Cartouche's Blog

Writing My Way Out of Something


Someplace, somewhere else, USA
February 09
Mind My Own Business
Artist, former newspaper columnist and restaurant critic. Award-winning author of "In Pursuit of Excellence". In my spare minute I can be found blogging here, on Huffington Post and other places that don't pay and (more often) writing for some places that do. Occasionally I tweet random thoughts and observations as @nonconfromist. I keep the really good ones to myself.


JANUARY 21, 2011 2:37PM

Seeming is Believing

Rate: 55 Flag

Every time tragedy strikes or a person snaps, there is someone who will say, “I can’t believe it.  He seemed like such a (fill in the blank:  nice, normal, strange) person.”  “Seemed” is the key.  Time and again, I argue that no matter how well we think we know even our closest family or friends, we can’t possibly know them in their totality.  To believe we do is to allow ourselves to be taken by surprise.

Seeming is believing.

Seeming is Believing 

"Seeming is Believing"

36" x 24"

Acrylic on Plexiglass 

When you read a novel or an article in a magazine, newspaper or online, do you ever walk away from it and actually believe or think to yourself that you “know” the person who wrote it?  It’s possible, but not likely.  The writer is the carrier and transmitter of this material or information, even if it is sometimes conveyed from a first person point of view. We know the story, not the person.  You have as much likelihood of saying you “know” the person who sat next to you on a long flight.  You know what that person chose to share or give you. 

How you perceive that person is entirely up to you.

A funny thing happened when blogging came along and especially so, at Open Salon.

Whether OS is a writer’s or social networking site has been debated to death and will continue to be argued ad nauseum.  If seeming is in fact believing, make of it what you will, but don’t assume that yours is the only opinion or viewpoint that’s right or counts or matters.  OS has and will continue to be a tool of creative exploration and freedom for some, a place to exercise writing muscle or take on the world as a troll.  To others, it is a place to reveal, make sense of or exorcize the past, to engage in spirited debate.  Maybe it’s just an ongoing party or coffee clatch.

It’s whatever you decide it might be on any given moment of any given day. 

Like blogging, it is an experiment in your own sense and definition of reality.

But interestingly enough with blogging and OS in particular, people have tendencies to divulge information about themselves in bits and pieces and present a puzzle that readers can not see the entirety of, because there is no photo of what the big picture looks like in its finished glory.

We create the completed jigsaw from our own imagination.

60s Flashback Jigsaw 

60's Flashback Jigsaw

54" x 43"

Acrylic on Plexiglass 

By purging demons, sharing heartbreaking challenges, tossing out ideas, presenting our perceptions and perspectives and mixing it up with snippets of life-changing events, the writer decides what he or she is willing to reveal or tell and perhaps does it for nothing more than the need to express or document aspects of one’s own life experience. 

Even 200 500 1000 blog posts does not an entire life story make.   

And that’s where blogging on a platform such as Open Salon blurs the lines between black and white, introducing infinite shades of gray that will surely be grayer as people weigh in with their opinions. 

When I saw Emily’s Open Call asking for stories about our “Online Selves”, I had to seriously consider whether or not to respond.  I couldn’t help but be taken back to an event last year that created a flurry of activity and caused a minor disruption to life on OS as we had known it until then.

When I first joined OS in November 2008, I wrote strictly under the name of cartouche.  I developed a following, had a voice and was an extremely active participant, (read:  totally addicted to this place) often cheerleading many wonderful writers who were trying to get their feet wet in a sea of exquisite writing. Our numbers were much smaller then.

As time went on and I felt more at home, even though my sense of humor would shine through in certain posts or comments or open calls, another part of me was itching to explore my ability to be able to write strictly humor.  I needed to see if I could successfully manage to write in a convincing “other” voice while maintaining my original identity. 

Six months later, I created the identity of O’Really?

