Lately I’ve noticed a number of commenters remarking or complimenting me on my willingness to “put myself out there” on The Frisky, sometimes scolding others whose remarks or jokes might end up hurting my feelings. The thing is, there’s very little feedback on what I write — i.e., about my personal experience or my decisions — that would bother me. (Criticism of how I write I’m more sensitive to.) Recently a fellow Frisky staffer asked me how I’ve learned to not care what people think.
I didn’t really plan to be such an oversharer. Writing about my life — specifically my love and sex life — on the internet just kind of happened. Before I was hired to edit what would become The Frisky, most of my writing had been about other people and events, sometimes with my personal perspective woven in, but I hadn’t ever really written about my life. I started to delve into that as The Frisky developed, which came at the same time as Facebook and Twitter really took off, and the minutiae of people’s lives became public fodder. Suddenly it was really, really normal to just announce to everyone what you had for breakfast and when you last got laid.
Then I got engaged and it just made sense that I would write about the process of planning a wedding. I started simply enough, writing about my distaste for the word “fiance,” trying on wedding dresses for the first time, choosing my bridesmaids, and deciding who would officiate the ceremony since neither my ex-fiance or myself was religious. Going back and reading those “So I’m Engaged” columns, I’m struck by how utterly clueless I was that things were about to come to a crashing halt.
Getting dumped out of the blue, after writing about how damn happy we were for months, really changed things. At first I took down all of the columns because I felt, for lack of a better word, embarrassed. For months I had been essentially flaunting my engagement, my happiness, my plans for the future in front of an audience and then all of it went belly-up. I felt like an enormous dumbass. It’s one thing to be part of a happy couple that suddenly breaks up and just your friends and family wonder what went wrong — I had put my relationship on display for The Frisky’s audience and they — you all — saw it end as suddenly as I did.
Initially, after the breakup, I seriously considered quitting my job. How could I continue to write about sex and relationships and love when I clearly did not know what I was talking about? But three days after the s**t hit the fan, I woke up and realized I did have something about relationships to share. How it felt to be angry and heartbroken and confused, for starters. I started writing again, mostly because I needed to — it helped to get everything I was feeling out on paper. But because The Frisky is hardly my diary, I did my best to make each piece, though about my personal situation, somehow relatable to everyone reading. Hopefully I did a good job of that.
Over the last two years, I have shared a lot about how I have felt and how I have dealt, which is sometimes strange for me to think about, as I’m actually a really private person. Don’t laugh; it’s true. But when I write, even for all of you (and you’re in the millions now) to see, I forget that anyone is actually going to read it. At first I was in such a stupor of sadness, I completely and utterly stopped caring what people thought because any amount of judgment couldn’t possibly make me feel any worse. Even now that I’m happy with where my life is and the stupor of sadness is gone, I still am pretty unaffected by negative comments and criticism, unless of course, it’s helpful and makes me rethink my motives or actions or point of view.
Here’s the thing about writing about yourself on the internet, especially when the internet is your business. Yes, it’s brave and all, sharing your personal stories, your feelings, your choices, etc. But “putting yourself out there” also means you have to be prepared to get a reaction — for some writers this is hard. For me it’s been easy.
While I’ve figured out how to write about my life on the internet and its effects, I’m still trying to figure out how to do it without hurting the people in my life. A long time ago I made a mistake and wrote a piece on this site that really hurt my relationship with someone in my family. I deeply, deeply regret it (the piece no longer exists, so don’t bother looking!). I’ve since repaired that relationship and learned from my mistake, but I regularly encounter bumps in the road. There have been a few men who haven’t minded being referenced in my writing — anonymously, of course — so long as it’s positive. In fact, they’ve been kind of flattered. But anything less than a glowing portrayal of perfection has led to a few rifts in my dating life. My intention is never to hurt anyone and I’m still learning how to prevent that from happening, in a way that is rational and fair. However, I have also learned that I need a man who gets that writing is as much a passion as it is a job for me and can handle his peripheral involvement in that.
Sometimes I wonder if one day I’ll regret putting so much of myself out there. As someone who frequently Googles my dates, I cringe at what a guy might read about me if he does the same. But again, I’m looking for someone who understands that as much as a musician needs to play, I need to write. Just as musicians write bad songs, I’m sure there will be pieces I’ll regret putting on paper (or the internet, more specifically). But c’est la vie.