The title of this post is the title of a book by Steve Almond — a collection of letters from people who hate him, and his responses. I heard Steve read from the book in Bug Sur last summer. Not to sound like an ass, but I have an entire folder filled with emails I’ve received about my writing and books—letters from people who like me.
On Saturday night, I worked catering a wedding in upstate New York. It was really fun. When we finished, we ate ate BBQ chicken and cod and salad and wedding cake. Then I drove home, feet aching, where I had a glass of Vino Verde, listened to music, and got into bed. I was scrolling the computer, and saw my website had a comment under ABOUT ME section.
I will post half of here, but save the opening–where she calls me ‘self-absorbed’ and ‘pathetic‘ and asks me, “Do you really want people to think you’re THAT stupid?“—to myself.
Listen—I can kill with words, as my therapist puts it. And my first thought, was that I was going to tear this person down. I know how. I can be volatile. I Googled the person’s email address to find the comment-er is a woman named Maia. I almost emailed her a passionate rebuttal—instead, I re-read this a bunch of times, and went to sleep. The next day I posted it to Twitter and the thread that followed cracked me up:
Chloe: Received some hate mail yesterday in which my writing is compared to Justin Bieber. This person is v upset with me. (Inserts above photo)
Cal Morgan: Where did this kind of energy go, in the world, before the Internet? Did people really get this angry over writing?
Chloe: yeah–if they read a book they didn’t like did they send snarky condescending cruel notes to the authors???
Cal Morgan: Maybe they all just turned on some black metal or went to a White Citizens Council meeting or something
Aaron Burch: can we use this as blurb on back of WOMEN reprint?
Chloe: We have to. She is so PAINED.
Aaron Burch: She should probably get that checked out.
Ashley Ford: What the hell is this?
Chloe: Someone left it on my site last night. I was stunned at it’s cruelty. Do you ever receive stuff like this?
Ashley Ford: I do and have, but it’s also rare and ALWAYS startling in its cruelty. I’m sorry that happened to you. You don’t deserve it.
Cal Morgan: Wait–this came from a woman?
Aaron Burch: That was my Q too, actually. I thought that much vitriol online generally only came from dudes.
Chloe: Yes. Maia.
Cal Morgan: Fascinating.
Chloe: girl on girl meanness is still alive regardless of how much feminism and #sisterhood is posed on Twitter
Cal Morgan: All meanness matters.
Aaron Burch: people love to throw out Bieber and the Kardashians to let you know they really mean it.
Rachel Syme: Never stop publishing Chloe, fill the internet with your name
Lauren Marie Fleming: I’ll start your Belieber fan club equivalent. Caldwellians? Chloebers? I’ll work on it.
Shanna Mahin: my friend sends a form letter to hate mailers that reads “I’m so busy I can’t respond to every letter personally but I appreciate your kind words and please know I’m hard at work creating more material for you right this minute”
Erika Kleinman: the internet hates shameless women.
Milcah Orbacedo: haha “everybody hatin’/we just call ’em fans though” looks like you got yourself a raging fan
Eirik Gumeny: I once had a guy threaten to shove sandpaper up my ass.
Amanda McNeil: I am pained, PAINED to learn someone sent you this. What kind of douche canoe does this?
Amanda McNeil: this person just seems fueled by stupid. I hope this idiot isn’t taking up space in your mind& I’m sorry this happened to u
Danielle Lanzet: dude, THIS woman is a looney.
Claire Lyman: Ugh. People are the worst sometimes
Samuel Sargent: Did you ask how many of the places you’ve been published have rejected their work?
Katherine Angel: I had a few emails along these lines (though they didn’t mention Justin Bieber). They’re genuinely puzzling.
Emily Perper: LOLOLOL this person is an idiot thru and thru. Meanwhile, I’m going to sign up for your Personal Essay class.
Shannon McLeod: Stupid people hate good things.
Elana Belle Carroll: this is amazing! i can’t believe someone took the time to do something so mean and stupid.
Andrea Taylor: What a cunty thing to write – there’s no basis except for opinion or malice.
Caleb Curtiss: She mad?
Aaron: She’s not mad. She’s PAINED.
Benjamin Woodard: PAINED!
Chloe: she should go read Knausguaard and Nabokov instead of Salon I guess
Aaron: but Knausguaard and Nabokov don’t read their website comments
Anyway. This is how much of a F*** I gave about Maia. I left my computer and went into water and sunlight. I think it’s funny how many writers say they don’t read their reviews or comments because even if the review is 99% positive, they latch on to the 1% that was negative. Silly. I take the positive. Trust me, my self-esteem is low enough, but not on this end. I’ve gotten dozens of kind letters from readers—why would I give Maia the power to take those away from me? If I were getting dozens of letters like Maia’s above, then sure, I’d feel horrible. But this is one person’s opinion and she’s entitled to it. It’s fine with me, interesting even. (Why read my essay if hated it? Why take the time to look me up and leave a public comment? Why not leave the comment on the essay on Salon? Why not email me since my email address readily available? etc.) Why would I care about a random person’s opinion? That is what’s interesting to me when people get upset about comments on their pieces. It’s not people you admire who are leaving these malicious comments.
Also — money is being handed off to me? How wonderful. Where is this money?
There’s so much more I could say. But I digress.
Since Maia never wants to see my name on the internet again, I feel okay posting this, because she won’t want to torture herself by looking at my website again, I’m sure of it.