“If you really knew me, you’d know…” (the ultimate conversation starter & story-sparker)


Over dinner with the ever-inquisitive Kate Courageous t’other night, she asked, “So, if I really knew you, what would I know?”

Well hello, mighty icebreaker.

I’ve become obsessed with this question — it’s the ultimate dinner party conversation-starter, a beautiful prompt for story-telling & memoir-writing, and an incredible framework for your ‘about’ page or bio.

I’m game. Let’s play!

If you really knew me, you’d know…


: That I won 2nd place at the Topanga Days apple pie bake-off — at age eleven.
: That I had my first kiss on my 16th birthday. (It lasted till dawn.)
: That if I ever get a tattoo, it will be a lightning bolt. Or two.

: That I dropped out of college because of one life-altering moment with a spinach croissant.
: That I went back to college because of a gut-twisting break-up (the kind that makes you want to flee to another country, 6,511 miles away.)

: That I conduct long, elaborate conversations with my mentor, Oscar Wilde. And that he’s never steered me astray.

: That by 22, I was getting paid to write journalism pieces — and that I once interviewed a Guantanamo Bay detainee, for an article celebrating Amnesty International’s work.
: That I cried during (and after) writing that piece.

: That by 25, I was a published poet, and had penned a one-act play that got accepted into an NYC theater festival.
: That I didn’t direct my play at the festival, ’cause I couldn’t afford the flight.
: That at that moment, I vowed never to let the words “I can’t afford it” stand between me & my desires.

: That if I could play any character on Broadway, it’d be Inspector Javert. (Anti-heroes are hot.)

: That I compulsively take photos of the sky.

: That over the years, I’ve contributed to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Gems Girls, Greenpeace, and the Women’s Earth Alliance. That quiet philanthropy is baked into my bones. But that I also believe it’s possible to give — & give greatly — without spending a dime.

: That for several years of my life, I dressed exclusively in men’s clothing & buzzed my hair down to velvety fuzz.

: That I believe every outfit & every hairstyle is a performance — and that you get to perform, explore, express & become whoever you damn well please, for as long as you like.

: That I dodged an unwanted kiss in Ireland, woke up at dawn to hunt crawfish in Sweden, painted a mural & laid bricks in Spain, reinvented myself in New Zealand, received my first marriage proposal in Australia, waltzed with my father at a grand ball in Russia, and once — just once — flew home on a private jet, with two of the most generous philanthropists in the world. (They had warm croissants on the plane. It was phenomenal.)

: That I’ve never met a warm croissant I didn’t like. And that apparently, croissants mark pivotal moments in my life.

: That just recently, I’ve realized that all I want to do is help people remember who they are, reveal who they’re becoming … and be understood.

The end. For now.


Your turn! “If you really knew me, you’d know…”
(fill in the beautiful blank, in the comments below…)


creativity // inspiration lifescripts // what-ifs non // sequitur


I’m surprised at how much I like that question!! Here’s my response:

Thanks for sharing!

I’m allergic to walnuts and pecans, I get cold easily (my friends out here in the bush always throw an extra log in the fire before I come over to knit) and I do great impersonations of my husband after too much coffee (me after too much coffee; not him).

Adore that you have such a love for croissants Alex…as do I:)

– I slept with (and twirled) a blankey until I was 23.

– I had a one month relationship with a 42 year old feminism professor from Prague before I was married and dreamed of moving to Prague.

– My husband and I do a all natur-allll 3 step facial together once a week.

– I have 5 tattoos and want at least 5 more!


Merry Christmas my sweet!

‘ just because I look like I have it all together doesn’t mean I don’t need encouragement.
‘while holding space for people while they sort themselves, I get ‘hits’ of intuition and it makes me high!
I love company but I require alone time.

~ I don’t eat condiments.
~ I thought about driving off a cliff when I was 20 and spent 2 days in a psych ward
~ met my husband to be 2 weeks later
~ worked for a major airline and used to guide the planes in
~ that I’m a dreamer to the core and that I want to travel the world and will
~ that I’m quiet but not a bitch
~ that I am loyal to the core and hold my friends and family close
…this is fun…need to think more about this and post on my blog.
rock on Alexandra!

