Our hosting provider, A Small Orange, is the online equivalent of the human taint, also known as the gooch depending on regional dialects. I will often receive all at once several months to a year’s worth of comment notifications or emails sent to me via the site’s email address. One time a terminally-ill author sent me a lovely message asking me to review his last book because he was so moved by my first review of his work. I received it months after he died. I do not know why we haven’t changed providers yet, but I suspect it’s because I don’t stay mad long enough to make it a priority. I also am less active on the site lately and check the back end far less often than I should, so I don’t notice gaps in messages in a timely manner. However, this last flurry of notifications contained a comment that gave Mr. OTC pause, enough pause that he became angry that such a comment had gone months without us seeing it.
“Some asshole is effectively threatening you and this comment sat unseen on the server for months until A Small Orange deigned to send us notification,” Mr. OTC said. “What if he’d said, ‘I’m on my way to kill you!’ and we had no idea?” I suspect A Small Orange, who as a company sucks balls (which, by the way, are near the taint) will not be my host much longer. It should be mentioned that Mr. OTC ultimately was more angry at the taint than the asshole because he understands what is considered an actionable threat and what isn’t, but I was surprised that he was so appalled at the comment. He knows what I write about. He knows that I get terrible comments. Yet he looked at the comment and did not see what I saw. He saw the potential for genuine threat.
Here’s the comment, with the beginning of my reply.
I think most spouses would feel uneasy seeing that their partner receives comments that invoke torture, extrajudicial murder and final judgement for perceived wrong-doing. But I’ve got this. I’ve been doing this for thirteen years and somewhere along the line I learned how to analyze documents in a way that gives me a pretty good metric for whether or not I should be afraid or concerned about what angry commenters say to me when they are especially pissed off.
While it has to be said that I am not a behavioral sciences expert, nor am I a legitimate threat assessor, I’ve been reading the words of madmen and reactions to the words of madmen for so long that I reckon I can differentiate between a threat and a dude who unloaded on me after a really bad day (or month, or year). Rob may have intended for me to feel afraid, but offered no harm that I felt could endanger me or my family.
I’ve had two or three threats I considered legitimate since running my book discussion sites and those messages were radically different than Rob’s. Those comments showed that the authors know who I am, meaning they know my full name, where I live, the names of some of my pets, that my husband is ex-military. They had specific issues with something I definitely wrote, showing that they actually read what I wrote and were reacting to me specifically, and they did not speak in generalities. They made reference to how easy it would be to find me or a specific pet, what they wanted to do to me or the cat, and mentioned a time frame wherein they hoped to do harm to me.
Rob’s comment wasn’t anywhere close to being genuinely threatening. Unpleasant? Yes. Reason to freak out? Nope. I know some people will disagree with that assessment so let’s break his comment down and hopefully I can explain why I think Rob hollered at me online rather than metaphorically kick the family dog after having a bad day, and hopefully this analysis will help anyone else who is periodically frightened by what angry (mostly) men say online. Plus, sometimes it’s just fun to hyper-analyze the hell out of weird comments.
Lots of people I know have declared 2016 the worst dumpster fire of a year since the beginning of time, or at least since 1914 or maybe 1347. The reasons for this seem to involve Brexit and lots of famous people dying. Also adding to the sense of doom is the election of Trump, a socially liberal, isolationist blowhard who talks a lot of shit. Americans aren’t used to politicians talking shit that doesn’t involve pleasant lies about policy. It’s been a long time since Andrew Jackson. Frankly, Lyndon Johnson was way worse than Trump in terms of saying really gross things, but he said them during a time when the press was more restrained and didn’t report that the President was pretty much the sort of man you would throw out of your house before dessert was served. Aiding his legacy is that the recordings of him berating his tailor because his pants crowded his balls didn’t come out until after he died. I mean seriously, had smart phones existed in the 1960s, many Twitter pundits would have died from exhaustion reacting to Johnson pissing in a washbowl in front of his secretary as she took dictation or using racist epithets as he farted audibly during discussions about The Great Society.
I don’t mean to seem flippant because I know a lot of people seem to be very afraid of Trump and I don’t want to mock genuine fear. Most of those people are very young and don’t remember the continual fear of nuclear war during the Reagan administration. Some were children when the Twin Towers fell, creating a fear of Islam that replaced temporarily a fear of Russia, so all of this is new to them. Of course Trump is a terrible choice to lead America. But so was Hillary Clinton. At some point all elections force us to choose between either an unqualified person who says terrible things about grabbing genitals while berating fat women, or a person who really wants to go to war with Russia and compromised national security when a lanky Australian wiener got into her e-mail. Anyone who really feels either side in the recent election would have done a radically better job than the other is either in their 20s or became completely lost online and didn’t mean to read this entry. But all of this is my way of saying that we survived Nixon, we survived Reagan, we survived Millard-fucking-Fillmore. We’ll survive Trump, there will be no genocide of whatever group is most upset, at worst he’ll quit or be promptly impeached and we’ll be stuck with Pence until the 2020 Democratic candidate inevitably defeats him. Then we’ll have neo-cons threatening to come to Texas and secede from the USA. Again.
