Guest Post by Rebecca Rasmussen: The Real (Online) Me

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.

The Real (Online) Me

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.

Or goofy.

Or serious.

Or hungry.

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?

Plenty.

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.

Another favorite.

My husband smiles and kisses my cheek. “Then they might even forgive you.”

22 thoughts on “Guest Post by Rebecca Rasmussen: The Real (Online) Me

  1. I’m very happy to be one of your “online” friends—it’s been such a wonderful experience getting to know you! Thanks for sharing yourself the way you do. You are a true treasure, ponytail, bad moods and all. BTW: I’m all for ponytails and bad moods. And who has a teacup pig??? I must meet this person!

  2. Elizabeth, I adore you! Are you going to AWP this year? Say yes and then you can meet my ponytail in DC! As for the teacup pig, we’ll have to travel to the UK to meet that young lady 🙂

    p.s. I forgot to mention the sweatpants I wear all the time when I am writing.

  3. Rebecca,

    Wonderful post! and yes my hair is in a pony tail as I type. Have not been mad today -but there is still time 🙂 LOL.

    Life is a great big circle, and I love the idea of meeting all those I adore ‘online’ in person. I know it’s only a matter of time till we do!
    Blessings,

  4. Hi Rebecca!
    I loved this post! Could relate to all of it! Wow! I even have a husband who lets out a funny laugh when he sees me first thing in the a.m. typing to my “friends,” my hair in a pony tail, too. He is not an online kind of guy but he has witnessed the friendships, the real friendships that have organically grown out of this technology.

  5. Oh, Rebecca! I remember at one of my first meetings pre-pub, how the lovely people at HarperCollins made it seem so simple to get myself into the ( what I then thought of) the murky waters of the Internet. To my utter delight, since then, I have met the most delicious group of people — you included– and formed a community I never thought possible. I’m guessing, that even without the benefit of our electronic connection — we would be friends in the world of trees, sun and sky. And I’m pretty sure we would forgive ( or not even notice) if one of us ALWAYS wore her hair in a ponytail.

  6. Hey, I saw your ponytail! And I found out how amazingly easy you are to talk to in real life, something that really scares me about meeting online friends in person–I have to figure out what to say.

    I am so grateful for the online world especially the online writing world where I get to chat with Rebeccas and Lisas who “get me” better than most of my nonwriting friends.

    Excellent post 🙂

    • Victoria, I feel the same way. 😀 Also, for some reasons, genuine support for our writing (at least in my experience) comes most easily from other writers. I can hardly wait to meet you in person!

  7. Rebecca, Lisa introduced your upcoming essay in her recent post, calling your writing “graceful prose.” I can’t agree more. What a beautiful post and a great reminder that we can be (and should be) real, whether or not we’re behind a screen.

    I can’t wait to read your book!

    • Christi — thank you so much! It’s actually taco night again in my house tonight, so this post became all too real again for me and reminded me of all of the wonderful people I’ve met on the internet, including you! xoxoxo

  8. Wonderful Post! It’s amazing what we learn about eachother online and yet hardly know the little detail that make each of us so unique (just because we never thought about it). Like I always wear my hair down. It’s hardly ever in a ponytail. Thank you for sharing this post, Rebecca and Lisa!

  9. And what’s wrong with two day old socks?! I loved, loved, loved this post, Rebecca! It’s a wonderful subject, and, oh, yes to graceful prose.

    I’m so used to talking about my online friends as just plain old friends that I confuse “real life” people (well, mostly my mother) when I tell her about a conversation I had with an online friend. Trust me, it goes downhill fast. My partner, on the other hand, has his own online connections. And the bits and pieces, which are almost always real in my experience, that get revealed add up into the most delightful wholes. I wouldn’t trade my online friends for anything.

    Thanks for a lovely post.

  10. What a great post! I happened across Lisa’s blog, and was enjoying my read, when suddenly I read your name. I’m looking forward to reading The Bird Sisters! I was at AWP this year, and I really enjoyed what you had to say about just . . . being kind to everybody, being kind to your editor and those at the publishing house. Your words were so refreshing! It’s a good reminder for all of us, and I think it applies to what you’re talking about in this post: being real with people online. As long as I remember that I’m interacting with other human beings online, not just virtual constructs of my imagination, I’m much kinder and much more myself when interacting online. Of course, I don’t portray every facet of myself, but what people see is still honest.

    It’s fun to know you often wear a ponytail, but if you didn’t tell us that, you wouldn’t be misrepresenting yourself. It’d just be focusing on a different aspect of you. Also, everyone gets mad at some point: that you don’t barf it out online shows you are a thoughtful, considerate person. I appreciate that (;

  11. Thank you so much for the lovely lovely, thoughtful comment! I was nervous as could be at AWP, and it’s so nice to hear from people who were in the audience because you all were so lovely your smiles really set me at ease. And your comment now really just made me smile. Thank you so much! What a heartening thing to read tonight.

    Keep in touch.
    XOXO Rebecca
    thebirdsisters@gmail.com

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