“So what do you do?” the woman at the dinner table on my right asked.
“I’m a writer,” I replied, feeling a bit fraudulent. (Is blogging really writing?)
“What do you write about?” she asked, politely curious.
“Weeelll,” I hesitated.
I always hesitate a bit when people ask this question because, as some of you know, my naked butt’s online along with my sex life.
“I write about parenting and body image and marriage and sometimes (clearing of throat) married sex.”
The woman’s eyes opened infinitesimally, in pleased curiosity. But before she could probe further, a voice chimed in from the head of the table.
“For me, it’s a bit TMI.”
I looked down the table of ten people at the source of this comment. It was my neighbor Karen, which utterly surprised me.
She had a dour expression on her face that I’d never seen before. And her voice bristled with anger when she continued, “I mean, you’re our neighbors for Godssakes.”
You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.
The Bowman’s moved in down the street six or seven years ago, and we were thrilled to see them come.
They have two kids roughly our kids’ ages; they’re younger than us, but we seem to share political leanings and child-rearing styles.
I imagined a friendship that would blossom and deepen over the years; the glasses of wine we’d drink over the occasional potluck dinner; our kids disappearing to jump in the trampoline, play ping pong or video games; making memories as they helped each other grow up.
Living in Los Angeles, where I don’t feel comfortable letting my kids roam the streets riding bikes or playing hide-and-seek or kick-the-can the way I did in the suburbs as a child, I was grateful we had a family so close by that our kids could just run back and forth to each other’s homes when they felt like it.
And, at first, that seemed to be the direction our families were heading.
But over the last couple of years we’ve seen less and less and less of our neighbors. We’ve invited them over a few times, but never been invited back.
I wondered if maybe it was because they have a strong religious community and they just didn’t have time for extra social interactions.
Then I wondered if maybe they just didn’t think we were very interesting, (but brushed that aside as, well … how could that be true?)
So, I was really pleased when we ran into them in front of their house, as guests were entering for dinner, and they casually said we should “stop by.”
It never occurred to me that they invited us to be polite, but didn’t really expect us to come.
Not until we walked in and everyone at their dinner party turned to look at us in surprise.
The air was fraught with awkwardness, which was confusing, until Karen’s TMI blurt.
In all of my wonderings about why we never saw our neighbors, it hadn’t occurred to me that our family was radioactive because of me and this blog.
I went into a mini-shame spiral, sitting at that table feeling like a I had a red ‘A’ tattooed on my forehead.
Suddenly, God from the Old Testament of the Bible spoke in my head. He was probably wearing robes, had a beard and wanted to smite me.
Here is what he said:
What is this fixation of yours with sex? How many other people don’t like you because of your stupid, confessional blog?
You aren’t even making any real money with the blog and are losing perfectly good people because of it!
Henry and the girls would have a lot more invitations and friendships if you were a better person and not such a perv.
Old Testament God can be a real little bitch sometimes.</5>
After we made our escape, Henry was a love.
He reassured me that he didn’t mind me sharing some of our marital reality. He reminded me of the married couples who’ve written in to tell me my married sex articles have helped their marriage and their sex lives.
And then he fed me ice cream and rubbed my back (I’m a lucky lady).
So I took stock the next day, and decided to write Karen a conciliatory email, saying I hoped we could be closer friends in real life if she didn’t have to get all of my links to my blog on Facebook.
I offered a friendly unfriend to save our friendship.
I never had a response. Maybe she didn’t get the email? Maybe I should have just walked over and talked to her face-to-face? (But I was still in a bit of a shame spiral)
Maybe she got the email and didn’t want to respond?
Time passed. I wore the mantel of Rejection like a martyr at first. I sought approval and outrage from my friends who still liked me. (I hoped.)
I went through a self-righteous phase where, in my mind, I accused Karen of having an incredibly tight colon.
I ate my Rejection; it tasted like cheese and crackers and Ready-Whip.
