Is it OK to be different at work than you are at home?

, ,

A couple of days ago, Louise Fletcher, a professional resume writer, blogged about my ability to say whatever I want and not kill my career. That same day, Kathy Williams wrote this comment on my blog:

My son introduced me to your blog which I appreciate. I am your polar opposite. You have complete freedom to say whatever you want … for whatever reason is not important. We can all use a little more honesty.

In general, I think people can say much more than they think they can. It used to be that no one blogged about unemployment, bad bosses or screaming at their kids. Now these are all pretty common posts. This should tell you that topics that you think will change what people think about you don’t actually do that. Consider what you’re doing — if it’s within the realm of normal, people don’t care that you’re doing it—it’s not interesting.

Of course, things that I think are totally normal, like, having a miscarriage at work, turn out to be very controversial. But really, I am still not sure why. I mean, just thinking logically, hundreds of thousands of women have miscarriages every year, and most of those women have not had a kid so they are working, so hundreds of thousands of women each year have a miscarriage at work.

I think my inability to understand why this is controversial might be a blessing.

I also am not sure I understand privacy. I don’t understand why people use it. I have had a lot of talks with the farmer about this. He told me that we cannot be intimate if we don’t have some things that are private. So I told him I would not write about sex.

But then I wrote sort of about sex. I wrote about when he wouldn’t go down on me. I told him it was me writing about not sex. And sex is off limits but not sex is not off limits.

He was not happy. I’m sure most of you will agree with him. That I should not have written about that.

But then I think, he has known, since before he even met me, that I write about everything. And then, when he met me, he read my novel, which is not a novel but really a memoir that the publisher made me call a novel because no one would believe it was true.  But it is not really a novel either, but a hypertext wishing it were a novel, which is what Publisher’s Weekly wrote when they said it was great writing with incompetent structure.

The problem of me not understanding intimacy is maybe because I don’t understand why we separate ourselves to be different people at different times.

I don’t think I am able to manage being different versions of myself depending on the social context. So everyone gets the same version of me. I have found, for example, that venture capitalists like my blog. After all, they have invested in my company. But it’s not just the investment. They tell me they like my blog and they like the blog posts that say things we’re not supposed to say. Like, I can’t handle my insane travel schedule, and my company is running out of money and I want to fucking kill the investor who is sailing in Bermuda without a phone to hear me panicking. Investors like that. Because they like honesty.

People like honesty. They might wince, but they don’t generally hold honesty against you.

What people do hold against me, I think, is that I don’t seem to be able to create intimacy with the farmer. It’s a downfall, I think.

But I also think that that’s why he picked me.

He read my writing, about sex with every other guy, when he first started dating me. (That’s probably why he dumped me. Well, one of the fifty reasons he dumped me fifty times. And, by the way, he hates that I always have a different number for the number of times he dumped me. But I tell him you don’t care. Whatever number it is, you get the point.

Fifty million.)

He knew I had never really been able to be intimate because I was too fascinated with writing about my inability to be intimate which requires writing about what should be intimate moments.

I want to tell you about this costume he bought for me. Well, actually, I bought it. He chose it. It’s a costume called €œAlice€ like, Alice in Wonderland. But it’s a different Wonderland.

We bought it when we were costume shopping with the kids.

I told him I couldn’t stand all the sword fighting in the Star Wars section.

Then I came back to the Star Wars section and told him I found a section for grown-ups. €œLet’s get one,€ I said.

€œYou said you wouldn’t wear one of those.€

€œWell, I will. Which do you like?€

€œAll of them.€

There were about 50 costumes. I picked one. I called him over to look. The dressing room was in the middle of the room, so I opened the curtain just a peek.

The kids came running over and said, €œMommy! I love your costume!€

The farmer said, €œNo. That’s terrible.€

He said that the key to a costume like this is to have a lot of space between the bottom of the skirt and the top of the tights. They are garter belt tights.

Okay. So I try on the other costume, and it’s the Alice costume, and we get it. And the boys spend the next month asking me if I’m going to wear it trick or treating.

I wear it to bed.

It is intimate, but it feels intimate because I’m doing something I’ve never done before. It doesn’t feel any more intimate to me than founding a company feels.

I know my Brazen Careerist co-founders, Ryan and Ryan, are going to freak out when they read that line. But they don’t have to worry because what I really mean is that nothing feels truly intimate to me.

And I kind of like it that way because I don’t have to have lots of different versions of myself. I don’t have to separate being a mom from being a blogger. I don’t have to separate being Alice from being a startup founder. It’s all the same me.

A lot of commenters accuse me of being a nutcase because one day I am breaking a lamp over my head and the next day I am dispensing advice about effective elevator pitches.

To me though, someone is a nutcase for pretending to not be both those people. Each of us can give good advice on something. And each of us has a messed up personal life sometimes. One person can do both those things. The only thing weird is that we don’t admit it. Why can’t career advisors also talk about the things going wrong in their lives? Why can’t startup founders also be sex kittens?

