How I Became a Sorority Slut, Vintage 1980
Most of us are gentle creatures in our public lives.
But when some of us go online, all bets are off. A Shadow Self emerges and it ain't gonna be ignored, especially when that Self is fanatical or racist or sociopathically hostile. I don't mean anyone WE know, of course --
-- well, I'm not so sure. You know that sweet 9-to-5 administrative assistant? Who organizes the birthday parties in the office? The one who buys the cake and gets everyone to sign the card? She could very well be that psychotic Neo-Nazi you noticed in the YouTube comments section the other day, the one whose vile spewings made you wonder "Who on earth IS that person?"
Who is that person? It's Sharon from I.T., that's who.
My Shadow Self is a decent fellow, I think. He especially thrives when doing online impersonations -- going to great lengths pretending to be someone else. Persuasively. The art lies in the tossed-off detail, the random specificity, the unveiling of persona -- little by little, mind you, not all at once.
It's a harmless pastime, mostly, except when I took on the task of defending a stranger named Maureen Karr.
By pretending to be her.
I heard about Maureen on a far-out Evangelical discussion board I was exploring one night. "Who on earth ARE these people?" I wondered, drinking in their horrible worldview. I clicked on a long message thread entitled: "POST A SIN."
"If you, or someone you know, has broken one of the Lord’s Commandments this week, you are encouraged to post the nature of the sin and the name of the sinner here, so that we may all join in prayer for their salvation."
I thought it might be a parody at first but the comments were fervent and pouring in fast. (Note: I'm changing the names a smidgen. I could very well get sued, so nasty are some of the posts. Second note: I started the process of writing "(sic)" after every language mistake but I became exhausted.)
"POST A SIN:"
Jennifer Grangel for lying to her mother about not having premarital sex. Thomas Schneiderman, for having premarital sex with Jennifer Grangel. Hilda Grangel for intentionally misleading her friends into thinking that her daughter was deserving of a $2,500 Christian Student college scholarship.
My hairdresser, M,B. who is living in sin with her boyfriend.
T.S., B.W., P.B, and J.H., for continuing to live in the homosexual lifestyle. Kelly Landon for the sin of murder by abortion.
Frank Bryan for taking the Lord’s name in vain. Rebecca Lynne Haines-Crockerton, for lying about getting caught cheating on an algebra exam.
Please pray for my boss, Dave Diaz. He is unfaithful to his wife when we go out of town on business. He hires women from the Internet to come to his hotel room.
Myself, for almost saying a curse word in traffic this morning. Thankfully, I caught myself before I said it. It is a sin nonetheless.
All of the sodomites, abortionists, Liberals, Atheists, Pseudo-Chrisitans who refuse to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior.
Again: who ARE these people, posting so nastily about their friends and neighbors? Am I so enclosed in my highfalutin' New York gay lifestyle that I'm clueless as to the way people behave outside my little bubble?
But I must remind myself to hold on -- for all I know, the person writing the posts could be my Grandma.
Shadow Selves, remember.
For some reason it was a post by a "Nancy Gamrick" that got me fired up:
Nancy Gamrick says: The worst sinner I know is Maureen Karr (class of 80). I went to Duke with her. She allowed herself to be debased by many men. Even blacks. And in the rear. I’ve prayed for her ever since. I don’t know if she wound up on the streets or a successful business woman, but she is a sinner. I only hope she repented.
People like Nancy Gamrick drive me insane. Self-satisfied, smug people who are clearly party-killers -- and racist to boot. And besides, that Maureen Karr sounds like a lot of fun. She resembles many of my friends, actually. Even me sometimes.
So I decided to post as Maureen Karr, in her defense:
Maureen Karr says: Nancy, how dare you post these things about me? I have a “Google Alert” for my name, and lo and behold I got a message saying I had a new Internet entry — so here I am. Well, Nancy, let’s not begin to talk about your self-righteousness which is also, I believe, a sin. And as I recall, the 'black' that you refer to is one that YOU 'coveted' back in the day, and were insanely jealous about! I did not do it with him 'in the rear' as you declare, but I did all sorts of OTHER things with him in a manner I will be happy to describe to you if you ever dare to call me. Which I doubt will happen. You put the 'cow' in 'cowardly.'
