Here's an exchange between me and a reader:
What an interesting article from an interesting website - taking on psychologically rich and complex material like Project Runway! Chelsea Handler! wow, the depth gives one pause. So, reading your armchair therapist moment about Joyce Maynard was especially powerful in its earnest critique of one mother's self-disclosing style and her daughter having a feelings about it.
Clearly, you have strong feelings. About something... Mad Men plotlines? A line skirts? I do hope you continue your cutting edge journalism. What a talent! Your mother must be so proud!
Thanks for sharing!
I don't know what you've gained by such a personal criticism of me. If you have some more specific issue to discuss, I'd be interested to hear it, but this seems nothing but nasty and unpleasant. I'm sorry if I or the site has offended you, but I don't know what you hope to achieve by being abusive. Again, if you'd really like to address anything, I'd be more than glad.
She didn't respond! So I wrote again:
Happy Halloween. I must confess, I'm surprised not to have heard from you again. Just as I understand that by writing in a public forum I leave myself open to criticism, I think you probably recognize that in writing me as you did you welcomed further dialogue. I thought about your letter a lot today - not because it was thought-provoking (cruelty rarely is) but because it amazed me that you would feel angry enough to send it. When one receives a note such as yours, there's a sort of Kubler-Ross process. At first it's just a punch in the gut, a physical hurt. Then there is sadness, and you'll be glad to know that you made me cry. Then anger and the urge to lash out. People say to ignore emails like yours, the thinking being that they're not worth dignifying. I can't do that; for one thing, I think anyone who takes the time to write me deserves the courtesy of a personal response. And more than that: it's so important that you realize that when you write like that, diminish a person's livelihood, make cracks about their talent, their parents, diminish them in every way you know how - there are consequences. Even if having a bad day, week, or year, you simply don't, even in this age of the internet, have the right to write cruel and personal things to another person, at her personal email address, and think there's not an actual, feeling person on the other end. I just can't wrap my mind around why an obviously intelligent and thoughtful woman would do so. I hope if ever you have that impulse again, you'll remember that there's a real person out there. And sometimes, we're a little crazy.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
I guess we both are standing in wonder. Mainly, I am amazed by your language. Did you know what article I was commenting on? I’m cruel and abusive? Your letters sound like they couldn’t have been written by someone as insensitive as the writer of “Holy underlying tension Batman!” and “an act of veiled aggression”. I wrote to you because I found your article so typical of what I don’t like about the internet media spinning around right now. I , unlike you, didn’t choose to make my grumbling public. You wrote what I found to be a snarky, condescending critique about a writer. Not her work, but her. My reaction is to this type of trashing which seems to be on the rise. Ms. Maynard has her way of writing that some will love and some will hate. Our opinions about that are fair game, as you say, because we choose to put it in the public forum. But you didn’t comment on a writer’s work other than multiple snide references to “oversharing”. You passed judgment on a person, and made your own interpretations about a mother and a daughter. Did you ever consider that they were real people?
You may be shocked that your presumption that I wanted you to cry is not true. Like the subjects of your article, you don’t actually know me. I’m not cruel, and I don’t want to make you cry. I did presume you’d have a thicker skin if you’re wielding the kind of pen you seem very comfortable with on your website. I didn’t notice any concern for your subjects feelings, any concern for consequences to real people you write about publicly. Since you seem game for a dialogue, instead of telling me how sadistic I am, where is your moral compass when you pick apart and read into other people? Not their work, but the people themselves. The only thought I had was that you feel they are fair game for anything you want to say, consequences be damned. You said it best :
It's so important that you realize that when you write like that, diminish a person's livelihood, make cracks about their talent, their parents, diminish them in every way you know how - there are consequences.
I’d like more honesty in these cute little articles, not the bee-bee shots from a high horse. Your letters made clear to me that I inadvertently sent you a dose of what I saw you distributing, mean-spirited commentary. In equal amounts of sincerity, I apologize for offending you.
Here is the so-offensive post.