My husband, Ryan, loves professional sports. That means most Sundays in the fall and early winter, we watch football.
I’m usually half into the games, glancing up now and then from the latest Real Simple. Football isn’t my thing, but it’s not not my thing either.
After one of the playoff games a couple of seasons ago, when the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to some other team, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger showed up at the post-game press conference wearing a hat. Excuse me, I mean, a FEDORA.
“Oh my god, baby, did you see that?”
Unfortunately, Ryan had not. He was checking his email and missed it.
That’s why I got excited the next day when I saw the comedian Michael Showalter tweet a pic of post-game Ben. He gave it this caption:
“Damn son, you look all kinds of stupid.”
I immediately retweeted it, adding “Yes” to the beginning and an “@” note to Ryan saying this was what I’d been talking about.
Ryan then sent me a direct message in response, something funny and in agreement, but none of that mattered because WTF??!! He couldn’t reply to me in public? Was he trying to keep me a secret? I was no longer excited.
Later on I confronted Ryan about the DM, face-to-face at our apartment, and he didn’t even try to deny it. Yes, he was hiding me from his followers.
He explained quickly, my anger apparent: Twitter is a professional outlet for him, not a personal one. And he wants to keep us separate from his work.
Fair enough. But that can leave me looking all kinds of pathetic. On social media, Ryan’s the rock star, and I’m the groupie.
He only converses with me behind virtual closed doors, where no one will see us. If he does refer to me on Twitter, I’m reduced to the generic “my wife.” He sometimes says nice things about his wife, which is sweet, but @rwelankiwar gets no credit.
Then there’s how I treat Ryan online. After the DM debacle, I no longer tweet him personal messages. I know that makes him uncomfortable and wouldn’t want to “out” him. Instead, I stick to being his super fan. He’s a writer, and when a new book comes out there are reviews and Q&As and such to share. And share I do, with abandon. I’m allowed to tweet about him, just as long as I don’t talk to him.
On my Facebook profile, the first two photos of “me” are photos of Ryan. I’m not in the pictures at all. I’m tagged in them solely as an extension of Ryan, who doesn’t have an FB account. On top of serving as Ryan’s FB conduit for a time I also served as his surrogate: I created his fan page, which you need a personal account to do, giving me the option to be Ryan in wall posts.
When you’re married, your identity inevitably gets wrapped into that of your spouse. But to use Facebook as if you are your husband? That’s different. After a few months of switching back and forth between being me and being Ryan, my sense of self grew weary. I’m Ryan’s biggest fan, but I’m no Single White Female. Now Ryan has my log-in info and can post to his page on his own. And I continue to share his good news on my page, like the groupie wife I am.
Referring to our offline relationship, Ryan’s cousin once told me she thought Ryan and I got along well because we treat each other as equals. I like that idea and hope that it’s true, but in the worlds of Twitter and Facebook, I know that it’s not. And I’ve come to accept that imbalance. It all makes sense when you look at how we got started.
I began using Facebook and Twitter for personal reasons. Occasionally I’ll tweet something related to work, but my stream is mostly “Look at this cute puppy!” or “Check out what funny thing Mindy Kaling said.” On Facebook I connect with family and friends. Because of how I primarily use social media, I sometimes forget that not everyone is on there casually. Many, like Ryan, began using these platforms to cultivate professional brands and, as I mentioned earlier, would rather keep work and life separate. Joking with your wife doesn’t belong there.
So online I’ll carry on as the girl who keeps writing fan letters to a guy who may never respond. I’m really proud of Ryan’s work, and just because he won’t say thank you (or even “hi”) to me publicly, that’s not reason enough to keep mum. He’ll make it up to me IRL. He always does.
Rasika writes about being married and how that makes you act weird. Oh, wait, maybe that’s just her. Follow her on Twitter @rwelankiwar.
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