That comment — or its functional equivalent — is the kind of thing I delete before it ever shows up on my blog. It’s been a long time since anyone’s left anything even remotely like it here. In fact, I don’t think I’ve used the comments moderation feature — the one that allows you to block comments from people who’ve never visited your blog before — for well over a year. There’s a post here about that last time.
But I wanted to mention today a comment I got a few days ago that was basically a “you suck” sort of missive. It came in response to the post I last wrote about the experience of not writing, and how I think my way through that problem. The comment started off innocuously — a little rambling, not making much sense, really, but then it wound up, sort of like a very small snake, and issued a little dribble of venon, directed at me, and women like me, to basically give up writing because our work is pointless and we should really just take care of our families and, presumably, leave the manly art of writing stories to, well… him.
I mean, honestly, does anyone think I’d stop writing because I’m a woman with a family? Sheesh. A woman who’s gone through labor with twins and then a single, enormous baby, isn’t going to let a little thing like having to drive her kids to school and maybe occasionally do some grocery shopping stop her from the thing she loves most (after the children and the husband, of course.) Still, it made me wonder — why would someone go to the trouble to say something like that to me, someone he doesn’t even know?
To unpack what might motivate someone to be so nasty, I’d begin by saying that anonymity does, in some cases, allow people free reign to express their darkest, bitterest selves, the self that sees anyone who’s even remotely interested in doing the thing they want to do as a competitor to mock and, hopefully, discourage. Anonymity seems to make some people feel as though they have license to ignore ordinary social norms — the ones, for example, that suggest a person like this guy should not give a person he doesn’t know (me) “advice” like that. Obviously, he shouldn’t give it to people he knows either, or he won’t know anyone for very long and he’ll have to stay in his tiny apartment and eat pizza out of a box for the rest of his life, while the people who know how to have real conversations about what it means to write well are all hanging out together somewhere that’s well lit, eating food that’s not cold and doesn’t come in a cardboard box. But that’s his problem, not mine. The thing is, though, this guy wasn’t anonymous — he left his e-mail address and it has a name attached to it.
And that is when I realized exactly what this was about: attention. It surprised me it took so long to understand that, given how often the children in my house do ill-advised things because some kind of attention is better than no attention at all. (It’s called negative attention. My children are growing out of it. Some adults never do.) Anyway, my theory is that this comment was intended to stir up a little controversy so this guy could vent in response to whatever people would naturally say to anyone who seems to feel that women with families shouldn’t waste their time writing.
It’s a little pathetic to see a grown man behave like that. The way for a writer to get attention is to write something interesting and beautiful, something true. The surest way to guarantee that you will have no audience is to be nasty. And that, dear, gentle, good-tempered, beautifully-mannered readers, is all I have to say about this guy, whose just desserts are that his name and his comment won’t ever show up here on bloglily.