You Don't Know Where My Voice Is, Do You?

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My imagination tends to get the better parts of me. When I was a kid I fell for the most absurd stories. I believed almost everything I heard. I used to imagine that I was someone else a lot of the time. I imagined I had horses, and friends. I imagined Michael Jackson wanted to be my friend but was way too busy. I really believed that Santa somehow stuffed his fat ass down a billion chimneys once a year. I believed it when my mother told me I couldn’t mail the letter I had written to my great grandfather. What I didn’t understand was how God could say “No” to the heavenly construction of mailboxes. I just couldn’t comprehend not having a post-office. Dead or not, people should be able to receive mail.

When things didn’t go my way or something wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to be, I created fantasy. I wrote stories in my head. Having never been a very good sleeper, many of these tales of height would swoon me to sleep like some adult-sized pill or glass of swift kid-whiskey made to stop the head from spinning. I imagined meeting Mr. Jackson (while wearing the glove, I needed to talk him into giving me the glove) and telling him THRILLER could have been even longer. Fantasy helped me to smile. Fantasy enabled me to overcome crippling fear as well.

Fantasy came with a voice, too. This voice (obviously my own) would construct make believe conversations with other people – conversations that never happen and probably never would. So when Jason wouldn’t pay attention to me at 13, I’d slap on a soundtrack and lay my drifting head to sleep imagining the exact opposite. We would have conversations in the hall in front of the popular people and I would laugh at everything he said. Much later, in college, this fantasy world would enter my conscious hours, too. My headphones and the music they played (I remember Greenday) set a stage for whatever imaginary land I might pass through while on my way to something much more ordinary and boring like class. I’d create an entirely different world for myself. A world I lived in when no one else was looking. A world where I could dress in red and say the true things out loud to whoever I pleased whenever I pleased. I ran to this place when I was sad, let down, tortured, dumped, desperate, excited, bored, lonely, scared, stressed-out, and empty. It made me less restless. It made me feel less mad and unstable. And believe me, no one knows just how mad I can be.

Today, my ability to escape The Happening comes out in different ways. After all this time spent making stuff up, I may have blurred the boundary between what’s real and what isn’t. If you were to sit down with Toby he’d share with you an instance out of the obscenely high number of instances where I took an almost non-existent idea, not there to most all other human minds, and turned it into a totally HUGE AND COMPLETELY INSANE BASED ON ZERO FACTUAL INFORMATION WHAT-SO-EVER idea. His favorite attestation of such is the time where we were driving and I said something about someone I know having had a baby. And how the guy didn’t know about it. I said something about how gals can’t have any babies that they are unaware of and I guess that that’s cool. And how weird it must be for men who have sex and then don’t see the girl again and could quite possibly have had a baby who they don’t know about. Through all of this one-to-me conversation, I finally thought that I should probably try and include him in my REALLY FASCINATING conversation. I looked at him and said:

You don’t have any illegitimate children, do you?

Stop. May I have an aside, please?

I have to back up a few years. Questions beginning with “You don’t” and ending in ”, Do you?” Are questions that should NEVER be asked. NEVER. Please, if you take anything from this post, if you remember anything you’ve EVER read on mihow.com, remember that.

Rule number 1: Thou shall NOT utter a question using the following structure: “You don’t [insert query here], do you?” Don’t try and mix it up. Don’t even think of it, really. If it comes to mind quickly remove it from your head and burn it before he or she standing before you has the chance to say “What the fuck was that?”

I have asked questions like this many times. And pretty much every time I have used this question, I get the response I SO DON’T WANT TO HEAR. I once asked a guy I was dating in England if he’d ever snogged anyone. We were folding our laundry in an on campus pub and I giggled at the word “Snog” which means “to kiss” or “to make out.” I thought it was funny. I turned to my boyfriend at the time in front of a handful of other blokes and said:

You didn’t snog anyone, did you?

Answer: So not what I wanted to hear. (This question was asked years before as well, only replace “snog anyone” with “get those crabs from her?” I should have learned not to ask this question sooner.)

Many years later, I was sitting around eating pie with another boyfriend. He was an ex-military man. He was pretty hot, but SO not someone I was ever attracted to or will ever be attracted to again. He was a sweet person, but he had a background of weirdness. For example, he claimed to have had sex with asian identical twins. (That was weird. I went to my fantasy place when that came up.) So one day we’re sitting there talking about murder, (at that time I still had this BRILLIANT idea that I wanted to become an FBI agent. I blame it all on Jodi Foster. I am not the first person to do this, I know.) and I started going on and on about how I can’t imagine killing someone and how could someone actually DO IT and when they did it, did it stink? Were there smells? And what did it feel like to kill someone? And realizing, yet again that I wasn’t alone, I turned to him and said:

You never killed anyone, did you?

Answer: Almost. He came SO close to killing someone with a guitar that he was arrested and taken to jail.

Now, I know you’re all wondering, what kind of people does this girl date? What I failed to mention was that the sweet army boy (who never fought a battle in his life) beat the man for instigating and perpetuating the gang-rape of a female soldier. She was beat so badly, she never fully recovered and was hospitalized for the remainder of her life.

Whew. So don’t ask the question. Don’t give ANYONE an opportunity to admit to something they’ve probably wanted to admit to their entire life if you’re at all afraid of the answer. Plus, it really has nothing to do with you. In all actuality, their past has absolutely NOTHING to do with you. So don’t ask.

9 times out of 10 my imagination, this fantasy land I have created, is much more entertaining than the one eventually voilaed! before me. I am rarely surprised. I have learned that if you play by the rules, much like what Alex has his visitors do while contesting in Jeopardy, and DON’T ask your question using the structure mentioned above, you’ll get the answer you assumed. Once you logically place it into the above rhetoric, I can no longer assure you of such.

