Miscellenia

Privacy, perfection, and blogging

Lauren of Wearing History just blogged about perfection and blogging.

It’s interesting timing, because I already had a blog post about perfection, reality, and blogging sitting half-finished in my drafts folder.  Every once in a while I pull it out, add a bit more to it, tweak it, and think about publishing it, and don’t.  So I guess now is the time.

I haven’t published it, because it’s not just about blogging, reality, and presenting the idea of perfection: it’s also about privacy.  Even talking (well, writing) about privacy is more revealing than I generally like to be.

You see, despite the fact that there are thousands of photographs on the internet of me that I voluntarily put there, and despite the fact that there are hundreds of blog posts about me, that I voluntarily wrote and published, I am an extremely private person.  I can count the people who know my biggest worries and secrets (the sort of things that Lauren blogged about) on one hand.  I don’t share, and I don’t talk.

I’ve chosen to blog: to attempt to entertain, educate, and share my world.  But what I blog about is my choice, and how I present it, and how much I reveal, is my choice.

Well partly.

Because my life isn’t just me, and your life isn’t just you.

If I am extremely private, Mr D is an intensely private person.  I’ve chosen to combat the lack of privacy in the modern world by making sure that everything there is out there about me has been pretty much written by me, Mr D has managed to make sure that (other than my blog) he doesn’t exist on the internet.

And Mr D is a huge part of my life.  So anything that is going on in my life, that is also going on in his, has to be discussed and agreed upon in terms of sharing.

And he’s not the only one – family stuff happens, and it’s not just my story.  And I do things with my friends, and it’s not just my story.

Part of the reason I blog about Felicity so much is that she’s a cat – she doesn’t get the same rights a human does.  Felicity has the right to love and food and shelter and medicine, but not to privacy.

Even for the things that are just my story, I’ve chosen not to tell lots of them, because this blog isn’t about them.  It’s about sewing, and history, and fashion, about New Zealand, and Hawaii, and Felicity.

It is also about me, but it’s an edited version of my life: a version that lets me keep the things I want to keep, and that doesn’t distract from the things that I want to teach and tell.

In order tell the stories I want to tell, and to balance life and privacy, the parts in my blog about me are always truthful in spirit, if not always technically truthful: I might say I went somewhere on Saturday, when it was Sunday.   Or I might say I went for a drive and took pictures, when it was a walk to take pictures.  Or I might say I went for a walk, when it was a drive.

However, I have always tried to make this blog honest, and to be quite frank about sharing my mistakes and imperfections.  I’ve got no use for the costuming blogs that just show photos of the perfectly finished frock they made, and don’t tell you how they got there, or the mistakes they made.  They are pretty to look at, but there is nothing to learn from them, and you just end up feeling inadequate.  The really interesting, motivational costuming blogs teach, and let you learn from their mistakes.  Those are the kind of bloggers I find inspirational, and the kind of blogger I aspire to be.

So I’ve never hesitated to share my mistakes.  To admit when something completely isn’t historically accurate, because I read something wrong, or made a guess that a bit more logical thinking would have shown was wrong.  To share my sewing errors, as well as successes, as well as the things that just don’t work for me.  To tell you when certain items took a lot of effort and made me want to tear my hair out – because that’s a natural part of sewing for most of us.  To post posts where it’s clear my floor isn’t swept, and there are piles of fabric everywhere, and my frocks aren’t ironed.  To share my sewing room, even when it is anything but tidy and glamourous.  To post photos of me grubby and un-made up three days into a hike, and totally made up and still looking anything but flawless.  To post pictures of frocks even when I forgot the right undergarments, so they don’t fit properly at all.  To mention that zips break before photoshoots, and other ones are done in freezing cold weather, and sometimes I have to safety pin models in.  To fess up to the occasional megrims, and to apologise when they overtake the blog.  To admit when I was wrong, and that I don’t get everything right.

And beyond mistakes, I’ve made it pretty clear that I prefer reality to perfection.

But I don’t think that not being perfect means I have to share my whole life.  I respect Lauren for being willing to be so honest about what she’s gone through, and I think it’s important that the bigger issues of life get talked about, but it’s just not my style.

I don’t think most of my personal moments would make my blog any more interesting, and I don’t think they would be helpful to you.  And sharing them certainly wouldn’t be helpful to me – when things are going on, the last think I need is everyone knowing about it and asking about it.  So I’ll continue showing you me as I am – as much as I can without infringing on anyone else’s life, and I’ll continue to be real, but no more.  I’m pretty sure that even private, I’m pretty obviously imperfect!

21 Comments

  1. Agreed. Now, I *did* go into more detail than I usually do for my blog post on the subject, but it still focuses on me, not any of my loved ones. I never share pictures of myself or my family in private settings; it’s nearly always in period dress or some sort of costume, where the person wearing them become of secondary interest – and even then I try to only show pictures of my children where their faces are partly obscured. I never show pictures of myself or my family scantily clad. Though tidbits of my life may shine through on occasion, my bloging is focused on sewing and events.