But even though Bowie and Prince and Carrie Fisher all died, even though an unqualified and gross dude is gonna be in charge of my country soon, my 2016 wasn’t all bad. It was a biochemically difficult time – I tried to wean myself off sleep meds, with plenty of medical supervision, and still I failed. My year was spent in a vague, depressive state. Not despairing – just muffled and incoherent. I’ve been absent mentally since 2013, since my mother told me she was dying. She then spent a year dying, then we spent a year coping with the fact she died. Then I tried to detox and sleep naturally despite my REM disorder, and here we are. It was bad losing my mother, of course, but even so I expected it and dealt with it, as well as everything else that came my way. Yet it seems like the last four years passed in a couple of months. Time is rushing to an end for me in a way I never thought could happen. All those older people who told me that time would eventually accelerate were right. Time is off in the distance. I can almost see it. But it runs faster than I can and one day I won’t be able to see it all.
This is a moment we all will have. That realization that we have reached the age when there is no more time for fucking around. You simply cannot waste anymore time. You cannot give into weakness. You can’t sit in a near-fugue state, babying your brain during a bad REM cycle, reading conspiracy theory online rather than books written by some of the greatest minds ever to live. You can’t watch the same comforting television show in a loop instead of writing your books, instead of reacting to the great books you read. You can no longer wait for things to get better before you begin to accomplish your life’s work. The time you have now is the time you must use as it happens, while you can see it, before it outruns you at last. You cannot risk wasting another day because years pass in a month and what will you have done at the end?
That’s where I am right now. I have goals for 2017, none of which I will share because resolutions at the New Year are lies until you make them real and I am tired of lying to myself. But maybe some of my goals will be evident to those who read here.
I’ve been listening to Amorphis’ album Under a Red Cloud a lot lately. The song “Sacrifice” means a lot to me (and the way Tomi Joutsen pronounces “treasure” triggers my echolalia like mad, which is strangely comforting as I mutter “trezshure” to myself) but lately “Death of a King”* has resonated with me because it, in a mythic and grandiose way, explores the revelation I had recently.
You will stand there amidst silence
In the void of endless winter
On the ice of an unknown lake
There you will meet yourself
There you’ll weigh your crown
On the ice of the lake of death
On the mirror of time
It’s Scandinavian metal so it’s a bit melodramatic but, as I’m fond of saying, everyone’s life is melodramatic. We all live epic lives even as we nestle into suburbs and live quietly. Against terrible odds, sperm met ovum and we happened, we managed to be born, we survived all sorts of modern predations and we are here. There is a reason for that. Some think that reason is God, or god, or gods. Some have kids, some have important jobs, but at the end we all are our own Sovereigns and we will weigh our crowns, our works, and even if there no Heaven at the end, there will come a moment before we die when we see that scale, and we will see our life laid before us, and woe betide us if the arm bearing our crown doesn’t move before our eyes close.
Yeah, yeah, melodramatic. But I’ve lost close to four years and my branch of the Dalton family tree is not long lived. My father died 22 years short of the national average, my mother 13 years short. If I follow the trend, I really cannot afford to lose any more time.
That’s what I’ve been doing since around September. Contemplating the day I take off my crown, gathering the mental energy to make sure that when I take it off the accounting of my life will be worth the dozens and dozens of ancestors who lived and died and got me here. My branch of the Dalton tree ends with me. I can’t rely on continuation of my DNA into further untold generations to add weight to my life.
I wonder if that is what middle age is – the real gut punch of knowing you will one day die and that these blocks of time you waste may be held against you when it comes time to add up sums. If 2017 ends up being a year that is not lost to me as the recent past has been, 2016, the year I became aware of how flimsy my crown is, will have been a very good year.
*I don’t know why in the video the guitar player is forced to use an electric guitar for the intro instead of using a sitar and swapping out as the song progresses. I also feel I should mention the conversation Mr OTC and I had when I played this song in the car one day.
“So the singer can actually sing. He has a good voice,” he said when the song reached the chorus.
“Yeah, he does sing well,” I replied.
“Then why does he waste time doing that hollering, growling noise.”