What I know is that I am really really grateful for not having to hide who I am at work. It is true, what Louise said, that I can say whatever I want, as long as I’m interesting. I can still make a living, and I can still have friends. (Well, I’m not that great at friends, but hypothetically I can have friends because there are people who have told me they want to be my friend.)

So I think the farmer picked me because I’m bad at intimacy. He is bad at it, too. He is comfortable with that—not being close to me.

So we are comfortable with our non-intimacy.

I mean, I say that, but I know there is more to life. I just can’t seem to find it.

95 replies
Newer Comments »
  1. Farmwife
    Farmwife says:

    I like that your post content seldom reflects what is implied by the title. It’s like biting into a surprise-centre chocolate.
    I don’t have Asperger’s, yet I can range from one extreme to another in my writing. I think it’s more a sign of a creative mind run amok than an Asperger’s symptom. My writing always starts out that way – incompetent structure – because I just spill out the words and edit later. Your readers love that you don’t self-edit. Much. It’s so real. Like the way we talk to our best friends over coffee when our Farmers aren’t around. There is intimacy in your writing, Penelope. Lots of it.

  2. jim
    jim says:

    Aren’t intimacy and closeness two different things? My ex and I experienced plenty of closeness, though most of it was during fights. We seldom experienced intimacy.

  3. Erika
    Erika says:

    In the recent Time cover on Mark Zuckerberg, the author explored this concept at the end, saying that most people do compartmentalize/have separate selves for separate situations. I certainly do. Zuckerberg does not, and that seems to be a driver to his inability to see why people would not want to share everything on Facebook.

  4. MarcKS
    MarcKS says:

    Breaking a lamp over your head screams unstable regardless of whatever else you are doing/writing about.

    Stable people don’t go throwing/breaking shit in their houses because they are having a fight… guys get sent to jail with DV charges for less on a regular basis.

  5. Kareneck
    Kareneck says:

    I think it takes a lot of energy to be someone you are not. This is different from attending a cocktail party where you might step outside your comfort zone and chat with 20 different people and say interesting things, when you would really rather at a table with 2 or three people. When you are trying to meet the expectations of a role (startup CEO or marketing manager), it takes a lot of energy to poll the environment to find out how you should be. I have found that in getting older, I have more strength to settle into myself and be myself more often – €“ and I have greater ability to handle the fallout of letting the chips fall where they may. It is also easier to reveal the more intimate details of my life, (although still I have trouble sending it out to the world at large.) When I was younger, I was not so savvy or flexible or open. It's like you were saying about secrets recently, they have great power over children —but as adults we learn how to add perspective.

  6. emily
    emily says:

    intimacy is created; it’s not like it just exists somewhere and all you have to do is look until you find it. (i say this as someone who struggles with creating intimacy too!) i think people think that it’s about something natural that happens between two people but my recent experience is that intimacy is just something you feel – an emotion you recognize in a certain situation that’s totally fleeting and impossible to capture. (yoga is awesome for practing this) i love your writing but it’s not terribly intimate – it doesn’t conjure up feelings of warmth or closeness (and that’s fine – I don’t think you intend it to!) but I do think that some of your older writing has hints of this – of a sort of privacy you want hint at or describe and share without being blunt.

    all of this is to say that i don’t think writing about real moments that happened in private goes against intimacy. i do think that writing exactly what happens doesn’t give credence to the moments of uncertainty that are definitely a part of intimacy. but maybe you want to keep those to yourself!

    also – i feel like you’d like this if you haven’t seen this already:

    and honestly speaking: it is weird to write this quickly and abstractly in a public forum to you; especially since we do not know each other!

  7. Mari Anne Snow
    Mari Anne Snow says:

    Well, it’s true your blog posts always fascinate me…perhaps because it appears you live with no brakes, like some heavy vehicle barreling down the rode at top speed. Interesting to read, is it exhausting to live?

  8. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Our culture over-rates intimacy and talks about it way too much. It’s not supposed to be obsessive. That’s a contradiction, like someone working on their relaxation skills. Or paying a high price to buy an economy car.

    Intimacy is just the closest way two people can fit their personalities together. And it’s different for every combination of persons.

    Nobody has to spend all their intimacy on one person. It’s better to spread it around. That takes the pressure off one person.

  9. Paul Basile
    Paul Basile says:

    This post is entertaining and valuable in its openness on subjects we all certainly should be able to discuss. But one thing, Penelope: privacy IS ok, it isn’t wrong. You wonder why, I suppose. The reason is that you are judged by people and their judgment influences your life. You can be fantastically honest if you want and many people will love that but some things will be misinterpreted and extrapolated and those won’t serve you at all and – even more important – will be hurtful to others. Think about the other person, too.

  10. denise
    denise says:

    This line rocks:
    To me though, someone is a nutcase for pretending to not be both those people.