  2. Lynne says

    I think you hit a very good balance. You keep us involved without over-exposing your private life. Felicity is your ideal front-cat, and seems to cope with the public adoration very well. When we come onto the net, we chose what we are going to reveal about ourselves, and I think all of us select. I project as ‘old lady with cat and garden’, which is true, but it is only part of the story. We all get to have layers!

  3. What a wonderful post on the mosaic of reality.
    I, too, read Lauren’s post with amazment, how open, how honest, how daring. I don’t think I could do it her way, though. I need my privacy. I sometimes even think I am revealing much too much about myself on the blog already (pictures of myself, for example), then again it’s rather pointless to do sewing and things and present them on my teddybear all of the time (as I have done with hats…). When it comes to family members and friends I am trying to keep them out of it like you do. I am trying to focus on trials and errors, on showing what I’ve done, why and how and where I went wrong. It’s a learning process. Of course I’d love to present perfect pictures of myself on my blog. But there are so little and at least what I post is “real”. Or one fragment of that said mosaic of reality. Thank you again to the other side of the globe.

  4. I too am shy about revealing too much online. Even my completed costumes are, most of the time, shown on a dress-stand rather than on me, because I am quite self conscious!

  5. I can fully appreciate this. Talking about personal stuffs makes me uncomfortable except with those I’m very close with, and doesn’t do much to add to what I blog about–history and clothing and whatnot. But I agree with you fully that there is a responsibility to be open about the mistakes and missteps we blunder into with the things that do pertain to our blogging focus. There is a myth of perfection that surrounds even those tiny facets–that the gorgeous gown wasn’t the result of days of screaming at the fabric, that the beautiful jacket is 100% authentically made when whoops! misread some research material and there are inaccurate bits, that we’re passing something off as “100% handsewn” when we hid machined seams inside. The “See how perfect” misleading just makes others feel poorly, and the research/authenticity misleading can be downright damaging to the understanding of others. That’s the stuff I think we have to be especially cognizant of–maybe it’s the academic side of me coming out, but lack of honesty there can result in near-deliberate misleading of others about what we know, what we don’t, and what we’re still investigating. And that undermines the whole point of sharing in this medium. Trying to be as honest about that as possible–that the more I learn, the more I know I don’t know!

  6. I think that is all entirely reasonable! I especially agree with the parts about sharing projects that didn’t work out 😛 I have to say that I’ve never noticed– or missed– the relative lack of discussion about your personal life, because I’m here for the sewing and your cheery disposition! In fact, having known some chronic and inappropriate oversharers, both on the Internet and in real life, I appreciate it.

  7. You’re so awesome. I’m glad you took a minute to finish this post, because it’s something that’s worth taking about!
    The gauge is all over the place and is a very personal thing. I normally wouldn’t bear my soul like that, but I felt compelled to for some reason. I guess it’s because I hear of assumptions folks make about bloggers just because we don’t always share what’s going on. They think they can tell more about a person just from a well selected snapshot. And that’s sad.
    I’m not going to share all the stuff going on all the time. I will return to my prior blogging style. Because I like to blog about what makes me happy. Usually it’s dresses and pretty things and kitties. Occasionally it’s something more challenging. But we don’t need to turn ourselves inside out to be open and honest, and I think you’re the perfect example of how to be truthful without revealing things that you feel jeopordise your privacy. I really admire you for that!
    One of the things I like the most about your blog is how honest you are with your journey with sewing. You have a huge amount of knowledge, but you know that sharing the occasional “oops” moment will not make your experience and knowledge any less valuable and will not make you any less professional. You have a humanity to your blog. And that’s what I truly value. And occasionally you bring up the hard subjects, which should also be addressed.
    Hugs. Thanks for sharing with us.

  8. what a lovely (and timely) post. thanks for the link to laurens blog (I have added it on bloglovin list). I am sewing a long time, but for a few reasons started blogging last year (when a friend suggested it first I was bawked at the idea) but I now enjoy the process as it has kept me focused on what is a bit of a pet project. Years ago, I would have ‘hung out’ with more sew-ers and makers and these days few people I know sew, so I really appreciate other blogs for their insights and thoughts on sewing, and invaluable tips! I just read your post while taking a break from a pair of doomed trousers – timely indeed! I hope felicity appreciates you, as my two cats are banned from my work-room but still break in every now and then……its an ongoing turf war….

  9. forgot to add, thanks again for the sharing the deco echo top, I made it last year, and love it!

  10. holly says

    The internet is full of over-sharing, and it encourages us to do the same.

    “It’s not my story to tell” is something I believe in strongly. While I may be a peripheral part of stories of those around me, especially people I am intimately connected to, their stories are not mine to share.