I had Writer’s Paralysis, thinking I should just write about serious things, like how ISIS is different from Al Queda.
(They’re nihilistic apocalypse jockeys where Al Queda has true political agendas.)
Then one morning, when I was complaining to my daughter Bridget (who is 10) about the situation; she took my face between her hands, looked me in the eye and said, just like Kanye:
“Mom, there’s always gonna be haters.”
From the mouths of babes. So, this is what I know, four months shy of my 50th birthday.
We cannot abandon the things we love and are passionate about because other people don’t agree or won’t like us.
As long as we do no harm, we must follow our bliss and go where the love is.
I will always be open to friendship with our neighbors (who I don’t think are reading this? And if you are, I did change things up to protect your identities) because, despite the incident, I know they’re wonderful parents and people.
And I hope, should we live nearby our whole lives, there will come a time when things coalesce. In the interim, I’m free for lunch on Mondays.
31 thoughts on “There’s Always Gonna be Haters!”
“Out of the mouths of Babes,” INDEED! Thank God, all of us do not peer at the world out of the same set of contact lenses. Proximity of abode has little to do with Sense or Sensibility. There are plenty of folks in the world who do appreciate you! 🙂
Hello Miss Junebug — you are always my fiercest advocate! xo
I had a neighbor years ago that didn’t like me, I could never figure out why. After she moved another neighbor told me ” She thinks you want her husband.” Seriously!!?? The man looked like a troll and the only thing I ever said to him was the occasional “Hi how ya doing” I read your blog, I like it, I don’t tell you. I would be willing to bet you have a lot more readers than you know. Keep doing what you do and don’t let the neighbors get to you. The food probably sucked anyway…….
Hi HappyToday — well that’s awfully nice of you to say and thanks for letting me know. And btw her husband probably wanted you!
They say for every negative comment you need ten to erase the sting from your mind so here’s my contribution- I love your writing- naked pictures, family stories, married sex and all. In fact, I really really love your naked photography series. It’s really touching and has helped me feel better about myself. If your neighbors, or really anyone, decides not to be your friend because of this blog, they probably wouldn’t have been much fun to talk with anyway. I mean what are you supposed to talk about over drinks if not your sex life and if your butt is cute. Keep doing what you’re doing.
Heather thank you!! I love my naked butt series too. I did meet an amazing neighbor who has written a book called, What’s wrong With Fat? And it’s amazing. When I’m finished I plan to interview her and invite their family over to dinner. xo
Shannon- First of all, sorry that happened to you. Rejection sucks ass, especially when you have put yours out there for all to judge. Kudos to you. The part of me that knows we could be friends would pull you aside and say snide things like, “what has she ever risked? TMI? You know what I do when I encounter TMI? Stop reading!” Second, I feel like I live this scenario ALL THE TIME. This coming from the mother that sent her 11YO son w/ autism to the elementary school Black History Night sing recital in an “I can’t breathe” t-shirt. We live ten miles from Ferguson, MO in the swanky part of town. He wanted to wear it, I swear, which is not to deny I’m also a pinko liberal. It’s not really a surprise that (the “right”) people avoid me, but that they avoid me because I make them stop and think is depressing. When I’m not being provocative I am freakin’ hilarious and quite charming. HA. Well, I aspire at least. Anyway, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and have been remiss in not having commented sooner. Big smooches from St. Louis!
Hey Jennifer thanks for letting me know you’re here! And I appreciate the support. Hmm, now I’m going to have to figure out how to squeeze in a trip to St. Louis to meet you. We fellow provocateurs must stick together!
Well I’ve been stewing about this all morning, so many things to say.
1. Clearly your neighbour is not getting any – and this has turned her into a Jealous Bitch who took pleasure in making you feel ashamed in a group setting.
2. JB is most certainly talking behind your back, in front of her kids (we all do it), who hang out with your kids. Be careful of this situation.
