balls. part deux. (also: trolls)

I got my first anonymous hater today:

Wow. So artfully self-aggrandizing and self-effacing, yet so ANGRY, defensive. Root emotion: anger = FEAR. What are you so afraid of? Your smart readers must do so only to shake their heads. So sad. I’ll be looking for your caustic, derisive response.

The person who wrote this formspring query had emailed me previously – a much more level-headed criticism – but apparently didn’t like my response. Instead of moving herself on to read other blogs, she felt she’d take me down a peg.

Not to be a downer on formspring, but I thought I would post this to let people know that anonymity can often foster hateful language. Those of us who write online – and attach our own names to our writing – get this sort of thing now and then.

Anecdotally: I’ve always thought the root emotion of anger is hurt, not fear. But I’m open to other opinions!

OK, of course, I know what several of you smarties are thinking: “That doesn’t deserve a response!” And goddamn it, you’re probably right!  And yet, this formspring flame is a timely one for me and is touching on something that’s been on my mind:

In the handful of months since I’ve opened comments on my blog, I have been receiving good comments fostering lively discussion – and, behind the scenes: private picking-at-me emails and, now, my first anonymous hate-mail (um, yay?).

This is truly incredible and I’d like to give you a minute to think about this.

People have been reaching out to talk to me since I’ve been blogging – six years.  Before I opened comments I received DMs, IMs, emails, Facebook responses, snail mail letters, people stopping me in the street and phone calls from across the country.  These communications have often been supportive, grateful, and complimentary;  many asked for my advice or my perspective.  Occasionally these communications directly challenged my assertions or writings (this is a sensitive-New-Age way of saying: people would argue with me).  And always, always these experiences have been worthwhile to engage in.  Every single one.

Things have changed.

Yes, I know who wrote the formspring snark*; if I chose, could email this person and say, “Hey dude, not cool”, or ignore this person or write them and their opinions off, or whatever (I do think a focused post about my ANGRY would be good – although of course, I pretty much happily trot the subject out often enough).  But let me stay on point for now:

I have a lot of readers at this point, a number that has grown over the years. I have many lurkers – that is, people who read and never comment, never email, never let me know they’re there (or who perhaps eventually reveal they’ve been there, for years). I figure it makes sense that eventually I’d get a couple readers who read me and discover they don’t like me, yet – and this is the icky part – keep reading.  I know this could be true, in part because I myself have hate-lurked on a blog, chewing myself up inside about someone whose life, for whatever reason, got on my tits because it was too preachy or too consumerist or too slutty or whatever.  I’m not proud that I did this or that I had these feelings.  I’ve moved on from reading specific publications because I realized it was toxic for me to stay; I was unable to engage the author in a productive, dialogue-inducing way and keep my mind open to who they are; I was both intolerant of and tormented by our differences.  Until I self-corrected I would hate, obsess, chew over why the person or author was wrong or gross or whatever.  I’ve never made a secret out of my own Hater tendencies, because they are a part of me.

What sucks for me is that I don’t publicize my blog as a prescriptive worldview nor a direct communication to specific parties. This is my journal.

So, for instance, my recent personal litany on what people so often say to me about having kids out of school was not a dogmatic denouncement of public or private schools for all parties; the social construction of education is one I am not well-versed in – yet – and I have not been asked to weigh in on by anyone, ever. (If you do wonder what I believe about the vast majority of standard education, and how my life fits into the world at large, I’d direct you to this jaw-droppingly amazing article by Eva Swindler; she’s an actual authority writing professional copy by the way).  I am a human being and you are seeing me in all my humanness; I keep very little private from this journal.

