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Notes: Mystery

As I was on a sort of nostalgia rag (see my comments to the Freshness post, for example), I was reminded of a book by Louise Huebner (go ahead, google her), which I read when I was 14. Her book, while having an eccentric title, was about power and control, a topic of keen interest to any adolescent.

Huebner pithily critiqued people who try to give themselves airs through mysterious behavior. She basically called bullshit on this; her remarks stayed with me from that moment on.

She asked, “What has being mysterious to do with [control]?” (And if that’s not a question every teenager wants resolved, I don’t know what is. It was certainly of pressing concern to me.)

At this point, Huebner continued with pure gold, or balm: “I’ve known a lot of dull and stupid women who were mysterious. They had no control and were accomplishing nothing. They were a mystery to themselves, and this is what they projected.” (Source, p.65. Note: it’s a PDF.)

In other words, the labored effort to come across as a woman-of-mystery essentially covers up a lack of power.

(Aside: as an art historian, I can attest that entire “movements” were built around the representation of stupid, powerless women as mysterious femmes fatales. The entire Pre-Raphaelite movement springs to mind, for example. Goo-y Pre-Raphaelitism is still a favored trope of adolescents, or those stuck there. Hm, kitsch and powerlessness: perhaps a rewarding subject for another “notes” excursion?)

Today, I’m intrigued by how Huebner’s comments articulate something salient about blogging and online presence, too. Mystery (wo)men aren’t nearly as interesting as people who are open and who have actual stories to tell. They have the power, and possibly authenticity, the must-have accessory of the virtual age. (I’m still stuck in adolescence, of course, trying to figure it all out…)

And privacy? Well, at the least we have to consider that unless you’re a secret agent working for the CIA or something, mystery is no shield against an invasion of privacy. The open person’s shield of defense is his or her friends. Why? Because they know who you really are and will vouch for you.


  1. Intriguing connections you make in this post, ones that make great sense and articulate what I always felt about having a virtual presence as myself. Then again, Huebner’s observation that the mystery projected by those women was the mystery that they were to themselves, goes a long way to explaining the “popularity” of certain figures in the virtual world.

    Being open about who you are in the virtual world requires, in my opinion, discipline and a lot of work, because it demands paying attention to what and how you communicate with thoughts to the effect your thoughts (as actions) may have. Being mysterious requires mostly the effort to keep the drama going.

    Comment by maria — January 13, 2009 #

  2. “Being mysterious requires mostly the effort to keep the drama going.” Ha, no kidding, Maria – well said! It’s sort of like trying to find the energy to keep up a string of extra-marital affairs. Ack…

    Comment by Yule — January 13, 2009 #

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