Friday, July 23, 2010

Public Persona of a Private Life

Something weird happened to me this week.

I was at In-N-Out (no, that isn't the weird part, I live in Southern California--of course I was at In-N-Out) with my kids. It was crazy crowded (also not the weird part, again, In-N-Out, of course it was crowded) with the lunchtime rush. After finishing, I stood up from my table to refill my soda (also not the weird part, of course I was drinking Dr Pepper) when I walked past a man I'd never seen before and he said, "Is your name Kiersten?"

It's not unusual for people I don't recognize to know me. My mother-in-law knows pretty much the entire state, and people I have no memory of attended my reception, or taught my husband in scouts, or recognize that I'm a member of his family simply because my kids are dead-ringers for him and his sisters.


Weird number one: He knew my first name, not my last.
Weird number two: He pronounced it correctly. (There are some people I have known for YEARS who still do not say it Keer-sten, but rather Curse-ten.)

So I smiled and said, "Umm, yes?"

And then he smiled and said, "I read your blog."

Now, this is the part where, if I were a horror writer, things would start going very, very badly. But I don't write horror, so it's all good. Turns out his name is James and he's a graphic novelist who was on his way to Comic-Con. (Hi James! Hope you're having fun and loads of people are appropriately awed by your graphic novel of awesomeness.) I was caught off guard, of course, and said something really clever like, "Wow. This has never happened to me before."

And that was pretty much that. We chatted for a few seconds, then he went on his way, I went on mine.

But when I got to the car I thought, wait a second. I didn't say anything clever. Not a single clever thing! I was so caught off-guard by being recognized at random, there wasn't a witticism for miles! And the make-up, or lack thereof...I'm not an especially vain person, but my pictures on the blog are very pretty, aren't they? And how weird was I behaving while eating with my kids and unaware someone was actually noticing me? Did I sing any songs? Because sometimes I do that. And it's weird. But my kids think it's funny. Except when they yell at me to stop. But of course I can't remember just how strange I might have been behaving, which could have been anywhere on a vast continuum of strange, because I am a stay-at-home mom to two small children and trust me, we get strange.

So suddenly I'm thinking, great, someone who reads my blog and then sees me in the wild is going to think, "Hrm. Kiersten isn't nearly as clever or pretty in person. How disappointing."

And then I thought, at least he knows I'm really this short. That fact is a constant, on- or offline.

Just kidding.

Kind of.

But it was a strange thing, unexpectedly meeting someone I don't know who could potentially know quite a bit about me. And it's got me thinking about this platform, this business of creating a public persona for oneself. I highly recommend reading Natalie's recent posts on behaving online (both very, very helpful and insightful).

Because truth is, I am not always cheerful and perky. (GASP. I KNOW!) I am not always funny. (I use it all up on you, my beloved readers. Hot Stuff can testify I am a dull as a rock come the end of the day.) I am not always kind. (Which is why I have to quickly backtrack and tell my kids that yes, it was wrong of me to yell, "IDIOT DRIVER!" at the car that nearly sideswiped me.) I do not actually speak with a lot of parenthetical statements. (Although I do interrupt myself a lot.) And I am not always as cute as my author photos have captured on film. (The hair is good, but sometimes I have bad face days.)

On the other hand, the me you see on here, while only a portion of me (because really, you don't want to hear me whine like I do to Natalie and Steph. I am an EXPERT whiner. Like, Olympic level. The competitive whining circuits have been trying to recruit me for ages, but it's just not a challenge anymore.) is still genuine. That's the most important part of having an online presence, I think. You can only fake it for so long; sooner or later the real you will out.

The secret is to pick the parts of you that translate best into writing and use those. The rest you can save for real life. (Unless you guys want me to start stressing out/obsessing to you, in which case get ready for EPICALLY long posts with very circular patterns. You'll want a more comfortable chair. And some snacks. Also, maybe a babysitter, because your kids won't see you for a while once I get going.)

