If you’re terrified you’ll be judged online, then you need to slow down, have a vodka & read this immediately.
Ohhhhh, fucking shit.
Those are kind of the words I want to say all the time, except if I did say them all the time, I’m pretty sure I’d start to get sick of them, like one does after eating tuna fish every day (not like I’d know anything about that) and that’s really my greatest fear, really: Lackluster profanities. I mean, talk about losing the will to live.
And then there are other reasons, of course, like the time two scary twenty-five year old women cornered me after a workshop in Philadelphia—Philadelphia, of all places!—and told me they thought the devil was inside me. At first I was really confused, seeing as I hadn’t blurted out “ohhhhh, fucking shit” even once, but apparently someone whispered that I had a blog called “The Middle Finger Project,” and clearly that’s a sure sign.
I definitely blurted out some great profanities while twenty of my Unf*ckwithable Girlfriends were here with me in Costa Rica this past week. No one seemed to mind. After all, they had come all the way to Central America because some girl on the internet (ahem—me) said she was renting an ocean villa and there would be plenty of wine, at which point they promptly gave me their credit card and booked a flight, because as it turns out, sometimes people with blogs called The Middle Finger Project are more trustworthy, not less. That, or all twenty of those women also have the devil inside of them, which could get really awkward really fast.
But, you know, it depends on who’s reading, doesn’t it? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as they say, and that’s one of the things we talked about a lot while kicking our feet around in an infinity pool this week: Being judged. Because you’re always being judged, aren’t you? And that knowledge is enough to make brilliant people with brilliant ideas shrink into a tiny little soggy pieces of paper. And I hate that. I hate that because feeling safe enough to be yourself “IRL,” as all the kids say, is hard enough, but if you don’t even feel safe alone by yourself in front of a screen? The bullies have won. The trolls have had their way. And they’re all currently walking around with a torch in their right hand and a Pop Tart in the other, having a grand old time at your expense. The expense of your voice. The expense of you being allowed to be you.
What’s helpful to remember, at least for heathens like me, is something I profoundly call The Principle of Prissy Ass Pink.
Some women love the color pink—pink, pink, pink everything!—and some women vomit at the thought. (“I’d rather kill myself.”) But neither opinion changes the color itself. It simply is what it is. It doesn’t try to become more purple the minute a forty year old woman approaches and snubs its nose, saying that pink is “too juvenile.” Or “too girlie.” Or “too cutesy.” Similarly, it doesn’t become more hot pink anytime someone loves it so. It just is what it is. And opinions abut the color are completely independent from the merits of the color itself.
And it’s the same online, really. Something as simple as the title of my blog will make people claim the devil, while others will breathe a giant sigh of relief. Everyone’s going to think something, but their opinions about the style of my work are independent from the merits of it. And as hard as it is, you have to try so, so, so hard to not allow those opinions to change you or your style, because then there’s no more pink—only shades of purple. And that’s when you start to drown in what I’ve historically called “the dreaded sea of sameness”: It’s the echo chamber online where every website and every person starts to look, sound, and talk the same. And it’s not doing anyone any favors.
You have the right to exist, and you have the right to be pink without apologizing to the world about it. And while some people may interpret that to mean the devil is inside of you, there are just as many people who will think the same shade of pink is the work of God. Because that’s the thing about living a creative life and doing creative work: If it were objective, it wouldn’t be creative. And then you might have the luxury of not being judged, but you’ll have the burden of never being yourself.
And I guess the real question is: Is it worth the murder?