Posted by: Kate | July 19, 2009

Anonymity Does Not Equal Wit

(This was actually written on Friday night, but I opted to post yesterday’s bit first. I’ll start, then, with a few responses to yesterday’s [non-anonymous] comments, and then will tack on the initial, knee-jerk blurb I’d written, because it’s there and because I can.)


Several of you suggested that I should either block the anonymous commenter’s IP address, moderate comments, or otherwise remove the possibility of further communication. I have considered this, but that’s just never been my style.

The comments are ignorable, and so another option for me would be to flat-out ignore them. In large measure, I have… but the problem is, I have all sorts of thought-out, deliberate (and wordy!) views about blogging. One of them has to do with the fact that I have chosen to display my thoughts and stories in a public forum, and therefore am implicitly opening myself to the responses of the public. I could write for a newspaper, or in a personal journal, or in a novel, or any number of other outlets, all of which I have done or will try someday, and which allow different avenues for responses. But, for now, my vehicle of choice is a blog, with open, unmoderated comments. Words have value to me; your words have deep value. Even when I disagree with you, even when I’m disinterested or annoyed or confused or what have you, I still value your choice to take the time and post a comment.

Which ties into another point, from yesterday’s post: “The comments say much more about the commenter than they do about you.” It’s true. These particular comments are snide, indirect, and gleefully critical, but their author has opted not to allow any semblance of back-and-forth communication or repartee. Perhaps this indicates that this person is unwilling to engage in an actual exchange of ideas… or perhaps it’s that they’re unable to do so.

This is already too long, so I’ll move on to the original post from here.  But, thank you all for your thoughts. It’s been fun to step away from the details of moving/health/kids/stress/life for a bit and engage in a little technological philosophizing.

So…


The mysterious commenter, referenced in yesterday’s post, is one of Willem’s close relatives, using the clever moniker “r.”

I’ve given a bit of thought to how I wanted to approach this – not a whole lot, mind you, because I have about 400 things higher up on my list and because it’s kind of uninspiring to have a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.  Not that I think you’re stupid, r, just that you are not, apparently, witty, at least in written form.  There just can’t be a battle when the opponent lacks the self-confidence to offer anything more substantial than a quick, snide remark before scurrying away, leaving behind a fake email address.

I’ve given this family just about as much thought as I plan to give it, and until I see some change in behavior patterns, I’ll give myself permission to assume that no changes have occurred. You would understand this, r, seeing as how you’ve given yourself permission to make up your mind about me without bothering with things like fact-checking, thought, or respect.

But I did want to clarify your presence for my other readers, because – regardless of your own personal, familial preferences – I am willing to stand by my own words, communicate with integrity, and accept the consequences of my actions. Almost like a grown-up.

When the comments first showed up, I didn’t bother tracing their origins, because they didn’t claim much of my attention. Then, a few months ago, I had something to say in response, so I clicked “reply.” It was then that I learned that r was not only making some odd choices of words and emphasizing long-past posts, but was also hiding behind a mask of anonymity. Lots of people choose not to post their blog addresses here, and others choose not to post their email addresses; that’s fine by me. But I lose respect – and let’s be clear that, ever since the spectacularly embarrassing behavior displayed at the memorial, there’s not an abundance of respect left to play around with – when it’s clear that someone is trying to claim my attention, but doesn’t have the fortitude to stand by their words.

It took about four seconds’ worth of thought to figure out the identity of the author. I didn’t bother verifying this until June, but was correct out to four decimal places of latitude and longitude.

I opted to ignore the comments for a while, because they weren’t nasty enough to be hurtful, weren’t funny enough to be notable, weren’t relevant enough to be worth the efforts. I’m writing about them now because it’s been a fun intellectual exercise for me, and because their blatant misguided incorrectness has achieved a level of caricature. They’re so oversimplistic as to be laughable, except that they’re not evocative enough to create even a wry smirk.

