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Friday, 01 July 2011

On the Pains of Blogging

blogging bug image I had finished what was to be today's post when something happened yesterday afternoon that so disheartened me, I need to address it right away.

A few weeks ago, I was delighted when actor Betty White agreed to an interview for TimeGoesBy. Further, I was pretty sure you would be equally delighted and I eagerly set about preparing for our conversation.

Betty often talks about her beloved husband, Allen Ludden, who died 30 years ago. One interviewer told her that he always asks about Allen because he likes the look on her face when Betty speaks of him. I know what he means.

It seemed to me that her marriage and loss would be a good topic for readers of TGB many of whom are at an age when they have already or may in the future become widows and widowers.

Comments on the interview yesterday followed on my conviction that nobody doesn't like Betty White until – wham! - there appeared a comment so ungenerous and so off-base in its assumptions that A) due to her celebrity, widowhood is somehow easier for Betty White and B) that she was advising, as the commenter inelegantly put it, “tits up to widows” - neither of which is true - that I sit here now, an hour after reading it, angry and embarrassed.

It is no different than if one guest in my home had rudely attacked another at dinner. This blog is my online home and Betty White was an invited guest. But there was no way for me to intervene in real time, as there would be at dinner, to try to set it right.

Given the wild west nature of much of the web, I think of TimeGoesBy as a respite from trolls and name-calling - a little corner of the internet where elders can speak openly and honestly about issues and ideas that concern us beyond the decline, debility and disease (but those too) by which too many in the world define us.

Overall, that's what TGB is. More, some of you are friends. Others are acquaintances that are perhaps growing into friendship. New connections spark all the time.

The last thing I expected here was bad manners. I thought we were all old enough - or ought to be - to know better.

In case anyone misunderstands, Betty White did not need to do this interview - she appears on Saturday Night Live, Letterman, Leno and other talk shows pretty much any time she wants.

She and other celebrities are not sitting around home wishing they had an interview to do. It is part of their job, usually by contract, to promote their projects and it's hard work. I often wonder how they can stand to answer the same questions over and over as graciously as they do.

In exchange, we the audience get a little bit more personal insight into people whose movies, TV shows, concerts, recordings and books we admire, respect or are entertained by. They are not politicians whose decisions can change the nature of our country, the world, even our day-to-day personal lives and are therefore fair game to be nailed.

Betty White was my guest and someone spit in her soup.

In regard to the subject of grief which apparently caused the outburst, I'll repeat here in part what I posted in a follow-up comment on yesterday's interview:

“No one knows another person's grief. In personal tragedy, well-known people have no more or no fewer resources, necessarily, than anyone else.

“Neither Betty White, Darla or anyone here has indicated in any manner that widows (or widowers, for that matter, or anyone who has lost someone dear to them who is not a spouse) is not to be honored in their sorrow.”

I also wrote that there will be no more interviews. That may have been hasty, but being nervous now about how future guests might be received, I will certainly hesitate. Betty White in no way deserved this tirade and neither do I deserve the aftermath of bad feelings it has caused me.

I was particularly surprised that this comment is not from some troll, but a regular reader whose contributions until now have been smart and worth reading. I refer her and others who may want a refresher to the Comment Rules. You can always find a link to them in the upper left corner of any page.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Refinishing Furniture


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

How sad about the bad comment. I didn't see it, since I don't always return to read all the comments.

I am a widow of five years, and the wisest words for all of us to know is that we do each mourn in our own way and time. There's no road map, no sign posts that will apply to every one of us. And honestly, being a celebrity or the world's most wealthy billionaire, will NOT spare you from the grief of losing a beloved mate.

I greatly admire Betty White; she's definitely one of a kind. And I also identify with what she said about Allen always being with her, in her heart. That's how it's been for me in feeling like my late husband is with me in spirit.

Yesterday I had nothing to say except thank you (and I meant that, indirectly though it may have been, to Betty White as well as to you). I only discovered subsequent events on reading today's post. I'm sure you will get lots of comments and my original intention was to get all huffed up over what had hurt you. But then I asked myself "What would Betty White do?" She'd come up with a brilliant repartee or graciously acknowledge the need of others to vent as they will. So I will just applaud both you and her for giving me so many moments of pleasure and distraction and reflection. And, once again, thank you. Both.