When I created her persona, I made sure that she didn’t become actively involved in the “back end” of OS.  My PMs were always written in O’Really?’s voice and I consistently tried to develop and maintain the character I created in my posts and in comments.  She was an older, heavier, twice married, sex-crazed version of myself who knew how to talk to both men and women about relationships.  She was spunky, intuitive and searingly honest, especially in matters of sex.  And she loved those strikethroughs because she recognized that many people say one thing and are often thinking something else. 

Just like in real life.  Just like on Open Salon.

Two things happened that I didn’t bargain for.  About two months after O’Really’s debut, I (meaning me, Patricia, not cartouche or O’Really?) had a breast cancer scare.  I knew that I didn’t want to reveal this publicly as cartouche, because of the many real-life friendships I had made on OS.  I didn’t want this to become an “identity marker” of me or for it become something that would cause worry or involve many who “think they know me”.  I kept the whole thing private for these reasons and more.  As much as I may “seem” to reveal as cartouche, I’m a highly compartmentalized and extremely private person.  Even if you have read my entire archive of both personas, you are still only scratching the surface.



48" x 48"

Acrylic on Canvas

The other part of me, the writer, knew that I wanted to document this frightful journey and to be able to share the story as a cautionary tale.  I decided to write about the entire scare (after it had happened) as O’Really?  My choice to do so under that identity was precisely for the reason that my “online friendships” as O’Really? were carefully created to keep people at arm’s length.

Without rehashing the whole ugly incident, several months later, my writing as two identities (which, a few people knew of) was leaked and became the source of someone’s anger.  This person wanted to “out” me. I decided to out myself instead. 

If you want to study something very interesting about online forums and personalities and you think you “know” someone by what they write in their blog posts, I would submit that one can learn much more about people by reading their comments, especially when there is a heated debate or judgments are being made without knowing the entire story.  In those instances, people really tell you much more about who they are.  Their words, comments, vulgarity, outrage, accusations and silence speak for themselves.  I had 280 of them to absorb and they are still there as a reminder that what you write does follow you, even if you have forgotten. That I managed to successfully write under two identities was applauded by some and caused outrage in others. There was an interesting divide between how men reacted to this versus women.  

Ultimately, I think it was the perceptions that people had about who they "thought" I was or should be that determined their reaction

Because they "thought" they "knew" or "know" me.

So if I have learned anything from online personas, I will say what I’ve said before.  The words we write are our tools (or weapons); the avatars are images and the stories we read (or write) are but splices of or parts of who we are, but nowhere near the total package.  

If I know one thing for sure, it's that I don't know you any more than you think you know me.

We are all only voices inside each others’ hearts and heads.

I am but two of them.

The rest, is unknown.

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Yeah, well you are you, and forget what everyone else has to say. I never got caught up in the hoopla over your alter ego. This is a virtual laboratory where writing under a different persona makes perfect sense to me. Whether you write under Patricia, Catouche, or O'really makes no nevermind to me. Why? Because first, last and always, you are WORTH reading. And you are a worthy member of the human race. I am fortunate to call you friend.
I have never been able to figure out why some people made such a fuss when they heard about your dual identity. It seemed as if they felt betrayed in some odd way. To this day, I don't get it, but I take your point. And by the way, how come we don't hear much from O'Really? anymore? I have no one to insult.
I remember the day of your "reveal". It was crazy and interesting. Which may have been my comment. It opened my eyes to the danger of taking this place too seriously. I'm glad to see you still here writing under both.
Dang, I just love this piece--its perspective and sense of our little movement and what it means, O'Really, too; I just love her, too. In addition, I REALLY LOVE THE ART! Sorry...don't mean to shout.
that is part of the allure of the web, is playing with alter egos.
There is a professor I studied under, who had more published papers under his alter ego than many tenured faculty do, so nothing wrong with that.
I was simply amazed (and still am) at how prolific you were using two different personae. What I like about you the most is that you are so incredibly witty--always.
I love how this place allows you to reinvent yourself. Pretty pictures.
Since I am new to OS (Nov) I was not aware of your double identity or the flurry of comments generated by it. I would assume the most upset were those who had revealed too many personal details in their own writings. You have made several true and important comments here, and all readers should review this post at least twice to let the wisdom sink in.
Thanks for the interesting read.
Amen . . . amen . . . hear, hear. What OEsheepy said . . .
Sometimes when you write you are another person. Whether that be from some tragedy or other that created that person. We are not really just one person and you are so right. People can read and read and some how they might still not know the real you.
The comments was an interesting thing to write about. I have seen two faces of some people and it shocked me.
Well that's just me,
rated with hugs
Acknowledging all you wrote above, after our 2+ years of hanging out here, me reading both your personas and your comments, I will simply say: Day or night, if you knock, I will open my door to let you in and call you "friend." And trust that you won't kill me in my sleep.

