When John Mayer’s supremely ignorant Playboy interview hit the wires, I, like most people, was appalled. Not just by his idiotic racism, but by the way he spoke about his exes. I mean, the dude compared Jessica Simpson to crack! Said she was like “sexual napalm!” What a jerk! I mean, how indiscreet!
I watched Jessica Simpson tell Oprah that no, she hadn’t forgiven him for his big fat mouth and was disappointed that he’d sunk so low. I harrumphed, “You go, Jessica!” as I high-fived my TV screen.
Then I recalled how many times I’d blabbed about exes. I’ve been writing about relationships, often my own, for the past 10 years. In that time, I’ve done some serious dishing—and dissing. The truth is, most of my recountings were far less flattering than what John had to say about Jessica.
My name is Judy and I am a hypocrite.There was the sociopathic closet-case, the hygiene-challenged vegan, and the guy who lost control of his bowels in my bed. None were as addictive as crack, though several did display rather napalm-ish behavior. In my defense, I never named names and often changed identifying details so nobody (except he and I and anyone who knew either of us) would know whom I was talking about.
In an effort to feel better about myself, I contacted Julie Klausner, whose hilarious new book, I Don’t Care About Your Band, details her romantic past explicitly. One of the funniest chapters is about her relationship with a guy she describes as “a man grotesque enough to resemble one of Quentin Blake’s illustrations of the child-eating giants from The BFG.”
I wondered if she had any qualms about what some might consider an invasion of her assorted exes’ privacy. “I’m hugely honest in my book,” she replied. “Because my obligation is to the reader before the subjects of my stories. And if a guy I wrote about sees what I said about him, even if he’s mad, he’ll still know I’m not lying.” Because, she points out, “Women be rememberin’ things that even elephants can’t!”
While Klausner isn’t particularly worried about any fallout she might get over her book, Stephen Elliott, author of The Adderall Diaries, got dumped after a girlfriend read his description of her. “She broke up with me because I described her as having a long face and I described her shirt as cheap,” he told me via email.
My buddy Nick was on the other side of the equation, though he knew what he was getting into when he started seeing a well-known blogger. At first, he says, “I got a bit of a kick about being written about—though she used a different name.” But when she started detailing her sexual fantasies about him, things started to turn. “I felt a bit freaked out finding out she had these fantasies about me at the same time as at least tens of other people.”
Nick broke up with her, and his lady friend took to the blogosphere to vent. “I found that she had made comments about me being a narcissist. I wrote and asked her why she felt that, but she didn’t reply.”
After writing about my relationships for years, I also had the jarring experience of being the subject, when I discovered two different guys I’d dated had landed relationship blogger jobs at Nerve.com. Gulp. Both were mercifully kind in their mentions of me; probably because both had dumped me and figured that was enough humiliation and pain for one lady. Though they did discuss online how satisfying it was to know that I was worried just the same. Ouchie.
While, admittedly, having the tables turned was an eye-opener, I still stand by everything I’ve ever written because while it might have been insensitive at times, it was always completely honest.
Julie Klausner’s friend, memoirist Rachel Shukert, gave her some good advice when she started to get blocked by the idea of her book upsetting a man from her past. “Rachel just said, ‘Well, he should have been nicer to you.’ And that’s good advice even for people who are interacting with non-writers.”
Unless you happen to be dating John Mayer. In that case, feel free to be cruel.