Yeah, I’m aware my thought processes challenge people.  Maybe, reader, you don’t feel particularly challenged, but I want to tell you I get told this all the time; in fact, I’ve often been told this is one of the best things about knowing me (other reasons: my compassion, my cooking, my breasts).  Seriously, in the last week this is what I’ve heard about my writing from about a half dozen parties: “amazing writer”, “on another level”, “hard to follow”, “witty and fast”, “jumps around a lot”, “perfection” (ego-zing! on that last one). Even being handed the shit-sandwich from formspring I know, in theory anyway, that someone who makes character attacks and says I’m “so sad” is, in fact, likely very threatened by what I say, which means hey, maybe I’m saying something worth saying.

Yet, of course, if anyone out there sets me up as Enlightened (or, alternatively, SO SAD AND ANGRY), they are using my very human expression against me to insist I’m not fully human.  This feels like infringement – in both cases.

Because I am not at some “level” of awesome (holy shit, do you even READ here?) or, alternatively, someone who is JUST a sad, frightened, judgy person (duh).  I am just as insecure and brittle and flawed and shitty as the next person.  Writing has been the sole tool I’ve used to know myself.

Oh my god, that reminds me: writing.  When some people say “such-and-such has saved my life”?  This is writing, for me.  And not writing some nicey-pants stuff nor trying-to-say-the-least-(or most!)-offensive-thing. Or like, “I saw my kids playing by the pond today and I realized, this is Life, like seeing a newborn kitten in a sunset” stuff.  I have been trying to say the Me, trying to express myself and I am getting pretty good at it.  Expressing myself.  My best ever writing is when I feel I have really told you who I am, what I think, how I behaved. And I know it’s not always pretty (although sometimes, it’s sublime).  In fact, I love keeping my journal so much I will never stop as long as I’m able.

So getting another I think you should be careful with your language because you are saying things I don’t like email, then a few “I don’t always agree with everything you say” prefaces (from people who asked me to open comments, but have never used the comment function), then “you’re sad, caustic, derisive” – well, it just starts feeling a bit frustrating.  And assy.  Because, you know, fuck off.  This is my diary.  It really is.  I am terribly sorry if at any point I gave the impression this is Life Lessons from Kelly Who-Gives-An-Arse Hogaboom (incidentally: this site is not my diary and would likely be the closest I’d come to claiming “professional” copy, although P.S., I don’t get paid for shit, ever).  Because, you know, it isn’t.

So, yeah, comments.  I know if I close comments things will shift back to where they are more comfortable for me; indeed, my closest loved ones have suggested this.  But the majority of the comments here on my blog have been edifying and delightful.  And I’m not sure I should do things to make myself more comfortable (although yes, I hear you – this really is my space to do whatever I want).

Oh and! Because seriously, everyone tells me I’m smart and intimidating and “rock-solid” and it seems nothing hurts me?  (No seriously, I have been told this three times by three different women this week).  Just to be clear: anonymous hate and snark directed at me, personally?

Yes, it hurts.  Like, upon reading the words on the screen my chest constricted and I felt flushed and Terrible as a Person and like I wanted to Make It Go Away, for several minutes.  I felt Wrong in everything I said and Hated and so pathetic and somehow it’s right I should be hated on, because I have a public blog and write about my life (of course, as a lady I really do “deserve it”), and I have opinions and show my ass and stuff.

Funny thing.  Writing this all out helped.  Huh.

* I’m not sure why people don’t know that first of all they use some of the same phraseology, grammatical errors, figures of speech, and the same tone; secondly, I can “see” people when they are online so thus when a query or comment pops up it isn’t as if I hadn’t seen their recent tweet, or IM status, or whatever; thirdly, that as popular as I am to read it is rare the EXACT ONE SUBJECT gets up the ass of two separate people in the same exact way, so if someone already emailed me then followed up with an anonymous formspring post, well. Yeah.  I know it’s you.