3. Ignoring your email? Really? My email would have gone something like this:
No one is standing over you pointing a dildo at your head forcing you to read my blog. Fuck you for calling me out at a dinner party with people I hardly know.
The Woman Who Is Getting Some
4. Your daughter is awesome. They both will be your best friends in the years to come. Don’t waste your energy on people who do not matter.
5. Keep doing what you’re doing, you and I have coffee together every morning.
Okay you are my rock star. You also made me snort with laughter while drinking my coffee and some of it came out of my nose. I particularly appreciate #3. As yet I have not threatened her with a dildo and forced her to read my blog. However I may have threatened her with nipple clamps. Hmmm. Anyway xoxoxo to you. S
Number 3 is hysterical. Do what makes you happy. There’s an old saying [I had to look it up!] … You can please some of the people some of time, but you can’t please all the people all the time. Your daughter is right. There will always be haters. Live your life!
CypressFive — I think Daily Reader’s on to something. Who’s going to mess with a woman brandishing a dildo?
if you and your family are ever in Chicago, you are welcome at my house for dinner.
Gayle thank you! How is next Friday?
Heather took the words right out of my mouth,i love reading your articles.
I’m 6 years ahead of you and I still don’t handle rejection well. One time a friend who used to be more than a friend — in other words, we had (bad) sex — told me months after we were just friends again that he’d had to block my posts on Facebook for a while, because I wrote too much about vaginas. I said that was fine, but it wouldn’t hurt him to learn a little more about women’s anatomy. A year or so later he started reading again, and would sometimes send me flattering messages about something I wrote. You can never tell. Maybe your neighbor will have a midlife crisis some day and decide she’s interested in sex again. Even if it is YOUR sex.
In any case, if you were my neighbor I’d still love your blog, and I’d invite you for dinner too. You write from your heart, and that’s all the matters. Your neighbor’s problems aren’t your business now. You’ve done as much as can be expected, and it’s a shame she can’t meet you somewhere in that middle-ground of friendship you’ve offered her.
REticula as you know I love your work too! I only wish we lived closer so we could drink red wine and eat peanut brittle in the comfort of two non-judgmental women who have each other’s backs. xoxo S
We just need to make that happen some day. It’s going on my bucket list.
I love your blog so hard, I am chafed and sore. So there.
Lis I want this comment on my headstone. xo
It doesn’t seem like your neighbors are “haters”. Your neighbor said she finds your blog TMI and embarrassing because they know you and Henry, and perhaps reading about his penis-waving in the hall feels cringe-worthy to her. Her view maybe is that sexual intimacy is private. This doesn’t mean she is a religious fanatic, a tight-ass, or a mean hateful sour-puss. It probably means she holds the generally accepted view that people who love each other keep their most private details to themselves— as do the great majority of people.
After living how many years in Southern California, you and your husband still can’t distinguish a polite “let’s do lunch” brush-off from an real invitation? It would seem your neighbor (who long ago stopped extending invitations) was embarrassed that you could see they were having a party and didn’t include you. She may have wanted to respond in a way that would let both of you save face. But instead you show up and, of course, your blog becomes an immediate topic of conversation. Finding this subject uncomfortable, she responded in a quick negative way to cut off the conversation.
Why does your neighbor’s reaction surprise you? A major retailer you wanted to be associated with, Boden, I believe, told you in no uncertain terms they found your blog explicit in a way the company found pornographic. You reported sometime later your blog is blocked on certain public wi-fi networks as having inappropriate or objectionable content.
Actions have consequences. You, of course, are free to write about whatever you want. And if you meet with social rejection, that is the cost. When people find something objectionable their only duty is to be polite and generally respectful— Which it seemed your neighbor tried to be in what was a very embarrassing situation for her.
It is quite possible your blog has had and will have negative consequences for your family. It is the norm to check social media before hiring someone, accepting a college application, or when meeting a new colleague or acquaintance.
