Friday, February 1, 2008

The Great Interview Experiment: Miss Britt

Recently, I stumbled onto an interesting and somewhat ambitious idea; a little something called “The Great Interview Experiment.” The proposition, as cooked up by Citizen of the Month, was to sign up, and then agree to interview the person who signed up next and be interviewed by the person before you. The point? CotM didn’t care for the idea that one blogger was inherently better, and therefore more deserving of attention, than another. “Everyone deserves to be interviewed.”

I was intrigued by the idea—a chance to get to know someone (and their writing) that I might have otherwise never even known existed. And with a roll of the electronic dice, I ended up coming to know and interview Miss Britt. You might call her blogging style "personal," but it’s far from being just another diary. Britt dares to speak of the embarrassing, the harrowing, the inspiring and the downright baffling. And she does it with humor, wit, and enough cuss words to make the dirtiest of sailors blush.

So, without further adieu, enjoy now my interview with Miss Britt:

ME: The secondary title to your blog, "I love Jesus, but I drink a little" seems to, as far as I can tell, sum up at least the blogger version of you pretty well. A contradiction, but a happy one. That is, you rattle off enough cuss words to make a sailor blush and crack dirty jokes, but you seem to be a dedicated wife, mother and Catholic. That seems like a tricky balance to maintain. Do you ever run into problems between your blogger persona and your real life? Do people give you shit for it? How do you reconcile the many facets of your personality, both online and real world, and how does blogging maybe fit into all that?

MISS BRITT: Here's the secret: that blogging persona? That's me. I don't have the attention span to carry on a persona in real life and another one online - I have a hard enough time keeping up with all those facets.

People are always surprised when they meet me after having read my blog and a common thing I hear is "wow, you're REALLY like that." People who know me "in the real world" and read my blog are not at all surprised by what they read, and I think more find it humorous that my readers are often surprised.

That being said, some times it is difficult to find balance when your personality seems so fractured. As people, we have a tendency to want to put people in little boxes with labels - and flesh out what we don't know about someone from assumptions we make about what we do. That doesn't work so well with someone who can be unpredictable.

There are times that make me laugh, and I'm proud of myself for being able to embrace the different parts of me. There are other times when it just leaves me feeling like I don't really fit anywhere.

Blogging has given me a place where I can fully be me - and all the things that entails - in one place. I can be funny and sincere and flippant and intelligent, all within the confines of one domain name. Sometimes I think people who read me online actually have a better understanding of who I am than someone who might only know me from a church group or school advisory council. My readers can see all of me.

ME: Between your unpredictable nature and that sort of "see all of me" vulnerability, I'm reminded of the recent post you wrote about not understanding the personal hatred that sometimes comes out, especially between people who put themselves out there in public/online, and between those people and sometimes anonymous (or identified) comment makers. I'm not familiar with any specific instances that your post might be referring to, but I've seen it happen plenty of times elsewhere. How do you deal with that kind of negativity directed at you and your writing? What do you suppose brings it out in people?

MISS BRITT: How do I deal with it? This is the part where I'm supposed to say something very mature and evolved like "you just have to accept that you can't please everyone and let things go."

But, in keeping with the whole "honesty" theme - the first thing I do is get mad. Really, really angry. I shake and I smoke and I cuss and rage about how unfair it is and how freaking mean people are and it's just. not. fair.

Then I get defiant. I'm all "I don't care what you think, I'm too good for you, HA!"

Then I get sad and wonder what is wrong with me and why don't people like me.

And then I call up all of the people who love me to pieces and let THEM tell me that "you just have to accept that you can't please everyone and let things go."

Of course, this makes me feel like a third grader for even still caring what people think. But, surprisingly, I do.

As for what brings it out in people - I've heard all kinds of reasons ranging from jealousy to boredom to their own insecurities. Honestly, I think all of those reasons give me way too much credit. I think the best explanation is probably what my husband told me, which is that I am who I am. It doesn't change. It doesn't bend. And that makes a lot of people really uncomfortable.

Some of us look at differences and things we don't understand and cock our head to the side and say "huh, I don't get that." And some of us start sending nasty emails, I guess.