21 thoughts on “balls. part deux. (also: trolls)

  1. i second the take the comments off if you want to – however, that being said, this person needs to get a life and to quote you here “fuck off” – really, there are so many freakin blogs out there – why read yours if it just pisses him/her off so much they can’t act like a decent human being about it

    on a side note – i love that you write ‘real’ – ‘naughty’ words and all – because there aren’t enough ‘real’ people out there!

    so shake it off – have a beer and a cuddle – and move on to happier pastures 🙂

  2. “why read yours if it just pisses him/her off so much they can’t act like a decent human being about it”

    That is just a great point.

    I don’t think this person needs to “fuck off”. I think the idea currently floating around that this is anything other than my JOURNAL needs to “fuck off”. Does that make sense?

    Do you know I am secretly insecure about my bad language? And yet, I am forced to use it again – when it really expresses what I need it to. So. Cock.

    So, Deb. Thanks for your support.

  3. I’m sorry this is going on. I really enjoy the comments since I’m able to see what everyone else is saying, but I would of course support your decision to take them down, and I know I can always get in touch with you other ways.

    I think you’re one brave lady. I totally worry about getting hate just for posting links to things on Facebook or something. Like, I am not even creating any content, just linking towards something I enjoyed, and I worry about such and such FB friend and whether I will offend.

    Examples, from the last couple months of FB links:

    -Link to video with jokes about rape and incest: My neighbors are religious and I want them to like me. Will this offend?

    -Link to Gaycockalypse: Ditto

    -Comment about giant, impossible wishlist I made totaling almost a million dollars: Certain set will look at me as greedy bitch

    -Link to post on relationship between bike activism and feminism: Gosh, maybe this makes me look ANGRY?


    And I didn’t post anything about any food that was not plant-based for at least a year because of one FB friend who I’d met on a vegan message board who I didn’t want to offend.


    So to be writing about your life, yeah that seems scary and I think you have balls to do it and I’m so glad you do.

  4. I have always enjoyed your writing, I think you know this. I am always thoroughly impressed with you and a bit jealous (just between you & me) I was happy to see that you opened comments as it feels more ‘interactive’ and at the same time I respect that this is your space.

    As the little Bug gets closer to ‘school age’ I find your writing on schooling helpful & yes challenging.

    Texas public schools are notoriously bad and at the same time I think he would do well and enjoy pre k and at the same time couldn’t he get that same fulfillment (social interaction etc) taking classes at the Cultural Activities Center and at the same time I would really love to go to college (accepted to the small, local college here for my AA). I think if he were in school for X hours a day that might make that more realistic for out poverty line livin’ one income family (also I have been applying for part time jobs and we’re tightening our metaphorical belts, all of us).

    I am sure you know what I am saying here. I appreciate the perspective, your perspective. I think Bug’s learning style is similar to my own and I think he would get more out of a different learning environment.

  5. yuck.

    i have many a time been impressed (in the stripped-down, not-positive-or-negative sense of the word) by how the internet & resultant possible anonymity can result in feeling like such vitriol, sarcasm, hate, and general rudeness is acceptable/allowable/reasonable. people who (i imagine) would never act so in person feel free to do so online. i remember hearing a few years ago about a lady in southern california who found out she was pregnant only two days before she gave birth. if my memory serves, i think she found out so late because a) she wasn’t trying to have a baby, and b) because she weighed upwards of 400 pounds, or something like that, and just couldn’t tell. but what i really remember was the copious amount of hate mail the woman got from people all over the place saying really terrible things to her. mind boggling to me that people would expend that much energy to make the effort to write such negativity to someone they don’t know at all. just to make the woman’s life worse? make her feel badly? wake her up? who knows. (as if all that negative reinforcement will magically change the situation somehow. in my experience, life doesn’t work that way.)

    in any event, i’m forever grateful for being in a room at some point when a friend of mine said that she just tries to live by the idea that we’re all doing the best we can. i find that when i remember that, it’s much easier for me to live with a greater amount of compassion for my fellow humans. something that i wish your, and anyone’s, anonymous hater would have considered before deciding to spread lameness and bad feeling around the world a little more. because that’s not what we need.

