The glory of being nobody

I watched the first episode of the new Black Mirror season, “Nosedive,” which stars Bryce Dallas Howard as a young woman in the not too distant future where every facet of your life is rated by what others think of you on social media. Those who are pleasant and well-liked rate higher; those who don’t simper and cater to people get rated down. Every human transaction comes with a cost, in which you must rate the other person immediately with a click.

In the show, this leads to your privilege in society–whether you can book a certain airline, whether you can enter certain buildings or neighborhoods, what you can buy, and so on.

Of course, there are those who aren’t as interested in “the game,” like theCherry Jones Picture character played by Cherry Jones. I love her characters in general, and this one was no different. No spoilers here, but in reflecting on the episode, I found certain parallels to my own life in recent months. And they totally negate the influence of social media.

I’ve been in my new Asheville home for four months, and it’s been an adjustment. In Pennsylvania, practicing as an attorney is considered quite a lofty profession–in our small county, “Attorney” is a title given to each of us. As in “Attorney Jones.” Like Bishop, or Mayor, or President. I always found it a little humbling, but still, it makes you somebody. Awesome, right?

 

Image result for scale of justiceKind of.

Because that means even if you are running to Wal-Mart, you dress for the chance your clients will see you, or your colleagues, or even the judges. (Although, I noticed that we hardly ever saw the judges in public–they probably had this problem to the Nth degree!) I was never much for make-up anyway, but I know one colleague who would never go out without lipstick. Is it a horrible burden? No, of course not. But it does give me some sympathy for the actress/mom who needs some eggs and has to decide if all the hype will be worth running to the grocery.

With the ease of access to social media–as in practically everyone around you has a camera/video maker available to reveal any of your foibles to the world immediately, the risk of doing anything not considered proper for your position is high and could have real life repercussions, whether it should or not.

Since I’ve been here, though, I’ve been comfortably no one.

This means if I have to run to the Kwik E Mart with sandals and socks (God forbid!) I do. technicalOr if the fibro and other chronic pain is bad enough, I confess I have gone to the local Ingles bra-less. The sweet Southern ladies might find it scandalous–but I don’t know them, and they don’t know me, and as lovely as they might be, I don’t have to worry about their opinion.

(That being said, if you see me on one of those People of Wal-Mart photo shaming walls, please quietly chuckle and then ignore me. I’ll be good with that.)

Freedom.

Sure, I can’t get the kind of service I used to with just a phone call. But I think it’s a good trade-off. I don’t need to be “somebody,” even with my insecurities. I can act on things I want to act on, state my opinions (and get jumped on for them like the average Jane), or even refrain from jumping on the popular bandwagons. I can just be me, doing what I can, day to day, with only myself as arbiter of how important I need to be. So far, it’s working for me. 🙂

What do you think? How much does what others are going to say about you regulate how you speak to or treat themor act where they can see you?

 

 

 

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Ah, brief respite!

Poet Anne Shaw says, “Fond as we are of our loved ones, there comes at times during their absence an unexplained peace.” This is undeniably true.

One of the few advantages I had as a single mother for many years is that my children’s father lived 1500 miles away. (No, not because he was far away! Though that was a blessing, too.) This meant that the girls could go visit him/his mother every summer for a number of weeks. From the time I tearfully put them on the plane until I welcomed them home, I had an amazing amount of time to recharge my personal batteries, worn down to an extreme after 10 months of single, working parenthood.

So now I’m not a single mother; the Cabana Boy and I are solely responsible for our three, who create a huge need for respite. As I’ve discussed previously, it’s hard to find someone to watch the children because of their issues. Even people we absolutely trust find they have problems. While my father lives in town, he has never been much of a grandparent–it’s just not his style, unless it involves teaching pinochle or bridge. That, he’ll do. He could never watch them for more than 30 minutes while they’re glued to the television. So we get stretched pretty thin.

The Cabana Boy’s mother has taken the children each summer since we married, I think the first summer because she was a little wary that this cougar would steal her grandchildren away along with her son. But since that time, and since the diagnoses, she’s been more reluctant to actually take them. Last year’s proposal was that she could take one for two weeks and then the “other” two for a week. Never mind we kept trying to explain that Little Miss and Ditto Boy made a MUCH better pair to visit than any combination involving Captain Oblivious.

As it turned out, camp hours basically forced us to send them for the same two weeks, all three of them. No major tragedies, unless you count Captain O’s blatant verbal attack on some certainly very nice Southern Baptist people in a hotel elevator as he informed them in no uncertain terms that he was an Atheist because Bill Nye said there was no God and they were wrong. I understand my dear MIL nearly fainted dead away, as she’s a steadfast Sunday school teacher. Oooops.

This year, because of gas prices, we all agreed that they’d go together. So Friday we’re taking them down to South Carolina for another summer visit, two weeks without the children. The Cabana Boy and I are seriously hoping to find some time to destress and reconnect, do all those things we can’t do when the kids are here. Maybe even eat dessert first occasionally. We do want to make the trip to Lilydale and consult a psychic. We will also visit K, and taste some of her fabulous cookery at culinary school.

And then we’ll hope that the rule is not that out of sight means out of mind, but that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Really.

Research–a novel idea; or, Why is Homeland Security here?

Shhh. I’m researching a novel. Don’t tell anyone.

See, the novel is about terrorists. Since I don’t normally hang out in those circles, I’m looking up some things about how terrorists work, where they’re from, and what methods they use. I’ve concluded from what I’ve read that my idea about biochemical warfare through an air-borne style plague that activates when it mixes with water could be valid. Now I’m waiting for stormtroopers to break through my door.

Although maybe I’ll get those movie stormtroopers in the white armor that can’t seem to hit a thing within fifty feet. Those would be better.

While I’ve been reading, mostly online, some high-pitched annoying little voice in the back of my head keeps warning me that someone’s going to notice what I’m doing. If you read about biochemicals, Big Brother will see you! it says.

If Big Brother really wants to take a look at me sitting here in my worn pajamas, rumpled hair and fuzzy slippers, more power to him. I’ll pour him some coffee and get him an aspirin. That’s what I reply. Even my husband doesn’t want to look at me this time of morning, you know what I’m saying?

I remember we all got wound up a couple of years ago when that romance writer writing about Cambodia was raided by the government; computers, music CDs, even cases of paper and pencils all confiscated. This occurred allegedly after her online research, book-buying and library check-out patterns had brought her to the attention of Someone. (As I also remember, this story was eventually debunked to some degree as other facts came to light about the writer.)

But that doesn’t make it any less scary.

Under the Patriot Act, the government conducts warrantless searches. Without getting permission from anyone, agents can look through your computer, correspondence, library records, and online purchase and reading histories. Just because. The Connecticut Law Review cited a statistic that 20% of the nation’s libraries have had some police or FBI agency seize records. Did you know librarians can go to jail if they tell anyone that the police conducted a raid?

An article in the March PC Magazine covers “web spiders” and how law enforcement gathers intelligence on terrorist communities around the world based on patterns. So now you’re not even monitored by real people, who might discount certain queries or searches as clearly harmless. Machines bring you up on the radar. Then…who knows?

My husband, computer geek that he is, suggested I could use proxies, university computers, etc., for the search to conceal my identity if I was worried. But how guilty does that appear? If you hide, do you have something to hide? If you don’t hide, do they think you’re onto them and purposely NOT hiding? Man. I’m starting to sound like Mel Gibson in that movie.

So I guess I’ll just do my research the way I always have, open and honest, since that’s part of the bottom line in America: freedom. Then I’ll put the coffee on and wait for the knock at the door. What do you think–one pot or two?