So now you know. I don't wear much makeup most of the time. I call other drivers idiots. I may or may not behave strangely to entertain my kids in restaurants. I am, I hope, clever and witty on occasion, but I'm also just plain tired a lot of the time. I always try to see the bright or at least the funny side of things, but sometimes even I get worn out and discouraged.

If you ever meet me, though, you can count on one thing: I am definitely short.


fairyhedgehog said...

That sounds like a really strange experience. I guess it will happen more and more as your books get out there!

lora96 said...

That must have been...odd. It's cool that people who read your blog recognize you and all that, but I get upset when I pop to the dollar store for packing tape and see nine people I know when my hair is dirty and i'm not wearing makeup. So, it's that on a larger scale.

I won a trip to New York two years ago and when I was sitting in a restaurant I saw Peter Greenberg, that travel guy from the Today show. When I got home i told everyone at work I saw him. They immediately said, Oh did you get your picture made with him? What was he like?
I was aghast. He was EATING DINNER. I didn't go over and interrupt his dinner with people he knows to go announce that I watch television and therefore recognize him. Oy. Never considered it.
So while it was nice of the guy who recognized you to let you know he was a fan of the blog, I think I could never go over to someone like that. I'd feel like I was intruding.
I'm midwestern--I was raised with abject horror of being rude. :P

Stephanie McGee said...

I'm sure he didn't think anything of it when you were a little gobsmacked at being recognized off-line for your online presence. Very cool experience, I'm sure. Don't stress yourself out over it too much. I'm sure that you're great all around.

Vicki Rocho said...

It was bound to happen sooner or later, I suppose...but I bet you thought you'd see it coming. Like when you're at a signing and peeps from the blog seek you out. Not while you're chillin with your kidlings.

Off to read the behaving post...I just drafted one about that so that's good timing!

Enna Isilee said...

Haha. A couple times I've had people recognize me from my blog. This is especially strange since: A) I am not an author, just a blogger. and B) The recognized me from my way of speech. Apparenty I write just like I speak.

But I like that you're willing to admit to all your parts. Fun people are nice, but they can get old after a while. Well rounded people who yell in traffic but can be polite in public, those are the best. ;)

Enna Isilee said...

Oh. And there really are people who pronounce Kiersten CURSE-ten? Really?

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

OMG, I thought I was the only mom who sang weird songs that her kids begged her to stop singing. They did this as toddlers and have never stopped (they're 16 and 12). Can I help it if my voice stinks and I like goofy songs? Really enjoyed your post.

Kiersten White said...

For the record, James was VERY polite and did not come over and ask me while I was eating or sitting next to my kids. Which I appreciated because then I didn't feel like I had to introduce my children, since I do try to keep them out of all of this. So, there was no rudeness involved whatsoever--James is great.

And no worries; I wasn't TOO worried about it. Mostly glad I had showered that day...

Stephanie--Gobsmacked. Yes. That's the perfect word!

heidikins said...

This is awesome! I was recognized from my blog once and it was, well, gobsmacking is pretty accurate.


Kristan said...

My guess is you're going to face a lot more of that in the coming year(s)... Get ready!

At the same time, I like that author-fame isn't as crazy as singer-fame or actor-fame. I'm sure even Stephenie Meyer has an easier time going out and not getting mobbed than, say, Angelina or Nicole Kidman.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

LOL! Yes, that would have been my primary concern (did I shower today?). Something like this actually happened to me (and I'm not at all famous) from a video I made to help my sister in her apartment-hunting. It was just a walk-through with my son popping his head up every now and again. Then when we were visiting the local plant nursery, some middle-aged guy said he knew me from that video. Weird, weird, weird. He was kinda creepy, too, so I subsequently made all my videos private.

Except this one: which you've already seen. :-) (Peep if you're paranormal). But I only embarrass myself like that for truly amazing people. That's how much I am smitten with your blog persona, though I would not expect constant cleverness in-person (unless you're using your #hashtaggery. Because then I would totally expect constant cleverness. Constant.)

Kim Walus said...

We should all have a no makeup-come as-you-are-blogger-get-together. It would be fun or funny.