I still do not understand the amount of bile aimed at you when O'Really? was revealed. The character was a brilliant creation. Before the "outing," I was even thinking about posting a pseudo-deconstruction piece called "Really Reading O'Really?"
I wasn't here when your identities were placed on the carpet but you are one of the few people here that I admire for what you present in writing no matter which persona is used. I am happy to be able to be welcomed into that small part of your world and, for me, that's all that matters.

I recently experienced the "I thought I knew you by words yet I didn't" disappointment with a fellow "blogger" What they presented themselves to be offline in their writings didn't come through online when I excepted it to and I began to question the authenticity of the person. My fault? Yes. I now limit myself to the written words alone and back away from allowing myself to read into, or wonder, if the words I read are representative of the offline person that wrote them.

As far as comments, yes, I agree.

Great post Cartouche.
Car, you already know where I stood -- and stand -- on that issue, despite the fact that some tried to jump down my throat over it. I enjoy both your idents. Interestingly, although you were one of the first people to go on what was then my friends list, O'Really? took me awhile. Inexplicable, but I never said I was smart.

You're quite right: Who we seem to be online is not who we really are. I write under a pseudonym here. I try to be more or less avuncular and on my best behaviour, and to avoid being what I am in real life -- nasty, brutish and short, as Mr Hobbes would say (although I'm not particularly poor nor am I solitary -- just reclusive).
that you write — create here in OS land ( o'really, cartouche, patricia) means much to those who read your writings. i've been a recipient of your online generosity; i'll always consider a gifted artist — a wonderful friend.
A mantra with the psuedo-enlightened sales managers in the world for the last few years has been "Perception is reality". I believe you are saying that one creates a reality by assuming to know what exists through perception. I agree.
The disagreeable portion of it is that many others who recognize that truism take it to a lesser place and use it to deceive, i.e., purposelessly create perceptions that will hint at some unfounded reality. Hence our current state of politics.
Voila, les jeux son fait . Verite'? Peut etre.
I was not here yet when there was hoodeeha over two yous. Would that happen today? I wonder.

Some of the work we admire most was often created by those we would least care to spend time with. Gauguin was a beast. Picasso, big time jerkus. Pollock? No way. Yet I can spend a heavenly hour gazing into Lavender Mist. Not saying you're someone I wouldn't want to spend time with in real life. I suspect we'd get ourselves into a whole heap of trouble, the fun kind. Still, as you say, I can't possibly know that from your online self.
I was too new then to know what the hell was going on or even to have developed consistent personas of my own, but we had to pretend we were up to speed so none of us would be thought slow or disinterested and we quickly got swept up in the rage and counter-rage and spinoff rages and I ended up in therapy over it and still weep every now and again for no apparent reason at all. Damned place anyway... Glad O'Really's cancer scare went away.
Wonderful post, wonderful art, and a very cool insight into what's become an OS legend. I wasn't here for the O'Really/Cartouche reveal, but I'm glad you kept both personas and that you continue to write and be the creative person that - though I don't fully know you - I know you truly are.
All artists re-create themselves . . .
Oh my...I was reading my comment. I hope it didn't sound like I was not agreeing with you, her, them.. ;-) I was , I really was and I got carried away to my own area in space and then shit, Matt peeked in at the bottom, which tickled me pink, if one could be tickled pink, and all sense of my being went down the pooper. xxxooo phew
I admire that you could do that and sometimes wish I could write as an alter ego from the stand point of someone happy and safe and in a loving life. I am afraid I would get confused and never be able to do it very well. But your doing so has made me wonder if it is possible. I find it funny how we sometimes have a picture in mind of a person but when we see them or a picture we are like really, I had no idea...
I don't care "who" you are, Patricia. It's all in what you bring to the never-ending, ever evolving feast. And you bring so much insight and good, down-to-the-heart questions, you are an entree, as Cartouche or O'Really? on the menu here.
From Day #1 on OS ... "You are all just online entities to me".

