Rebecca Rasmussen is the author of the novel The Bird Sisters, forthcoming from Crown/Random House on April 12th, 2011. Her stories have appeared in TriQuarterly, Mid-American Review and elsewhere. You can find her and the pies she loves to bake at http://thebirdsisters.com or http://thebirdsisters.blogspot.com.
By Rebecca Rasmussen
My husband walked in the front door yesterday to find me hunched over my laptop on the sofa, squinting at a glaring white screen in a quickly darkening room. He turned on the lamp and set down his bags.
“What are you doing?” he said.
“I’m writing my friend Annie a thank you email,” I said.
“Which one is Annie?”
“Annie of Harper Perennial.”
Since signing the contract for my novel last summer and my editor thrusting me into the online world, this has become a more commonplace conversation in our home. My husband and I have developed new codes of understanding. Annie of Harper Perennial. Annie the editor. Annie the neighbor’s dog.
“She’s so sweet,” I said. “She sent me a little present.”
“If only your online people knew you like I do,” my husband teased.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You get mad sometimes, for one thing,” my husband said. “And your ponytail—”
“What about it?” I said, stroking the ends of my messy dark hair.
“You rarely wear your hair down.”
“I don’t think they’d care,” I said.
“Don’t be so sure,” he said and kissed my cheek the way he always does when he comes home from work.
My husband was joking. I know he was joking. But what he said got me thinking: am I different online than I am in real life? The answer: yes and no.
Ponytail aside, I do get mad sometimes. Like last week when the washing machine ate my favorite blouse and I tapped its lid punitively, while saying, “Bad washer! Very bad washer!” Or the week before when my daughter asked me to make banana bread even though St. Louis was a little like Dante’s Inferno and then wouldn’t eat any of it because “it looked weird.” Sometimes I get mad. I do.
Other times I am mind bogglingly happy.
Aren’t we all?
Though I haven’t yet broken bread with most of my friends online yet, I adore them, I cherish them, I feel lucky to have met them by clicking (wisely!) on their Facebook pages, their Twitter profiles, their Blogger accounts. I suspect that they, too, have their moods, their ups and downs. Maybe some of them wash their hair three times a day or wear two-day-old socks. Do I care? Nope. A lot of people say that folks online are different than they are in person. Online they might spew sunshine while in their “real” lives they cut off drivers on the highway. In general, I don’t buy it. Sure, there are always a few people like that, but the women and men I have met online have all been wonderful, encouraging, and selfless. And that’s how I try to be in all my lives – online and otherwise.
Do I fail?
But I pick myself up and keep trying.
I don’t like to call my online friends my online friends, mostly because it seems a lesser form of friendship depending on how you (or maybe not you) think about it. What I love about them is their incredible diversity. I have friends who are retired, who are younger than me, who live with a zillion cats – or one with an adorable teacup pig. I have friends from all over the world, who share bits and pieces of their lives with me in between making supper or giving their children baths or gearing up for working the late shift at a bottling factory. Online we share minutes, sometimes seconds, but I have yet to feel unfulfilled by these interactions. I wish I could gather them all up and take them out to a glorious dinner.
“But then they would see your ponytail,” my husband says tonight when he gets home from work to yet another darkening living room. He turns on the lamp.
Oh no, here we go again.
“And I might even get mad,” I say, but instead of fidgeting with my hair, tonight I close my computer after typing Have a great night, Bethie. xox
“I’m making tacos tonight,” I say.
Tacos are my husband’s favorite food.
“And I got fresh salsa from the farmer’s market, too,” I add.
My husband smiles and kisses my cheek. “Then they might even forgive you.”