    Your post reminds me of all the fuss around Ricky Gervais’s Golden Globes monologue, etc.

    Most people can think the nasty thoughts and yet stop themselves from saying them out loud (or writing them in a post). But I appreciate those who do not (except Sarah Silverman, who for some reason I just can’t tolerate), like you and maybe Ricky Gervais. LOL.

    People might not break lamps over their heads, but they punch walls, drive aggressively, treat their kids meanly, or find some other way of ‘sticking it’ to someone to vent their anger/rage. You’re just brutally honest and it’s uncomfortable for many people. Why? Because they don’t want a mirror held up to their actions.

  11. kate
    kate says:

    i think i am fascinated by the fact that you do not compartmentalize because it’s all i can seem to do. Everyone i know gets a different version of me. I kind of hate it, but I have no idea how to not do that. Maybe it’s a matter of when we are younger, trying something that works and then it sticks. My sister is like you – same person with everyone. We get along well because she is one of the few i can be mostly honest with and she is very blunt with me – and there are no (or rarely) hurt feelings.
    Also, intimacy is defined in so many ways, how can you really know what it is? I see it as something you have with someone, an inside joke or shared experience. Sharing that ‘joke’ or ‘experience’ does not lesson the intimacy that occurred when it was formed. No one else will really understand the context/situation like you and the other person involved.

  12. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I find this really interesting. I’m not the same with all my friends and family and in truth, I don’t know if anyone actually knows all of me. It’s a little lonely, but I think it’s easier than having to deal with the fallout of everyone knowing who I really am. I’m not saying I’m a bad person, it’s just that I can’t be bothered with other people’s opinions of my life.

    When you talk about intimacy though, I’m not sure if you’re talking excusively about sexual intimacy or if you mean a more general definition of intimacy. Because if you mean the latter, I find that my self-compartmentalisation is a huge obstacle to intimacy. How can you be intimate with people if they don’t know exactly who you are?

    My other problem with dividing myself up is that it’s hard to decide who I’m gonna be with new people. Especially online, where I can be whoever I want.

  13. Joe
    Joe says:

    Intimacy is sharing, which you are great at. What you suck at is privacy, which you already know.
    I have similar discussions with co-workers about separating who you are at home and who you are at work. I can do it, but I don’t want to anymore. So when I see someone being chummy with someone who they just slammed to me 5 minutes earlier, I think it’s ingenuous and wrong. They say they can separate their work and personal lives and deal with the same person on those two levels in completely different ways. I wonder what the person on the receiving end of the duplicity would think about that?

  14. amy parmenter
    amy parmenter says:

    okay. You’ve spoiled me. I was hoping for pictures. Preferably pictures of you as Alice! I am two people..but working on being one. I am a reporter for my ‘real’ job…and reporters are supposed to be unemotional. But I’m not really…and if I end up crying on camera after a rough trial I’m not even going to care. And, now I am a blogger as well, which really pushs me to wear my heart on my sleeve. I know that is who I really am because I am so happy when I’m blogging that I could do it 24/7 if I didn’t think it would ruin my marriage. Which it could. Even though you and I seem to be different this way — I don’t really think we are.

    One more thing — it’s not that you aren’t intimate Penelope!! It’s that you ARE intimate with everyone …which may make it harder for the farmer to feel special.

    Just sayin’…

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm

  15. Wayne
    Wayne says:

    I define intimacy as the willingness to be open, honest, and vulnerable. Intimacy is a choice, and an action. P’lope, seems to me that what you are writing is quite
    There seems to be a disconnect between you and the farmer re. privacy, which, it seems to me, has nothing at all to do with intimacy. Not sure, given the two of you, whether you can, or will chose to, resolve the privacy issue.
    I suspect (from personal experience) that my choice to not play roles has led to less internal conflict on my part, while at times others have chosen to annoy themselves that I was not “behaving” according to their notions of how I “should” behave.
    I just smile and be me. Not my job to care-take others’ choices. Integrity, I suspect, trumps care-taking every time.

  16. Tzipporah
    Tzipporah says:

    I think what you’re missing is that people don’t pretend to be different people in different situations – well, ok, some people do, but we call that borderline personality disorder.

    It’s more that we hold all those parts of ourselves in our head at one time, but only bring forth the ones that are appropriate for the current situation. Like, you know better than to show up at a fundraiser wearing your Alice costume. Unless that’s part of your strategy. OK, now I think I’m just giving you bad ideas.

    Most of us are hyperconscious of what might make other people uncomfortable, what *might* be over the line, esp. if we think we’re unusual in what we’re revealing. You’re right that we often self-censor way too much. But most of us don’t have a social-cues-disorder to let everyone else feel ok with us oversharing, if we go too far in the other direction. Does that make sense?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Wow. This is actually really helpful to me. It’s a great description of what most people are doing. Now that you say it so clearly, it seems obvious to me. But I didn’t put all this together before.