I'm astonished that someone would get bent outta' shape about your post......what's to disagree about? And to think it's someone who visits you regularly. I guess it takes all kinds. Anyway, I'm sorry it happened.......just know that the majority here like your blog & intend to stay & I for one look forward to much more from you:) Hope you reconsider doing other interviews. Dee

I didn't read the comment in question, but I'm sorry that a guest was treated badly in your 'home.' From what you've said, it sounds as if the commenter views the unfairnesses of life as a zero-sum game where one's one pain can only be alleviated by inflicting it on others. May she be free from suffering.

Yes, that noter was a guest in your house, but also, you cannot take anyone's remarks personally. I ocassionally get porn notes on my other site because I'm open to notes from everyone. I no longer take these ugly things personally, I just delete them. You might post a disclaimer saying something like...if you leave a nasty note, it will be deleted.

Yes, neither you or Miss White deserves to have a troll in your backyard. Please don't stop interviewing just because of one sad noter. Thank you.

You are all very kind in your comments about my personal feelings, but I want to be clear:

It's not that I feel attacked or even care about that; it is that I am embarrassed to have OUR guest - yours as well as mine - so rudely misinterpreted.

This will no doubt be perceived as rude also...but Ronni you of all people should know about what to expect on the internet. Trolls abound and you have broken one of the cardinal rules
"Don't feed the trolls"

I appreciate that you are defending Betty White but you would have done better to ignore the whole thing. Scolding rude commenters online will not change them!

You will get what you were perhaps hoping for; many comments supporting your but to what end?

Ronni, I'd keep the interviews coming. Considering the amount of comments made here, one or two controversial or unwelcome posts are really just noise and statistically don't hardly exist. I'd delete (as you did), react, and then go back to your normal mode. All is well. I love Betty White, by the way, and would not have missed your interview for the world, let alone one post. John

I admit it, I am a lurker. I read this blog everyday and look forward to it. I really enjoyed the interview with Betty White. I have admired her for a very long time. Five months ago I lost my wonderful husband. The road since has not been much fun, but I know I have him with me still in spirit. Everyday is a new adventure. And one of my everyday adventures is reading TGB. Thank you for all you do here Ronni. In many ways you have made my new 'adventures' easier.

You might need the 7 second rule on comments. You are correct in that giving ones opinion does not include character assassination of anyone...famous or not.

Betty White's comments about widowhood just about sums up my feelings over the last 5 years since my husband died. A person goes thru many waves of mourning. The waves are very strong at first and over time they become very gentle...gentle memories. The surviving spouse must also begin living again...if not they can also die, emotionally and spiritually.

Of course, I ignore and delete trolls. The problem here is that the comment was not from a troll but a regular reader.

I will always publicly call out bad behavior here.

Ronni, I like others, hope that you will reconsider and do the interview. So many people are looking forward to this. I seldom comment, as your blogs are sent to my email address, and they are on my list for daily reads. Other emails may go unread that day, based on my busy schedule, but never yours.

Betty White, I do believe, would still want to do the interview. She is such a wonderful caring person, and she gives to everyone in so many ways.

There is the option to moderate comments, but with your blogs being so popular, I am sure you would not be able to do that, as you would be reading all day long to just decide what comments to allow.

There is a chance that this person did not mean to upset as bad as they did. Could have been just a bad day for them. Please do not let this comment stop the interview.

Thank you Ronnie, for your wonderful blogs.

I do not usually read any comments on your articles, but I think Betty White is an outstanding person, so I did open and read them. Please, just because of one caustic comment, don't stop interviews or change anything. I really enjoy your blog, it certainly adds a lot to my life, so keep it up.

Please don't give up the
interviews over one comment.
I really don't think the person who made the comment had ill intent. She's frequent commenter at my blog and definitely not a mean-spirited person.

I applaud Betty in that she's handled her loss so well (but I'd bet that she's had a lot of hard nights where she missed Allen terribly)!