'nuff said.

What the..??? My two-paragraph comment evaporated into the ether. Anyway, right on, cartouche. I never quite understood what all the fuss was about when it comes to your alter ego. I think some of us have a stronger need "to know" than others do.

I agree Patricia - I think this whole experience - experimnent - called OS is fascinating. And I want to echo Linda S who said "Sometimes when you write you are another person". And may I congratulate you on doing it expertly.
my goodness Patricia, love these paintings, particularly the last two, jigsaw and nuanced. really really wonderful.

You're making good points here, many of which I've firmly come to believe: online, offline, it doesn't matter, we are many people and this "Here" makes it so easy to "fall in love" with a persona because you only experience only a very limited, very very concentrated and (hopefully) (if not) entertaining (then perhaps) intelligent individual.

We can't help but create our ideal selves. I resist discussing my faults, my personal flaws, my soft spots. why should I? I'm here to entertain myself. This isn't therapy and besides, who and what I am is really nobody's business but mine.

I pick and choose what I write about, who I write about or why. And actually what I like SO MUCH about poetry is I can dance around what I'm saying and present it in another place and time. I can express feelings without revealing anything but how I can successfully or not, juxtipose certain elements with other elements.

Writing is abstract. How we feel when we read is not. that's why what we read "about" people isn't really real. Really real is how a person crosses a room, how they smile or look into your eyes or don't. How they generously care for you or not. How they touch you or don't. The physical is so important to gauging a person.

So yes, we "HERE" are images we are consciously creating and creating and recreating and exploring.
I had been here two weeks when you revealed your alternate identity and it was a great introduction into what to expect. Your two identities and your reflections on them and the nature of OS, above, are a microcosm of both virtual and real life, I think. Well said, naturally. I don't post under my real name because of employment constraints and personal reservations, though anyone here who has asked knows my real name, as well as some who have not asked. There are so many reasons to be who we are, depending on where we are.
It's like the saying goes, "No one knows what goes on behind closed doors." You are right. None of us knows each other, and we only give glimpses of what we want anyone to know.
As you know, I defended both of you -- just as you kept our little secret. As you also know, even tho I chose to use my real name, I have for the most part avoided delving into my personal life -- at least up until recently. And even at that, you are quite right, no one here really knows me -- hell, I don't even know who I am!

And as you also know, I decried OS becoming more of a social network and less a forum for writers and politics. My reason for doing so wasn't and isn't that I have anything against a social network -- particularly one filled with so many bright and talented people as this one. It's that inevitably social networks become just another advertising medium -- just as OS has become -- just as FB has become.

And advertising is always -- inevitably -- the death of art.
Very true. I loved your two identities because there were no hidden agendas in them. No anger. No revenge go "after" someone disguised as someone else. You are didn't try to make one site more popular by promoting it or rating it as people are doing now. The one's who do this out of jealousy and anger to cut people down show more about themselves as the false one than they do the true them. They show there pettiness and I'm proud to know you and O'Really. I can't say that about the others who do this for spite!
Damn. I was gonna say this. But you said it better than I could ever imagine it being said. So I gotta with

"What she said!"
I'm really more handsome in person.

The revelation of your dual personality was, by far, my favorite day here on OS. I remember walking around all day chuckling to myself at how amazed I was that you pulled that off. It's true that we can't ever know people, whether online or not. What I do know is that I have learned more from you here than I have from most people in my "real" life. (And I know I've said it before but that artwork. . .I have no words to express how much I love it!)
This is what happens to actors, singers, anyone who has a public persona. Other people assume they know them based on the roles they play or the images they project. By the way, your paintings are stunning.
You are one of my favorite writers no matter which voice you use that day. You are YOU. ~r
What I do know is how often your words touch me.
OK I just wanted to see if this was any different in my other "identity." And no--it's still that good!