      • Tzipporah
        Tzipporah says:

        well, in my former life, I was an anthropologist. Maybe that’s what you need – an anthropologist who can explain the neuro-typical natives to you! :)

  17. Woody
    Woody says:

    Take me to a greater height with your openness. Here on the water I am one with the animals,and the fish. My dog knows me and doesn’t give a rat’s ass who I am as long as he can be with me. My wife enjoys the intimacy of me just being in the house with her. Sex is another thing that we enjoy but we are our own people. life is simple. I see where your America is going and it saddens me to see the decay.

  18. Tina Portis
    Tina Portis says:

    I have been “hiding” who I am at work for quite some time and it is so tough! I went to a MLK breakfast recently and lo and behold I saw colleagues at my table that were from my industry wondering how I knew the gentleman I was with because he was a mentor for upcoming Entrepreneurs that have been deemed as starting businesses that appear to be ” highly successful.” Short story of the story is that I am an Entpreneur stuck in the steady paycheck of life right now. I have the same personality, just different goals for work and home. Great post, I needed it.

  19. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I wish I didn’t always get so flabbergasted by how smart you are and how well you write. I’d be a better commenter. This, to me, is it. Because in the end most of us would like, if we could find it, that galvanic shock of being recognized that intimacy gives us. And one could look at the all-honest-all-the-time modality as maximizing the chance of recognition.

    The thing is, when you’re shocking people, you are mostly getting yourself back from them, not pieces of their own selves. And I think real intimacy, real recognition, has to be mutual. Simultaneous. Like one of the most common physical process of intimacy.

  20. .Bryan
    .Bryan says:

    I think intimacy is in the mind of the beholder. To be intimate means that your mind perceives something between you and another person that draws you closer to them. it can be physical, emotional, conversational, or thru a shared activity. And intimacy is not always a two way street nor to the same degree for each person in a relationship. And this can obviously lead to two people valuing a relationship differently….of course that often leads to confusion as to what an individual says they want in a relationship vs what they’re really looking for…..I wanted to be with a particular woman who did not want a relationship….but to me everytime we were together she had a way of making it feel very intimate such that the relationship seemed to be more than what it was……..just friends…..needless to say this relationship was very hurtful and confusing for a good two months till I had to put a stop to it……the feelings just kept coming while the relationship never progressed.

  21. Penny
    Penny says:

    I think there is a balance in intimacy and privacy and what parts of yourself that you share in what situations. I write about sex, marriage, and yes, intimacy on the internet. When my boss at my 8 to 5 job asks me what I did over the weekend, I don’t tell him that we tried out a new sex toy and made a video. It’s not that I am hiding who I am from my boss. It’s just a part of my life that I don’t want to share with him. I am far more likely to tell him that we went to see a movie with my parents. Both things are true things, unrelated to each other BTW. My boss and I are friends, but there are boundaries. There can be value in compartmentalizing. With my husband, no boundaries.
    Intimacy is really not about what you keep private. Writing about sex does not necessarily harm intimacy. Intimacy is about a special connection with another person. Tell the whole world (or internet) all the juicy details if you want. It’s the connection that’s important. I can’t tell you how to achieve that.
    I love that you seem to share all of yourself with your readers. It’s a special thing. Quite intimate. Maybe it’s not that you suck at intimacy but that you are too good at it.

  22. Alice Bachini-Smith
    Alice Bachini-Smith says:

    “Intimacy” means different things to different people. Have you read “Passionate Marriage” by David Schnarch? It’s very clever. It says we are more intimate than we know.

    And I thought being the same kind of person in all spheres of life was a time-honoured spiritual goal advised by ancient philosophers since forever… some of us do seem incapable of hypocrisy due to personality type, however (& then go ahead to reveal real inner contradictions- & sometimes get accused of hypocrisy due to not *looking* consistent!)

  23. Maria Killam
    Maria Killam says:

    It’s the reason why I read every other email first before I get to yours when it arrives in my inbox. Because I feel like I am having a little chat with a good friend and I want to savor it.

  24. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “Whatever number it is, you get the point.

    Fifty million.)”

    I laughed so loud and hard. This comment is so you. So the farmer thinks he’s going to change you? I don’t think so.
    This post is as good an argument for a person to have only one blog as any that I’ve read. And as Amy mentioned above, I was hoping to see you in that Alice costume.

  25. kathy
    kathy says:

    Love that costume story Penelope!!! Makes me laugh even harder to read it then when you told it at my house! Come see me! I miss your humor, and your right up the road!

  26. DAVE
    DAVE says:

    Being a little “different at work” is not really the same thing as the relationship issues noted here.

    At work, they pay you to do certain tasks well, and usually in a prescribed way. In a relationship, the tasks and prescriptions are up to you and your partner–and presumably no money changes hands.

    So I think that context and boundaries do matter–but also maybe less than we’ve been told. Privacy too. It is all relative, right? DIfferent strokes (or costumes) for different folks! What works for you and the Farmer might not work for others, nor should we expect it to.