It’s easy to identify exactly who the individuals in your family are. The simplest search reveals all their identities and photographs.
How many professional job opportunities, commissions, or assignments has your husband lost because it could be easy to take him for a bit of buffoon in your comic writing. You might not mean this to be the case, but consider a high-powered executive reading about your husband’s urgent penis-waving or his inability to dominate you in the bedroom, as you would like. It makes a lovely gentle man the object of potential ridicule. Would a husband of any of your female friends consent to a comic analysis of their sexual performance in public?
How many mothers will wonder if your daughters have the same promiscuous and self-destructive attitude toward sex that you report you had when you were young? How many of their sons will assume your girls have this attitude in high school and beyond? How often will one of your daughters have to defend against the cruelty of other children directed at them because of your blog?
What will a really good college think of your daughter’s parenting and values based on your continuing discussion of the importance of your personal appearance, sexiness, and appearing young. What is being modeled by your continuous re-hashing of minor celebrity encounters, some going back nearly 20 years?
Your family all love you and will probably say they don’t care what your writing costs them. But how much do you care? Theirs could be a very high price, indeed. And none of you will ever know exactly how high, because it comes in the form of a silent rejection— the offer not made, the whispers and laughter out of earshot behind one’s back, the application denied, the friendship or invitation not extended. Perhaps your neighbor’s honest rejection is a wake-up call. Or not.
You are a smart, talented, and very witty writer. Perhaps you think you don’t have anything to say beyond an endless dissection of your appearance and your sex life.
Your title “The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful” rather seems like a plea for readers to say no no Shannon you ARE beautiful. How many naked pictures and glamorous pin-up shots are necessary to convince someone they are beautiful enough?
No one says you have to write about ISIS, economics, or world politics. But it seems you have much more to offer than the rather limited range of topics usually presented here— Topics which could turn out to be quite costly for those you love. You are very gifted and have written movingly about your relationship with your mother and stepmother. There is much more to you than your appearance, your age, or your sexiness.
You could dismiss this as being from a “hater” but I suspect you know all this in your heart already or you wouldn’t have reported your rejection or reacted in the very distressed manner that you did. Perhaps you wanted readers to say no no Shannon keep it up— and some readers did. But only you can decide if following your bliss, which is of little real economic value to your family, is worth the social cost and the resulting harm to them. Don’t pretend that there is none.
Hello MacGillicuddy — How to respond to this comment? Much of what you say strikes a chord and is astute and, at the same time, much of your prognostications I don’t think will come true.
What I can agree with are your concerns that some people must wonder why my husband allows me to write about our sex lives. And there are times I wonder why he allows it myself. Perhaps I should desist.
But I’ve received several private letters from readers who say my transparency about married sex has helped their marriages. One man in particular told me he was thinking about doing something destructive in his 20+ year marriage when he stumbled upon my blog and began reading my “bedroom” columns. He said the levity there made him realize he’d been taking the problems in his bedroom too seriously and he decided not to do what he’d planned to do. A few weeks later he reported back that things in his marriage had improved drastically. He actually wanted to send me payment in thanks, which I declined, and instead insisted on sending a Starbuck’s gift card, which was incredibly sweet.
What you say is true about the silent rejections. It may well be there are people who are drawing conclusions about me, my husband and maybe even my children that are negative thanks to my blog. There may be costs I’m unaware of. But I also know that many positive things have come to my family thanks to my blog. We were able to go on an African safari we never could have afforded thanks to my blog and had the experience of a lifetime. I’ve had mothers I don’t know well approach me at school telling me they enjoy my blog and actually asking for play dates.
Having said that, when my daughter went to middle school, which is a different set of families from my elementary school, I did tell her it was a good idea not to mention that I write a blog and I’ve predominantly stopped writing about my children in ways that might embarrass them.
