Going Over the Wall

March 3, 2010 at 1:43 am (Uncategorized)

Last night I did something I didn’t think I’d ever do: I met two of my DoctorDi virtual friends in real life. The degrees of separation turn out to be few: one of my freelance chums, D, is friends with the lovely and funny Woo/Norwich Rocks of Curiouser and Curiouser, and Woo is friends with the sharp-eyed wit Fugitive Pieces (who doesn’t blog but is an active presence in the blogosphere nonetheless). Fugitive Pieces, I discovered last night, is also ‘real life friends’ with our very own Litlove of Tales from the Reading Room, who’s all the way over in Cambridge, and Woo is an old friend of Piereth’s, whose pastoral Watership Down-style life I greedily follow at Castle Green Days.

Are you still with me?

Anyway, my freelance friend D put it together – she saw a comment of mine on Curiouser and Curiouser – and suggested we all meet, and in the interim she met the Fugitive (who promptly volunteered to help D move – clearly the woman is certifiably insane), so only my introductions remained to be made. After finally resorting to an Excel Spreadsheet to find a time that suited all four of us (I wish I were exaggerating even slightly, but you’ll be pleased to know I couldn’t figure out how to use it, so just waited it out until everyone else had blocked off their slots before picking a time we could all do), we met at the Guylain Café last night.

First things first: why was this something I never thought I’d do? Well, when I started blogging I hadn’t known there were ‘blogging friends’ to be made. First I was completely ignorant of this phenomenon, and later I was initially ambivalent. I suppose I have retained quite a conservative suspicion of the web even though I use it daily, and although my and (to his increasing chagrin) Llew’s real names have always been readily available on this blog, I’ve still had an arm’s length hesitation about ever ‘crossing over.’ Exactly as though that would be taking an interesting experiment a step too far. Don’t leave the gate open! Man the hatch! Arm the perimeter! Good grief!

What on earth, one wonders, was I so afraid of? If D had simply brought two friends along with her last night, I would have had none of this odd psychic disturbance around dismantling an imaginary wall. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. So why was I ever so slightly nervous meeting two people who have already invested a good deal of their hard won time and energy getting to know me, and I them? It’s weird, don’t you think, that this collapsed boundary line would trouble me so? It’s a synthetic barrier, finally, one that I constructed when I began blogging and have not properly interrogated since. And last night exposed these ramparts as being fundamentally misplaced.

Because of course we got along like the proverbial blazing house.

Two hours passed so quickly, I missed the last fast ferry home, and then Llew turned up to collect me so there was another series of introductions. He already knows D, but he only remembered the other two girls were my ‘blogging friends’ having already spent several minutes talking to them, and admitted later he probably wouldn’t have joined us had he remembered whom I was meeting – even though he simultaneously acknowledged enjoying himself. It’s just that he finds it all very strange, and I feel a bit bad for having dropped him so squarely into my blogging life, because as he said on the slow boat home last night, he’s become a character in my blog and he’s got no control over it. I don’t know what to do about that now…I guess this is what comes of not knowing what would happen when I started DoctorDi.

I didn’t know naming names would prove at all contentious – it didn’t even occur to me to write using a pseudonym. And being anonymous, well, I’m already that, aren’t I, being entirely unknown?! Seriously, how much more total obscurity does one writer need?! Trust me, I’m languishing, I’m languishing! The upshot is I was pretty naïve. I used to use my friends’ first names too, until it came to my attention that they universally despised and resented it. I think I just figured – erroneously, as last night demonstrates – ‘Well, it’s not like anyone reading it is ever going to meet us, it’s not like they’re ever going to know who I’m talking about…what does it matter? What harm could it possibly do?’

And yet people I care about have definitely been aggrieved finding themselves named here. I’ve already offered to go back through each and every post turning references to Llew into ‘L,’ and I offered again last night, but he declines and I’m left wondering how to manage this so that he doesn’t get hurt or feel violated or experience my writing life as an invasion of his privacy. I don’t really have an immediate answer, but I’d love to hear any ideas you guys might have.

The final thing is that at some point, my position on meeting blogging friends completely changed. I don’t recall when this shift occurred, all I know is I’d love to meet you, every single one of you who I only know through my blog and yours. You’re friends of mine, and my once comically barricaded door has, in truth, been wide open for a while now. How I manage this fact against the needs of my husband remains to be seen, but if last night was anything to go by, we’ll have a lot of fun figuring it out.



  1. Lilian Nattel said,

    I’m glad you enjoyed it! That’s a tough one re how to deal with being public and private. I’m sure you’ll figure it out for yourself. Everyone’s solution is different.

    • doctordi said,

      I did – it was fun, they’re both great! Yes, definitely a work in progress, this private/public balancing act.

  2. litlove said,

    Oh you met the lovely Fugitive! Isn’t she a darling and so so funny, too. I’m jealous – sounds like a fabulous evening.

    As for real people, well, the point is that they become characters in the blog, and not real any more at all. My husband loves appearing in a post because I let him keep all his best lines and edit out the rest. I’ll bet you do that to Llew as well, tidy him up, edit him, tweak him into a role. And it’s all to the good – even if he doesn’t do the right thing, then he’s Our Hero in a moment of vulnerability. You’ve just got to get Llew to realise that what he has here is a fan club – for doing Absolutely Nothing At All. What’s not to like? We all love your Nana and your sister without knowing them, too. I think the virtual world is very benign in that respect.

    • doctordi said,

      Yes, we cackled loud and long, Litlove, and I felt a stab of envy knowing the Fugitive really truly *knows* you and has spent time with you on your side of the pond. Yes, Llew sees the character aspect, I think, but I can also see why it’s disconcerting to him – it’s not a profile he chose for himself, nor is it one over which he exercises much control. I do try to be sensitive to that but have failed horribly several times. So… an on-going issue, I think, but that’s all right.

  3. David said,

    How cool that you got to meet Trucie/Woo/Norwich and FP. Litlove’s observation is great … that real people in blogs are characters. I actually don’t think Llew exists at all. 🙂

  4. doctordi said,

    David, it was seriously cool. And I would doubt the Amazon’s existence too but for the fact that I truly believe in the terror of the flat-pack. The ring of authenticity when you call in the leggy reinforcements is just too loud and long!

  5. Norwichrocks said,

    Isn’t that odd, I didn’t even think twice about meeting you: having read your blog and then been in email communication for a couple of months – and with friends in common – I knew we’d get on well. And we did. I absolutely loved meeting both you and Llew and very much look forward to seeing you again – soon and frequently 🙂

    Didn’t even cross my mind to worry about anonymity in terms of our meeting… but then, I have changed my profile name three times since I started blogging (from truce to woo to norwichrocks), in order to give myself a little more anonymity and to make it less easy for people to stumble across my blog by googling my real name.

    Also, I routinely use nicknames and acronyms when referring to real people in my blog, and I am careful not to use people’s real names in comments, even when I actually know them (Piereth’s alter ego, for example, is an old friend of mine from uni).

    Maybe giving Llew a nickname and changing your profile name from now on would help, even though he says its not necessary? Especially since Llew’s name is fairly uncommon.

    But then, whichever nickname you choose will reveal something about you, anyway! ‘Fugitive Pieces’ reveals a literary bent and ‘Norwichrocks’ reveals my origin and favourite slang expression!

    Plus, meeting anyone in real life for the first time is a risk – they could turn out to be a nightmare in so many ways. I think that having got to know them first via their blog or comments would act as an insurance against that, rather than otherwise.

    Its how internet dating should work, but doesn’t, because people aren’t as honest on their dating profiles as they are in their blogs!


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