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Thursday, July 11, 2019

In a previous life, I was part of a musical duo called Y’all. My partner, Steven, and I met in New York City, and almost immediately created an “act” that far outlived our passion for one another. We loved each other — I would say we still do — but we stayed together because, from early on, we were doing something interesting and special, people took to it, and it always seemed like we were on the verge of something huge, that we were going to become famous. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but it definitely made us Artists.

We moved from New York City to Nashville about seven years into our career, and then moved onto the road a year or so after that. We lived in a 20-foot travel trailer and traveled from performance to performance, which, at that time, had come to be mostly Unitarian churches and retirement communities, with a few folk venues thrown in along the way. I was an avid chronicler of our adventures, from the very beginning of Y’all, in New York City, when everything I wrote was kept in spiral notebooks. Then we got a computer, and I started blogging. At some point, Steven was blogging too. Our fan base was sizable, even though we hadn’t hit the big time.

A couple of times, though, our blogging got us in trouble. Once, after visiting a more famous friend in California — an actor we’d known in NYC who was on a TV show — Steven mentioned the name of the neighborhood she and her young child lived in, and somehow she heard about it, and freaked the fuck out. She sent us an email in all caps telling us we had put hers and her child’s life in danger. It was a completely innocent (and, honestly, I still think pretty harmless) mistake, but our relationship never healed after that.

Another time, we were in Estes Park, Colorado. We had met a young man on the road (who lived in the travel trailer with us for the last year-and-a-half of our time together) who had lived there previously. We went with him to meet his friends, one of whom was a wild and wonderful free spirit named Nina, and we went back several times because it was a warm and beautiful community. During one of our visits, Nina was house-sitting for a wealthy woman there, and Nina invited us over for a dinner party. I wrote a blog entry about this amazing house, with its central vacuuming system and other amenities. Again, completely innocent.

Because Estes Park is a small town, someone in this woman’s neighborhood either saw us perform or heard about us, and happened upon our blog, then contacted the owner of the house, concerned by my aw-shucks report on her house. Nina got fired from her cushy house-sitting job (but didn’t hold it against us), and again, we found ourselves deleting a blog entry with our tails tucked between our legs.

Oh, yes, and one other time, after Y’all was no more, and while I was in the midst of my decade-long depression (which is to say I was kind of out of my mind), I was interested in a boy I’d met in Nashville the second time I lived there (that is, after Y’all). I was considering moving back to Nashville, particularly because this boy seemed interested in me, too. When I’d lived there previously, he had a boyfriend, and we had messed around (Steven and I were never monogamous), but I wasn’t looking for an open relationship anymore, so I didn’t think much of my attraction to the boy until after I learned that he and his boyfriend had broken up. At the same time, I also learned that he was HIV positive, and while that wasn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, it was something I hadn’t had to contemplate in my life up to that point, so I was doing a lot of processing about it in my blog.

I didn’t name him, but instead had this way of assigning people nicknames and keeping a key visible to help me remember who was who. It also didn’t take much imagination, if you knew one of those people, to figure out who I was talking about. And this is what happened with the Nashville Boy. I planned a weekend visit to Nashville, in which I was supposed to stay with him, and was nervously and excitedly writing about my hopes and fears, all things considered, which, come to find out (after the weekend, in a long, final email from him,), he was reading in real-time. He had told a friend about me — I’m assuming that it was about his interest in me — and she looked me up and found the blog and showed it to him.

I couldn’t seem to learn my lesson. When I landed in Austin, I was writing about a woman I’d had a flirtatious friendship with, also giving her a not-very-anonymizing nickname. In the key, the clue to the nickname was something along the lines of “The woman I’d fuck if I was gonna fuck women.” It sounds kind of crass when I write it now (and maybe it wasn’t those words exactly), but we had — and still have, I’ll add — a lovely relationship, I was again more blatant writing exactly what I was thinking than I probably should’ve been. I honestly didn’t think anyone read what I was writing, particularly not the object of my affections!

She told me we needed to talk, and she confessed that she’d been reading my blog. I say “confessed” because I think that’s what it felt like at the time. But, of course, it’s not like she was reading my private journal. I mean, it was out there for anyone and everyone to see.

I believe all of this goes back to being in college, coming out in writing to myself in a series of spiral notebooks that my roommate absconded from the dorm room and offered up to a reading group of other guys from our dorm room. It was at the time a horrible thing to have contended with, and at the same time, it was life changing. Since I started writing a novel that included a similar scene, and since I abandoned that novel to write the true story of those events, in order to better process the pain, it has served as great fodder for my creative life. Having been violated by those guys in college desensitized me to private writing, I think, particularly when I was struggling with my depression. And I think my time with Y’all, though technically prior to my depression, was fed by the experiences of my childhood that I’d yet to deal with, the issues which would form the genesis of my depression.

And now there’s this memoir I’m working on, and an expectation in the publishing industry of things called platform, blogging being one of them. So, I’m going to try to fulfill that expectation, but am also going to try to be as professional as possible about it, to not publish things willy-nilly, to not talk about my job or name people I’m dealing with professionally. I’m going to attempt to create something that supports my creative work that “my mother could read” — though I use that phrase somewhat ironically, since I’m actually not speaking to my mother right now!