From across a reception table at a wedding last week, I promised a stranger I'd send him a Christmas card. The table had been in conversation for half an hour about how we all knew the groom (who was the Jerry to my Elaine circa 2003). We had covered sound systems and mutual aquaintances and who was having the steak vs. chicken. There was toast to the new couple. It wasn't until I got up from my seat, rising above the chest-high centerpiece and thus revealing my massive belly, that our new friend said he realized I was pregnant. Oh, you're expecting? He seemed genuinely surprised. Flanked by my husband and two frilly daughters, we must have been quite a picture for a single guy to take in. But he had talked to us for 30 whole minutes without noticing I'm pregnant? Massively? Martha Helen Stewart on a stick, I LOVE THIS STRANGER! For a moment in time, it seemed I had somehow shed the literal weight of my grief from this complicated, tragic pregnancy. For a moment I was just a regular lady at a wedding.
The truth is, most of my daily experience goes more like this: A stranger runs to catch up to me in a parking lot and blurts, "are there twins in there?" (a complicated answer) or people in check-out lines have to pop their eyeballs back in their heads after asking me if I was due last week. A slurring drunk woman at fundraiser the other day pressed her cheek to my stomach and moaned for a full uncomfortable minute. It was weird, but people mean well. Sometimes people hold doors for me as I waddle past with the circumference of the sun. I thank them.
One thing that nobody has done to me in person? Call me a snake with tits.
I wrote something as part of a timed, topic-assigned Chicago Now writing exercise the other night. The idea was to challenge us writers that a worthy post can be created in 60 minutes. We found out the topic ("give advice!") when pencils went up at 9:00 and we were instructed to hit publish at 10:00. There were some amazing outcomes from my peers. Stream of consciousness thought on a deadline will change what a person reveals, hence the powerful letter a woman wrote to her father telling him to go to hell. Under a bit of pressure, my usual areas of interest (water pollution, crafts, navel gazing) escaped me and I wrote what was on my mind.
Earlier in the day a fellow blogger mentioned the problem of stay-at-home-dads being out of the fray with the mom crowd. I wrote what was meant to be a light-hearted response to stay-at-home-dads, validating their feelings and telling them it wasn't personal. A painful truth, I revealed like a pregnant belly emerging from behind a reception centerpiece, was that stay-at-home-moms don't want to upset their husbands by keeping one-on-one male company. Basically, my husband doesn't bust his ass 13-hours a day so I can chill with another man. That is not a criticism of other families. That is not a criticism of other choices or dads caring for kids or moms working. YOU DO YOU, internet. (I received a lot of validation from parents of all stripes, notably some dads who felt the need to tell me how bangable I am. Just take that in.)
I'm used to people disagreeing with me. I'm even used to internet hate by now. Seriously, I've had years of it. My skin is thick. A man once typed to me that he hoped my daughter got molested. Yesterday, I was called a snake with tits by a stay-at-home-dad and it hit a new nerve. I've never met Rob Black from Liverpool, but I imagine he would never approach me on the street and say that to my face.
My opinions, on the other hand, are available to anyone in person. I'm not willing to take on the internet militia and defend every idea into cyber death (I do have other things to do in my day,) but if you want to have a conversation with me about how I protect and value my marriage, I'm an open book - in person, online or if offered, the opportunity to sky write.
I've had a few days to think about it and I've decided the issue is internet hate and I've had enough. People can rationally discuss ideas and participate in writing exercises and even disagree without saying something so hurtful that a pregnant woman cries herself to sleep. I'm not just a black and white headshot and a few paragraphs of thought, so don't disgustingly insult my entire person.
I know, haterz gon' hate. It's the way of the interwebz. Unhappy people spray grossness into the void because they want other people to be unhappy. The problem is, benign as it ultimately may be, is it stops dialogue. It stops people from expressing an idea that may be worth discussing. It stops people from writing. I end up seeing posts that spend half their time making disclaimers against any crack would-be trolls could find and the end result is a lukewarm opinion that didn't really say anything. We have to be able to just say it.
What I will not stand for anymore is excusing or ignoring vile insults that come to this page. You call me a snake with tits, you will stand behind that. Take notice Rob Black from Liverpool. I hope your family sees what you stand for. Mine sure does.
(Bill Maher has some great things to say about hate as the new pastime.)
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Filed under: Hi. The Internet is mean.