A couple of weeks ago, a disgruntled reader left a comment on my blog.
Well, I shouldn’t say “reader”, because it was a person who knows me in real life.
The commenter began their comment with the words, “Oh, Tara, Tara…if only your readers knew the truth about you!” Notice the exclamation point. It made me laugh because it inspired images of a pinched-face, pursed-lipped individual hunched over the computer keys, laboriously entering a false email address. I wondered if the commenter ceaselessly monitored the page after they hit “submit”, hoping that I’d be bombarded with comments from shocked, alienated readers who’d felt misled all these years.
Or maybe they just hoped my feelings would be hurt.
I debated posting the comment. I mean, I presumably write what I want (ha!). Isn’t it only fair to post the reactions of my readers even if they’re anonymous and filled with animosity?
But when I presented my internal debate to a trusted friend, she retorted, “Um, you’re not CNN or the New York Times, Tara. You’re not writing a news story and under some sort of ethical obligation to present both sides in an unbiased manner. It’s your blog, and you’re writing from your perspective. In addition, it’s clear the commenter has some erroneous information. Why would you deliberately post factually incorrect information about yourself?”
When she put it like that, I felt kind of stupid for considering it.
So I didn’t post it.
Truthfully, in my five years of blogging, I’ve only received a handful of mean-spirited comments directed toward me personally, all of them from people who know me in real life. All of them related to me via blood or marriage, in fact. Truthfully, my feelings have been hurt, but only when the comments were written by someone whom I respect and admire. The remainder? Well, the “delete” button serves to erase them both from my computer and my mind.
While this comment bothers me, it’s not because my feelings are hurt or because I respect this person in any way, but because it speaks to this person’s fundamental inability to move on.
This commenter is clearly still pouring over each blog post, combing my words for implied meanings, potential insults, and details that contrast their understanding of the situation. Maybe they even print each post and carry it in their pocket, to be brandished during counseling sessions or at the dinner table whenever my name is mentioned in dour tones.
(Some might say, “But Tara, you’re still writing about the divorce. Some would say you haven’t moved on.” My reply would be to acknowledge that they’re correct, to a degree. I’ll stop writing about it when I feel I have closure. It’s that simple. Writing about this divorce isn’t going to go on forever. It’ll inevitably burn itself out, y’all.)
The thing is, I suspect this commenter’s preoccupation with my words is exacerbated by “interested” and “concerned” friends and family members. I suspect there is a bevy of people, who, when my posts land in their in-box, pick up the phone and yammer on about my spite, ill-intent, or questionable morals. I wonder if these concerned people understand that their impassioned defense only hurts. Not me, mind you, but Drew. Seriously, let the dude move on. He’s not going to do that if you keep tattling to him about my blog posts. And for goodness sake; if he’s the one initiating the conversation, be merciful and remain disengaged.
If I were Drew (and clearly I’m not), I’d tell my friends and family to never mention the blog to me again. I’d tell them that that the words of his ex-wife are just that—words–and they have no power to hurt unless one lets them. I’d remind them that the percentage of readers who actually know him in real-life is infinitesimal compared to the number of readers, and those who interact with him on a daily basis know him well enough to decide for themselves whether my viewpoint has merit. And if they read posts written by his ex-wife and withdraw their support, well, shame on them.
If I were him, I’d start setting boundaries around things that can actually be controlled, such as the drama perpetuated by himself, his friends, and his family. I’d tell them that if they continue to perseverate on the words and actions of his ex-wife, then their time with him will be limited.
If no one in his life reads or talks about my blog, then it will cease to exist in his world.
After all, my blog is one blog out of millions—literally millions–on the internet. Neither his first nor last names are used. No identifying details are revealed. The kid’s names are changed and I don’t mention any specifics about where we live, his career, or his family. If you were really invested and fairly savvy on the computer, you could probably track me down pretty easily. But I don’t share his last name, an address, or a phone number. So if my readers don’t already know him, they’ll probably never know him.
To those who oppose this blog…stop reading it. Stop talking about it. Don’t tell people about it, gossip, or tattle. Don’t give me or my words any publicity. If you profess to be his support system, then be supportive. This doesn’t mean poking at raw wounds, judging his reactions, or causing him to worry that something I write will alter your opinion of him.
Maybe he should expect less from me, and more from you.
After all, I’m not obligated to protect his feelings anymore.
But as his support system, you are.
So do it.