Not Naming Any Names

by Ray Colon on February 18, 2013 · 16 comments

Crowds on 18th Street - 2009 presidential inauguration By AgnosticPreachersKid (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

“You’re not going to write about this, are you?”

If you’ve blogged for any period of time, you’ve probably heard this question. It doesn’t matter if your blog is read only by a few people, or if you change names to protect the innocent — knowing that you write about things can sometimes give your family and friends the willies. So they ask, “You’re not going to write about this, are you?” Then you lie.

“Of course not!”

You don’t mean to lie. It’s just that the line separating what is your story and what is theirs is not easily discerned and is open to interpretation. You take your chances when you speak with a blogger. If we are both doing something, should I be able to only write about what I did, or should I feel comfortable enough to write about the entire experience – of which you played a part?

____________________

It’s been twenty years and there hasn’t been a cross word between us during all of that time. At first, you had a hard time letting me know what was on your mind, but somehow we made it through that period. I worry about you – always have. Not because of anything that you have done or failed to do, but because I can’t guarantee your happiness, like I want to.

For the most powerful man in your young life to be so utterly powerless takes some getting used to.

You’ve shown great poise during difficult situations. I can’t take all of the credit for your composure, but vanity dictates that I take some. You are smart, attractive, kind, and loving and I couldn’t imagine my life without you in it. I love you and I’m proud of the woman you have become.

____________________

We were best friends since high school. You went on to college and I did too. We went to the same one. You studied hard and graduated. I hung out in the student’s lounge. By the mid-point of the first semester, I was asked to leave. It took me many years to correct that mistake, but we remained friends despite the divergence of our journeys. You were even responsible for making the introduction that landed me my first office job. The head honcho was your uncle, but you could have recommended someone else. You chose me.

We both married. I was blessed with children, you weren’t. Many years later, it seemed that I only made the trip to New Jersey to say goodbye to someone we both knew. You helped me move into my new home in 1998, but you haven’t been back since. In all, you’ve been a good friend. Many of my memories have you in them. Almost all of those memories are fond. A long time ago, you lent me money when I was in a jam. I haven’t paid you back.

During your saddest times — when your father, your mother, and then your wife died, I was always by your side. When my brother died, you weren’t by mine.

The expectations of a long friendship can be hard to live up to.

____________________

So you see… it’s impossible for me to write about me, without writing about you. The ways in which we influence each other’s lives precludes the divvying up of moments to suit an arbitrary standard of anonymity. It’s no worse than when you promise never to tell a soul, and then you turn around and do.

“I’ll just tell one person.”

People talk. Promises are broken. Sometimes it slips out unintentionally – at least that’s the way it’s often explained afterwards. Sometimes there’s blow-back once the secrets are repeated; other times we chill, because we knew that it was likely to happen the moment that we confided in another.

We are interconnected. Our stories play off of one another. It is at the intersection of my life and yours that all of the action takes place. To exclude what happens there would be a mistake.

I’ll try not to betray a trust in the process, but there are no guarantees.

I’m not naming any names because the names are not required for me to tell my stories, but without the people behind those undisclosed names there would be far less meaningful stories to tell.

Author Bio:

Ray Colon has written 167 posts on Ray's Blog.

He works with numbers for a living, but don't judge - boring accountants need love too. His blog has no niche (unless writing about things that are important to him is a niche). Some folks cringe when he gets “all political” on them, but he does it anyway when he's in that kind of mood. Sometimes, he writes something nice about someone, but you shouldn't get used to that. His first book, the one he hasn't written yet, is not available on Amazon. Subscribe to Ray's Blog via RSS  or Email.

Send Ray an Email if you have a question. He may even respond.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean February 18, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Wonder how your friend would respond if he read this one day. You never know.

Admittedly I haven’t been real eager to write up much at all about family members or friends/ex-friends. My partner does figure in my life since he’s part of life journey and vice versa. So he’s in some blog posts as sharing certain experiences with me. He has his own blogs. We contribute to each other’s blogs if nothing else,..photos. :) It’s so convenient and adds different dimensions to each other blogs. I hope.

So far, I’ve avoided writing controversial topics which I do have strong feelings and opinions. One just gets hints here and there for certain blog posts.

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Ray Colon February 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Hi Jean,

I don’t know what he would say, but I’m pretty sure that it would be okay. Friendships are complicated and there are things that happen over the years that we’d all like to chance. In hindsight, we find that we could have always done better.

I hope that I was successful in relating that there were three stories (well, two stories and a snippet really) in this post. Three scenes from my life. Three snapshots, processed in the darkroom of my mind to reveal some of the ways we interact with one another out in the world.

Bloggers have a million different reasons for why they blog. Not everyone would be comfortable writing posts like this, and that’s fine. It’s not for everyone. When I sit down to write, it’s rarely, “What do I want to talk about?” Usually the question that I ask myself is, “What am I feeling?”

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Bj February 18, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Hi Ray,

That was totally worth putting down my cup of coffee! :-D

BJ

PS: With friends like you at life’s intersections, who needs stop signs?
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Ray Colon February 18, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Hi BJ,

Stop drinking coffee so late in the evening. You’ll never get to sleep!