I known too many women who have let their grief consume them and have become bitter and angry in their loss. Betty is, for me, a great example of how to move on after a loss with grace and style. We all grieve differently.

It seems that the regular reader just inadvertently hit a nerve--it's hard for people to always know where that nerve lays and what its sensitivities are. I think Betty White can take anything we "good people" (not trolls) dish out. This is like being in the stocks in the public square--poor person. I vote for a full pardon and reinstatement into the community of TGB fans.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I know you would be the first to agree with me, Ronni.

The issue, as I see it, is not that the comment was a different opinion, but that it was a rude one.

No one gets a pass for being rude.

The easy way to not get that kind of comment is never do anything that 'says' something. Keep it all mush and that will avoid the hassle but then what reward would there be in it. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I hope you reconsider doing future interviews. Incidentally, I have read times others have dissed Betty White for other things she's said or done and imagine if it initially irks her, she laughs it off as she's the one living the successful and vital life, still taking risks and having successes. More power to her

As a widow of three years, I know that nothing can prepare us or protect us from the searing pain of grief. It's like drowning in fire. (If you think that analogy is impossible, you haven't grieved!)

Anyone who challenges another's grief is worthy of a shudder but no more.

I understand that you were blindsided by a guest in your house doing this. I hope you see that the amount of support the rest of your readers are giving you and Betty White counts more than that one comment.

I've reread that visitor's comment, and I think she was just asserting that putting on a public face worked for Betty White but doesn't work for most of us. I don't think she meant to offend -- rather, I think she was offended by BW's "public mourner" comment. We all grieve in our own way, and it's the right way.

Please keep in mind that I did not spell out the whole word that offended Ronni.

I too suspect that the comment was a classic case of "foot in mouth" disease brought about by failure to engage brain before putting mouth/fingers in gear. Since I am a fellow sufferer from this, hopefully, occasional affliction, (and this is not my blog/home), I'm for cutting her some slack based on a long term positive relationship. It's yet another reminder that the send/post button is forever and that one should always use the preview/edit option first.

Please don't stop your interviews. Don't let a few unthinking people change your ways.

I really like what Kay Dennison said about grief.

Hattie,

You thought the word "tits" was what offended Ronni or anyone else?

You seem to be in a world of your own here.

Has there been some recent grief in your own personal life that would allow you to succumb to such mean-spirtied behavior and make it difficult to see that grief is not something that needs to be "honored" but empathized with and tolerated?

The easiest thing to do in times of personal loss is to fall into despair and slowly allow life to ebb from yourself. It takes courage and strength to honor a personal loss as Betty does by not allowing herself to be over wrought with life defeating grief.

Surely those we lose would not want that for us with the time we have left here, before we join them on the other side, should there be one.

I see that you DID get support for whining about something you might have have expected writing a very public blog.

"Calling out" people's rudeness online is absolutely pointless. I truly thought that you had more sense and would have handled ONE comment that annoyed you so much better. I am very disappointed that you slid into old geezerette territory!

Next thing we read will be "get off of my blog you young whippersnappers"

Aged Blonde bimbo, I probably should not even reply, but your post in my eyes and in MOPO (my own personal opinion) was so uncalled for. In in your OPO, it might be absolutely pointless.

I think up until your post, things were being handled fine, and people were expressing their opinions of what they thought about the situation.

In my personal opinion, and I am sure I do not have a monopoly here, Ronnie was not WHINING at all, but expressing how she felt about it and how she would deal with it. She should and has every right to call out people based on their behavior. It is her blog and she runs it professionally.

I am disappointed that anyone would make sure a rude remark concerning this as you just have on her highly respected and well read blog.

To Err is Human, to forgive, is divine.
bkj

You called it bad manners. It was. I'm sorry Betty, who was sharing a common experience of grief, had that as her experience of bloggers. We're better than that, aren't we?

I am somewhat confused by this conversation. I experienced Hattie's comments as sassy but not rude. However underneath all this there seems to be an important conversation for elders. I am a optimistic person but nature, but as an aging elder experience an increased level of sadness. Sadness about this last period of my life and the coming loss of all of the beauty and mystery of living. Most of my friends and family, young and old, do not want me to be there. So I put on an act a great deal of the time only sharing the fun and active parts of my life and hiding the abiding tenderness I feel about the coming loss of my partner, friends and the wonder of life.

