Friday, March 18, 2005

The Difference Between This and That

The other day Salon posted an interesting column by Ayelet Waldman about her experience blogging her life. Apparently one night she had a suicidal impulse (what is called "suicidal ideation") and discussed it on her blog. Her husband was on a trip and her friends rallied around her, getting her to talk to her doctor, who changed her medication and solved the problem. Sort of. Anyway she writes about what blogging is doing to her family or what it could do to her family.
My blogging has been cathartic; my self-exposure served some kind of purpose, but there is no doubt that it exacted a cost. One of the problems was that there are a whole lot of people huddled under my particular dirty raincoat. There is my husband, a gracious and good-tempered man, and one who has himself wrestled with the self-exposure business. More important, because they are more defenseless, there are my children, two boys and two girls, ranging in age from not quite 2 to 10 years old. I have always used my children as material in my fiction, and even occasionally in essays, but never with the immediacy demanded of a blog. My daughter shouted at her father, "You like being mean to us; you're nothing but a hatred machine." Half an hour later, it was in print online.
I read this article and it stuck in my mind. I considered blogging on it (with the obvious joke about how I would never subject my life to you people (other than random observations on Jesus Scented Candles and New Soft Drink Products)), but ended up not doing it.

I was somewhat uncomfortable with it, truthfully. And today's letters in response to that article seem to share a similar lack of comfort. One that particularly hit me was from Name Withheld by Request (poor guy. A name like that has to make it hard to order Pizza).
In the era of gossip and Google, this public airing is exactly what Waldman is condemning her kids to, as well as eventual scrutiny by dates, potential mates, summer employers and college admissions officers to the "things they said" or how, like her son in the article, they try to cope with her illness. My heart went out to that little boy as I read. He does not deserve to have that moment of terror served up for anyone's curiosity, amusement, titillation or even, God help us, "education."

Please do not give this woman a forum to write about her children's lives. They have done nothing to deserve what they are dealing with now. This airing of their lives in one of the most popular magazines online is a punishment they just don't deserve. Their mother is self-described as mentally ill. Perhaps you should think about what you are doing here.
I have to say I agree with Mr. by Request. It is, in some ways, pretty cruel what this woman is choosing to do, and what Salon is choosing to let her do.

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