I believe I have astral meetings and I really know how to differenciate a regular dream from these espectacular experiences. I was stung by bees so many times that now they are, with lions, my animal-totens. I lived in a convent for seven months – my call is still here, I just live it in my way. In India, I stayed awake one night until 4pm enjoying the silence under the full moon in a balcony surrounded by coconut trees.

This post is brilliant, Alexandra. Thank you!

Deep appreciation for you work,

If you really knew me you’d know that there is no unlived life in me. I have lived a life that feels like 7 lives rolled into one. I’ve jumped out of airplanes, scuba dived with a family of sharks in a ethereal South African kelp forest, been to all 7 continents and been a part of both the extremes of wealth as well as the ugliness of poverty (I lived in a garage for a while). I left a relationship at the height of our love and also let relationships die a slow fiery death. I’ve been abused and controlled as a child and been freer than free as an adult. I’ve known the cold depths of loneliness/ isolation and the sky high warmth of togetherness. Nothing is missing. The first 32 years are like a bizarrely fantastical movie reel in my head. I feel immense joy for every minute of it, even the worst parts. And now I want for nothing. The rest of my life is just icing on the cake. Bring it!!

Ok…I’m back for more;)

– In college they called me E-Swoll…because yeah my butt was kinda big;)
– I was famous for creating amazing mixed cds.
– My husband proposed 10 days after our first date and we got married two months later;0
– I secretly just want to drop everything and move to Italy:)

LOVE this conversation sparker.


If you really knew me you’d know I’m a multipotentialite, HSP (highly sensitive person) and an introvert to boot. At the age of 31, I’m just starting to unconditionally love and accept myself for who I really am. I don’t need to be fixed because I’m not broken. I’ve studied & played piano for several years, acoustic guitar for 2 years, and will be starting violin lessons at the end of January 2013. I dream of performing Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto no. 2 in C minor and Beethoven’s 5th symphony. I’m obsessed with fairy tales and I’m learning how to write one. I’m starting my own copy writing business (also in January). I’ll be getting my black belt in Tae Kwon Do in either 2013/2014. I’m learning how to use nunchucks. ;)

I don’t think I have any secrets… you are my best friend from the moment you meet me, and I tell you anything and everything. But if I think of one, I’ll let you know!!

Hey Gorgeous! If you really knew me, you’d know that I can be amazingly courageous and insanely stupid. I’ve flown an airplane, crashed a hang glider, walked on fire twice (the first time because I was curious and the second time because I really WAS stooopid). It is only by divine grace that I still have all my limbs and most of my brain cells. Thanks for asking.

I hope 2013 brings you an unexpected story that is so compelling and completely awesome, it takes your breath away.. xxoo

This was on my mind to create this week! You are psychic!

1. In 5th grade, I played a female version of the cop from Annie who tries to take her dog away. The hat and shirt were too big for me. Sass developed early on.
2. I learned to play guitar when I was 12 and have yet to get back to it since high school. Four guitars playing Hotel California is a dream to me.
3. I had a Led Zeppelin/”Classic Rock” phase in high school. (Guitar was a part of that). It gets me a lot of dates.
4. I wrote my first sonnet in 9th grade. My English teacher gave me hope that I could succeed with words even though I struggled with reading throughout high school. I excelled in college subsequently.
5. I have a diva playlist of pop female artists’ ballads for tough times
6. I love maroons and purples. Lavender is my favorite color.
7. I’m a scavenger. Need someone to go through archives? I’ll find the golden nuggets.
8. Norah Jones and Kristen Chenoweth are some of my biggest inspirations because they convey powerhouse strength through tiny frames
9. I want to meet Jay Smooth one day
10. My first date dream came true when a guy took me to an art museum. I don’t know how he knew. We bonded over Christopher Marlowe poems. So corny.
11. I was an awesome ballerina. When yoga became popular, I was all over it. I love slow stretches and poses.

Love getting your reads, Alexandra. Have a happy new year!!!

