Here’s an odd disclosure; call it ironic, call it paradoxical, but it certainly isn’t one that usually comes to mind:

On the whole, I get along fairly well with Alien Aunt and Alien Uncle. For all their weirdness and all my public bellyaching, on the whole I have a less strained relationship with either of them than I have with many of my relatives, and they have a much more cordial and functional relationship with me than they have with any of their other relatives. At a time when the other relatives, save two or three, have become openly icy around them, my relationship with both of them remains more or less as good as it has ever been.

This is an odd thing to say about two people whom I refer to as space aliens on a publicly accessible blog. Sure, I’m laughing at them, and in some people’s eyes there’s not a damn thing I can say in my own defense for doing so. To these scolds, I repeat an ancient saying of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius: “Confucius say, man who live in glass house should dress in basement!” At the risk of splitting hairs, I should add that there’s a difference between, on the one hand, calling someone a doofus or a mooch for doing things worthy of such a label and, on the other, questioning someone’s fundamental moral character. This is approximately the difference between “DAH-yum! SHEE-yut! Torresdale AVENUE!” and “Believe it or not he IS my fucking savior! Don’t test him, pussy!”

What prompts me to write this is a brief, but not quite averted, snit that my parents had yesterday afternoon when I mentioned that one of my cousins publishes a blog in which she has described Alien Uncle as “a creepy old man.” The gist of the snit was that blogs are dangerous and that no one has any discretion these days about airing dirty laundry, writing intemperate things that may cause trouble in the future, or generally being an ass on the Internet.

Well, fuck me. My parents love Maureen Dowd and seem to think that there’s nothing inappropriate about her writing; I have to hold my tongue lest I stir up a needless argument by expressing my well-considered opinion that Dowd is divisive, petulant, shrill, petty and not a particularly compelling essayist, and that is a well-considered opinion, if I do say so myself. God knows Maureen writes things more arrogant and categorical than what I just did, and she gets paid for writing them because her angry shtick is the express purpose for which the New York Times gave her a column. Dowd’s allegedly inspired and enlightened screeching is published by the premier national paper of record, the Gray Lady herself, and blogs are responsible for the degradation of public manners in prose? Jay-Zeus.

Never mind. My parents’ insinuation was clear: “We, self-appointed arbiters of public taste and morals that we are, hereby duly declare the public form of journaling known as the blog to be inherently tactless, vulgar, and ill-mannered because your cousin used said medium in a manner that we consider cruel.”

They had a valid point about my cousin saying cruel things about Alien Uncle and exaggerating his weirdness; she can be gossipy. She may well have said cruel things about me out of my earshot, but so be it; as long as they don’t get back to me, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. Shit. Torresdale Avenue. So I’m not exactly being hypocritical.

A point that I didn’t belabor, not because doing so would have been inappropriate or unreasonable but because it would have stirred up a round of domestic yelling that I didn’t relish, but one that I did make briefly while  looking for a how’boutthemEagles-grade segue, was this: there was absolutely no way for a reader to know that my cousin was referring to Alien Uncle without being explicitly told so. Period. There were no identifying personal characteristics or contexts whatsoever. The only reason I learned that this reference was to Alien Uncle, in fact the only reason I learned of the blog at all, was that another relative told me about the blog entry and the subject of the utterly generic “creepy old man” reference during a bitchfest about alien activity. Baseball may be the national pastime, but bitching about alien activity is the family pastime.

A vital point to make here is that my cousin and I have very different anonymity policies on account of our very different target audiences and goals. My cousin’s blog is primarily a personal diary, mainly detailing her travels and published under her own name as a way to keep family and close friends abreast of her life. My cousin’s material is pretty banal, and pretty well Bowdlerized. Mostly: there was a subtle but unmistakable Handlerian flourish to her story about that one time when the bottoms of her swimsuit fell off in front of her girlfriend and that cute lifeguard dude at the lake. Which reminds me of that one time that I sharted on I-5 two miles shy of the Canyonville rest area, and not only was there no way to blame it on liquor, as much as it pained me to admit it I couldn’t even blame it on the obscene piles of fried clams and marionberry cobbler that I’d been eating for three days because it was the fucking stomach flu. But the real gems about that one time when I was in England and I had to take a shit came from a gluteally-blessed Tennessean acquaintance most commonly known on campus as the Ass Man. I just made that up, right? Yes, but of course. Total rubbish.

The thing is, some of y’all have no idea who I am, some of the rest of y’all do but can’t prove my identity because I like me some plausible deniability, and measures have been taken to encrypt all communications herein against interception by family abrasives and intergalactic pilgrims. Of course I don’t want my family reading this bile, but either way it isn’t any of their damn business if they do, and it really isn’t any of their damn business if they let me know that they’ve been snooping. I believe in discretion. I guess. It may not be a first principle in my family (nay, ’tain’t at all), but I have a bit of it. (It isn’t any of the NSA’s damn business to be archiving this blog and figuring out who I am, either, but it’s exquisite to think of this particular screed being part of the sheer volume of extraneous nonsense slowly choking the NSA into a fugue of impotence. And if they’re datamining the crap I post on Facebook, as I understand the creeps are–hee hee hee. If they’re just taking data dumps from Facebook, they can’t even translate Pig Latin. Aispre teh Ordle!)

Bottom line: only a sleuthing creep would be able to match pseudonyms used on this blog to real identities without being told by me, discreetly, “hey, you really ought to check out this crazy shit that my relatives are doing because I wrote all about it on my new blog-thingy. Gimme some page views!” Which I’ve told a few of you because you know how to keep confidences. Well enough, anyhow. Or I don’t care who you tell because y’all just aren’t in communication with people who are likely to berate me for violating sacred decorum when apparently I really ought to take lessons on manners from Maureen Dowd. Because “my pseudonym-clad relative who lives somewhere in Tennessee/Palo Altoish/Eurekamaybe is in the following ways being crass/disingenuous/otherworldly” is a breach of public decency, but  “I’m calling George W. Bush a male chauvinist Republican idiot because what I call him when I’m really candid can’t be published in a family paper” is a thoughtful contribution to the national political discourse. And, needless to say, free-form public chronicling of the weird or the uncouth by amateur writers is the downfall of social grace: constant, duplicitous family gossip is  all right because that’s pretty much the coin of the realm (showing up without it is like riding the Eurostar into Waterloo with a pocketful of Euros on a day when the Pound is up 15% on account of the latest Mediterranean meltdown), but writing about it publicly, no matter how ethically, is just scandalous!

Once again, fuck me.