I’ll give you, Nancy, exactly 24 hours to not only recant but apologize, or otherwise, I will blow your cover entirely. And you KNOW I have the goods on you, sister. You know I have the goods.
I felt so much better after that.
And then, thrillingly, Nancy replied!
Nancy Gamrick says: Maureen, I am not surprised that you watch your reputation like hawk. If I had done the things you did, I would too! I just want you to know that I am not going to address your denials. Lies are your bread and butter. It is almost nostalgic to read them!
I will say, however, that you were very rude to a lot of us girls. You walked around like your shit didn’t stink! But I knew what a whore you were. AND SO DID A LOT OF OTHER PEOPLE. How many guys in BOG did you blow — and they weren’t even a real frat! In fact, I am rather glad you saw my post. I want you to know that your snottiest hurt my feeling and a lot of other girls who were really great people.
I had hoped that you had repented, but it is clear from you post that you are still a slut in denial. I will pray for you! I mean that sincerely. I have gotten over my hatred of you. But I can’t say that other members of our class have. I doubt they have, but I will do the Christian thing and forgive you.
Now please let us regard this sentence: "I had hoped that you had repented, but it is clear from you post that you are still a slut in denial. I will pray for you! I mean that sincerely."
The more Nancy vents, the more I like Maureen. What a fun-loving minx she must have been, blowing countless guys at "BOG" -- which isn't even a real frat! How dare Nancy call her a snob!
All right, this was the time to go deep.
Maureen Karr says: Oh spare me your Christianity, Nancy. As far as me being 'on the streets or a successful businesswoman' I’ll have you know that I am typing this in the hot tub in the Roman-style bathhouse on the 19-room plantation that I share with my husband, Giorgio, and our three children whose names I won’t mention lest you begin praying for them. Giorgio is in the other room. He's opening a bottle of Tête de Cuvée -- not the '02 vintage, of course, as that warm summer made for mediocre champagne all around. Wonderful weather for those moonlight dips in the Mediterranean, though -- oops! Speaking of dips, I hope I don’t get the laptop wet in this hot tub! Oh well, we can afford to buy another.
My life is filled with friends -- you might see them as celebrities, but in truth they're just people like you and me. Well -- like me, anyway. How sad for you that you’ve had to turn to God in order to justify your nastiness and soothe your moldy old 'hurt feelings.'
I won’t give into my threat to catalog what I know about you, Nancy, because I'm already processing past you, thanks to the guidance of my Shaman and spiritual healer Nit-Tuit Teung.
Most sincerely yours — oh, thank you, Giorgio, honey — come on in, the water’s fine. Sorry, Nancy, what was I saying? Giorgio, don’t — that tickles!
When I hit "Post Comment" on that I could almost hear Nancy's shrieks, shrill and piercing like the Ringwraiths of "The Lord of the Rings."
But Nancy wasn't stripped of ammo. Not by a long shot:
Nancy Gamrick says: Maureen, my goodness, it certainly doesn’t surprise me to hear that you are in a 'hot tub.' Remember when they Delts had the ski party and you had a drunken little 'accident' in the hot tub at the hotel? I only wish I had been there to see it! I admit — I only heard about it the next morning. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still laugh thinking about it.
You think you are taunting me with you post, but it is doing just the opposite. But, as usual, you don’t realize it. You still sound smug and superficial — the two things that made everyone I knew at Duke hate you. I guess you are still hated by the people who come in contact with you. And, as usual, you are completely oblivious!
You can sneer all you like — it was what you were best at — but I’m laughing, too. And my laughs are genuine, not defensive shields because someone has seen through my shallowness!
Hope you finally find some real happiness.
What I find most frustrating about Nancy is the way she says something vile, only to follow it by a comment like "Hope you finally find some real happiness."