I love love love this.
here goes sister:

I was a baton twirler ( and a damn good one with trophies to prove it ) for 8 years and quit when I got to High school because it wasn’t cool. But if you put a drum stick, a branch or any such thing like that in my hand I will twirl it with skill and deep joy.

I had a motorcycle when I lived in Minneapolis. Thought I was bad ass but I was also very insecure about riding it on the freeway after losing control of the bike near an off ramp. My bad ass days were over right about then. Luckily I didn’t get in an accident.

I had dreadlocks, lived in Portland, Oregon and sipped Chai tea lattes at the cafe around the corner from my house daily.

I don’t have a tattoo. But have wanted one for 25 years and know what it looks like for the most part. There are chairs, a crow, a crown, a spoon, and other symbolism involved. Not convinced I would LOVE having it on my body for the rest of my life. I had 2 nose rings and ended up taking those out, because I could. A tattoo…Cannot remove so easily. Still discussing it with myself.

I love mono printing, etching, linoleum carving and other forms of printmaking and have often thought about getting my MFA in printmaking.

I will choose my sobriety first. Every time. I will leave friendships/ relationships/ situations if I feel it compromises my serenity, sense of well being. I’d rather be true to myself than fit in with a crowd that doesn’t honor who I am or that I feel awkward in. I deeply know that I cannot drink or do any of that business. As it robs me of choice. I prefer choice. Thank you. And I don’t believe there is only one way to remain sober. Not into Dogma.

I was diagnosed with Lupus in 2003 and my first thought was ” It’s time to do a triathlon ” joined Team in Training and completed the triathlon and in the middle of it told myself ” You don’t ever have to do this again ” and I haven’t and won’t.

I used to run track and cross country and would help people that were suffering at the back of the pack even if they were on the opposing team. I wanted to offer them ways to keep going with less suffering. I’m just realizing as I write this that I still do this. It’s part of my life’s work and deep joy. ” KEEP GOING! ” “YOU CAN DO THIS!” ” EMBRACE YOUR GREATNESS! ”

I love collecting vintage looking rubber stamps. I love gold star glitter, I love mala beads, taking art classes, learning, magazines, acting like I’m 5 with my husband ( ie: laughing a lot ).

I dream of having a house along the Italian Coast and living there with my family for a year and going back and forth from US to my little ( ok big ) home along the coast.

I had a cat named ” pretty girl ” for 17 years. She wore an imaginary crown and I would wheel her around on a office chair that had wheels. She lived with me in Minneapolis, Ashland and Portland, San Diego, and Los Angeles. She knew things no one else knew about me. I miss her.

I have a crush on Gwen Stefani. Bono. Robert Downey jr. Ellen. you’ll have to go out for lunch with me to learn who else is on that list.

I was a synchronized swimmer and a competitive roller skater as a kid (not concurrently).
I lived in France for 6 years and still speak fluent French all these years later.
I never believed that ‘in love’ exists–made sure my first husband understood my lack of belief–and found out I was VERY wrong at the age of 48.
I have a very large tattoo that weaves across my lower back, up my side, and around my shoulder.
I spend a great deal of time alone–because it’s the only way to recharge my emotional battery.
My best friend and I met the summer before kindergarden—we’ve been friends for 46 years now….

Dorelle on Dec 23, 2012 Reply

This was my first email from signing onto your list.

I will give it a whirl….

That Christmas in Connecticut is my favorite Christmas movie.
When I was a teenager I had a crush on Gene Kelly and wanted to be a choreographer.
That my hubby is my hero. (Though I think everyone who knows me knows that one.)
That I took World Literature in high school – as an elective and read War and Peace with my best friend for fun. (Whenever we are hungry and have a great meal we still remember “Pierre’s Potato.”
That my favorite quote is by Oliver Wendell Holmes – Once a mind is expanded by a new idea, it never goes back to it’s original dimensions.
That I have a long list of favorite quotes.

Ah, love this one!