    it would’ve been possible to say things like, ‘gee, kelly, i find that you seem to be rather angry and derisive in your posts. is there something wrong, or something in particular you’re afraid of that you feel you need to hide behind derision etc etc?’. which would be a way to engage you in the conversation instead of negate your experience and write off your existence as a human. (mind you, *i’m* not saying that you’re angry and derisive. i’m only suggesting an alternative for your ‘anonymous’ hater.)

    also, to answer your invitation, i do think that the foundation of anger is fear. also also, i think that in most situations, at least as far as i can think of right now, though i will do more thinking on it as the day progresses, most of the fears boil down to a very primal fear that i/you/one will not be safe, in a very basic way. meaning, that one will not be part of the group, or loved, or taken care of, fed, warm enough. those basic needs of a group-oriented homo sapiens.

    on a related note to the fear thing, did you ever go listen to carruch/carol while you lived in p.t.?

    on a related note to my being here reading you, what i appreciate about reading your thoughts is that you share them and that they provoke interesting and fruitful trains of thought in my own head and life. i find your journaling online to be a brave choice, and that you are engaged in serious self-reflection, committed to self-knowledge. and for that you have my respect.

  6. holy shite. i just read all the related blog posts linked to about kathy sierra (via the kate harding post you linked to) and had no idea at the amazing breadth of horribleness that is out there. i have to go ruminate about this for a while. thanks for being the catalyst in my finding this aspect of the larger reality that i inhabit. (i mean it.)

  7. okay, so i take it back, what i said about anger. or part of it anyway. the part about that most of it boils down to fear. some of it, surely, does, i think. but it could also be hurt/sadness too. but really, what i mean to say and want to say about anger is that i think other feelings are usually behind it, and not just madness. and i don’t mean ‘crazy’.

  8. I hate to be the one to pull out a poem, but I think the last line is fitting and I can’t stop myself. It’s Theodore Roethke’s poem to his sister:

    Oh my sister remember the stars the tears the trains
    The woods in spring the leaves the scented lanes
    Recall the gradual dark the snow’s unscented fall
    The naked fields the cloud’s immaculate folds
    Recount each childhood pleasure: the skies of azure
    The pageantry of wings, the eye’s bright treasure

    Keep faith with present joys, refuse to choose
    Defer the vice of flesh the irrevocable choice
    Cherish the eyes the proud incredible poise
    Walk boldly my sister but do not deign to give
    Remain secure from pain preserve thy hate thy heart.

    The way I see it, your blog doesn’t masquerade as a source of Life Lessons; it doesn’t masquerade as anything. It’s honest and wonderful, an amazing record of your “dailies,” always interesting and challenging, always a good read. So, as for anger, whatever the root, I second Roethke: “preserve thy hate thy heart.”

    (Your hater/reader definitely needs to find another blog to follow, apparently a more lukewarm one. Or they need to go through the excoriating self-examination you described in the most interesting part of this post. I guess that person is entitled to hate too, but an anonymous and personal attack? Really?)

    I do have some idea of what it feels like to be badmouthed anonymously on the Interweb because there is a website that exists precisely so that people can leave anonymous witticisms about people in my profession, who, unlike the commenters, are identified by name. Greeaat. And to do my job with any integrity, I do have to offend some people some of the time. So…I’m sorry this happened to you, because it definitely does hurt–especially when all you’re doing is giving something of yoursel voluntarily to the world. I hope you won’t let this person derail you; your blog is the best I’ve seen. Keep the faith.

  9. Whenever I get icky comments or emails, my face gets hot and I want to cry. So I just delete them and email someone to tell them about it and eventually, I get over it. It’s an awful feeling. Just awful. And I hate it when my commenters argue with EACH OTHER, too. Weird. I hate how sensitive I am when it comes to that. It feels like a personal attack. I don’t quite know why.

    So. I hear ya.

