The last time I was in print this much, Clinton was president. Taxes were high, and the living was easy. I had a little underground newspaper in high school, and it was almost an ideal gig. Writing my diatribes and little reviews, then copying it with babysitting money, and leaving copies in the bathroom and under desks, inside library books. I had more extroverted friends who would actually hand them out.
I could write whatever I wanted, a lot of people would read it, and no one knew who I was. I could listen to people talk about what I wrote, right next to me, swaddled in anonymity. I especially liked that part.
I had a piece published in our local paper last week. I went down to the press building the night before. Kansas City has this magnificent press building, with huge glass sides so you can see some of the printing process. On one side, the gargantuan rolls of paper are plucked up by a robot, and carried off to the presses. On the other, I saw the enormous vats of magenta, blue, and yellow ink and their arteries branching up toward where the folded fresh baby newspapers fly by on their zipline, off to the delivery trucks. There it goes, I thought, sort of excited, and sort of horrified.
It made me want to go buy a diary with a lock on it. It’s a sticky business to decide what to share and what to keep private. I don’t have a clear line between personal and public writing. Does telling people your thoughts change them? I like for my work to be heard, but sometimes I hear myself whisper, “This is mine. Don’t tell anyone.” It is the voice of my two-year-old self, I think. When I first started claiming things, and realizing I was a person. Could I scare off that small voice if she didn’t feel protected? Maybe.
Luckily, no one reads the newspaper anymore! The newspaper is hopelessly old-fashioned. Even more old-fashioned than photocopying your high school rantings, instead of twittering them. So I haven’t been exactly overrun with autograph seekers. Enough support and criticism that I feel like someone read it. And no one noticing, as I was reading the paper over coffee, that it was my photo on the back.