ME: Actually, I think we'd all be surprised if everyone was more honest about how they dealt with it. I suspect that the vast majority of us have nearly the same progression from defiance to anger to sadness to acceptance. Some folks just seem better at hiding it, or dealing with it. Some just skip the final step all-together. That's how we end up with talk radio hosts.

Anyway, on to more fun topics, yes? So. Prince. I gather you kinda sorta like him. How did this very mild obsession start?

MISS BRITT: *swoon* There are few things in this world I love more than Prince. Maybe my children, but it's hard to say because it is an entirely different kind of tingly sensation when we're talking about Prince.

It's OK. Call it a psychotic obsession. My husband does.

The funny thing is, I've always "liked" Prince, but I didn't really fall for him until I was quite a bit older than you'd think an obsession with Prince would start. I grew up listening to Prince, obviously. But I didn't really "get" the awesomeness of his sexiness until I was well into my twenties.

And then I found out he wasn't touring anymore.

Suddenly he went from just another artist that I liked to something completely unattainable and therefore deeply coveted.

And then? Well, then I got to see him. And HE SWEAT ON ME!! Good Lord I get weak in the knees and fluttery in the chest cavity just thinking about it. He's just... so... God that man loves women. He oozes sexuality. When you see him on stage and he brushes his hair back while he sings, you can practically feel what those hands would feel like on...


Anyway. That's how it started.

ME: I want to (sort of) go back to a comment you made before, about how you sometimes think the people who read you online know you more fully than those people who only know you from church group, etc. There must be overlap, though, right? Friends and family who know you and interact with you outside of the ol' intertubes that also read your blog. Has your candid online writing ever caused any friction there? Or maybe not even friction, but perhaps discomfort? You're (hilariously) frank about very personal things (I'm thinking vagina posts, in particular, but also commenting on your faith, etc.), and I can't help but wonder if that ever has repercussions.

MISS BRITT: There was an old version of my blog, before I had where I naively assumed I would always be anonymous. My mom found that blog, right about the time I went off on a horrific rant about her and her relationships. We didn't speak for several months after the fallout from that - partly because she was pissed about what I'd said, and partly because I was pissed at how she'd reacted.

Oddly enough, my mom reads my blog now and there hasn't since been a problem. I also try to be a little more careful and when I write something that I think might touch a nerve with her, I call or email her ahead of time to make my intentions on that particular post clear.

Other than that, no. There really hasn't been any fallout. My baby brother reads me occasionally, my boss and a lot of my friends, too, but I talk about me more than I talk about anyone else.

ME: Do you look at blogging more as a form of journaling/therapy, or as an outlet for creative writing? Or both? Did you do much writing before you started the blog?

MISS BRITT: I'm not really sure what I look at blogging as. Both, I guess. Because in a sense I definitely write for me - because I've always been a "writer". But whenever I put the words out on paper I try to make an effort to string them together as creatively as possible. Some days I am more focused on the quality of the writing than others, and I can sure tell a difference. I'm not sure if anyone else notices or not.

ME: You moved to Florida this year, and from what I gather (please correct me if I'm wrong), it's just you and your husband and kids down there. You left behind the town and state that you'd lived in for most of your life, yes? What prompted the decision to make the move, and how has the process of moving away gone for you? Ups? Downs? What do you think you've learned about yourself from it all? How quickly did you lose all tolerance for colder weather?

MISS BRITT: Yes, I left behind everything - in a nutshell. Or at least, everything that I knew.

I'd always said I'd "get out". And then I woke up one day, married, two kids, living LITERALLY in the same house I'd lived in when I graduated high school. And I thought "how in the hell did this happen?"

We (meaning my husband and I) started talking more seriously about moving. I wanted to live in a bigger town. I wanted to live some place warm. And then a blogger I know offered me a job. Orlando seemed as good a place as anywhere.

ME: Your children are still very young, so I imagine moving hasn't been terribly traumatic for them (a little strange, though, I'm sure). How do they seem to be adapting? Your son sounds like he's incredibly bright (not to disrespect your daughter), so how has he been dealing with the new surroundings? Also, where do you suppose he gets it from?

