the toll my crappy divorce has taken on my son, Luca. I do think Luca came into the world wired to have certain issues, but growing up in a spectacularly bad divorce was the equivalent of resting those issues on a nice soft blankie in a petri dish and singing lullabyes to them.
Somehow, the divorce has left my 10-year-old, Franny, relatively unscathed. I would like to take credit for this. I would like to say that my uniquely gifted parenting and my evolved personhood made her the resilient kid that she is, but I don’t think I had anything to do with it. At least not much. She was for the most part a breezy baby, breezy toddler, and now, a breezy tween.
My latest piece for Huffington Post Divorce ran last week. It was cross-posted on the AOL home page so it generated a lot of comments — over 700 at this point. In the post, I owned my shortcomings in my first marriage. I’m not a 12-stepper, but I was inspired by the 12-step idea of making amends to people you have harmed. Ideally, you make an amends either via letter or in person to the harmee. But if doing so would create more damage for any reason, you don’t.
Since my ex is a high-conflict personality, any admission of wrongdoing on my part would fuel more drama. It could also be something he could use in future litigation. Protocol for interacting with high-conflict exes is not to reveal anything that could be taken out of context and used against you. It simply isn’t safe or advisible.
I tried to make this clear in the article. Many people didn’t get the concept, or didn’t carefully read the piece. Some people skewered me: I was passive-aggressive; I lacked humility because I didn’t make an amends in person; I was a woman and all women think they’re perfect.
Some people had a different take. They said the article was refreshingly positive and showed maturity. Some felt that the amends was heartfelt and wished their ex said the same things to them.
Because the responses were so varied, it was almost as if people were reading different articles. Which reminded me of troll expert John Suler’s theory on trolls: they project their own issues, especially ones from unresolved relationships, onto the writer. Sometimes they even envision the writer as someone with whom they’re embroiled in conflict — a mother, sister, ex-wife, a coworker, etc.
Also, one could make the case that readers of the HuffPost Divorce section are not the most well-adjusted lot and are conflict-prone themselves.
Any sort of confessional writing leaves one open to attack. Divorce still carries a stigma and publicly airing one’s dirty divorce laundry invites extreme skewering. I know this, and I try to prepare for being slammed when I read the comments. But reading these latest comments made me feel particularly vile, like I needed to do a full-body loofah to scrape off the metaphorical garbage that the hecklers had thrown at me.
So I decided to gather my bruised psyche off the floor and go in pursuit of some levity. I found it when I scrolled through the comments. Here is a selection: balanced, hostile, bizarre, complete non sequitors, all with unedited spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
1. “Finally, a divorce article on HuffPost where someone talks about their own mistakes instead of someone else’s. That is what a failed relationship is: two people making stupid mistakes, not just a victim and the abuser. Thank you for a very honest telling of your mistakes. Its not as if you are the only one who has ever made them.”
2. “This is one of the most helpful and meaningful posts to appear here in ages. Making peace with your ex-spouse, at least in your heart if nothing else, is the only way to be free of the past and enjoy a happy healthy future, post-divorce. It is impossible to be completely happy otherwise, and any wise person will run in the opposite direction to avoid dating someone who still harbors bitterness toward their former spouse.”
3. “Don’t forget ‘I apologize for not putting out often enough’ … It’s not a stretch to think is where a lot of the other issues likely originated.”
4. “You really sound like an unbelievable bitch… at least you can see where you were wrong, I’ve learned from this article.”
5. “Are you sorry for beggering the guy with alimony and child support? No. We, out here, are not the ones you should be crying to, kiddo, so grow up, meet face to face, and tell him what you claim, to the rest of the world, that you’d like to tell him. Just, please, don’t bother us again.”
6. “She probably doesnt believe any of it but made good money from the publication.”
7. “She was definitely the cause of the split. I can’t prove it based on the article, but I would stake my life on it.”
8. “Didn’t know what true happiness was until I married her and then it was to late until we got divorced and I found it again … I dated her sister and told her after we got divorced that her sister was better in bed than she was … She has never been so mad about anything in her life as that … I dated her Attorney who was handleing her divorce also, but not sleep together until it was final …”
9. “My exwife didn’t find out that I had sex with three of her closests friends till after we were separated.She only found out because one of their cars were in my drive way all night. Then she had the nerve to beat on the door that morning and demand to know why I was having sex with her friends.”
10. “Apology is nothing without reparation. Send money! For me, as a woman who totally accepts my part in creating a flawed marriage but not part in the giving-up on that marriage, I yearn for an apology and I’d be very open to accepting it if my former husband sent $200,000.”
11. “I’d like to tell my ex he completely lived up to being the ass I figured he probably always was.”
12. “Being a single man, I can tell you that it is not economical to remain single. You really take a bath on your Taxes.”
13. “Feminists pride has destroyed so many marriages across the country. It’s responsible for why there are so many single mothers in America.”
14. “Why is it that feminists said they don’t need men because of alternate forms of having children yet they never exploit these avenues? Adoption and insemination are primarily used by lesbians and couples with medical conditions.”
15. “Many females are by nature mentally unstable, inherently deceitful. My dad, a geneticist/ psychiatrist; Wrote a book in the 70’s chemically outlining women’s brains. He discovered females experience chemical changes identical to schizophrenia, 14 days of every month. Prepubescent, to menopause, Bluntly, women are clinically insane half their lives.”
There are so many fabulously outrageous comments from which to choose a favorite, but if pressed, I’d have to go with #15.
Should I Take the HuffPost Heat or Get Out of the Kitchen?
Despite the fact that reading HuffPost comments is akin to being disemboweled, I don’t intend to stop writing for the site. My editor is lovely; being published on HuffPost drives trafffic to my site; being cross-linked to AOL is a great boost to my middle-aged ego.
I’d love to hear other bloggers’ experiences of being lambasted for their opinions. Have you developed a thick-enough hide so the barbs don’t bother you? Do you write mostly non-controversial material so you don’t inspire backlash? Do you think that bloggers should be prepared to take the heat or get out of the blogging kitchen?