Anonymous was a woman, and so was I — at least until I left my government job. Back then, I was under-paid and under-recognized and writing anonymously for government publications. My job included such stunts as flying in a small airplane with a photographer to annotate design features of a bridge for an industry award, thereby getting extremely nauseated; and inspecting design features of bridges and dams.
That job was the well-balanced blend of physical and cerebral labor that I still demand for my various endeavours In the Home. This technical writer/editor occupation all too soon became a cocoon that began to smother me, and so I left the paid position, for creative as well as personal reasons. I became a bit less anonymous as The Homemaker, an identity with “a cover” that suited me to a T.
When I e-published THE DAWN, NORTHSTAR, and NOCTURNE in September 2012, my very dear friend advised me to get a website going for myself. The only thing that really got going that day was my lively e-mail chain with her. I gave her all sorts of excuses as to why I could not expose myself personally online. She matter-of-factly emailed that if she is interested in dozens of aspects of my life, writing and otherwise, then other people would be too. I can see her shrug now: “I’d like to know . . . Other people would too.”
I could not refute that logic or deny the sensible desire of her curiosity or disregard her canny marketing skills. My very dear friend was a highly-paid “career” woman who more than admired me for my talents, my resolute character, my gutsy drive, my unstoppable sense of humor. She rarely steered me wrong along my path to THE DAWN. Besides, this woman was intensely private and obsessively obsessed with her public image. Here was someone who intentionally lost her Driver’s License so that she could get herself a new one, ergo a better photo! I wanted to disagree with her advice but she and I knew that I couldn’t!
I therefore founded Debra Milligan . com — a domain name that was all mine and not taken was the Sign to — “Do it”! As I went about this momentous step in my life, I did not undergo an anxiety attack. The experience was more of a sustained and steady paranoia that lasted for about six months.
Looking back, I can see how silly the response was, and how unnecessary. And yet, I can easily understand my knee-jerk reaction to guard my privacy. In truth, though, I do not guard my privacy; I zealously protect it with a garrison of genial strategies.
A co-worker of Dear Husband once commented to him that his Wife has a lot of looks. She got that one right! For many years, my now-discarded email address began with johnrobie — the Black Cat in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. The mighty impulse to draw a thick line between public and private lives is, for me, natural and instinctive. The behavior is part-and-parcel of my being a writer and of me being me. And the times in which we live have only fortified my fortress against public knowledge of private self. The public barrages of TMI, with their incessant displays of grotesque and vulgar actions, and the people attached to them, almost like flopping fishes with fishing hooks in their mouths — those sights are turnoffs for me.
I believe that I am not alone in my revulsion to the streaming, digitally screaming spectacles of tasteless, tacky pop tarts; over-the-hill “stars”, and the endless parade of wanna-be’s who wanna be . . . seen and heard, ad nauseam. Anonymity ain’t for them. I enjoy anonymity. It helps me to feel free to create, and it gives to me the space in which I craft and hone my private life. That private life includes my downtime, wherein I recharge the batteries. Downtime does, at times, generate writing, but those intervals between penning fiction and essays are frequently spent with needle and thread and with fabrics that I love, and I do mean love.
My world of sewing is as crucial to my creativity as my world of writing. I have contentedly, as well as excitedly, spent many years learning about the women who were anonymous amidst their labors of love. Those women were not anonymous in my mind: they were stars whose lustre shines brighter today than ever before.
It is those women who spun and wove and sewed and mended the world of womanhood from which I developed my womanhood. And it is from those women of yore that abundantly talented women of present-day seek lessons in domestic arts — and in the art of being a woman. Those modern women are not anonymous, but they are vastly overlooked and even ignored within a tawdry society that grants too much attention to the loudmouths among the female sex who can’t seem to face anonymity in any form.
I applaud the women of a by-gone America. Their work went unpaid, but their work was a labor of love. Those labors of love paved the way for the women of today. Those women were ignored by the media of their era, even as they valiantly forged paths and homes and companies and even quilts from among the spare moments of their lives, from days too busy and nights too short. I celebrate the wondrous artistry they created. Those pieces of art are dreams-come-true in fabrics and threads, visual reveries that inspired me to create my own versions of images in my mind and heart. Their imaginations fed my imagination and for those womanly gifts I am forever thankful.
Those women were, and are, role models for me. The child in me smiles whenever I see all that I was not taught, but learned by myself, from the lessons handed down to me by women of the past. Through that timeless transference of woman-ness, those women shall never be anonymous, and, joyously, neither shall I.