    And sure, Zuckerburg has no clue–many people don’t these days. Still, he has done quite well for himself even so. We should all be so lucky–or open to the possibilities that might be avaialble to us if we looked at ourselves in a different way.

    So how do we keep oversharing and TMI to a minimum, but still be “real”? I think the key is to spend more time and quality moments of reflection in determining when boundaries or (at least somewhat) “separate selves” are both necessary and desireable societal norms, and when they are simply self-inflicted, dysfunctional and/or not really helpful. Some are, some aren’t.

    For example: Your college self might like to attend and photogragh the various exploits at wild fraterntity parties, and then post them on facebook. Fun, authentic, and true to life? Sure! Likely to help you get a “real job” after graduation? Maybe not, unless you are like Penelope and excel at this sort of uncomfortable public revelation and know how to turn it–literally–into gold. Most people do not.

    Maybe more people will find value in doing so as time passes, and maybe this is a good thing. I guess we’ll find out soon enough, since this seems to be where Generation Z is headed.

  27. Ambriel
    Ambriel says:

    I’m relatively new to reading your blog, and like most of your fans find your writing lively and compelling. It’s like a memoir in real time, but without the benefit of distance and clarity. Your writing doesn’t feel safe because your crisis isn’t over, you’re not “fixed” or “better”, the way someone summing up their life in the safety of a book seems. This makes your writing compelling, but … your writing isn’t what’s important, your health and safety and that of your children are.

    I just read all these congratulatory comments and felt sad. You're a beautiful writer, and it's interesting to consider how people make choices about what sides of their personality/being/soul to show others and when. But that aside: it’s not sane or safe for you or your kids for you to break things over your head. Period. Many people have fights, but most people do not hurt themselves, and the ones that do need help.

    It’s also not sane to tell your husband you won’t write about sex and then write about aspects of your “sex life” i.e., what he will or won’t do, what you wear to bed, etc. If you want to write about that, fine. But to have made a promise to your husband and then to break both the letter and spirit of that promise is just unkind. It doesn’t seem mean spirited, but that doesn’t excuse it. (You describe your actions like a force of nature, an act of God over which you have no control or accountability. Is that how it really feels?)

    Asperbers and your “interesting” nature aside, the breach of trust with your husband makes me sad, but that you’ve actually hurt yourself is cause for real worry and concern. It really sounds like you need help, and I mean that in the nicest and kindest way a random commenter can. Try and take care of yourself and your family.

    • DAVE
      DAVE says:

      Keep reading Ambriel–the items you note are only the tip of the iceberg, but yes, it really does feel like “a memoir in real time” doesn’t it?

  28. Erin
    Erin says:

    Do you feel like you have intimacy with your readers? Because I feel like this blog is kind of intimate. Maybe I don’t know what intimate means either.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yeah. I do feel intimacy with the readers. But I feel like it’s messed up or something because I think I need you guys more than you need me. Having friends is very hard for me. I am overly dependent on the comments section.

      Actually. I wonder, how do people measure, when they are friends, who needs who more?


      • Erin
        Erin says:

        I think knowing who needs who more in a friendship is really difficult.

        Friendship is about love as much as relationships are about love. In theory, if both people are giving more than they are taking–right? Everyone wins.

        In most friendships, the insecure friend may feel like she needs the friend more, while it may actually be the seemingly secure, aloof friends who needs all the insecure friends to support their ego.

        Very complicated, and there are so many combinations of need based relationships.

        I’m impressed your book is still $15 on Amazon, by the way. Even the used books are $15. I might buy one.

        I think some of the readers may need you more than you need them. But if you stopped blogging, they may find someone else to fill the need, true. But you might replace us with something else, as well. Its just filling the void, and you can fill it with lots of things.

        Did you get the three legged dog?

      • Jamie Beckland
        Jamie Beckland says:

        Penelope, lots of people measure who needs who more in friendships. The difference between most friendships and you-and-your-readers is that who needs who changes with friendships, depending on what the individuals are going through in their lives at the time.

      • Shefaly
        Shefaly says:


        Friendships where X _needs_ Y are not friendships; they are co-dependencies. The best friendships are where X _wants_ to be friends with Y and vice versa, and that way if a need arises, they want to be there for the other person.

  29. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:


    I’ve been reading your blog about two years now and the honesty factor is so refreshing. I’m trying everyday to just say what I want. It’s hard, but you and others like you are my inspiration. Don’t you go changin!

  30. jeni
    jeni says:

    I am tired of being “someone else” to please others. I am tired of explaining why I have random bits of thought, bursts of energy and the need to be everywhere and everything to everyone. It’s just me dammit. Where’d you get the costume? maybe my “farmer” will at least smile at me ;)

  31. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    “(That's probably why he dumped me. Well, one of the fifty reasons he dumped me fifty times. And, by the way, he hates that I always have a different number for the number of times he dumped me. But I tell him you don't care. Whatever number it is, you get the point.