Comment to Joan Price: You are so right: "It's like drowning in fire." I've been a widow for 2½ years. The pain of loss is always with us; we just learn—inch by inch—how to rise above it a bit and get on with living.

Remember the bell curve? I believe it's a bell curve world and there's always going to be the low end of the curve. Also, it is easy to misinterpret tone in emails and, as one commenter said, maybe she was just being 'sassy'? Keep up the great work!

Rude is rude, and so unfortunate to taint this wonderful blog that brings so much pleasure to so many.

I hope you will carry on as always, Ronni.

And, for Joan Price...your comment about "drowning in fire" is absolutely right on.

Ronni, I am a long time reader of your blog. Like many of the commenters above I do not usually read the comments. I went back and read both the interview and all the comments. In my opinion this is much ado about nothing.

The interview and the comments allowed inciteful and yes even some snarky responses. Good.

All of us have experienced loss and each of us must deal with it in our own way. Grief is both universal and deeply individual. The comment in question seemed like just that person's take on how Betty dealt with it.

Don't be so thin skinned. I have had email conversations with you in the past and found you both direct and honest.

Do you doubt the honesty of the commenter's feelings?

Instead of taking this as a personal attack on either you or Betty, perhaps it could be viewed as one person's opinion on the value of celebrity advice.

From what I read that is all it is, even if it is misguided and the commenter read a whole lot more into Betty's take on grief than was meant. It didn't strike me as rude, so much as both sad and bitter. That happens to people who lose a loved one.

Anyway... Keep up your good work. I want you to know to that I will mourn the loss of this blog and your commentary if that day comes.

So stay cool and keep the dialogue coming lady.

Your admirer and would-be friend.

Richard

Hi Ronni - Have just caught up with last two heated days - felt sad that what appeared to be a somewhat hasty comment should cause such distress - it seemed to me that Hattie just felt that putting 'on a happy face' didn't always work for everyone - fair enough - whereas you felt impelled to defend your friend and interviewee from what you saw as an insulting comment - again fair enough - but I do hope it doesn't mean that Hattie - or any of us for that matter - can't offer an alternative opinion - as long as we 'mind our language' of course. Like Richard, I really value your blog and would hate to see it become all sweetness and light rather than the sharp, intelligent insightful column that it is.
Let's just accept it as one of those misunderstandings that can happen between friends and get back to hating corrupt politicians!

As usual, I am a day late and a dollar short....but thank you Ronni for this most eyeopening post. Yes - grief is personal and I agree with your folks, we all grieve in our own way. My biggest fear is becoming a widow...how would I handle it. I guess you just DO!!! Sorry that the reader's words hurt you...don't sweat it...keep on writing your blog and doing your thing. I respect you!!!!

I'm sorry too, that such an inappropriate comment was posted about the interview. Like you, I feel safe & at home when I'm at TGB, & rudeness just seems so out of character & unexpected. I can only hope that the commenter didn't understand that what she said was rude, & that it was only her opinion being expressed.

Perhaps it would be easier for you to remember Don Ruiz's Four Agreements, one of which is "don't take anything pesonally." I have a hard time remembering this one myself. But probably that commenter was only thinking of her own grief, or past hurt, or whatever.

Have a lovely weekend, and do try and leave all this in yesterday, for your own peace of mind.

Wow. I've read many rude comments made by readers to the general audience about their generalizations regarding those unlike themselves in thinking or beliefs that were so much 'worse' than the comment being discussed here.

When I read the comment yesterday, I thought nothing of it. And I am a widow. I smile on the outside and when I cry from missing him during these past 14 years, it is in private. It is true that "one never really resolves grief; you simply get used to it." I felt the comment yesterday was simply expressing perhaps a more freshly felt sorrow, but it did not seem to be insulting toward Bette White. I agree with Ms White's assessment of widowhood behavior, but I also recognized sadness in the comment which I felt was not a direct 'hate-hit' toward Ms White but rather a heartfelt dilemma.

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