MISS BRITT: My son has actually handled the move better than anyone - which is odd considering he put up the biggest fuss before we left. But he's adjusted, made new friends, and doesn't really complain much, except for the odd comment here and there about how great Iowa is because it has snow.

Emma actually has had the hardest time. I think because she can't express - or really grasp - what's wrong. She misses her grandparents. She is obsessed with pictures and much more dependent on Mom and Dad than she used to be. You just kind of get the feeling from her that she's like "crap, something is off here... where's my security...."

And my son? He obviously gets his brilliance from me. My husband says that's not fair because his dad and brother are smart. I suppose he's right and there is a good possibility he contributed genetically, even if it was, as he says, "indirectly".

I know. That poor man.

ME: So you got the job offer from a fellow blogger? How did that come about? That's a pretty interesting example of how blogging affects various peoples' lives in perhaps unexpected ways. Who says everyone you meet online is a weirdo, right?

MISS BRITT: Yep. We were friends before (who knows how THAT happens). And he had heard from someone somewhere apparently that I had marketing experience. He asked me to do a little consulting for him - review some of his marketing pieces and give some feedback.

I tore them to shit. At one point my comment was "I'm not even going to line by line edit this, the whole thing is shit. Start over."

Apparently he's a masochist because soon after that he started joking about having me work for him. At the time it was clearly a joke, seeing as how his company was in Florida and I lived in Iowa. And I told him he couldn't afford me anyway.

Then I got to the point where I was really, really sick of my job. Actually, my boss more than my job. I called him up one day and asked if "that offer for a job was still open" and if he could up the original offer for pay, etc. I may have convinced him he could afford to pay me for if he fired the two worthless employees he had. But I wouldn’t swear to that at Christmas dinner or anything.

I think that discussion took place the beginning of March. I flew down in April to check it out. We moved August 8th.

ME: That's a damn good story. The timing seems to have worked out perfectly!

OK, so to wrap this whole thing up, I'd love to toss you a short list of questions, internet meme style, for the sake of anyone reading the interview who may not know anything about you or your blog.

If you had to pitch your blog to someone who was going to pay you to write it, how would the pitch go? Why should people read it?

MISS BRITT: I've been trying to answer this question myself. And so far all I've come up with is "look how popular reality TV is!"

ME: What are your, say, three favorite posts? Three most popular?

MISS BRITT: The most popular are probably:
It's Long and It's Ugly, Tomorrow I'll Do Funny
Channeling Brit Brit and Jessica and Not In A Good Way
and definitely... this one: The Vagina Dialogues: No Pictures Please (sadly)

My favorites?
The Prince
I Would Have Shaved My Head, Too (I wrote for my brother)
The Watchers (which I'm pretty sure got my first perfect post award, I think)

ME: For you, why is Florida better than Iowa? What does Iowa have that Florida doesn't?

MISS BRITT: Florida is WARM, and I hate cold. I don't know everyone here, which to some extent is nice - reminds me there is more to the world than just my corner of it. It also reminds me that I can do anything, and that my husband and I can survive anything just the two of us.

But Iowa has family, and tradition and EASY security.

ME: What's your least favorite thing about blogging?

MISS BRITT: The hate mail. And the days when nothing comes to mind but bits and pieces of a half assed post.

ME: You win a million dollars, and the same day aliens land on Earth and say they're going to blow it up in three days. What do you do? (I can't resist stealing this question from one of my all-time favorite movies)

MISS BRITT: I've only got three days to spend it? So obviously I have to DO something, huh? I guess I would gather up all of MY family and Jared's family and put them on a plane and we would see as much of the world as we possibly could... together.

No, scratch that. I'd buy a big ass laser beam to blow up the aliens!

ME: Other than your own, what's your favorite blog? Website?

MISS BRITT: -which is so freaking cliche. But she's one of the few people I read that make me say "THIS is why she is so wildly popular, God why can't I do that?!?"

I also love me some Twitter. When the cocksuckingsonofabitching site is working.


Megan said...

Excellent interview. You had a great subject, but you asked awesome questions!

Thank you.

Emily said...

Thanks Finn! She made for a great interview subject, so it was a lot of fun.

The Lost Albatross