Building on your image of the jigsaw puzzle, I think what often happens is that because no one has every piece of somebody else's puzzle---they supply their own. That might even be a law of physics. When there is a void, someone fills it.

Of course, in real life, I know NOTHING of physics . . . .but I bet SOMEONE thought I did!

Of course if you want to talk astrophysics. . .
I like you both.

And hope you're keepin' well.

There's something in theory called obliquity, which means if you start off trying to reach an end by applying yourself to the most obvious means, you'll never get there. But if you take an indirect route, you will. So if you want to make more money in business, for example, you shouldn't cut your business down or make it more efficient. You should concentrate on your customers, that way you'll increase your profit. The same holds true for basic research. If you want to find a new drug to fight a disease, you have to discover something new about how cells work in general. But there are limits to obliquity. At some point you have to confront a set of facts and say this is what something is, definitely, and this is how I'm going to proceed. At some point you have to make up your mind about people, too. You have to decide what and who they are to you and go with that. Never hurts to keep from doing it too early, but you have to do it at some point. Good post.
What O'Really? said.
Wait... You are two fascinating writers on OS and a spectacular painter? Cool! I am late to this wonderful conversation, but quite happy you pulled the curtain aside for a peek at the playful/brave/inspired woman who has so much to express that she needed to multiply herself. I look forward to hearing more from all of you.
I was still wet behind the ears on OS here when that transpired. I couldn't figure out why people got all didactic over it. Especially since many swim under various veils here. Over a year later from what I can tell you "seem" to be a talented person both in words and visual arts. Your cartouche stories have weight and O'Really was/is hilarious. Success really pisses people off, huh? Love painting #3. Keep up the good work, woman.
O'really? Catouche! I'm delighted to meet you. . . both, Patricia. I'm new to OS, but have noted and followed your posts -- both blogs written in true, clear voices. Great stuff. In fact, I've mentioned O'really in passing in a recent post of my own...Posting Toasties,

Seeming is Believing: of all the posts I've read on this Open Call, this one, in particular, best articulates the duality of blogging /writing in both a public and anonymous forum, as you say, in the "voices in each others' hearts and heads."
I think that maybe what ticked some folks off is the fact that not only did you write under two different names, but you did it so damn well. They were completely fooled and some folks just hate to think that anyone can fool them. Personally, I was fooled but I thought it was funny that you fooled me and it made me stop and question some of my preceptions of what I read online....and that was a good thing.
Under any situation, no matter how much knowledge you have about someone/anything -- you only have partial information.
this is brilliant
and brilliant r. r.
I love your work. I loved it when I first came to Open Salon, and when you wrote funny stuff under O'really. I see how little we really know of each other, even those we see every day, and am grateful for the glimpses I get into the lives of others on Open Salon. I have enjoyed meeting OSers even more for knowing both their online and offline personas. It still isn't all of the person. But it is fun. I enjoy your insights, your sharing. Thank you.
We are avatars even unto ourselves. Our writing is a distillation of the best of us, as we see us. I'm a guy, so maybe that's why I don't want to know "the artist", only the art.

I love "both" of you! (I'm a guy)
I thought it was damned cool then and I still do.

You are an amazing individual, Patricia. I'm in awe of those who have talent and your writing, your art and now your excellent wisdom just keeps on coming. BUT! You have to know one thing; I'm really pissed about this whole talent thing and you.

I've been robbed dammit! Robbed! You took it all and left none for me :-)
I always admire your posts cartouche but this one seemed particularly insightful. I was just getting started when I read your coming out post. I knew nothing of the back stories and was taken, er, aback by the vehemence of a few who felt they'd been conned.

