I've been debating whether to write this post for a while. Not sure it does much good. But maybe it needs to be written. If only so the words are on the page.
I want to start out with this: Bruce and I have a wonderful life, one I couldn't have dreamed I would ever live. After a long time in New York City together, we have a house in a very quiet New England town. We have made good friends up here and love the clear air, the peace that comes at night, when the owls sing us to sleep.
But lately, we've had some written assaults tossed at us, mostly because of our sexual orientation. Not by anyone we know, anyone who lives around us. I can say without a doubt that our town has been more welcoming than I could have believed. And indeed, I wish I could say these assaults were direct, face to face. Instead, they're snarky barbs online. The most public are in the amazon reader comments. And they've gotten a little out of control. Yes, we get the random email every few months from someone with an ax to grind. But the intensity and fervor have become more pronounced.
I suppose this is par for the course in a social-media age. People get to be mouthy in the open. When I was a kid (back before the crust of the earth hardened), they had to be content with being mouthy in the comforts of their own homes. Now they get to take it public.
So, yes, there's been an uptick in homophobic rants--and yes, they sting. As an example, some have come up about our goat book--you can see them here. And yes, I'll admit it: that book was without a doubt our most "out" book. There's lots in there about goat meat, milk, and cheese. But there's also stuff about our lives together. Nothing threatening, mind you. (Not sure what that would be, since apparently just being ourselves is threatening.) Instead, the writing in-between the recipes is about the day-to-day problems of a couple who share a single career, who write cookbooks together.
The snarky commenters generally blast a particular book because of alleged inaccuracies, then they go on to talk about what I have a hunch are their real issues: our personhoods. While I understand that almost all cookbooks have inadvertent inaccuracies, our goat book was vetted by several national goat associations, quite a few goat dairy farmers and cheesemakers who sell nationwide, several publicists who work with goat meat and goat cheese, and a couple of dyed-in-the-wool goat ranchers. I really don't think there's a factual problem, mostly because the online commenters don't specifically name any.
We noticed this problem first with our book REAL FOOD HAS CURVES, the seven-step plan to get the processed food out of your life. One commenter wrote on amazon--and I'm being generous here by making the remarks more straightforward than they were--that she couldn't understand how we could worry about healthy food when we were engaged in an unhealthy lifestyle. I don't know about her, but I haven't been to the doctor for even a head cold in several years; so I'm not exactly sure what's so unhealthy about my life.
I know you need a thick skin for this business. But I always assumed you needed it to deal with editors, publicists, and producers. I didn't know about the general public.
Writing is deeply engaged with your consciousness, particularly with those submerged bits of it--which get caught in a flimsy tissue called "words." You then try to make sense of it all through a dodgy and inaccurate form called "writing." I can imagine someone objecting to my abiding sense of the deep irony in the warp of the world or even at Bruce's at-times rather baroque recipes. But I have a hard time imagining someone posting something simply because of who we are.
Of course, I got teased a lot in junior high and high school. I don't imagine any gay kid in my generation survived without being verbally and even physically brutalized. I made it through by putting my head down, hiding bruises, tightening my lips, getting the best grades I could, and having very few friends. I hightailed it out of high school after my junior year without ever graduating and just went on to college--because I needed to.
Today, middle-aged, I feel that same reaction in me: put your head down, wait for it to go away. I wish I could be more like Dreydl in that picture: head up, alert. But it's not what I know. What I know is not smart. It's not classy. It's just survival.
I have a friend who says that anyone in the public eye is fair game, even people who post videos on youtube. If you put yourself out there, expect to be ridiculed. I'd like to think that's not the case. But as William Faulkner pointed out in THE HAMLET, hope is the most profound of the human indignities.