• Mon, May 24 2010

Melissa Etheridge, Tammy Lynn Michaels, and Breaking Up in the Era of the Blog

Image via WENN

Recently, musician Melissa Etheridge announced that she and her wife, actress Tammy Lynn Michaels (pictured together at left), had split up. She called the breakup amicable and said that they planned to continue raising their two young children together. However, Michaels doesn’t seem to want to go along with Etheridge’s story. She posted a poem on her blog, Hollywood Farm Girl, last Thursday, and the poem’s title – “no more censorship for me?” – hinted at what the rest of the post contained. Here are some choice selections from the poem:

secrets, with-holding,
whispering to all but
the one whom holds the vows
and the toddlers

you withdrew your hands
from family and intimacy
to pluck those strings more

so thank you for telling an interviewer
that you WON’T censor me on my blog
(i thought i was to say nothing, my bad)

cuz i did not go anywhere, honey.
and you and i both know it
please stop telling the press it was mutual-

I had two thoughts after I read this poem. The first one was oh snap. The second was, breaking up sucks even more when you have to do it on the internet.

Last week, my longtime boyfriend and I broke up. Along with all the other shitty things that come along with a breakup, like giving back each others’ stuff, we had to delete our “in a relationship” status on Facebook. Although we both removed that from our respective feeds, several people still saw the status change and thus learned about our breakup not from us but from the internet.

How much should we say about our breakups and other major life events online? Tons of people keep blogs, like Tammy Lynn Michaels does, but unlike her most of the people who keep blogs about their lives aren’t famous and don’t have many readers. Until recently, I maintained a personal blog, and it was mostly just pictures and lists and things I wanted to remember, and the only people who read it were people who know me in real life. I know as well as anyone that writing about hard times is a way to heal, but there’s a reason I have a paperbound journal in addition to a web platform. There’s a snippet from the Adrienne Rich poem “North American Time” that seems particularly relevant here:

I am thinking this in a country
where words are stolen out of mouths
as bread is stolen out of mouths
where poets don’t go to jail
for being poets, but for being
dark-skinned, female, poor.
I am writing this in a time
when anything we write
can be used against those we love
where the context is never given
though we try to explain, over and over
For the sake of poetry at least
I need to know these things

Rich is right – and I wish more people in the public eye would take her words to heart. When you write something or say something in an interview, you should not be completely shocked when your words are taken out of context and used against you. I applaud Michaels’ bravery as she deals with her hurt, but I know that I’d rather deal with my own pain offline, where there’s no record of it happening.

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