So, r:  Your attempt at hiding your identity was weak and unsuccessful.  I have software that tracks visits to this site. To my knowledge, all blog authors do. It tells me who visits, from where, for how long, how often, which website you visit upon leaving, and so on.  I’d never bothered to use it until you started gracing me with the shadow of your presence.  You, and your two cohorts with whom you shared your exciting and intrepid “discovery” of my blog, are in a tight competition for the most hits from a single address. There are ways for you to be able to read this without me knowing, you know, but I don’t feel a need to educate you in that area.

Two of you have spent the past ten years treating me with varying degrees of benign neglect, blatant disrespect, emotional attacks and deliberate dishonesty (I’ve only met the third on one or two occasions). It has been stated that I shouldn’t complain, because you’ve all been “nice” to me.  I could debate, and likely with great success, whether even that word applies, but at the very least, I can confidently state that “nice” is not the same is “appropriate,” “respectful,” “accepting,” and so on. I would suggest you spend some time on thesaurus.com, to help parse out the similarities and differences between the concepts.

I find it pitiable that you have allowed my blog to play such a large role in your lives – you really do spend a lot of time here – and yet you have opted to cling to outrage and perceived insults rather than approaching the situation in an effective, empowered manner. Should you change your mind, email is the best way to reach either Willem or myself; we have changed our phone numbers, are about to move to a new address, and have changed Emily’s email address.

You’ve alluded, several times, to your discovery of my blog, as though I must be upset to know you’ve found it. This is fundamentally incorrect. Do you remember, at a family event in New York in the fall of 2004, when there was a group discussion about these strange new thing called “blogs” that you had just learned about? You asked me then, had I ever heard of such a thing, how long had it been going on, why would someone choose to do this? I told you that, in fact, I already had a blog of my own. Your inability to follow through on that information for another five years does not equal an inability on my part to maintain anonymity. I never tried to.

You stated, a few days ago, “Maybe you’ll stop only seeing the worst in people, I never knew you hated everyone until I discovered your blog.”  For one, I don’t look for the worst in people; in fact I work very hard to find redeeming characteristics, or at least explanations for behavior.  If you have chosen to show me only your worst (or – which is even sadder – if what you’ve shown me is not your worst), then that is the only information I can work with.  I tell the stories in a lighthearted manner here, about being assigned to coach while Willem got first-class plane tickets, about several Ladies’ of a Certain Age decisions to wear black to my daytime wedding, about the long, long list of personal slights and snubs and rudeness that I have received from your family. But really, it’s not funny. I tried very hard to be good enough to be accepted into the family, and it took me a long time to realize that I never would be. And that that is not my fault.

For another, I don’t hate everyone. I don’t even hate you – or any of the other members of your family (which is not my family, as it has been so helpfully pointed out) family. Hate suggests a strength of emotion I just don’t have for you. I’m disappointed in you.  I’m sad because Willem and the kids deserve better.  I’m grateful for the geographical distance between us.

You have chosen one prior post on which to fixate, at great length.  Since you choose to ladle out sarcasm with such a heavy hand, I would have expected that you would recognize it in someone else’s words. Obviously not, so pray allow me to clarify three points. First, the reason the holidays have been less tense since H died is because C worked so hard, so consistently, to vilify and alienate him. Those of us who lived here loved him, and we miss him.  Second, I find long-term dishonesty and disrespect to be far more toxic than blatant sarcasm, plus I’m ready and willing to discuss my words and offer explanations or apologies if needed… are you?

And third, I don’t actually believe that D’s son is gay. I think he is a delightful man who has opted against a traditional relationship, and I think he’s smart enough to recognize that a flip comment about his sexuality among a list of other deliberately irreverent statements is not a personal assault. I do still harbor suspicions about Willem’s brother, though for me (because, newsflash! Being gay isn’t such a terrible thing!) that would just be another aspect of a very complicated, broken personality.  It’s not me that views the world through lenses of homophobia, racism and sexism.

Also?  As an across-the-board thing, that little word I kept using in that post? “We?” That was deliberate; Willem and I are prone to actually communicating with each other, and he reads this blog every day.

