Sunday, January 10, 2010

Choosing an Identity

RHYS: When I'm working at the computer I'm often struck by strange phrases--like the words "Unknown Zone" before it finds a website. Doesn't that sound like a good sci-fi title. She was lost in the unknown zone (which I often am, not being the most computer savvy person in the world).When I'm saving files to an online vault it shows the words "reticulating splines." I have to believe these words are made up just to impress people. Nobody has been able to explain to me what they mean.

And now we come to my favorite. When I post a comment on Blogger it says, "Choose an identity."What an offer. I can be who I like? So who do I want to be today? Queen Elizabeth the First or Queen Victoria, and boss everybody around? That probably wouldn't work because there's only John here and he isn't very easily bossable.A great opera star, about to sing the last act of La Traviata and know there won't be a dry eye in the house?Agatha Christie? William Shakespeare? How about Dan Brown, on the way to the bank?

So joking aside, if a genie came out of a bottle and I could really be anybody I wanted to be, who would I choose? It's a choice fraught with danger and twists of fate, of course. I could choose to be a lady in the Middle Ages only to find it is the day before the Black Death arrives in town. I could choose to be a Roman senator only to find that Nero is about to fiddle while Rome burns.I'm not sure I would like to go back in history for anything more than a visit, Connie Willis style. And even her historians always get more than they bargained for.

I don't have a need to be super rich. Or super famous. Both come with a heavy price tag. I must say I have fantasized about being a great athlete. I was a sickly child and useless at sports until I turned about twelve. Then, as i grew healthier I decided I wanted to be good at tennis. I can't tell you how many hours I thumped a ball against a wall. I never quite made the school tennis team but I kept on practicing and ended up playing for my college. And I actually got better as an adult, as I learned to control nerves and focus and use strategy. I could beat my son-in-law ( a hunky six foot four) until I had to give up the game a couple of years ago with some damaged disks in my neck.So yes, I'd love to be a top tennis player, walking out onto the center court at Wimbledon. Or a top skier, or ice skater. It must feel amazing to know that you are the best at something in the world.So next time you see a post on Blogger from Serena Williams, it's probably me.

And what identity would you choose, Jungle Red Sisters?

JAN: I think I'd chose Anna Quindlan. I always thought I should have ended up first at the New York Times, then as a best selling author, then as a columnist for TIme, is it?? Or Newsweek. And if I can't be Anna Quindlan, I'll be Faith Hill.
HALLIE: Fascinating question. And rather than who I want to BE, here's who I wish I could be FOR A DAY. Agatha Christie the day she typed THE END on Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Helen Keller in mid-life on a day when she was writing her book. Jane Goodall on a good day with her beloved gorillas. Billie Jean King on the day she defeated Bobby Riggs.

HANK: Marie Curie. Shakespeare, whoever he was, writing Henry V. Meryl Streep. Ameila Earhart, up to a point, of course. To have been brave enough to be Christa MacAuliffe. Oh, yes, Rhys, just for a brief icy moment, Nancy Kerrigan. Or Cynthia Gregory. Or Linda Ronstadt. I'm sure they would have all lusted to be someone else, too. Which is interesting.

ROBERTA: Meryl Streep, yeah that's a good one. And icon and my idol. But in the writing department, how about Kathryn Stockett who wrote THE HELP as her first novel. Not only a huge bestseller, but critically well-received too! I don't even need to BE her, I just want a successful book like that one! By the way, I haven't read it yet, but it's very close to the top of my TBR pile.

RHYS: Oh, I have to agree with Meryl Streep. What a fun life she has had, able to show her stuff in such a variety of acting roles, equally good at comedy and drama. I'd actually rather have her as a friend because I can see she likes to laugh a lot. And I agree with Hallie too. To be someone else, but only for a day. Much as I grit my teeth when a mediocre book hits the NYT list and I don't, I think I'd still rather be me.

RO: Most of the time when I have this fantasy I just want to be me younger but let's see..for a day...lots of people. Living - Clint Eastwood, Roger Federer, Julia Roberts, Keira Knightley. Dead - Gertrude Bell, Lillie Langtry, Karen Blixen, Pamela Harriman, Mata Hari, Cleopatra,...Eve. I said there were a lot..

RHYS: I guess that's why we became writers, so that we could play at being other people every day. I certainly enjoy spending time in Molly Murphy's world and even more so in the glittering environment of Her Royal Spyness. So do non-writers fantasize about being other people as much?

RHYS: Eve--now that's an interesting one. What if Adam was boring and droned on about his fig leaf collection? I think I'll stick to Queen Elizabeth the first or Queen Victioria!


  1. Eleanor of Aquitaine. She survived in a man's world and outlived most of her family--no easy feat in those days.

    Or Dorothy Sayers. She led a troubled life, but I'd love to be in her head.

  2. Me, younger, is a good one, RO. But the rule would have to be that we get to keep the knowledge we have, right?

  3. At the risk of sounding blasphemous: Christ (for a day). And not so I could be God, but so I could experience true humility (pride being my favorite vice, especially the intellectual variety) and the joy of truly loving everyone I encounter. I find that concept impossible to get my head around.

  4. Yes, Hank - as smart and as cool as we are now (!) but young enough to enjoy it and get to do it all over again with just a little tweaking.
    I guess I have a ways to go before I get to be Christlike and truly humble! But it isn't really vanity, I prefer to think of it as an absence of envy.

  5. Laura,
    That's a pretty awesome choice for all the right reasons.

    Moi, I'm sticking to entirely superficial. If I couldn't be Anna Quindlan or Faith Hill, i think my next choice would be Taylor Swift.

    And not JUST because she's young, beautiful and talented. She a great songwriter for 19 and she's having a hell of a year.

  6. Thanks, Jan. I'd be Taylor Swift, too, except I'm pretty sure my daughter (12) wants to grow up to be her. At least, she can sing every song Taylor ever recorded.

  7. Anyone see It's Complicated? Is Meryl Streep the spitting image of Hallie, or WHAT? It was--so distracting, because I couldn't stop thinking of her!

  8. I'd love to be a WWII Allied spy, dropped into occupied France. Fluent in German, French, English; athletic, and brave. All this plus the guarantee that I could get out safely whenever I wanted.

  9. Yes, Bobbi! I definitely agree...I'd like to be brave enough to do that. (Imagine!) Or see what it's like--as you said, without any of the bad outcomes. But then--that wouldn't be what it was really like.

  10. Oh, Hank, are you kidding? I gotta see the movie. I am such a huge fan of hers.