Thursday, August 04, 2011

Back-Handed Compliments

I used to be a real person with a real name. My parents chose my first name. My last name is the same as my father's. Life was conventional and simple.

Then I started a blog.

I can't remember why I chose the name Tillerman for my blogging pseudonym, or even why I chose to use a pseudonym at all. I guess I had some vague idea that my real identity would remain a secret to my readers, especially to my fellow sailors. How wrong I was.

Of course, when I started writing the blog hardly anybody read it and many more people knew me by real name than as Tillerman. Slowly a few of my sailing friends discovered the blog and even more slowly a few of them worked out that I was also this Tillerman character who was writing that weird blog they had been reading.

Now the process seems to be working in reverse. I think it's probably true by now that there are more people in the sailing world who are familiar with Tillerman's blog than who actually know the real me. So now it's not uncommon for me to be meeting complete strangers who already "know" me through my blog. Such was the case at the last two regattas I attended.

At the Lipton Cup Regatta a few weeks ago, one of the other sailors introduced me to the ringer who eventually won the last race and told him that I was that guy Tillerman who writes the blog. The ringer said he enjoyed the blog, especially the post about Seven Reasons to Hate Laser Sailors, and that he had been surprised to discover that I had actually written that one five years ago. I suppose he was saying that I used to write good stuff on this blog. I guess that was a back-handed compliment?

After sailing at Hyannis on Friday I hung out at the yacht club with some of the other sailors I knew and had a few beers and started dropping hints about wanting to go out for dinner and asking whether anybody had got any idea where to go. Eventually a group of five of us decided to dine together in beautiful downtown Hyannis, two of the group being friends of friends and previously unknown to me. One of the two strangers immediately realized I was the writer of this blog and said he was a regular reader. His much younger companion clearly had no idea what he was talking about. (I have a theory that hardly anybody under 30 reads blogs. They are so 2004. All the cool kids have moved way beyond such old-fashioned stuff as blogs.)

Anyway, at the end of the evening my reader turned to his young friend and said, "You ought to check out his blog. He really is funny on his blog." I think he was trying to say that I'm not really such a boring old fart as I seemed to be at dinner. I guess it was a back-handed compliment?

After the last race on Sunday (did I mention I finished fourth in that race?) I sailed back to the club alongside one of the young guys who was in the top three, one of the best sailors on the local circuit. I knew who he was but he didn't know me. We were chatting away about the regatta and eventually he asked me my name. Then I asked if his Dad was at the regatta (knowing that his father was a reader of this blog.) Then he made the connection. "Are you the Tillerman?" he asked. (Well actually no. I am not the Tillerman, just Tillerman. Sting is Sting, not the Sting.) But I didn't correct him, just answered in the affirmative. "Oh, my Dad is always asking about you," he said. I think he was trying to say that my blog is quite popular with older sailors. I guess it was a back-handed compliment?

So that's me. I used to write good stuff. I'm funnier on the blog than I am in real life. Old people like my blog.

What's your favorite back-handed compliment?


Baydog said...

At least you used to write good stuff.
I have yet to get there, if ever.

And nobody has ever complimented my backhand. It usually hits the net.

Joe said...

If we were cool, we'd all be on tumblr. Then we could hit the reblog button and never have to write anything original.

Baydog, please!

Tillerman said...

Joe, I have no idea what you are talking about. You must be one of the cool kids.

O Docker said...

I have this theory about blog writing.

Those people who are quick-witted enough to always have the perfect comeback in real life generally have no need to write a blog. And they probably don't have the time to write one, anyway.

They're too busy always being in the right place, doing the right things with the right people and saying the right things at the right time to the right people.

I have gone through life always being able to come up with the perfect thing to say about two days after everyone has gone home. I have never been the life of the party and don't even like going to parties too much. No one I know has ever accused me of being smart or quick-witted.

A blog, or the comments page of someone else's blog, gives slow-witted people like me the chance to say the right thing and appear to be smart and quick-witted.

My theory may be supported by the sailors who were surprised that you were the smart, funny guy who writes this blog.

You are probably one of the funniest slow-witted people I know.

Anonymous said...

Im 15 and I read your blog!

bonnie said...

What I would say to the author of the kid's book I just finished reading, if I ran into him and if I had not been raised in the school of "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all":

"I could tell you were thinking of what would make for a really cool summer action-adventure blockbuster movie for the pre-teen set when you wrote it..."

Tillerman said...

O Docker, thank you for the back-handed compliment. As they say, it takes one to know one.

But I do think that being smart and being quick-witted are totally different things.

15 year old reader said...

I love your blog and my favorite part if the " best blogs on thhe planet" column

Tillerman said...

Pleased to hear it 15-year-old reader. It is indeed true that all the blogs on my "best blogs on the planet" list are far better than this one.

By the way, when I said that nobody under 30 reads blogs I was using both irony and hyperbole. I do that a lot on this blog. That's why it is not one of the best blogs on the planet.

15 year old reader said...

Oh sorry I misread. I thought you said no one under 30 reads this blog. Oops. I get it know. Your blog definetly ranks in the top on this planet. If I were to rank podcasts and blogs on the same list, and i love running podcasts, this blog would be number 1.

Baydog said...

What's a podcast?

Tillerman said...

I think it's something to do with sowing pea seeds. It's good to see a youngster interested in gardening.

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