If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

Posted: July 21, 2011 in humor, Life, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

I can tell someone to shut up in four languages, five, if rude hand gestures qualify as a language. Though I have these skills, I don’t go around looking for opportunities to use them. Sometimes opportunity finds me.

 I belong to an online writers’ community, a chat room kind of thing populated by people in all areas and at all stages of the writing process. I don’t visit there often but when I do, my experience has been generally positive. But lately, there’s been a dark shadow creeping ‘round the sunlit streets of Writersville, friends and neighbors.

 Let’s call her Patricia (because that’s her name). Patricia says she’s been writing for a very long time and with some success. I have no reason to doubt that, and my sincere hats off to her in that regard. She wanders the streets of our “community” frequently (I can tell by the number of times her name appears in my inbox) and has no trouble dispensing opinions on virtually any topic. What she does have trouble with is accepting that not everyone agrees with her.

 People who challenge her opinion receive scathing replies, sizzling diatribes that attack not only their work but them personally. And these rants don’t last for just an hour or two; sometimes the discussion goes on for DAYS.  She’s never gone after me personally although she has responded to some of my posts. When I see her start to spit venom at others who’ve joined the discussion, I just move on.  I don’t swing baseball bats at hornets’ nests.

 In my mind, I see Patricia as a cat, and I don’t mean a “Bootsy” or “Miss Kitty” here. I mean an alley cat, lean but not bony, tail bristling, the tip of one ear gone from a battle long over, an eyepatch gripping the left side of her face (reason for her singular focus? Naw, just makes her look scarier). The kind of cat who hides under the bushes, watching, waiting for Suzy New Writer to come skipping down the sidewalk so she can reach out with her razor sharp claws and slash ol’ Suzy in the tendons.

 I’m probably no better than Patricia because I just took a swipe at someone I don’t really know which is rarely fair. Maybe she has a good side that’s just really, really hard to see. Her behavior doesn’t go unnoticed; the site administrator has repeatedly asked her not to be so acrimonious and other writers have left the group, citing her specifically as the reason. To which she generally calls them something akin to “thin-skinned wussies”.

 I believe in freedom of speech. As a former newsperson, I’ve defended the principle on many occasions. Which creates a quandary for me here. Does Patricia have the right to give her opinion? Yep. We all do. But is there a point when meanness for the sake of meanness should end? I think so.

 So, Patricia, on behalf of the residents of Writersville, and with all due respect: Fermez en haut.  Schließen Sie ab. Cierre la boca. Shut up. And just so you know, no hand gestures were used.

  1. For all the times I’ve rolled my eyes at my Mother’s potholder wisdom I will bow to this gem. “People only and ever put anyone else down because they themselves feel small and unpowerful.” G_d bless Patricia because she has to be going through a hell of a time, eh? And I don’t believe that you’ve “gone after her” at all. You cannot let yourself be abused (cyberly or otherwise) or you tacitly condone being a victim. Not what I want my kids seeing.

    So funny you’ve written this. Wait til you see my next tumblr post. Lordy me…we are truly great minds thinking alike. Pat pat pat pat on our backs.
    Kiersten Warren

    • Have to concur with your Mother on that one. And I always look forward to your work – it’s been a while since you’ve posted, hasn’t it? I’ll be keeping an eye out for your latest. Great minds indeed!


  2. Totally. That woman dazzles me with her abrasive repartee. She’d make a great character in a book, but it must take a great deal of energy to actually live with that much anger all the time. Life lesson noted.

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