You’d know that
: I’m afraid of the dark (and that paired with a very vivid imagination, this results in many, many nights sleeping with the light on)
: My mom died of anorexia. And that her death was a relief to me.
: I’d prefer to spend New Year’s in a yoga studio, than in a bar
: I don’t stay in one place for too long…

Thanks for giving some space to accentuate all the beautiful little stuff that makes us all so swell.

Ooh, this is so interesting!

Just a few things that come to mind:
* I’ve been a spelling champ from grade school onwards…two spelling bee trophies, four medals from regional spelling contests, and best of all – teachers would look to me for spelling help :)
* I was a total band nerd. If I hadn’t fallen in love with design, I’d probably be playing my flute (or piano, or violin) in some orchestra somewhere. And it would’ve taken me an extra year to finish college, because music majors have to take so many more hours of coursework than design majors!
* I love Hawaii! My parents took me there to celebrate my high school graduation, and I’ve been obsessed with all things Hawaiian ever since. Which reminds me – mahalo (thank you) Alexandra for starting this! You rock!

It made me smile when you said this was a good way to start an “about page.” I wrote way, way too much to copy/paste here. So, I invite you to mosey over and read my about page. It’s a whole lot of soul baring — without actually writing some even deeper things – but ends with a very popular segment called “Useless Factoids About Jess.” Still, I find that in answering this question tonight, I know I’ve never really answered it publically (blogged/written it) … You have me thinking.


Sitcoms are my lifeblood.
I believe that adventures can happen anywhere. In a new country. In your hometown. On a screen. In a book. Inside my head.
I think I was a cat in another life.
I sing opera beautifully, but I hate operas.
I’m afraid of the dark because…ghosts.
I don’t yet know what I want because I want it all.

I made a similar list here: http://thestylester.com/lifestyle/25-things-about-me/ with the help of Jenny from http://healthycrush.com.

It is amazing how these lists can literally be the centerpoint of a new story, a new blog post, a new piece of inspiration.

Thanks for sharing little pieces of you!

Erin :: Imagining you & your husband during a 3-step facial together makes me reeeeally happy. Video-montage, please!

Stef :: You were an Air Traffic Controller?! Um, stories please …

Bárbara :: You lived in a CONVENT? I’m deeply curious about that. Did you wear a habit, and everything?

Shannon :: A hang glider accident?! We clearly have a lot of aerial adventurers, in the mix.

Catherine the Great :: I desperately need a video of you twirling batons. Maybe with Max, doing an interpretive dance? :)

Dorelle :: A 46-year friendship! That’s a book waiting to be written …

Maggie :: Gene Kelly is totally crush-able. ;)

Ritu :: Amazing, indeed. We all have soooo many untold stories!

Alexandra Franzen on Dec 24, 2012 Reply

Hi Alexandra!
Yes, I wore the clothes the almost-nuns have to wear there (all the clothes but the veil). :) It was one of the most fun and deep moments of my life. Do you know they play volleyball inside those walls? I was on the last year of college and I had to leave the convent four months before the ending of the year to focus more on my exams. Three weeks before going back to the convent, I met my husband. This year we celebrated eight years of marriage!
Much love!

You would know I was trained as a classical pianist but turned down the opportunity to play with the National Symphony because I hated performing with a passion.

After graduating with an Art History degree, I saw Fra Angelica’s Annunciation at the Prado Museum in Madrid. It was a religious experience even though I am not Christian.

I had the worst PMS for years. Even now that I am post-menopausal, I still get moody. I’ve been struggling again for the last couple of weeks.

I am watching Nightmare Before Christmas with my kids right now.

I didn’t think I could come up with anything when I read your prompt.

Wow..I love your message and I love the responses! How *fun*!

I’m an open book and I wear my heart on my sleeve…so if you really knew me you’d know that I adore being a mother, am a romantic who loves to dance in the moonlight *and* I have the courage, strength, and faith required to live the life of my dreams, re-inventing myself with each chapter as it unfolds…
I might be quiet, but when I speak it is powerful and life changing.