This is what history has taught me.

When I started writing this blog, I had a particular voice. I used this voice every morning and throughout the day. Much like the fantasy world I created during my youth, the realization that with THIS type of creation – a blog – the person I wanted to speak to, the person I imagined I spoke to, MIGHT actually be there to read it. This time, it wasn’t necessarily ALL just fantasy. He might very well read it!

Yesterday, I stopped by a few blogs. I was catching up, you might say. I’ve been busy lately. I started thinking about each person’s voice. The really popular personal blogs write to and for themselves. They act entirely as if it were a diary which others are invited to read – if they choose to. Still others are written with ONE particular person in mind. There are times where you can tell that the writer believes the person in mind will and is reading as well. Still others construct hateful posts directed towards one person or an entire group of people. (These people are bitter and resentful, I usually close the window when I hit on one of them.) Blogs have become a way of recreating yourself, molding yourself into someone you’re not, or someone you wish you could be, maybe keeping a blog helps to expose that someone you are, but never got the chance to expose. Blogs are a way of making that fantasy become slightly more real: He IS reading this. She WILL find me. I AM happy. I HAVE moved on. I’m NOT angry. I Do Fear.

I started writing on mihow.com while living in New York City. I had just met Toby. And for a while I wrote out the best parts and worst parts of myself for him. I guess you could say that Toby was my audience. My chosen voice was talking to him. Others could read along with us, but mainly I wrote for him and for myself. And after we became closer and I was able to open up more in person, I started writing for myself and for those I’d always wanted to say “FUCK YOU! LOOK AT ME, I AM HAPPY NOW!” to. (Yes, I realize the irony here). As our relationship began to settle, and I realized he wasn’t going anywhere, I began to drop some of the bags I’d been carrying around for so long and resting a bit more. So my voice changed again.

Defining one’s audience is the most important part of creating something worthwhile and interesting. Even if the audience is not noticing one at all and writing for oneself alone, discovering that is important. And I feel I have lost sight of that a bit.

Looking back, or reading back, rather, I’m still the same person I was two years ago. Only my fears and anxieties have changed. I fear things like real estate terrorism and no longer falling planes or bus bombs. I fear never being able to afford a house. I fear not having a 401K or retiring without a garden. I fear not ever finding a job again. While I feel settled and very happy in my marriage, I still run with ideas and come up with the most ridiculous hypotheses. And contrary to my assumption about Toby’s many illegitamate children, he has not a one but we laugh about it constantly, my ability to take the mundane and turn it into something wildly incorrect.

So what’s my point? Exactly. This post and my site has begged the question for quite some time

You don’t know where my voice is, do you?

Because I think I may have thought about it too much and reduced it to nothing.

13 Comments

  1. What’s so beautiful and disarming and entertaining about your site isn’t always the subjects of your posts but the meandering, contemplative, and self-conscious manner in which you approach them …

    I don’t think that I really have noticed that much of a change in your tone and style (the things I usually associate with “voice”). Certainly the content and subject of your posts have changed. But whether you are writing about lemurs or the blog itself, you always come across as earnest and genuine and unpretentious, which is certainly refreshing, and you mix your thoughts with a lot of autobiography and recollection. Even when you write about the movies you’re watching or meals you’re enjoying, you don’t come off like the multitude of the other dvd-watching/TIVO-meisters that are producing so many indistinguishable blogs.

    And this post, I’d suggest, is the quintessential mihow post.

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  2. couldn’t have said it better myself…

    that jesus guy really knows what he’s talking about.

    yay for jesus!!!
    and yay for mihow!!!

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  3. Praise Mihowing Jesus!!! We love you Mihow!Keep up the great posts of our lifes!
    Big Labowski “Nobody! FUCKS wit da JESUS!!”

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  4. James, I know you’re a sweet guy, but sometimes you startle me. :]

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  5. ok, i’m a new convert to this blog. this post is just beautiful. if this is not knowing where your voice is, i hope it stays lost.

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  6. > this is why you need to teach

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  7. oops, that didn’t work out!

    this is why you need to teach:
    “Defining one’s audience is the most important part of creating something worthwhile and interesting.”

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  8. If Toby aint my baby’s daddy the who is? I wonder…

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  9. My internal voice has conversations with me and convinces me of things that don’t and never did exist. Occasionally, most often when backed in a corner, that voice makes me say things I regret instantly, spouting nonsense that I know I should never have said and wish had never spewed out. Often, that is a “you didn’t – did you” question, more often, it’s a “you did – didn’t you” accusation.

    I think I stopped writing because I was afraid my wild accusations and questions would be archived forever instead of being smoothed over by a heartfelt apology.

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  10. Ditto Praise Jesus. This was a fabulous exploration and I loved following your meandering mind. You have no worries about having lost your voice. You’ve got it. And it’s a voice I love.

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  11. DonaldEugene, if Toby IS your baby’s daddy, we must hit him up for some of those Buttpaste profits. I’ll share if you share.

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  12. mihow – i fell in love with you over the retainer-posts, so i don’t know you from the NYC-times. but wouldn’t it be horrible if love and two years didn’t change your voice a bit? jeees – it changed my language and might change the country i live in. and i still love love! and maybe the whole life is about searching one’s voice.. yeah, i’m not a good writer or a native english speaker so you probably don’t get what i’m trying to say. i’m gonna go now find my voice ;o)

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  13. GotJesus expressed exactly why I love reading your blog, and he did so much more articulately than I could have.

    Reply

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