On the matter of knowing, I generally assume I know enough to proceed and if I don't I'll ask. This applies to much more than the quirks and characters of folks who write here. I know a fair bit about several OSers but that's only within the context of their online IDs. Since I expect I'll meet very few of them (and so far it's zero), it doesn't cross my mind that there's much more to them in real life or that they may be quite different than how I perceive them here.

So while I've a certain impression of you as cartouche or O'R, I've no doubt there's much more to the person behind the avatars and to the extent that that person differs from the impression I take from OS, well, unless our paths look destined to cross, it's not really as issue.

It reminds me of the Turing test. You can form opinions of the nature of the person posting, commenting and responding but there's a barrier that allows only so much in and out.

And agreed that comments are oft more revealing. That is, for all I know.
Only two, hardly...Everyone knows, or at least has some inkling of the dynamo that is Patricia. Your posts have a degree of popularity, and you have worked hard for that. Good job.

I have always had the belief that expression, in whatever form (excepting destruction of property, and physical harm) is the right of the maker, and needs not be suppressed, either through laws, or persecution. You are an artist...actualize your creativity in any manner you find that satisfies your need to express yourself.

That said, I would like to see you set aside time to answer comments. I missed whatever rationale you published giving reasons for not doing so. This is an observation and desire, not designed to preach to you. For me, if people are taking time to read my work, I feel grateful in answering, even a word or two. Every commenter is important to me...and thinking along those lines, ideas come from unlikely sources (through comments), sometimes indirectly, but always thought provoking.

Thanks for your support over these very short, but illuminating years. ooxoxo
November 2008, it was like walking into a new school on the first day. You knew nobody at all and you developed new friends and learned by comments who to avoid. Remember when....................older/exasperated tip of a wine glass and a wink
Ah, yes, I remember it well . . .

Believe me, this seems very wise.Truth is, even in our "real" lives, we hide parts of who we are, differently to different people. And they filter what they see through their own imperfect lenses. I'm not always sure those are more real than these characters we play, when we have the ability to hold forth at, perhaps, greater length than in a "real" conversation. And over time, something that seems like reality shines through.
I really enjoy your voice. And I love your art.
I haven't been an OSer or "sharing" writer long, but as I work my way through the wings towards the artist's stage to display my creations (avoiding snaking power chords, heavy, drawn curtains and the idle chatter of others who camp out in the darkness trying to overcome their nerves) I am making a conscious choice with every step: whore it up and hide all truth or go au naturale and risk losing my foothold.

You walk a very delicate line with grace and focus in your writing. I appreciate the various rooms and shades of gray you and so many other great artists present to the world. Creating and living into the call of artist (whatever the medium) is, ultimately, about discovering the depths of one's own psyche and spirit. That takes far greater courage to engage than facing even the harshest of critics.

Your writing is a delight :-)
Cartouche, I have always treated you and O'Really as two separate people and forget that you are the same. I like it that way. I have some other favorites here who have distinct and multiple identities, mostly for fun. They are treated as separate people.

Wouldn't it be nice to consider this place to be a writer's community where socializing goes on? I never saw the point to trying to define the place as one or the other.

Here's to more of you, whatever your persona, dear friend.

Zumapick for meta
Your writing is what brings me back to your posts as Cartouche. I never appreciated O'really's humor although I could always appreciate the quality of the writing there as well.
My question is this...are you comfortable meeting up with people from this community?
I always found I had two sides to my personality. I just took it for granted others did too. To be or not to be that is the question and there are always two sides to every coin but they all add up to the same thing. Keep on Keeping on... I like the Nuanced image the best as of right now but who knows about later on maybe Seeming is Believing will win out.
Most of us hide more than we reveal. I wish the things we hid were salacious rather than boring! (Maybe that's not true for you - you're such a wild spirit, whatever you call yourself.)
Perfect post for me to read this morning. I am a student of Joseph Campbell. One of the most important things I learned from him was how to get to the bottom of most things. One simple question gets you there. What was the intent? You can have as many identities as you want, tell us or not, it doesn't matter to me. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Understanding the intent of your critics can also be a healing! In those situations I employ the ways of the Samurai warrior. Just throw it over your right shoulder and say, "this does not belong to me!"