Maybe you have changed. The Maureen I knew was all about marrying rich. Remember how you went after Robert when you heard about Food Lion? And now, here you are, happily married to a Mexican. I wish you both (and your children, who I am sure are beautiful) all the blessing that life can provide.
I must give Nancy a leg up for the honeyed "happily married to a Mexican" line.
At this point, the storyteller in me was getting tired of the back-and-forth bitchery. We were entering Act Three, and the audience needed a good shaking-up -- not merely a shift in tactic or circumstance, but a re-evaluation of the given reality.
Maureen Karr writes: Well, I’ve had half a bottle of wine, so forgive me whatever Lord there is for what I’m about to post.
I am a liar. I am not married to a man named Giorgio. I do not have a happy life. Period. It’s a miserable existence. My excessive drinking has, at least I believe it has brought on diabetes and I suffer every day for it. I have no children, and am now past the point when I will ever be able to have biological children at all. I do love children. Whatever you may remember about me, Nancy, there’s that fact.
I am twice divorced and very alone. I have a job in real estate, but I’m not even an agent — I just do the clerical work. I get by, enough to get a drink with my girlfriends every now and then, but that’s about it. I have nothing to look forward to, no savings, and I am in terror about getting any older.
Nancy, I hate to think that this will bring you satisfaction, but I know it will. And this makes me wonder about you and the God you worship. You strike me as even more selfish than I was as a younger person. You may work serving God and working in a Christian school, but your pettiness makes me feel terrible. It makes me feel terrible because I know that my suffering will bring you pleasure. I shouldn’t be writing this because I know it will give you a chance to pretend to be kind and forgiving, but all that you will be doing is making yourself feel superior. So spare me.
I don’t know what to say to people like you. That’s why I pretended like I was happy. But the fact of life is, I’m not. And if I die and go to the Pearly Gates, that’s what I’ll do my best to say — I was honest about my life considering what I was given. I hope, Nancy, that you will be able to do the same.
That’s all. I’m not interested in your reply. I pray to whatever god there is to give me the strength to not even check. Maureen.
End of play.
I don't know about anyone else, but I felt that was pretty devastating!
But that dad-blamed Nancy:
Nancy Gamrick writes: Maureen. I was tearing up reading your post. I am so glad you have chosen to be honest. It is the only way to approach Him for forgiveness.
How hurtful that you think I would take pleasure in your horrible, sad life. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m praying for you. And just got of the phone with your Kappa sister Margaret Mabood, telling her of your unhappiness, and she has promised to keep you in her prayers, too. No matter what you have done to people in the past, there are folks who are wishing you well. I know. I am one of them.
In His Name, Nancy.
First response: Oops! I didn't consider that Nancy might still be a degree of separation away from Maureen. Let's hope Margaret Mabood keeps her trap shut! Or maybe -- maybe it's better if Nancy realizes she was conned. What an evil woman, rushing to the phone in order to crow about my rendition of a crushed, joyless Maureen. I'd come to feel quite bad for poor Mo. They used to call her "Mo." No one has called her "Mo" in years.
I just made that up.
I felt trumped by Nancy's last post. There's a streak of Evangelical smugness and self-satisfaction that is impossible to penetrate because those kinds of "Christians" are forever a step closer to God than you are. And because that's their trump card, their Death Star, they'll defend it at any cost.
I wanted TEARS from Nancy Gamrick! Instead, I think I made her day.
But Nancy seems she just might be, well, a suffering person (I will not add "I'll pray for her"). And reflecting further: Nancy was posting under her real name, while I was a well-adult male portraying an aging ex-sorority girl from Duke University.
But then again, who's to say, in this Internet world of Shadow Sides unearthed, that Nancy wasn't, say, some 26-year-old Filipino male, in reality? Or somebody else? Someone -- someone close to me, say?
Hold on a sec. I'll be right back.
Grandma? Hey Grandma, is that you typing in the other room?
(The sound of typing stops. A long moment passes. Fade out.)