back, he was paging through my favourited sites - and he had found my blog. He was reading my post on abortions, which is a rough transcript of a conversation we had on our last date.

"What are you doing?" I asked, my breath catching in my throat. He was stretched out on the sofa in a perfect copy of my usual pose, an exact and unintential mirror image of how I spend my days.

"I'm reading your blog," he said.

"That's my post on abortions, isn't it?"

"Yup. I can't help but feel like you misrepresented me," he said.

I opened my mouth to defend myself, and closed it again because I have no defence against that charge. It was true.

Yes. I did misrepresent him. Because this is my blog. It is full of my thoughts, delivered in a subjective first-person fashion. Other people appear on this blog not as three-dimensional beings, but as plot points - they give voice to an opinion, which I then either agree with or disagree with. Deep, nuanced conversations are reduced to a one-line springboard for my own ideas. Because this isn't a place where I write character studies (though maybe it's something I'll consider for the future). This is a place where I write about what goes on inside my head.

My head.

It's all about me.

Another guy, who's been mentioned in some of my Thought Catalog articles, got very annoyed last night, and sent me a message: he said he wasn't comfortable being written about by someone he doesn't know very well. Which is fair enough. I probably ought to respect that.

But the articles aren't actually about him: he just happens to exist on the periphery of my life, to have said or done something which triggered thoughts inside my own head. These reactions are the actual focus of my ramblings. Everyone is the centre of their own universe. He is no more than a minor character in my life - an extra who got handed a name and a line.

In the same way, my ambiguous manfriend (aka "The Boy", who will probably still be referred to in these terms no matter what the stage we reach in our relationship) is not actually he himself: he is a representation in general terms of someone I am dating.

In real life, the ambiguous manfriend is someone I might one day fall in love with - clever and sarcastic and sweet and sexy and kind of a jerk but only in jest, someone who's honest and curious and physically active and musically-inclined and a pretty good kisser. He's a guy with two big sisters he absolutely adores, a medical condition which minorly impigned on our make-outs, who longs to own a husky and get a job in medical PR.

In that paragraph, I described him with specific reference to him: to his qualities, to his actions, to his quirks and desires. But normally on this blog post, I describe him in relation to me: a boy who makes my heart flutter, a guy I am dating. Someone I might one day fall in love - and never mind if he ever falls in love with me. I don't think I've ever mentioned his name here, either. He's only defined in relation to me - because I am writing this. I am the narrator. He only exists because I felt the need to mention him.

Why was I so scared of The Boy realising this, when I've just openly admitted it? Why was I so upset that this guy I barely know felt he'd been misrepresented? Perhaps because it's proof that I don't write objectively. That I don't write down the truth exactly as it happens. I write the truth as it seems to happen to me; I bend the facts to create a better flow, chop and change conversations to suit my own ends. And I'd been caught out on it. Does admitting this affect my integrity as a writer?

I don't know. Maybe. If I were a professional writer, it would be a far bigger issue: I could be sued for libel and defamation of character, or fired for making quotes up, but only if I purported them to be objectively true. And on here, I don't do that. It's just my chaotic corner of the internet where I turn my brain into a Jackson Pollock painting, splattering sentences against a screen in the hope that something good will come of it.

Maybe I should come with a yellow sign above my head, letting everyone around me know about my nefarious self-absorbed navel-gazing*. "Warning", it will read, "this girl is a (pretty crap, egotistical, aspiring) writer. By merely being in her presence, there is a chance you will end up being written about. To avoid this soul-crushingly mediocre fate, please keep a distance of fifteen feet from her at all times."

I've promised not to mention the second boy again. I've clearly already broken that promise, but I'm okay with that. Because I'm not mentioning him, am I? I'm mentioning an action he has performed, and how it's impacted me. He could be anyone. It's anonymity through genericalness.

So, if I do mention you in my articles, don't take it personally. I'm not thinking of you as a person - only as an aid to my own introspection. And if you think being reduced to supporting character status is degrading, don't get mad: I do it to everyone.

* You know what the fancy, pretentious word for navel-gazing is? Of course you do. It's the title of this blog post. Omphaloskepsis just sounds so much fancier, you know?

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