I am one of the only single moms on this coast who raised her children aboard a sailboat for five years and, one day, I will sail around the world…but for now I am triple dog daring myself to take an aerial silk yoga class because I know it will open doors to a life far different in external than the one I am currently leading :)

Oh, and I tend to fall passionately in love with larger than life handsome men who travel…and that love is the current that moves me far beyond what I think I am capable of…

Oooh so many (and I’ve loved reading all of yours :) ).

:: My HS nickname was Muffin which was shortened to Muffy which was shortened to Muff
:: I have an insane love of Aquaman
:: I almost died scoring hash for a friend in Delhi (hey – no judging, lol)
:: I have a tendency to lock my self into or out of odd places when travelling (I have wicked scaling-bathroom-door skills)
:: I’ve always wanted to be a stripper (why hello exhibitionist!)
:: I was the drum majorette in HS and I rocked it!
:: I played Mother Superior in a Sound of Music production
:: I once tried out for Fiddler on the Roof but didn’t get the part
:: And so so many more :).

Cabin cozy is a lifestyle choice I support with my entirety.

I played the french horn from ages 8 to 18 in concert/symphonic band, and was the drum major for our school’s marching band. I wrote my college app essay on the transcendent beauty of synchronized music and mass body movement.

In another dimension, I’m an herbologist with a courtyard keep.

the rest live in my latest blog post, found here: http://houseofowls.com/if-you-really-knew-me-youd-know/

loved this, Franz!

I love this question: “So, if I really knew you, what would I know?” Thanks Alexandra Franzen! http://t.co/hFtqqvfN via @alex_franzen

JOY :: ZOMG! Aerial silk yoga?! Do it. Do it now.

JEN :: It’s never too late to embrace a career in the exciting world of exotic dance!

CASSIE :: My older brother was in a marching band, once. All I remember is that he had to wear very thick socks.

Alexandra Franzen on Dec 31, 2012 Reply

I adore this. I’m putting it on my website!
Here goes…

• I adore travelling and have a mad need to visit every continent. 4 down, 3 to go.
• I always said I would never get married but didn’t hesitate to say yes when asked (right guy, right moment).
• I love my dogs but I adore my cat. LOL cats was clearly made for me.
• I was told by a child in Japan that I had scary eyes. As a teacher, I took that as a compliment.
• Until my parent’s purchased a van when I was 7, I could rarely take a car ride over 20 minutes without puking. And I am now completely immune to Gravol.
• I have read Pride & Prejudice over 20 times. My favourite part of the book is where Darcy proposes and Elizabeth tells him off.
• I was 4 when I watched my grandfather play the Japanese bamboo flute and declared to my mom that I wanted to play the flute too. She promptly enrolled me in piano lessons?!?
• I did learn to play the flute in school and played a solo in front of adjudicators at Music Fest Canada and in front of the castle at DisneyLand.
• I don’t play flute or piano anymore.
• I dance. I teach dance, I take dance classes and I dance in the aisles of grocery stores, which causes my mother to walk away from me shaking her head.
• The saddest day of my life was when my naturopath confirmed that I was lactose intolerant.
• I want to like yoga. I feel like I should like yoga. I just don’t.
• I get tattoos for “milestones” in my life. Moving out of home. Getting my BA. Living in Japan.
• I am a terrible speller.
• I analyze the lighting and depth of field of movies.
• I have an embarrassing tendency to cry in job interviews. And at commercials.

Lovely Miss Alexandra, I loved this. You prompted so much reflection and musing on my part. I took a stab at writing my own version which you (or your lovely readers) can find here: http://buff.ly/Yk9Gan.

Thanks for being your inspirational self.

Big love from Ireland,
Clare x

If you really knew me, you’d know that I won the first library award at my primary school, then got banned from the library for spending too much of my free time there shortly after. I won a creative writing award for a piece on suicide contemplation when I was 13. Jazz and jazz dancing were my first loves. I was a tour leader in Asia for 2 years and that’s where I met my partner, the father of my two children. We are not married with no plans to and very happy. I was raised by a couple of hedonists and I am very happy about that.

i am obsessed with pumpkin flavored anything. i have a crush on Einstein and i adore pink flamingos.

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