Jobless Mom Takes Her Act To The Blogosphere

Being unemployed can be a lonely and challenging experience. But blogger Jayne Lytel is proof of an exception. Lytel is founder of GirlOnTheBrink.com, where she blogs under the pseudonym Ann Powers. The online community was recently featured in The Washington Post Magazine, as reported by Ylan Mui. Lytel talks about her transparency and how her "real" life compares to the more fun and eccentric personality of her cyber alter ego.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And next, we open up the pages of the Washington Post Magazine, which we do just about every week, to find interesting stories about the way we live now. This week, the story of a woman who's surviving unemployment by channeling her alter ego.

In real life, Washington, D.C., resident Jayne Lytel is an unemployed mom on the edge. In her blog "Girl on the Brink," she is the devil-may-care Ann Powers, who finds escapism and comedy and a good dose of commentary in the search for a job.

This week's feature was written by Ylan Mui, and Jayne Lytel, aka Ann Powers, joins me now in our Washington studio. Welcome, thank you for coming.

Ms. JAYNE LYTEL (Blogger, GirlOnTheBrink.com): Thanks, Michel. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Now, I understand that you're temping now, but the idea for "Girl on the Brink" was born sometime last winter, when you were having kind of a tough time.

Ms. LYTEL: Right. It was last March, and I started writing in February because I felt very isolated. It was right after the holidays, and I felt depressed, and so I was looking for the poor man's therapy, which is comedy, and started to just do a big mind dump.

MARTIN: You were laid off.

Ms. LYTEL: I was - well, my position was eliminated. I was working in marketing for a nonprofit in Washington, D.C.

MARTIN: And that caused some - a big lifestyle change, if you don't mind my telling it. And I don't think you do because you're kind of laying it out there. Even though you and your husband are no longer together, to sort of save money, you consolidated your household again, and he's - it's kind of an upstairs-downstairs situation.

Ms. LYTEL: Sort of like that. We had agreed to trade off living in the main part of the house after our divorce, which was last November, and then his contract got terminated. So he lost his job, and then three weeks later, I lost my job. So we have two kids, and the only way to kind of make it work was to continue living together.

MARTIN: So blogging has become what, poor man's therapy or poor woman's therapy these days. But how was Ann Powers born? How was this other identity born? Was it initially just for privacy reasons, or is it really, you felt like somebody else?

Ms. LYTEL: A little bit of both. I felt that if I wrote under a pseudonym, then I could write my thoughts more freely.

MARTIN: And Ann is having more fun than you.

Ms. LYTEL: Ann is having a lot more fun than me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LYTEL: If I could be Ann all the time, I don't think I'd be here.

MARTIN: So does Ann actually do the things you want to do, fly off to Rio?

Ms. LYTEL: Well, she flew off to Antigua last April because she just needed a mental health break from living with her ex for so long. So she convinced her girlfriend to go to Antigua Sailing Week, and we went, and we got on some really fancy boats and had a great time.

MARTIN: Wait, wait, was this Ann or you?

Ms. LYTEL: Well, this was Jayne, but when I'm in an area that's unfamiliar to me, I can sort of put on the Ann persona.

MARTIN: Which leads to a question, and I'm not trying to be mean. Some people would say well, what's wrong with, you know, having an alter ego that you put on? A lot of us sort of put on a face when we go into a new situation. But other people might say gee, that's not very helpful, I mean, because at the end of the day, you still have to do you.

Ms. LYTEL: Right, but it helps you get through the day because it's a way to feed your ego because if you're not working for someone, you're not being validated. You're not respected, and this is a way to sort of achieve that feeling, and I don't think there's anything wrong with it.

MARTIN: But you actually did go.

Ms. LYTEL: I actually did go. I figured that I was going to either see a therapist, which would have cost me about $1,000 for five sessions, or I could take about a thousand bucks and fly down there, and we had a blast.

MARTIN: Do you think you would have done that if you hadn't had Ann, your alter ego Ann, to give you the idea for encouragement?

Ms. LYTEL: I don't think I would have.

MARTIN: All right. Well, Jayne - Ann - why don't you read one of your more-commented-upon entries.

Ms. LYTEL: Okay, this one's called "Sex, Drugs and the Internet." I know I'm addicted to the Internet. I took the Internet addiction test to prove the degree to which I can't live without my computer. I scored 61 out of a possible 100, which means I have occasional or frequent problems because of the Internet.

The Internet addiction test doesn't define your problems, but I'd have to wager not having a job is one of them, combined with a lack of income and savings for my retirement. Certainly, the lack of a lover scores big with me. That pretty much leaves the Internet. It doesn't have to love me back, but my Internet connection can't go dark on me or I'd end up at the library.

Do you know what happens to the poor saps who don't own a computer and have to use the library to job-hunt? Their time online is clocked by an activity timer. Once the timer expires, so does their Internet connection.

MARTIN: Yeah, you're packing a lot in there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: You know what was funny, though, about that? What's interesting is that some of the comments you got to the blog were some people wanted to talk about sex, some people wanted to talk about they also had an addiction to the Internet, but other people just wanted to give you job-hunting tips.

Ms. LYTEL: Right.

MARTIN: You said oh, no, see, here's the thing. You need to de-age your resume. You need to take off - only the most recent, you know, job entries. I thought that was so funny - that you've got, like, all these different people connecting with you on a bunch of different levels.

Ms. LYTEL: Oh, yeah, I get a lot of different advice from people, and I appreciate it and I think I've thought about, most of all, their comments. But keep them coming.

MARTIN: Jayne Lytel blogs as Ann Powers at "Girl on the Brink." She joined us in our Washington, D.C., studio. If you want to read the piece that we are talking about, we will have a link at our Web site. Just go to npr.org. Click on programs, and look for TELL ME MORE. (Soundbite of music)

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