    Fifty million.)”

    Penelope, I think this is the funniest thing I’ve read on this blog. It’s wonderful. And, given the Publishers Weekly review of your not-a-novel, I want to say that what really makes it work is the paragraph break. You know, the structure.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Kate, I love you for commenting about paragraph breaks. I love talking about structure even though Publisher’s Weekly is not impressed with me.

      My favorite book on structure is The Pleasure of Text, by Roland Barthes. It’s all about the space in between. Paragraphs. Breaks. Silence. All that stuff.

      Here’s the link:

      The book is from before the Internet took over the world, but the book is so relevant to the Internet because there is another kind of pause on the Internet — besides those that Barthes writes about — there is the pause when you decide if you want to click or not.

      I spend so much time thinking about the pacing of links in a paragraph and when the reader will want to pause and when a pause is annoying. I wish someone would write a treatise on the pause before a linked decision point.



      • Kim Lampe
        Kim Lampe says:

        Thanks for the reference. I was just discussing this art with an English major yesterday after he edited my script. Structre is an art form. Uniqueness is appreciated.

      • Becky
        Becky says:

        Your blog posts are so interesting it’s hard to divert to a link. I tend to open them in a new tab and look at them later, rather than take a full break from your text.

        Then, I find myself with several more pages to read and tons of comments if I get to a post a couple of days after it’s been up.

        Now I have to wonder what Barthes says and how it applies.

  32. Marta Victoria
    Marta Victoria says:

    I have thought about this question for years. I had a boss once who had a different personality for everyone who stepped into the room. Drove me crazy, and, frankly, never understood her chameleon lifestyle. It smacked of insecurity and control issues. She, to me, was someone never to be trusted. How the heck can someone be all those people and remember what all those folks said?

    For me, I am no longer the open book. And I am too old to care what everyone thinks. I’ve always been the same with everyone — but now it’s more gradiated. More of me for my friends, all of me for my family and a professional dollup of just enough of me for my co-workers.

    We don’t need to all be glass houses.

  33. Amy Parmenter
    Amy Parmenter says:

    Who needs who more?? This is a great question…and circles back to the intimacy thing. Here you go:

    Power Is The Opposite Of Love

    In a real friendship, a healthy relationship, true love – there is no power. It’s even.

    Just sayin’

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm

  34. Jared
    Jared says:

    Hi Penelope,

    You sound very similar to my mother, as she is the type of woman who will share anything and everything. Her ultimate decision is what she would classify as “truth” or “the right way”.

    I still remember vividly a Saturday afternoon when both my brother and I were called to the kitchen table and presented with the following book.

    A Very Touching Book

    The general idea is the book walks you through the basic human anatomy using cartoon characters. Eventually leading to intimate settings showing “bad touch” behavior and people asking children to keep “secrets”. On its way to these scenarios, you are lead through exercises to understand human anatomy. One of these exercises is the entire family, each taking their index finger, and touching the naked body of a drawn 20 something female. As a group, you then start calling out the body parts you are touching.

    “Vagina, vagina, vagina!”

    Imagine touching the cartoon drawing of a nude female, having a raging boner, and sitting across from your parents. Are you laughing yet? Before my brother died, we would always laugh when retelling this story because it is so insane, but at the time it was humiliating. I was 13 and let me just say, cartoon or photographic, my adolescent body was going to react with a friggin’ erection whether I wanted it to or not.

    Looking back at my mother’s logic chain, it was probably something like this.


    Not taking into account if her boys would be comfortable, or if she was the “right” person for the job. And being comfortable herself with the subject material she acted. That event hurt my relationship with my mother.

    Now fast forward six years, I’m on the couch with my girlfriend watching a movie. I have my hand placed below her knee close to her inner thigh. A “intimate” setting. My mother bursts into the family room, flips on the lights, and tosses a book on our laps. It is a book on how to abstain from pre-marital sex. At the time I remember thinking.

    “If only she would have chucked a hand grenade, at least I could have dove on that.”

    Lets again work through my mother’s logic chain


    My mother didn’t move towards understanding, she didn’t ask a lot questions, she acted with the conviction that her way was the “right and truthful” way. Her actions above (along with others) have created a “one-way” relationship which I can feel now hurts her. For it is evident that she wants to be a deep part of her son’s life. But our history leads to conversations full of awkward angles and our hugs are like trying to fit two pieces together from different puzzles. There is no intimacy. There is no deep trust.

    What my mother did teach me, is that there are many doors on the journey of intimacy. And having access to the smaller, darker, more secret ones means I have to earn trust. I do that by asking a lot of questions, and respecting the wishes of others.

    Although some may think that your relationship with the Farmer is the important one, I think there is another vector that is even more critical. Your relationship with your kids who obviously have a very direct and logical autistic mother. I encourage you to work hard not to alienate them like I was. Asking them what their limits are on how much you share on your blog (or at work) may be a good start. As well as constant reevaluation.

