[We are entering the annual award season and I'm proud to announce that Time Goes By has been given the first "Blog of the Week" award from citrus at There's Alway Something... who describes the award as "the most interesting, inspiring, funny, provocative - whatever - that I came across during the week." Thank you, citrus, and I'm sure we'll all be keeping an eye on your weekly awards.]
A couple of months ago, a new elderblog appeared among us, Code Name Nora, in which Nora, who is 80 and a newly-arrived resident in a retirement community, writes in the third person about her experiences with others who live there.
I’ve forgotten how Nora’s blog came to my attention, but I was charmed by her off-center attitude, style and excellent writing. I soon added her to the Elderbloggers List.
From the first, there were doubters. Terri of Writing Away on Cedar Key posted this comment on one of Nora’s early entries:
“So I know I'll be a regular reader here in your Twilight Zone. I'll also be adding you to my favorite page.”
Then, she amended her opinion with this comment:
“Very good writing with entertaining stories. And call me suspicious - but golly, this sure sounds like a preview of a novel to come.”
joared of Along the Way took up the drumbeat with a similar comment:
“…guess I agree with terri about this sounding much like a budding novel.”
Without referencing those comments, Nora admitted to thoughts of fiction-writing :
“Nora has in mind a novel she wants to write…Three old ladies live in a retirement home. They are Nora, Pat, and Winifred. They’ve had the usual hard knocks in their lives and now should be able to take life easy...”
A few days later, Alice of Wintersong posted this comment to Nora’s blog:
“Nora, you aren't really an 81 year old woman are you?”
Because of these comments, I took a closer look at Nora’s blog than I might otherwise have done and immediately noticed that the image of her is a Photoshopped composite, and poorly done at that. Matty of Running on Empty commented on the faked photo, to which Nora replied:
“Oh, Matty, someone noticed! At last. No, the body is courtesy of an ad in Victoria's Secret catalog. The face, of course, is prim old me.”
All this doubting would be merely an amusing cyber-aside if an elderblogger had not emailed angrily ripping me for including Nora on the Elderblogger’s List and asking if I know what credibility Nora has. Because this is a private email, I can’t quote it, but it suggested that Nora is not who she purports to be and therefore my Elderblogger’s List can no longer be trusted, that I no longer vet blogs for honesty.
Hul-lo! I collect URLs for new elderblogs I find and add them to the list, if they meet my criteria, when I have time. Let me be clear: I am not in the business of doing background checks on bloggers.
However, I’m more disturbed that elders – grownups! - in back-channel email as though it were a political whisper campaign, would impugn another blogger’s integrity with no basis in fact. Perhaps it is the excellence of Nora’s writing that makes some suspicious. I can’t find it now, but somewhere I read a comment that Nora writes very well “for an 80-year-old" which added to the suspicions that she is not who she says she is. Sounds like a little bit of elder ageism to me. Why shouldn’t she be a good writer at 80? Writing skills only get better with time and use.
Or, maybe, it is the third-person style that bothers people. It is a time-honored literary device that can be annoying but which, in fact, Crabby Old Lady uses on this blog without having been accused of dishonesty.
Nora announced in her first post that her “cybername” is Nora, implying that it is not her real name - and maybe that seems less than forthright. But many bloggers use pseudonyms for important, valid and even whimsical reasons (two I know for certain come to mind) and sometimes you don’t know that a real-sounding name is a not the person's real name at all.
We all try to read between the lines to help us determine more about the people behind the blogs we like, but unless you’ve come to know a fellow blogger off line, you don’t KNOW if any blogger is telling the truth about him- or herself. So attempting to winnow out how honest someone may be is a fool’s game.
Authenticity (a word that lately is way overused) is valued in the blogosphere and undoubtedly most bloggers are not pretending to be something or someone they are not. No one can maintain a false front, writing every day for years, without slipping. But just as undoubtedly, some do create online personae that are different from their own. It’s not a crime. (At Second Life, it is an art form.)
When they started, personal blogs were mostly collections of links to online places people wanted to pass on, usually without much commentary. They developed into personal journals, expanded into advocacy and topics and a few have now become as important as newspapers for needed information. Some blogs hardly deal in words at all, only video. Blogs are always in the process of transforming themselves and Code Name Nora may be a new(ish) direction.
Nora has chosen to write in the third person in a novelistic style. I don’t care if it’s fiction in disguise; as with all good fiction, there are truths being told. And I don’t care if Nora is outed at some future point as a professional novelist or a 35-year-old, beer-swilling biker. Code Name Nora is funny, charming and a delight to read so I'm taking Nora at face value. If a guessing game about whether she is "authentic" must go on, let's keep it in all good fun and not be mean about it.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Rabon Saip tells a most extraordinary love story, Muriel.]