  10. Well… wow.

    You all are definitely weighting my choices to remove comments. Everyone who’s written here has said something personally valuable to me. And, because I’m so talky, I really do want to address everyone’s comments when I can.

    First off, I didn’t realize I had readers who actually appreciated the comments section. Thank you for weighing in. And thank you everyone for commenting.

    One of the reasons I quit Facebook had to do with what you describe; I felt FB was so “crowded” with so many friends that in posting something I might cause someone upset or pain. It’s one thing to post something anti-racist or That’s Gay or feminism (I’m with you on the “Gosh, maybe this makes me look ANGRY?”! Ha!) or whatever to have a laugh or induce civil dialogue. But I had tons of “friends” and I’m sure many of them didn’t know me or want to know me well enough to talk. So in a way FB became like slapping a pro-choice or pro-life bumper sticker on my car; just something that serves to alienate people into different camps where the “issue” is black and white, conservative or liberal, redneck or “progressive”. And I don’t believe in constructing those camps – these days it seems so many do so, to bad effect. My blog is “brave” yes, but I’ve always consoled myself that those who don’t like me and who I am could stop reading. I want to be me, yes, in unadulterated form. But the “me” I am is intense (who really isn’t, though, when you come down to it?) and I don’t want to be so “me” on Facebook any more.

    I’m so glad to see you here. If you ever want to email me and talk about options for Bugs re: school etc. I’d love to talk further. What works for you and your family will necessarily be different than anyone else. I will say one thing that was hard about taking my kids out of school was the fact they really seemed to enjoy it – and plus, growing up, *I* had felt like I enjoyed school too. For a while it occasionally felt like an exercise in me just being non-conformist for the sake of non-conformity. I’ve since come to see how much we benefit for our life together, and my kids being out of school, which makes it easier to not exaggerate the good things we’re missing (a tendency I have in many situations, not just regarding my kids and schooling). Thank you for your comment.

    I’m so glad you read Kate Harding’s article; more people need to read more Kate Harding. She sees things that are happening and that need to be addressed; she writes about them in a way expansive, important, relevant, compassionate. I adore her writings.

    I did know Carol and saw her socially; I never did visit Carruch or the group. As for Anger, thank you for your thoughts. I notice it is the one emotion women (and other groups) are often heavily discouraged from expressing and by extension, feeling in the first place. I admire very much those who use their Anger to find out what is wrong in their life – that’s what it’s there for. Anger building on Anger and spewing onto others, I do not admire nor aspire to this.

    A great book on anger: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames. I highly recommend reading it, for anyone.

    Your comment made me cry. CONGRATULATIONS! I don’t cry easily. I promise it was a stoic cry. Like just the sting of tears and maybe my nostrils flared a bit.

    So – thank you so much for that poem. You are the second person to post a poem here (Carrie being the first). What is stunning is that even though I don’t deliberately seek out poetry, both poems have moved me deeply. Maybe when I’m in a vulnerable state I’m open to such things. I do appreciate this poem, very much.

    Thank you also for your words of support and your compliments on my writings. I am grateful for these words as I hold you and your opinions in high esteem.

    And now I’m wondering what your profession is? And: I’m shocked and saddened to hear there is a site where people snark/hate on those in your profession without the accompanying requirement they stand behind what they say (this reminds me, a bit, of the postings on Regretsy – dissing someone else’s lifework, from the “safe” space on inter-netz anonymity). Ugh. So yeah, I do think we (and it sounds like, K8) understand a bit about how that feels. And it doesn’t feel good.

    My first reaction: I can’t believe anyone would say anything mean to you! You have such a wonderful and vulnerable presence on your site… saying something mean seems like a deliberate exercise in viscousness.

    I also have felt oddly like stepping in the few times my commenters seem to have a disagreement. Or sometimes even if I don’t like what they’re agreeing about! Interesting how when it was just my journal, I knew it was all MY content… now that I have comments, the comments are definitely not MINE, and yet… I still have that impulse. Ew.

