On Limiting Personas

On very rare occasion, I read other people’s blogs. (These are the things having homework will do to you: compulsive Facebook-checking, Twittering, and actual participation in the blogosphere.) And technically, these days I really only read one other person’s blog. It belongs to my friend and colleague in the MFA program, Nari. I don’t think I’d be the only person around here who’d confess to some envy of Nari’s intellect and writing ability–to say nothing of her  astounding organizational skills.

Thematically, though, Nari and I compliment one another rather well: she writes (in part) about being engaged while cynical, and I, of course, write about being single while hopelessly romantic.

In her last post, however, she admits to her closeted romantic side. Don’t panic, I am not about to confess to a closeted cynicism: Nari and I are both non-fiction writers, after all. She writes about something in that post, though, that I think about a lot and wanted to touch on.

It’s this idea we often talk about in nonfiction of a “limited persona:” basically the notion that, when writing memoir or personal essay, you need to make yourself a more cohesive character than you truly are. Often, this means exaggerating one aspect of your personality. Nari writes that she may “limit” her persona in person–to that of a pragmatic, progressive, anti-girly girl–even more strategically than she does on the page.

I told one of my best friends about this idea before allowing her to read an essay I wrote last semester–back before I made a habit of more widely broadcasting my neuroses. This essay is mainly about my insomnia, but in it I essentially claim that I haven’t been able to sleep since high school because I lay awake worrying about finding a husband.

To which, of course, there is some truth. But it is also true that I lay awake worrying about school and work and friendships and food and gas bills…and various other random things that, taken together, do not make as focused–or amusing–an essay as my romantic fixation.

I could say the same for this blog: in my real, three-dimensional life I do, sometimes, reflect on issues besides love. But I’m not sure I have the discipline, ability, or desire to render those other thoughts interesting to all of you.

I thought about this the other day when someone I haven’t spoken to since high school found me on Facebook and told me he’d been reading.

“It’s definitely entertaining,” he wrote. “But aren’t you a little young to be so worried about dating?”

Which, I must note, is a very New York thing to say. Here in the Rest of the Country, people actually get married and have kids before they’re thirty-five. This is something I didn’t realize until I left New York.

But back to his point: it’s a fair one. The question of how dramatically I actually worry about dating is one I’ve touched on and will continue to–for now, let’s just say if I was truly obsessed with getting married I probably would never have left a good job and the region where I assume I’ll end up to pursue a an almost-entirely-useless degree in New Mexico– a place where, as we’ve discovered, there is in fact no one to date much less marry.

Based on this blog, though, I’d forgive you for thinking otherwise.

And, most days, I will continue to let you. Honestly, I think it’s best that we keep things, well, limited.


Filed under Love Life

5 responses to “On Limiting Personas

  1. I have a feeling that this is my moment of fame. I’m seizing it–and celebrating with hot chocolate.

    • Well that makes me happy. Though I’m not sure how much fame I can provide! Hope you were okay with my characterization of you, and your post!?

  2. Yes–you were quite generous, in fact. My persona will be even more difficult to limit now that my ego has been fluffed.

  3. Oh, I am far too young to worry so much about this finding-a-husband business, but I notice I tend to play up my girliness and my slight, mostly in jest, housewifey leanings. And once this image is created in someone’s mind of me, it seems impossible for it to be undone. I find myself aggravated when a dude assumes that all I want is a sweet little baby and a pastel-colored Kitchenaid mixer–even though, well, it’s the truth. But this is all at the expense of forgetting my intellectualism, my adventurous and entrepreneurial streak, and my firm feminist bent.

    By the waaay, how old are you, Ms. Tannen?

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