    • I agree that there is some oversharing on the internet, but I actually hugely respect what Lauren shared, and overall I do think that the fact that we are sharing a lot more as a society is a very GOOD thing.

      As a young woman, it’s very helpful to be able to see other women write or talk about pregnancy, and miscarriages, and infertility, or choosing not to have children, or post-partum depression. Those (particularly the last four) were quite taboo and shameful, and made them even harder for women. It’s good that it’s now OK to discuss them, and to ask for help if you need it.

      It’s also really good that so many people are willing to talk about mental illnesses. It’s breaking down the stigmas around those, especially since it becomes more and more obvious that almost all of us have gone through depression at some point. Through the realisation that some of the people you admire most, and who you might think have a perfect life, have struggled with it, it becomes not a shameful thing, but a natural reaction to the stresses of life. One of my absolute heroes is Stephan Fry, and how honest he has been about having bipolar disorder.

      I don’t think it should be an obligation to share your personal story with all those things, and others, but I do think that it’s helpful that some have, and that they become something we’re willing to discuss as a society. But for me, the illusion of perfection that’s perpetuated through social media isn’t broken by the big things, but by being honest about being imperfect in small ways on a daily basis.

  11. “…and I think it’s important that the bigger issues of life get talked about, but it’s just not my style.”

    Which is totally fine! I struggle at times with feeling bad about how very much I share, but I think we’re basically just talking different genres — sort of like how in music, some artists are much more “confessional” than others. I… seem to HAVE to share personal things, especially ones I don’t see talked about much, like my mother’s dementia, or miscarriage, lest I go crazy.

    And even then, there’s definitely a selection and editing process. Even at the times when it kind of looks like I vomited words onto the page. <_< I try to be very careful with other people's stories and privacy, too. I share a little bit about my daughter, sometimes, but with a codename. And just silly little things, generally speaking. We asked her if the new baby is going to be a boy or a girl, she says it's a bunny, that kind of stuff. 🙂

    • Oh, and incidentally, I’m not a sewing blogger, or even a sewer at all, for what that’s worth. I’m a writer, and first started following your blog when I saw a post on recreating a fairy tale costume (“The Seven Swans,” or one of its variations, whatever the title?). I’m interested in all the historical aspects!

        • Ah, yes! And yes! There’s a lot I love about the internet, or at least my corners of the internet. 🙂

    • Thank you! I think you absolutely got what I was trying to say. And I’m so GLAD that there are bloggers and other people talking about dementia and miscarriages and the other big things that we avoided for too long. But I’m not a sharer, and I don’t think that sharing is really what breaks the illusion of perfection, and my blog is about history and costume, but I try to be honest about my imperfections within those.

      “it’s a bunny” Love it!

      • You’re welcome! And oh good, I’m glad I didn’t misinterpret. And yeah, I think like you said, within your “genre,” you can break the illusion of perfection by sharing sewing struggles and frustrations and joys and all of it. That seems very appropriate!

        Thanks! She’s so cute right now. She has this little routine where we say her name, and she corrects us to say she’s a kitty, but she’s still a little confused about pronouns, so it comes out, “I mean, ‘Hi kitty!'” Anyway, today with my sister around we were going through the name-kitty-meow routine, and then my sister said affectionately, “Kitty kitty!” Her reply: “Kitty… no, I mean just ONE kitty.” 😀

  12. A great post with some very important points to make. Online privacy is something I care about a lot, partly because I work in an industry where most jobs are short term contracts and employers always check you out online these days, and partly because I’m a naturally private person and my family members are also very private people. Like you, I’m always myself; I just don’t share everything about myself all the time.

    One of my favourite things about your blog is that you do share the mistakes and the things that don’t work out for you, as well as the successes. I learn a lot from those posts.

  13. Yes! Well-said. Without making errors, I don’t learn. Without making erroneous assumptions, I don’t learn. Without sharing my errors and mistakes, no one else learns. And if no one else shared theirs, I’d think I was the only person who ever sewed pant legs together backwards (ahem). Stains and snags and jammed zippers and bloody needle sticks and wrong-way seams are a part of this thing we do. That’s just the way it is. So thank you for keeping it real – it’s encourages me to no end.

  14. “I’m here for the sewing and your cheery disposition!” enough said.
    Linda

  15. lavenderandtwill.comlavenderandtwill.comA very interesting post. I think what you said about the internet encouraging oversharing is so true. I try to keep my family out of my blog for those very reasons ~ you feel like you *could* share more about them, but *should* you? I tend to try to stay on the side of caution and not share!

    And I think you’ve found the nice balance between sharing things like sewing frustrations, and keeping your privacy, and that of your family. I don’t do costuming or historical sewing, but I love history, wear 1940-1950’s vintage, and come here to learn! So thanks for sharing, and all the hard work you put into researching accurate information. ❤

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

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