I’m glad that you found it to be a good read. Thank you, it’s appreciated.

Signs? We don’t need no stinking signs! :)

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Bj February 18, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Ha…
Wish that were true!
I drink coffee this late because because I don’t get to sleep!,

:D

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Tristan February 19, 2013 at 12:47 am

Ok so you were talking about different people! I missed that the first time around.

I try to avoid names more now than I ever did in the beginning of my blogging “career.” I don’t know why. What’s the difference between saying a friend’s first name and saying “my friend”? Although I tend to only refer to anyone outside my immediate family with vague labels.

I have never lied to anyone about not blogging about them. Of course most people don’t ask and my family has come to expect me to write about them. And I don’t change their names! Bwa Ha Ha! I think it would be impossible to leave out other people from my posts. I fully admit that I write from my own point of view. It would be ludicrous to delete human interraction from my published perspective of life.

As always Ray, love your posts! You have a unique writing style that I enjoy reading. Thanks for making me think again.
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Ray Colon February 19, 2013 at 8:16 am

Hi Tristan,

Yes, I knew that it was an iffy way to go in terms of clarity, but I settled on it because I didn’t want to use sub-headings like: Story 1, Story 2, etc. It seemed awkward.

The title and the whole names thing was a device to introduce the topic. You and I had a conversation about this some time ago. We spoke about using names, but also of the transparency that still exists when we exclude them. It’s something that plays out in my mind almost every time that my fingers touch a keyboard. Like you, I’ve concluded that there is really no difference.

No lies? Come on, that was an attention grabbing line, no?

Thanks, Tristan. There are thousands of posts about treating people as if what they say or do is “off the record” so I tried to tackle it from another direction. I will say that it would have probably been easier to take the standard approach, because the wringer that I put myself through when writing like this slows me down a lot. I read the drafts and ask, “What am I saying?” and “Am I making any sense at all here?” LOL

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Janice
Twitter:
February 19, 2013 at 2:04 am

Ray,

Interesting topic and one of great sensitivity! In my earlier blogging experiences, I would have a variety of people come forward with anger towards a posting believing it was about them, when it wasn’t. The irony was, the person that it was about, could care less.

Typically, I tell someone or ask them prior to blogging about something when the story uses another person as central focus. It just helps to ease the issues and actually appeals to them that I desire to even write about them.

However, sometimes one just can’t help but to include certain details when writing about an experience. It doesn’t make sense without the whole experience described. It does get tricky. Those situations where I do not ask usually work out just fine.

I love your insight!

Janice
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Ray Colon February 19, 2013 at 9:10 am

Hi Janice,

That’s pretty funny, in a Carly Simon sort of way, “I bet they thought that post was about them.”

I don’t think that I’ve ever asked anyone’s blessing. I try to stay away from the negative, but if I do head in that direction I try to balance the scales by referring to my own shortcomings alongside theirs. Throwing stones is never the core of the story for me — the meaning of the underlying relationship is.

What happens when you’ve written a post, tell the person about it, and he or she objects? Do you trash it? Modify it?

Thanks. I figure if something makes me wonder, others may be wondering too.

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Denise Hisey February 19, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Ray, I really liked how you wrote this piece. Maybe he’ll read it one day and see a side of you they missed before. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.
It’s true we are all innerconnected and our stories are inexplicably woven together in so many ways.
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Ray Colon February 19, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Hi Denise,

Thank you. It was an interesting post to put together.

A side that was missed? Perhaps. Friendships like that don’t really end while both people are still living. I would say that they lapse when time, distance, and the many demands of life get in the way.

The connections that we make are everywhere. Your last post, for example, caused me to consider something I had never thought about. New insights are discovered when we open up to one another.

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Brenda February 20, 2013 at 5:25 pm

WOW times ten to the tenth. This was the last thing I expected to find here today. Maybe because it’s something that’s been on my mind of late – or the friend in my head that it’s those one-of-a-kind stories. You know the ones shaped you? I wonder if the person who this is written for/about knows of your pages? How do you know this person isn’t a frequent visitor? Makes me wonder. Aside from my own nattered thoughts, this piece is exquisite, Ray. You handled it brilliantly.
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Ray Colon February 20, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Hi Brenda,

I’m glad that the story resonated with you. I’m sure that you are referring to the middle story — I think that’a the one of the three that has captured most people’s attention so far. It may have touched a nerve with readers. Writing about friendships and trying to be honest and even-handed is hard, since we have so much invested in them. I don’t know if he reads my blog, but I would be okay with it if he does. He would probably be okay with it too.

Thanks for the kudos. They are always appreciated! :)

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Brenda February 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm

You’re correct. And it was my pleasure. I enjoyed the post greatly.
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Joyce March 3, 2013 at 7:04 pm

One of my family members got angry when I wrote a post mentioning him. If he ever pops up in another post, he is called “He who must not be named.”
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Ray Colon March 3, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Hi Joyce,

Ha, like that line from the Ten Commandments… “He who has no name.”

It’s unfortunate that your family member was upset over being mentioned. I hope that you weren’t too rough on him. :)

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