    Thank you everyone so far who has commented; I feel fortunate to have my readers, and very fortunate for those who’ve stepped up and said something in this thread and previous threads.

  11. *clap clap clap clap*

    I’m honestly too pressed with other attention-demands at the moment to comment coherently other than to say BRAVA. In this post, and the attacked one referenced, you speak so eloquently for so many of us. <3

  12. can you do the “approved comments” thing? It’s an irritating delay, but at least you don’t have to have creepy stuff up there.
    It takes a real coward to post anonymously in a mean way, especially more than once. Sorry someone sucks ass.

  13. kelly, i love your suggestions for thich nhat hanh. thank you. you referenced one in a post some many months back (since i found your blog journal, i’ve been flipping the pages back to previous dates with irregularity). it was Being Peace, and i immediately found it at the library and read it. loved it so much that i bought it so my husband could read it, and so i could reread it periodically because it sets me so right. love it.
    see? there are all sorts of benefits to being here, reading you. i’m glad to be here and thankful for your being here too.

  14. I love reading your blog & I cannot imagine anyone said anything other then positive to you!
    You are a refreshing & interesting break in my week. We homeschool too! You are a fantastic writer & thanks for putting yourself out there!

  15. Thank you so much for the offer and I will take you up on it. Next September he will be eligible and I believe we will meet the income guidelines for pre K.

    I adored pre k, and kindergarten, liked first well enough but by 2nd I was done, burnt out by the public school system young. I wonder if he will follow that trend. He is very much like his mama.

  16. Kelly Hogaboom! I am here and love reading your blog and loved spending time with you and your family while i was in your midst. You, Ralph, your kids, your lifestyle, your strength, your writing, talent, sewing…have occupied my mind many times since I left Aberdeen.

    Fuck off is right…there is a quote I love….”The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” ––Flaubert

    write on woman! Continue to discover, explore, release through your writing for you, despite what some fuck-off lurker has to say…

    that person is disgusting…really.

  17. @Mary
    I appreciate your kind words and your loyalty. And I’m so happy to see you visiting my blog! I can’t call this person “disgusting” nor support such a claim. I do not know their story and why they wrote this to me, because they are not telling me. I can only feel sad that someone lashed out without allowing me to understand in what way I hurt them. However I have a To Do list in addressing my own Asshole tendencies and I have plenty of items to work on, so that should keep me busy. 🙂

    I don’t support anonymous hate speech but I have compassion for those who hate.

    ”The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” ––Flaubert

    What an amazing quote to share. This is rich with meaning for me. Thank you!

    Thank you, mysterious blog reader.

  18. I’m glad that you find personal meaning in the quote…I sure did…and I see your point on the disgusting comment…point well taken.

    tell the family and geckaboom hello for me!

  19. Hey lady — you know, I hope, how much I love your writing…you do an amazing job of putting into words all of those things that I just think or feel, but have no words for. And you make me laugh, and think, and inspire me to bake bread (or at least think about it — I started the bread project we were emailing about and realized that I am lacking some of the hardware — as in, I don’t happen to own a cookie sheet and haven’t gotten around to getting one yet) and cook.

    I have to say that for purely selfish reasons, I’m stoked that you have opened comments…yes, so much so that I actually wrote out “stoked”. It feels a little more spontaneous and the subjects connect better than a separate email and blog. In fact, I just discovered that comments are open and got all excited and had to comment on something.

    I’m sorry to hear that you are receiving anonymous hater mail; I’ve seen negative stuff posted about me and my work in forums and the feeling is always so icky and so very confusing. Naturally, I get all immature and want to claw the writers’ eyes out and obsess over who they are and so on. It seems like you’ve done a good job of working through the emotions and thinking about the issue at hand.

    Keep on trucking, Kelly. I love your work and love the underbellie site also.

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