I’ve had some nice publishing luck of late. In the last few weeks, a few of my blogs have found their way to the pages of The Huffington Post where the exposure is far broader than the cozy readership here at MoB. It’s not unlike venturing out of the safety of your familiar suburban neighborhood and finding yourself in a huge city with all the excitement and terror that comes with the enormity of it all. On one hand, it is completely thrilling to see something that you have pulled forth from your heart and head being embraced and shared by people who you do not know. But at the same time, whenever you open yourself up to those who don’t know you, there is room for interpretation on your motivation, perspective, and right to exist on this planet.
I’m still not sure I handle the haters correctly.
It’s not like I haven’t had practice. The chances to thicken my skin and coat my soul in Teflon have been readily available over the years. I believe it was suggested that I be arrested when I wrote for Babble about being naked in front of my young sons who at the time were 10 and 8. And when I suggested in The Philadelphia Inquirer that pro-gay parents pull their sons from the boy scouts, I enjoyed a week of hate mail that had me double checking the locks on our doors. Aside from being a little creeped out by some of the more passionate haters, I actually feel like I can take the heat. I don’t wring my hands because folks disagree with me. People have different opinions about these subjects – that’s what makes writing about tough topics interesting. Where I falter is in the responses to my detractors.
Do I or don’t I?
Thus far my protocol has been that I will respond to comments or differing opinions if they are presented respectfully. I have tried (especially with the Boy Scout piece) to respond to everyone in a manner in which I would like to engage. My goal is not to convince them that my opinion is the right one. Rather, I just want them to understand that I am not a horrible person, and my intentions in all that I write are well-placed, even if the sentiment I convey is not shared.
This strategy has worked to varying degrees. What I have learned is that there are some people who are just itching for a fight. And they are going to hate me – without knowing me – because that makes them feel better. Engaging with the haters is a losing battle – and I’ve stopped doing it.
But I found myself in grey territory more than once with this recent spate of publishing. In the first instance, there were many comments on This is 45 that made it clear that the readers were NOTHING like me at 45 – and, for some, NEVER wanted to be. Some interpreted my words as “having one foot already in the grave” and “giving up” on life, which, as those who know me, is rather far from the truth. I had the opportunity to explain myself. I could have re-iterated that 45 feels super liberating because little things are less important. But I didn’t take it. Rather, I spent my energy worrying that I came across as high or narrow minded. Everyone’s 45 is different – I just wrote about mine. Most of you got this; but not all. Still, I wonder if I should have interacted more on this piece. The truth is, I didn’t have the strength to explain myself more than a few times. A high class problem, I know.
But the second piece that went up on HuffPo – The Bubble List – was a different story. The hits on this post were not nearly as large – and all the comments and reactions I saw were positive, except for one. The following two tweets called me out:
My stream of consciousness reaction was something like this:Oh no. She thinks I am privileged and insensitive to parents whose bubble lists are far different than mine. Am I??? No. I know full well that – like all my pieces – this was written from my perspective and meant to resonate with an audience similar to me. But wow. If I couldn’t afford the types of activities that I am suggesting my sons learn how to do, would I be offended? Maybe. Would I find offensive a list that included the need for a child to select the proper polo horse? Probably. Hmm. Should I reply to this tweet? Should I explain to @seelolago that when I was a teenager, we were on food stamps and couldn’t afford to travel and that I am grateful now to be in a position to teach my children about how to do it? Should I encourage her to write her own list and share it with the world because it would be an enlightening thing to do? Why do I feel like such a shit now for posting this piece? Should I apologize for writing it? Should I apologize for being able to afford a checking account?
In the end, I did nothing. I did not respond to @seelolago because I wasn’t sure how she would react to my response – no matter how respectful I might try to be. It could have been a beautiful interaction, with a better understanding on both our parts once finished. But given the tone of the unsolicited tweet, I knew she was angry at me – or Huffington Post – or both. And getting into a public battle on Twitter was not a goal for me last week – or ever. Still, I wonder if I could have made this better.
I notice that some folks on Twitter – especially those who work for higher profile companies – make a point to say that views expressed there are their own. Doing so protects the company – and also the writer. If it wasn’t so distracting, I would put a similar disclaimer on my posts which would read something like this:The views expressed herein are based on the experience and perspective of the writer at a certain point in time. This piece should in no way define who she is, who she was, or who she might be someday. Her words are not meant to judge others – so please don’t judge the writer. Things happen; ideas form in her head and heart – and she writes them down with the best intentions of making people think, smile or relate to one another. She knows she will not connect with everyone; she hopes she will offend no one; and she welcomes different points of view. Remember: There is room for all of us.