Posted by jdg | Wednesday, May 03, 2006 |

From the "letters" section of this month's Mothering magazine:

Tiffany, Tiffany, Tiffany. While that story is quite sweet and young William is adorable, how many "William Grosspietsches" can there be in Cross Plains, Wisconsin, population 3,084?

When William Grosspietsch turns 13, somebody in his middle school class is going to come across this little anecdote and he will be forever known as "baby nums nums" (hopefully, if the bullies have any class, spoken with a faux-Indian accident like Peter Sellers in The Party), or "Billy num nums" or "Bill the boy who wished he had boobs" or some other ghastly adolescent sobriquet. They will project 30 foot images of this photo from their 11th generation iPods on the walls of the school gym.

I just finished reading David Mitchell's new novel Black Swan Green, a Sturm und Drang tale of adolescent hardship that (despite my love for Mitchell's other books), struck me as just a more-literate Harry Potter novel without the magic, stewed in Thatcher-era pop culture rather than half-assed occult mythology. Nonetheless, it did manage to unbury all kinds of memories about how difficult it is to be a 13-year-old boy, with all the pecking order and the teasing and bullying.

I feel for William Grosspietsch, man, and I'm glad Juniper is a girl. But how is what bloggers do with their kids any different? A lot of us joke about this, but I think a more serious ethical question remains. I remember e-mailing with Mr. Nice Guy a while back about the impenetrable shroud of anonymity he maintains, and he said he does it for his wife and child, because "they never asked to be the subject of something so publicly lame." With Wood I don't have to worry, but Juniper hasn't asked to have her face splashed all over the internet. And yet I have this horrifying defensive posture, an inclination to just insist that she is "mine" and I can exploit her however I want to, like a Hollywood stage mother. But I don't think it's really exploitation. This is our story, and she is a part of it. This is our family, and this is what we do. We write.

She'll get her revenge on me, no doubt, in a thousand seething ways over the many thousands of days to come.