I've run into several bloggers in quilt stores and I always worry that I look old and frumpy and not cute like in the picture I have posted on my blog.

Then it gets worse when they want to have a picture taken with me and I'm wearing my glasses with little or no makeup and I'm wearing my grungy clothes with sewing threads hanging off of me and you know they're going to post the picture on their blog. Ahhh the dilemma of it all. lol. I try to laugh about it, smile, and take off the glasses.

fairyhedgehog said...

Kim, no makeup is practically the only way I am! Well, I do occasionally slap on a bit of liptick if I'm feeling wild.

I think it must be different in the UK to in the US.

Kiersten White said...

Kim, you are ALWAYS cute : )

FH--It is also different in regional areas of the US. For example, living where I do I am never, ever wearing the most makeup when I go out with my friends. I'm positively underdone. But when I visited New York and Harper's offices, I was wearing the most makeup in the room. It was very strange.

Tere Kirkland said...

I think that's awesome! Now you know you've made it!

Have a great weekend.

Dara said...

I'm an Olympic whiner too :)

Also, as I come from a family of shorties (my dad and I being "tall" at 5'4" and 5'5") you'd probably be pretty close to the same height. My sis-in-law is also just under 5 feet so if I ever met you in person, you probably wouldn't seem short to me :P

I generally don't wear makeup either. Sometimes if I'm feeling really girly, I'll put on some eyeshadow and lip gloss. That's about it.

fairyhedgehog said...

That's so strange! I'd have thought that New York people would wear the most makeup ever!

Jessie Oliveros said...

I feel the same way about my online persona. I'm really boring, rotten, and only wear makeup to weddings (which is my profile pic). I went to In-n-Out once, and I got not a hamburger but waffles. Ridiculous.

JEM said...

You're pretty much a celebrity.

Also: I enjoyed your blog until I found out that you don't wear makeup most of the time. I can't read blogs of people who don't wear makeup most of the time. It's in my contract.

However, I might make an exception for you.

Marsha Sigman said...

I think it's really cool that you were recognized from your blog! Also good that it was not a creepy stalker type person.

I would like to point out that its a given if you fail to take a shower or put on makeup to go will run into someone you know.

Sarah Anne Coe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madeleine said...

The greatest thing about your blog? - It makes me laugh. And laughing is joy to me. :D

You know what? I can be a teenagery brat sometimes (gasp!). See? Now we've both confessed that we are human (who woulda thunk it?). That's not to say that I don't run to my parents later, hug them, and say sorry, but that's just me being me (and sometimes I skip the hug. :D).

And I want to meet you! Even if you're having a bad face day and look like a Gremlin (although I seriously doubt you will). :D I am looking forward to seeing your general shortness because shortness is cool.


P.S. If I saw you singing to your kids, I would have thought it was adorable.

P.S.S. I went to In-N-Out for the first time when I was in San Diego at the beginning of the month. :D

SM Schmidt said...

How sweet of James to be discrete. It always made me feel weird to see people run up to celebrities when they're off-duty (or worse, on vacation) being normal people.

What are you going to do when you start touring Paranormalcy - stash makeup in your purse or lead a no-makeup revolution?

Kiersten White said...

Ah, see, touring is an entirely different beast, because while I was at In-N-Out as mommy, I will be on tour as Author Kiersten White. There will be makeup and poise and clever comments because I will be prepared ; )

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Kiersten, I love your name. My younger sister's name is the same, only without the letter 'e'. She goes through the same blubmling of her name and takes it in stride. Okay, second, In-N-Out... as a native Californian who finds herself in Virginia, you're hurting me here! I adore the food, so actually, maybe it's better I live so far away. And finally, VERY cool story. I give James credit for approaching you, and you credit for being so humble. Enjoy your success :)


pensees said...

Loved your post! :)

Whirlochre said...

Let me know if you need a fake beard.

Corra McFeydon said...

LOL - I'd be really embarrassed. ;)

ec said...

Did I mention I do totally miss In-N-Out? There are lots of good reasons I left L.A., but my life is slightly empty without those burgers and fries.