My girlfriend moved out of state. If I want to break up with her, do I have to go see her in person?
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Dear Miss Info,
I discovered a few years ago that I loved writing and publishing. I published true stories in some major magazines, websites, and newspapers. My teachers told me to write about my passions, and those happen to be sex, boys, dating, relationships, feminism, figuring myself out, and overall having strong opinions. I'm fearing all of this makes me two things: 1. unhireable (I am currently "between jobs"), and 2. undateable. More to the second point, since this is your expertise: I've noticed that I don't give boys I like my real name anymore because I don't want them to read all about my last five relationships and how the last one cheated on me. But I can't stop writing about and publishing my love life — not just on my "blog", which is also my resume website with other published articles and gives my real name. So what's an oversharer to do? Should I change my website into a pseudonym and publish everything personal under this fake name from now on? Or will society change and accept an oversharer? So far, I've been dumped once for blogging (and I thought I'd hidden it all from him). — Over It
Dear Over It,
Your quandary is a pertinent one — thanks to Google, anyone with a distinctive name and/or email address is kind of screwed. And that's all of us: you, me, our commenters, Boring Cousin Marie, the Pope. I just did a quick, minorly panicked search for "Cait Robinson Jell-o wrestling." It linked to two of my Nerve entries, a site called Download Indonesia, and the MySpace profile of some twenty-one-year-old who enjoys "skankin' to the beat." So much for my dream of being a Wall Street tycoon.
But to the point: how to keep your work from influencing your life? I thought relevant experience would bolster my advice, so I asked my friend Victoria, who writes a sex blog under the moniker "The Anti-Cougar." She's in her forties; lives in LA; is an established and hardworking costume designer, mainly for commercials; and has two grounded and cool adult sons. (I can vouch for the last point personally.) Here's what she had to say about her decision to obscure her identity:
I originally chose not to reveal my true identity on the blog for professional reasons. As much as I'd like to have done shameless self-promotion, posted on my Facebook, sent mass-email blasts (because let's face it, who doesn't want a zillion hits a day?), I figured I didn't need producers and directors I work with in my real life knowing that just hours before our presentation meeting I'd blown some hot guy in the front seat of his BMW. That and, oh right, I am a mother of a couple of pretty well adjusted young men, and they probably don't want to know those kind of details either.
So she's aware of boundaries and adjusts accordingly. She's got a few years on you, Over It, so I'd heed her advice. Along these lines, I don't think it's a great idea to delve into your sex life on your website, with links to your published works. Would you want a potential employer to know that your boyfriend just did a body shot off of an NYU student, setting off a drunken slap-fight in the parking lot? That a dude you met at Barcade had a way bigger dick than last night's dude from Cheap Shots? That you dumped all your ex's clothes out his window while he was in the shower and lit them on fire, so help you God, he will feel regret rain down upon his head like a thousand fiery suns? Save those confessions for a forum other than a website launched to get you jobs.
It's unfortunate and telling that you don't give your real name to boys you like, though. This implies that your virtual life is starting to negatively affect your actual one, and it seems like a definite vote in the "Separation of Church and State" column. I also want to point out and underline this: you can do whatever you want with your own identity, but you should be going the extra mile to obscure the identities of the people you're writing about. No one deserves to find torrid details of their personal lives spashed across the internet, just because they happened to get naked around someone with strong opinions and easy access to blogging software.
But, as you said, you've gotten dumped at least once by somone from whom "you thought you had hidden everything." Maybe hiding requires more nuance. Back to Victoria:
…The act of not revealing my identity is dishonest somehow. I dealt with it by telling those nearest and dearest to me — i.e. my kids, my friends, ex-husbands, selective men du jour — so a) they would not hear about it through other sources and be flabbergasted by my antics, b) they could choose to read or not read [when it comes to kids and ex-husbands, they tend to take door number two], or c) — which mostly pertains to the men du jour — what man wouldn't want to read about his own cock?
What Victoria proposes here is a great idea: you might call it "ethical fiction." Even if you decide to go the pen-name route, you still owe it to those you love — or those you could potentially love — to come clean. They will likely love you regardless, even if they scrunch their nose and decide never to read. ("Thanks for the tuition money that taught me these writing skills, Mom and Dad!")
In summary, Over It, you've got a few options. Either way, it's going to take a mixture of fiction and honesty. If you're going to keep on doing what you do, you should take extra steps to hide identifying details of your partners and yourself online, but be up-front with important people in the tangible world. If you choose not to hide your identity, then you should be very clear about who you are and what you do. Some guys may be into that. (See: "What man wouldn't want to read about his own cock?")
Tell your dates, "So, I'm a sex writer. Lucky you!" and see where that gets you. It's better that they hear it from you than find out on a routine self-Google.
Dear Miss Information,
A few months ago, my girlfriend moved to another state for work. While our relationship was good when she left and we made a commitment to keep it together, it's not looking so hot now. We talk on the phone every day and see each other once a month, but we seem to be losing the connection that we used to have. I generally initiate breakups in person, but I'm conflicted over paying to fly to her and do it (I'm in grad school and on a really tight budget). Would there be a good way to do the deed over the phone or email? She is an awesome lady and I don't want her to think that our relationship didn't mean anything to me, but scraping together the money to do it right just looks too expensive for me. — Long Distance Breakup
Dear Long Distance,
I admire your wanting to do the right thing here. There's a "chivalry isn't dead" twinge to your insistence on breaking up with your girlfriend in a way that preserves her dignity and yours. Though I agree that, in general, break-ups are best done face-to-face, distance changes the rules. After she picks you up at the airport and you word-vomit "Idon'tloveyouanymore!", what do you do with the other forty-seven hours? And imagine how it would feel for her: she would be so excited about seeing you, and then those hopes would be dashed against the sharp cliffs of reality, like how otters bang oysters against rocks to break and eat them. (That image may or may not mean anything to you. I just watched Animal Planet, okay?)
In short, Long Distance, you're off the hook for visiting. And as tempting as email is, I'd rule it out. It's too one-sided, too detached; if you can't look into her eyes while breaking your relationship off, the least you can do is listen to her if she has anything to say. Screw up your courage and call her, and then break things off switfly, decisively, and kindly. It will suck, but she's no mollusk; she can handle a few blows.