Again there may be mothers who’ve read my stories about my twenties and my sexual adventures during that time and decide our home may not be okay for their children, despite the fact I’m a decidedly monogamous, tame, married woman now and have been for 17 years. I just don’t know. But I do know my children have many, many friends who adore them and want to hang out with them and that their social dance card is full.
And as for beauty and aging and all of that. I can see how you’d find enough is enough. I do have issues surrounding attractiveness and beauty, as do many other women, which is why I write about it. Unfortunately the issue with blogging is that some topics are very popular (body image and beauty being one that is on my site) and so we tend to sort of hammer on them too frequently. I also feel obliged to write two to three times a week to keep up traffic and attract new readers. But for frequent readers this can be really annoying.
I guess what I’m saying is that I do agree with some of your points, but not all of them. I walk a fine line between writing what makes me happy and makes me laugh and will hopefully make most of my readers happy, and being respectful of the people I write about and causing no harm. It’s possible I don’t always succeed.
Get back in the kitchen and cook your family some dinner. How dare you write about your life right here on your own blog? You’ve shamed your family and your neighbors and, let’s be honest, the entire state of California long enough. Go on! Get in there and fire up the stove, or you’ll have to take your spanking like the bad wife, mommy, neighbor, and blogger you are. If you think you simply must blog, why not share some recipes? We could all use some good recipes.
Shaking my head with silent rejection here in the Heartland of these great United States of America,
Damn you Reticula when you’re right. I will be posting from now on about goulash in all its many facets; which will include the use of the phallic aubergine. Crap! There I go again! Obviously I need to be pilloried. Off to snort humiliation and defeat.
I kind of expected pot brownies, given you’re a California girl and all, but phallic goulash sounds tasty too. I’m not going to say a word about meatballs though.
I think you are a comedian sometimes lol. I may not relate to everything, but I’m on a different level and maybe some people are, but we don’t have to dislike someone cuz of that. If someone does or say something behind ur back, now that’s a problem. It a free country, we say what we feel, when someone dislikes for something they object, they are confused with judging you as a person, it happened to me last year and the person who requested me, deleted me and after awhile I didn’t care, cuz that person just wanted to use me for a purpose. whatever is not a benefit to you, just won’t like you and won’t care for you in the end, but if God is there for you, no one is to be against you, if you know what I mean…He among you is without sin, let him cast the first stone-New Testament.
Love you Melly!
Oh Jesus. Up until now, I’ve been one of your many “silent” readers – but I really have to get this off my chest now:
I am a German, thirty-something male who’s living in Berlin. I’m the “artistic type” – movies, books and music are practically all my life, and I like to think that I have something of a refined taste when it comes to these things (at least that’s what I keep telling myself, lol.)
I stumbled upon your blog about one month ago (don’t even ask me how…!), and let me tell you: It’s one of the best things that I ever discovered on the World Wide Web.
Being a freewheeling male bachelor who doesn’t even think of ever getting married, I find it endlessly fascinating and entertaining to get a first hand glimpse into the female mind by reading all of your unflinching, unashamed and unabashed reports about your external and internal life, TMI and explicit language included. They make me wonder, they make me gasp, they make me laugh my friggin ass off – but most importantly: Coming from a married woman with kids who doesn’t seem to enjoy superstardom (yet), they are a terrific inspiration to ANYONE of us to fearlessly speak our minds, being our own (wo)man and do what we feel like doing instead of letting ourselves be dragged down by stupid social boundaries and living a dull, restricted, boring-ass life only in order to meet the petty expectations of a bunch of uptight relatives / neighbours / whatever.
Keep on rocking, girl! It’s exactly people like you who make this world a cool place to live in.
Sincerely, your German fan No.1 ;o)
Oh you sweet man. When I began reading your comment I had a sinking dread, thinking you were going to say you’d had enough of my work, then was so surprised you were a supportive reader. Thank you so much for your kind words and letting me know you are rooting me one. It means a lot. xoxo S
Comments are closed.