    I hope this helps.

    • dana
      dana says:

      Jared, thanks for sharing. that really helps me as a mom struggling with how to be sure my kids understand the sexual issues.

  35. Anne Marie
    Anne Marie says:

    Great point Ambrielle above… Aspergers by nature is a disorder of missed social cues and the inability to present your best self for the situation at hand. I am curious about what therapy has taught you about the long term price you pay in work and relationships for letting it all hang out for all to see hear and feel 100% of the time with little concern for what the situation calls for, the impact on your kids, your husband and your investors. Sure, it would be rather utopian if we could all fearlessly show every side of ourselves to everyone all of the time… but lets be real. That comes at a very high price… perhaps that is whey Aspergers is called a disorder. I prefer to treasure my personal life outside of my work life …. it cheapens it and bores people to do otherwise 24/7

  36. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    Wow again, Penelope! Another provocative theme spawning thought provoking dialogue. This conversation covered intimacy, privacy, and personal identity. I’m picking the identity theme.

    I too, actually at sixteen, made the promise that I would stay true to my being, 100% ME, to everyone, for all situations. Even back then, I reasoned, without truth, there cannot be love. Without exposure, there cannot be intimacy. Privacy? Well, that’s a moving target. You don’t need privacy to be intimate, or loving, or honest. It’s a choice, with a porous border. And there’s lots of that in porn.

    However… Having lived many years past sixteen, I’ve discovered that being ALL-ME, ALL-THE-TIME, isn’t really practical for relating to folks outside my head. What DOES work, somewhat better, is relating to folks in terms THEY understand, in THEIR world, using THEIR language. Granted, I don’t have Asperger Syndrome, and I am a people watcher, so I do have an ability to adapt to other points-of-view (except a Republican one – however I’m flexible on gun control, even though I don’t own a gun).

    Anyway, the question remains: if I’m talking or acting in different ways to different people, am I still honest? Am I still ME? The answer is, Yes. Because I’m not just one kind of person. I’m many experiences and attitudes and opinions and ages and feelings. I’m sixteen and sixty, dumb and serious, sloppy and organized, sexy and shy, private and open, brave and scared…

    So when it comes to others, I choose that part of me that’s the best match for their comfort zone. I’m still being ME, the real me, but it’s a selective part of me. And I feel okay with that…finally.

    That said, I LOVE your ALL-ME, ALL THE TIME blog!


  37. kittycat
    kittycat says:

    Penelope, I think you ROCK! I love reading your blog and your brazen honesty and your truth! I too am very honest with the way that I talk to people and sometimes it bites me in the butt at work. Sometimes I feel that it is a California PC thing because on the east coast people appreciate my honesty and find it refreshing. Out here they say that I’m too blunt. How can a person be too blunt? If you are just honest, while still being kind, how is it one can be too honest? Aren’t you just honest or not? If you are not honest, aren’t you hiding what you really think?

    • Angela DuBois
      Angela DuBois says:

      It’s too blunt when you tell the thin coworker she is too thin and she MUST be anorexic because otherwise how could a grown woman be so thin, when in fact, she may be on medication that speeds up her metabolism, or have digestive problems like celiac, or something else, which is REALLY none of your business, unless she chooses to share it. And having to explain everything to everyone new who one meets is exhausting, and feels like having to defend oneself all the time. That’s just hurtful, as in I hope you’re not offended, but….that’s called tossing in your two cents where it’s not wanted or needed.
      On the other hand, you may just be a little insensitive to others’ feelings, as some of us are, and maybe just learn when is a good time to speak and when not. Though I’m not always good at that either.

      On the other hand,

  38. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    I didn’t read all the posts before mine. It seems that Tzipporah made the same point I did. Maybe it has some merit?


  39. Simon Hay
    Simon Hay says:

    It’s rare to find someone who is completely transparent and authentic. Too many people lie: they don’t say what they mean, or act how they really want to, and then they end up unhappy. There’s something liberating in being an individual. I won’t confirm to how people perceive me to be.

  40. Dee
    Dee says:

    Tipping my hat to Kareneck – compartmentalization IS exhausting. At worst, it is a form of lying. Is it one thing to push forward an aspect for yourself which is useful in a situation e.g. you’re talking to a bunch of mechanics – you have excellent carburettor-changing skills; the course of conversation flows and it doesn’t matter if you’re dressed like the damn Tooth Fairy.
    It is another to turn up in blue overalls, yet not know a piston from a spark plug.

    The most fearful people I know actively compartmentalise due to shame.

    This leads to my social-cue receptors sensing dishonesty and creates distrust. One example – a project manager whose dress and manner of speech indicated ‘leadership material’, however, the way in which his actions were conducted indicated a significant lack of problem-solving and planning ability. He was a terribly fretful and fearful man – our team regarded him with a terrible mix of horror and pity.

