You're either anonymous or you're not
“I veer from unbridled hubris to neurotic paralysis,” I tell The Editor after ignoring his email for a week. I once read a self-help book entitled Self-Sabotage and How to Stop It. Clearly, I didn’t absorb anything. I want to be a writer but when someone expresses interest in my writing I scamper into the undergrowth faster than a nervous Ibicenco lizard.
After going to ground for a week, sitting in a darkened room refreshing my Twitter feed into infinity, today I feel like I might be a writer again.
I’m lying on the beach in my homage to Bettie Page leopard print and hibiscus mismatched bikini and I’m stealing glances at the beardy bartender from the nearby bar while typing away on my iPad. There are small windows of clarity. In these windows I see that I might be able to ditch waitressing and earn my living as a writer. I’m trying my best to silence the self-doubt.
This island can be divided into categories. People who attempt to assuage their Weltschmertz with a liberal dose of hippie bullshit and those who tackle it with copious quantities of recreational drugs. (Of course there are crossovers. These are the people you must avoid at all costs. Combining yoga and MDMA can result in serious injuries). At the moment, I fall firmly into the former category. I’ve been flinging myself into any esoteric Eastern philosophy I can find. Every Wednesday I go round to a sandalwood scented apartment and sit on top of a brick on a zebra print blanket with my legs crossed chanting (completely out of tune because I have a voice like Mark E. Smith with nasal congestion) in a bid to unlock my chakras. My ‘guru’ speaks only Spanish so most of the time I haven’t got a bloody clue what’s going on but I keep going anyway. I have been working on unlocking my fifth chakra. The throat chakra. Perhaps it will free me from the prison of self-censorship? Perhaps though, a gram of charlie would do the job faster and more effectively. I’m too skint and emotional these days to ride the white horse though. How can you be a writer if you can’t trust your own voice?
The Editor says that anonymity cannot be guaranteed. This immobilises me. He says that, in the case of Belle de Jour her boyfriend revealed her identity to the world. Luckily, for me I don’t have a boyfriend. However, anyone who knows me even slightly would be able to deduce that I am the author of Unapologetic Observations.
It seems like a paradox. To claim on one hand to be ‘unapologetic’ and then on the other hand to choose to hide your identity. My reason for wanting to remain anonymous is not because I have anything to hide. I have never been particularly good at censoring myself. I love this quote from Anne Lamott: ‘You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.’ I remember this quote any time I feel guilty for writing about blind date guy or any of the other idiots I plan to write about in the future.
I think about all the male writers who have been allowed to write unapologetically about their dicks. About who they fucked and when and where. Leonard Cohen sang ‘she was giving me head on the unmade bed’ without a moment’s hesitation. When I type there is no hesitation. The hesitation comes when I think about society’s expectations regarding female behaviour.
My father is an unbridled misogynist. When I was an adolescent he did everything in his power to scare me from ever having sex. Obviously, that had the exact opposite effect. If even normal monogamous sex in a loving relationship is seen as a transgression you may as well go the whole hog and sleep with a bunch of strangers.
My dad who hails from the Middle East would tell me anecdotes from the Old Country designed to put the fear of God into me. We would be watching Eastenders and suddenly he would turn to me and say, “when I was in my home country the neighbour’s daughter had sex before marriage. She got pregnant,” and at this point his voice would escalate to drown out Bianca Jackson and Pat Butcher. “Of course, he killed her. What else could he do? SHE BROUGHT SHAME ON THE FAMILY!”
There were other similar stories each of them culminating in (in my dad’s opinion) a wholly justified honour killing. Then there was his number one top favourite ‘joke’:
“If A ever brings home a boyfriend I will be waiting behind the door with the shotgun.”
At the time, I didn’t doubt that he actually meant it. So I didn’t sleep with anyone until long after I left home.
How can a woman write candidly about sex and sexuality without exposing herself to a whole heap of trouble? I don’t want to ‘bring shame on the family’ but I think the real shame would be if I did not call bullshit on my father’s behaviour. So I’m writing for all the daughters whose dads dangled death and shame over their heads. Many women with backgrounds like mine are afraid to write but if no one tells our stories then the bullshit fest continues.
So for now, I’m choosing to be anonymous but only like Ted Danson*.
*There is an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Ted Danson donates a hospital wing ‘anonymously’. Watch it. It’s funny.