"Being my friend puts you in danger of being written about at some point."
As good as the piece is (and it is), this flippant one-liner she probably didn't even put that much thought into is what struck a chord with me. Because this is a moral dilemma I fight on a fairly regular basis. The people I interact with, be they friends, family, co-workers, random acquaintances or perfect strangers, they didn't sign up to be characters on my little purple sitcom. It's not fair for them to feel like they need to be on their guard when they're around me. It is never my intention to do harm by violating anybody's privacy and I don't indulge in gossip. However, I do what I do and I can't write about the idiotic goings-on at somebody else's dinner table while ignoring what's happening at mine. If I scrub everything through a filter before I write about it, the only things I'll ever be able to publish will be the stupid things I do to myself when I'm alone. Believe it or not, there aren't enough of those incidents to keep this thing running. I realize this may cost me on some level when it comes to personal relationships, particularly in regard to how personal those relationships can get. Like I said, it's a battle I continue to fight, but I'm mostly okay with it. That doesn't make conversations like the one I recently had with someone at dinner less awkward...
"Okay, you aren't allowed to write about anything we talk about tonight, all right?"
"Oh, come on."
"Sorry, I'm not going to agree to that."
"You know what I do. I'm a chronicler of life's moments. I provide a unique insight into the human condition."
"You are, by your own description, somebody who writes fart jokes."
"Sometimes that is the human condition."
"I don't feel comfortable with the idea that anything I say or do could end up on the internet for people to laugh at."
"And I don't feel comfortable making a promise that I would just end up breaking if necessary. Wouldn't you rather I be up front about that now instead of lying about it?"
"Those are my choices?"
"Look, It's not just about you. What if I say or do something hilarious?"
"It hasn't happened so far."
"And it might not happen at all! Meanwhile, if something noteworthy does happen and I don't write it, who's to say that the guy at the next table doesn't have a web site and he could do it instead. And he might not be as nice about it as I would be."
"Are you trying to make me paranoid so I'll relax?"
"I'm just being honest about the situation."
"Look, I know everybody here has a camera on their phone and that if I trip and fall, there could be 30 versions of it on YouTube within an hour and there's nothing I can do about it. That's entirely different from me talking openly with you and then hoping you don't turn around and use what I tell you to make fun of me."
"That's not what I do. You know that. You can talk openly with me. I don't write about every single thing that happens around me. I don't put people's stuff out in the street. I know people find that kind of thing entertaining, but I don't, so I don't do it."
"But you could. You're reserving the right to do exactly that."
"Yeah. I could. But I'm not on a mission to gather personal info from people so I can turn it into jokes and make their lives miserable. Come on, you know that."
"Yes, I do. And if I had to bet, I'd say you're going to write about this conversation we're having right now, aren't you?"
"I doubt it."
"I might. (Sigh) Yeah, I probably will.
"I am. I definitely am."