    The most successful people I know are those who are accepting of themselves and their abilities; they apply a certain skill set where appropriate. If they are skilled in leading a group – they lead groups. If they aren’t good
    tying shoelaces – they won’t buy lace-up shoes.

    Observe – the elderly rarely bother to compartmentalise. They know who they are.

  41. Laura
    Laura says:

    I think the key to intimacy is vulnerability. You know you are close because you care enough to allow yourself to be hurt. For most people stuff like losing a pregnancy hurts so much that if people knew about it, they could cause emotional pain by evoking the situation in a non-sensitive way. So for people to talk about it is for them to become vulnerable and therefore would increase intimacy. Privacy is our cultural method to decline to be vulnerable. If something is private, you don’t ask questions because you know that it is something that they feel could make them vulnerable and possibly cause them emotional pain.

    Maybe you have a different bar for emotional pain than most people. For many, just being disagreed with causes a lot of pain and doubt and frustration. For others lack of approval really hurts. The negotiation of what level of risk of emotional pain or vulnerability causes this dance of privacy or formality versus relaxing and expressing yourself fully. Because some topics are likely to inspire vulnerability in a lot of people, topics where people have a lot of strong feelings generally, they are not acceptable for work because at work. I would then guess that this is because people don’t want to have to worry about being traumatized by the people they have to work with whether they like it or not.

  42. Pen
    Pen says:

    I’m having trouble reconciling the “being open and honest” with what seems like a willful breach of trust. I don’t know… I can’t quite put it into words that make sense.

    What I do know is that if someone (date, friend, spouse) and I had a mutual agreement/promise that he/she would not post about sex on a blog, and then that person posted about the fact that I did not want to engage in oral sex, I would have an 80% loss of trust.

    If the same person later justified it by saying “but it was not sex because we *didn’t* have oral sex, so I was entitled to write about it”… I think I would feel violated and the trust would be gone. I mean, how does someone who cares about me DO that?

    It’s one thing to confide in a girlfriend, but quite another to post for teh world when not doing that was specifically discussed and agreed upon.

    I don’t know, but there seems to be a disconnect for me between being open and “honest” and yet violating a promise.

    And yet, open is good. Honest is good. But…?

  43. Emily
    Emily says:

    yeah i wanna be your friend!! Wish I could have you around all the time cuz I like your thoughts. And how they end up shaping my thoughts

  44. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    Your honest and interesting post really struck a cord with me. I have been struggling recently with my personal life persona and work life persona. As I continue to build my career as a social media strategist these two worlds are blending more and more – and as much as I would like everyone to like me and my opinions and my honesty as much as I do – there are forces greater than me I know that do not. Ultimately, I think I will work towards a more transparent me and know that those that stick with me through it are my true allies.

  45. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    The privacy issue. I think there’s two components here which can and should be be separated. The first component are things which are unique to me and may be considered to be private. I may or may not care if a private matter is known to someone else. It would depend on who that someone else is and why they may be asking. Which brings me to the second component which I consider to be much more important. How would this private information be used and would I have any control over it? Would it be misconstrued and taken out of context so that really I would end up defending myself somehow and it being more of a pain in the ass than it was worth in the long run. Surely you can relate to these feelings. There’s also another distinction that needs to be made on this privacy issue. Are these private matters being discussed verbally face to face or in a public forum via the written word? Important criteria to be considered. Yes, what I’m saying here is that boundaries need to be established. Privacy means different things to different people and I think everybody is unique with their comfort level with privacy for this reason. Here’s something I recently discovered at one of the people aggregator sites when I looked at my profile – I’m married. I was married and divorced many years ago. You know what, I really don’t care right now about this misinformation. Is this my responsibility to find the source of this misinformation and correct it? The way I’m looking at it is they never contacted me to verify the information and it’s just another piece of BS on the Internet. Can you tell I’m not happy with this development? Maybe that’s what it comes down to – an easy system available to know where our information is located, how it’s being used, and having an easy way to correct it if necessary. Maybe we’ll have that someday.

  46. Jake
    Jake says:

    The comments are my favorite part of your posts, too. While I love your writing, I also love to hear what people have to say and the reactions they have. Sometimes it surprises me what I can learn from crowdsourcing your comments. My goal this year? To write more posts that get more comments.

  47. LB
    LB says:

    Yesterday during a job interview the important guy in the room asked me, Why are you here? I wish I could have been honest with him. “Sir, as we speak, I have 82 cents in my checking account and half a tank of gas, both of which will have to last until I get paid from my part-time teaching job on Feb. 1. I am scared and desperate. That’s why I am here.”

    Being who we really are all the time and being honest, I suppose, are not one in the same. I get a lot out of your blog, both personally and as a job seeker and employee. It probably does suck to be the farmer sometimes, showing up in your posts and what-not, but would he really want you any other way than who you really are? I hope not.

Newer Comments »

Comments are closed.