What’s better than 1 blog post of me whining about being anonymous? 2 blog posts! Oh, yes. I know, I can tell you can’t wait because you’re leaving – uh, wait! There will be variations! In fact, I’ll try to limit myself to saying anonymous only once. There, said it (I’m not counting the title, or the first sentence…). Now, no more. Crap…I think I should probably have used it in a sentence with a better context…
Anyway! One of the reasons I wanted to keep my name hidden (Eh, see what I did there? I know. I’m so smooth.) was the whole race/sex/age bias thing. There is a story behind it, and so today I want to talk about an earth rocking moment in my past, which brought me to this point of view.
One summer my parents decided we were going to clean out the house and have a garage sale. It was huge. My father was always a collector of things weird and dubiously useful, (which was a habit that was passed on to me) so there was quite the collection of items laid out and we had lots of people come by and poke around our stuff. Oh yes, we had everything from walkers to half used cans of spray paint, clothing, dishes, horse halters, power tools, children’s toys and the best of the best, a decent book and movie selection. We had so much stuff out that this extravaganza was going to last every day that weekend. We were officially garage sale’n!
So, the sale is in full swing and I remember a person came over to the book bin. Since this usually would indicate a kindred spirit in the love of wordland I felt I should chat them up and show them where the good titles were hiding. I pointed out one book whose author was ridiculously famous, thinking this was giving someone four times the age of my teenaged self, a leg up in the quest for good literature.
Now, let’s set the stage a little. You see, at this point in my life I already knew I was going to be a writer. It wasn’t even on the radar as maybe. My grade two teacher thought I would grow up to be a writer who illustrates their stories (I still have the “warm fuzzy” certificate that proclaimed this, which we can call exhibit A) my grade 5 & 6 teacher (who was the same person) always read my stories to the class when it was read-the-best-stories-of-the-class-assignment time, and I wrote stories and poetry all the time in my spare time. So, there was really no doubt in my mind. I was going to be a famous writer (of course) and it was inevitable.
So here we are, back at the garage sale, and I’m pointing my all-knowing teenaged finger at a book that I think might just make this person, of the same gender as me, happy. The words they uttered next haunt me to this day.
“I don’t read _insert my gender here_ writers.”
I was gobsmacked. I felt like Santa just came ho ho ho-ing over and kicked me in the spleen. The sky fell in, the ground became unsteady and the world stopped turning on its axis. I believe I may have managed an “oh.” and then walked like the dead to my garage sale’n chair and collapsed with my head awhirl.
Did they actually say that? What’s wrong with _insert my gender here_ writers? Wait a minute, we’re all the same gender! Why wouldn’t they read someone who was their own gender? What kind of person thinks that someone who was the same gender as them can’t write? How many people are there out there making these kind of assumptions? And then came the soul kicker – DOES THAT MEAN THEY WON’T READ MY STUFF?!?!
And there, folks, is the crux. Faced with the worst example in my life (to that date) of how the world was unfair, I decided then and there to even the score. The decision, founded from the spirit of adolescent screw-you-ery that boiled over at someone judging a writer this way, was that from that point on I would write professionally under my initials only. This way, any person too closed-minded to read certain authors of a particular gender may just pick up my books anyway, without gender bias to instruct them, and read them. Hopefully, they would do this and just assume I was the “good gender” writer, until one day they see my smiling face in a book signing or a news article and learn the error of their ways. It would be a very daytime TV drama moment for them, perhaps throwing their fists up to the sky, crying (in the rain), about how wrong they were… and they would be forever changed and by extension, the world would be made a better place.
I’m sure most people in blog land (and this decade) probably would not openly present this point of view. I think as a people we have begun to evolve beyond that. OK, realistically, I know that not all of us have completely read and understand the memo, but it was e-mailed. So, in my veil of secrecy, I pray that one day this kind of bigoted dream bashing will stop. In fact, that all bigoted bashing will stop. It doesn’t matter to me what you look like, what you wear, which room is your restroom, your religion, your homeland or who you cuddle up to at night. Every single one of us deserves to be heard, to be treated with kindness and to be free to make our own decisions. No one deserves to feel left out because of something they can’t control.
I know in the scheme of things, my example is pretty tame. But as a writer, particularly a young one who had not yet had their confidence shaken (it had been shaken in practically everything else but this. This was my last refuge.), there was really nothing so devastating as to have someone write you off for merits other than your ability. They say that the first cut is the deepest (or maybe that was just
Sheryl Crow, Rod Stewart, Cat Stevens) and although this happened long ago, this is an experience that forever lingers. Even though I know its bull.