Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
November 18, 2009
I gotta admit, I’m having a hard time writing this.
As you probably already know, I rarely feel self-conscious or insecure when I’m writing. But shortly after something I wrote upset someone or hurt their feelings, or pissed them off without me meaning to, it’s hard. It’s also hard to write if I’m having some kind of fight or dispute or bad breakup or psychological meltdown. Or if I’m hungover or hungry or bored or maybe not getting enough exercise or sex or maybe I ate too much and have a stomach ache or whatever, that can be hard too.
But let me just clear something up right here, right now: I get it. I understand the power of the written word. I understand its permanence, that once something is printed you can never take it back. I understand that tone, especially sarcasm, is not always so easy to convey or detect in the two-dimensional context of words on paper.
I also understand that if and when I am in the dreadful position of having to defend something I wrote or explain it to someone who didn’t get or totally misunderstood it, then I missed my mark. Writing is a communicative art. It’s kind of a one-shot deal. If you don’t get it right the first time, there’s not a whole hell of a lot you can do to fix things.
In the seven years I’ve been writing this column, I can say in all honesty I haven’t had to deal with many haters. It appears that for the most part, people who have an issue with me don’t have the balls to tell me to my face (which is so totally fine with me and does not have to change).
Sure, I’ve had a few nasty posts on the website, but the letters to the editor have been few and far in between. I know there are people out there who don’t get me or don’t like me, but I haven’t been lynched or run out town, or put in jail or carted off to the insane asylum, at least not yet.
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Believe me, I count my blessings. I am grateful I’ve never been sued (which I can now say without knocking on wood since Psycho Paws died), and no one has ever vandalized my property or tried to beat me up. Yay! So I really consider myself ahead of the game.
For the most part, this town embraced me from the start, and I’ve always been so amazed and so grateful for what The Aspen Times has been willing to let me write about and print. They’re pretty much the HBO of small-town newspapers, in terms of my content at least, and I love them for that.
One time I got mad at one of my editors for cutting a sentence I wrote because he thought it was offensive. And he basically said, “Look. We let you write about sex and drugs and strippers and whatever you want.”
And he’s right.
It shocks me people don’t freak out on me more often. Every once and a while you get the hysterical parent who doesn’t appreciate an R-rated column or the right-wing conservative who does not feel these subjects appropriate for a small-town daily newspaper. I’m honestly surprised I don’t get more of that.
On the rare occasion I do get hate mail, I take the high road and say something like, “Dear, so-and-so. Thank you so much for not only taking the time to read my column, but to actually sit down and put so much effort into writing me an e-mail.”
My philosophy has always been if people are reading my column and responding to it, I’ve done my job whether they like me or hate me. I also realized a long time ago I wasn’t going to win any popularity contests as a columnist who often takes on subjects that everyone thinks about but no one talks about. And while I try to make sure the joke is on me, using what has been most often described as “self-deprecating humor” there are times some people just don’t get the joke.
I’ve only upset people a few times, and believe me, it’s never my intention. I’m not working for CNN or The New York Times, at least not very often. I’m not here to uncover hard news or expose anyone or hurt anyone, though if someone is to expose themselves, it might be kinda hard for me not to write about that.
My favorite is people who post mean comments anonymously on the website.
My response to that is, “Hey Anonymous! At least I’m not too much of a pussy to let them publish my actual name!”
The truth is, most people want to be written about. Sure, they pretend they don’t, but then they’ll say something like, “Don’t you dare! But if you do, my name is spelled with an ‘I’ and not a “Y.'”
There’s been a few instances (and only a few, I swear) that I’ve gotten in trouble with friends who felt the fake names I’d made up for them weren’t clever enough.
“Everyone’s going to know it’s me,” Debbie said when I wrote about a little movie she’d done in Dallas.
“Yes, but the only people who know it’s you already know about your movie, so that’s how they know. So really, nothing has changed.”
But when someone misinterprets what I wrote or thinks I’m writing about them and I’m not, there’s not much I can do about that. Worrying about it can be extremely paralyzing, which is why I chose to write about it instead.
When Ryan and I first started dating, he straight up said I could write anything about him that I want. “There’s absolutely not one thing you could say that would offend me,” he said. “Except one.'”
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