OK, I think that’s all.  If you’d like to continue this conversation off the blog, I would be delighted, and I’m saying that without a hint of sarcasm.  Openness would be such an enormous change from the way you have chosen to treat me over the years, and I would welcome it with open arms.  I may or may not choose to reply to future snarky comments from you, since it’s my blog and I’ll play how I want to.

Willem and the kids are doing great, by the way.  I am beyond baffled by your choice to remove yourselves from their lives, and I wonder how long you’ll let it continue.  I may well be just as awful as you’ve always thought – which creates interesting perplexities around Willem’s misguided choice of life partner, not to mention the kids’ strengths despite my daily influence – but he, and they, are such amazing, special people. You’ll miss out on so, so much, and the longer you let this spin out, the harder it will be for those relationships to heal.

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Responses

  1. I love you, Kate. You’re one in a very select group of people who could take a situation such as this one and continue to handle it with grace, dignity, and humor.

    Unlike your *cough* phantom commenter. I believe they’re called trolls on the interwebz, no? How apropos.

  2. Kate, I am so impressed and in awe of how thoughtful (in all senses of the word) you are and how well-spoken. You’ve taken an uncomfortable (to say the least) situation, made the best of it, set boundaries to protect yourself and remained open to change if it should arrive. I don’t know anyone who could handle it better.
    And you deserve so much better from the people around you in this situation!

  3. *wild applause*

    You people wonder what a lady is? That entry is the very definition of lady-like.

    I truly admire your ability to handle these kinds of situations. Your kids are learning a lot of important life lessons about how to handle these people – there are, unfortunately, more of them in the world than anyone deserves.

    I am very thankful to call you my friend.

  4. This type of attitude and caliber of writing is why I visit you every day! It still amazes me that someone would take so much time to hide behind anonymity just to leave a nasty or negative comment.

  5. This whole commenting thing is such an unpredictable adventure. After clicking “submit” last night, I went to bed thinking, “Well, that was far too many words… ah, well, I exorcised what I needed to and people can easily enough not read it if it’s too boring.”

    Instead, I awake to the early attempts at my canonization. I thought I’d let you all know that I have a few names in mind, of people who would be more than willing to carrying out the martyrdom piece, when you’re ready.

    (And I’ll send all your checks out this week… how much do I owe you for the testimonials this time?)

    Seriously… thanks.

  6. I agree with everything the previous commentators have said – I really applaud the way you’ve handled this whole situation. D and the rest of the family really have no idea what they’re missing … and, sadly, they probably never will.

    I esp. love that you may or may not choose to respond to future comments – because it’s your blog. FWIW, I think this is 100% the right attitude to take. Don’t spend another second thinking about her, and if you feel like responding in the future … respond. And if not, don’t.

    You rock.

  7. I agree with what everyone else has already said. So I am just going to leave it at that. 😉

  8. Everyone on Willems side of the family absolutely adored Kate and thought she was a sweet and beautiful woman. Then the blog of lies was discovered. One example; Mother-in-law sending Willem first-class plane tickets while seating Kate in coach – never happened. They both received coach tickets. Willem, being over 6 ft tall was able to use what frequent flyer miles he had to upgrade one seat. The lies about us trying to put Grandma C in a nursing home are probably the most hurtful. Anyway, Kate is right about one thing; This is a waste of my time, none of the readers here know me or my family, I don’t know why I careed but I wanted just one of you to know that this blog is a work of fiction as far as what is said about our family.

  9. yeah, what she said! Well done. Very well handled.

  10. Kate! You need to rename your site “The Blog of Lies!” Your masthead can be a too-old-to-be-acting-so-childish woman in sackcloth and ashes, on her knees, eyes and arms raised, in supplicant-fashion, to the heavens. And it should be raining. And her grandkids could be standing in the background, looking hurt and bewildered at why Grandma only loves them when it’s possible to use that love to hurt their parents.

    Definitely past time you told the woman off. On The Blog of Lies.

    -snort-

  11. Kate, living well is the best revenge. Sad that some folks have nothing better to do than what ‘r’ appears to have taken up as a hobby.

    I think you’re all that and a cupcake too.

    Hugs!

  12. You are such a great teacher.

    And the comments make me snort.


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