It’s tough to look like serious blogger when, six months into it, one has yet figured out their “elevator pitch.” This is the idea that you’ve coincidentally stepped on an elevator with some fancy shmancy CEO that kindly ask you about your product. But you only have ten floors (until you reach the shmancy floor) to explain it.
When I first tried to describe The Bare InkSlinger blog, I described it as a “fun mix of my classic styled stories and things that inspire me.” But only a fraction of the residents of Denver knew my work and the rest of the 99.9999999% of the world had no idea who I was.
If people would ask me what I wrote about, I’d stumble through my words.
“I write about myself,” I’d say. No, wait! That sounds totally narcissistic!
“Well, I write about life,” I’d try to correct myself. Dammit, no! That sounds way too general!
Then I’d take a shot in the dark and pick one of my common themes at random. “I write about taking personal responsibility.” Fuck! I just sounded like a republican!
One day I finally came up with the perfect phrase to describe my product: “fun stories on living from someone who once thought they were dying.” To me, this captured the honesty and humility of it all by wrapping it up in a lovely little bow of light-heartedness.
Sometimes it’d click for people. Other times they’d give me a weird look. But more often than not, they’d just say, “Jeez, that sounds heavy.”
What? Heavy? But I just said it was fun! FUN, I TELLS YA!
It’s hard to figure out how to explain your work in 15 seconds or less when you write about such a myriad of things. So like any dedicated professional, I had shelved this important responsibility and threw it under the bed like the terrible monster it had become. Aside from figuring out how to explain it to complete strangers, my work just didn’t seem all that urgent to define.
That is until a couple weeks ago when my partner, Luke, came home from work with a concern. “So we’re not gonna make a big deal of this,” he started. “So I don’t want you to freak out.”
When someone tells us not to freak out, naturally we start freaking out - at least in our heads. Luke proceeded to tell me that his nineteen year old niece, Addie (not her real name), stumbled onto my blog and read the essay titled Gold Star Be Gone. Afterwards, or probably even before she finished reading the piece, Addie unfriended me on Facebook - most likely due to thinking I cheat on Luke.
Oh, but wait, it gets worse. Luke found out about this through a text message from his incredible, seventy-eight year old mother who wrote: “Addie found Scott’s sex blog.”
What the fuck was happening? She unfriended me? Does his family think I cheat on him? Do they really think I run a sex blog? Ironically, this was happening right on the heels of writing The Perks of Being Sex Positive.
In truth, I wouldn’t even mind having a sex blog. But a sex blog isn’t what I set out to create. So many gay guys out there think they’re experts on sex. Do we really need another? I don’t know. Maybe. But we already have Dan Savage and it’s not like I’m all that much younger or cutting edge than him. I’m also not as handsome or muscular or successful or… well, you get the idea. Although he doesn’t get naked for the sake of his craft like I do. (note to self: google ‘Dan Savage Naked’)
In mental health, there’s a saying whenever you feel emotionally affronted: respond, don’t react. I try to center my brain around this whenever I reach a point of contention with someone else. It helps me be more diplomatic rather the splooge forth with some terrible brain thoughts. But I was having a hard time not reacting to Addie’s reactions. The unfriending and the labeling as a sex blog kind of hurt.
As Luke requested, we were to not make a big deal of this. So that evening, I didn’t bring it up again - at least not on the outside. On the inside, I continued to build my legal defense against the prosecution: 1. In that essay, I clearly stated that the potential for extra-marital activities were not only consensual with my partner, but in fact encouraged by him. 2. Maybe it’d be good for Addie to get out of her bubble and learn about alternative relationships. 3. Sure, 90% of the “ask me anythings” are, in some way, sexually related, but to date only one blogpost (out of twenty) was actually about sex.
Fortunately, “time” has a way of shifting us from reaction to response. Thus the next morning I woke up with a little more clarity. In part, I had kicked back against Addie’s kickbacks because of how much I love and respect her. She’s an amazing kid who I am insanely proud of and I hated the idea that my work upset her.
I had always been a bit awkward with my partner’s family but out of all the nieces and nephews, she made me feel the most welcomed. Addie not only got good grades but worked a job so that she could buy a car (well, a truck). Her parents didn’t just pay for it like mine did. Also without any parental help, she got scholarships and financial aid to go to college out of state (although not too far away). Plus she treats our weirdo dog like a prince.
At any rate, Addie grew up in a tight bubble of a small town. The typical dress code included cowboy boots and camo shirts… AT THE SAME TIME! And if ya had a high school sweat heart, you’d most likely marry them and have camo shirt wearing babies. She loved the small town life. However in their world, concepts like “open relationships” rarely get mentioned, let alone understood. I could imagine it being especially jarring for an idealistic young woman.
My gut began to tell me that somewhere I messed up and owed Addie an apology. I take apologies very seriously. I loath it when people toss them around senselessly. Thus whenever I have to apologize, I think back to the root word “regret.” But what exactly did I regret this time?
Over the next couple of weeks, I’d ask friends to weigh in on the situation. Some would say I absolutely shouldn’t apologize - I needed to stand by my work regardless of who sees it. Others would say yes, an apology would be nice - I have a responsibility to best direct my work to the audience for which it’s intended (wow, look at me not ending a sentence with a preposition).
I realized that both could be true. I launched The Bare InkSlinger so quickly that when I set up the Facebook page, I just let it force all of my personal page’s “friends” to automatically like it. I set the page to 18+ so that it’d weed out any of the nieces and nephews. But with Addie being nineteen, she slipped through the cracks.
She may have unfriended my personal page, but when I went back to check The Bare InkSlinger writer page, she was still there… liking it, unknowingly and against her will. This was mt fault and I felt awful. Addie didn’t intentionally seek out my work. She mistakenly got the link that lured her in for a click and for that I was indeed sorry. I immediately kicked her off along with the rest of our families.
But fortunately enough, the fact that she deserved this apology for my misfire didn’t necessarily mean I had to make a compromise on writing about the exposed life. Not everyone can easily digest some of the deliciously weird ideas I want to serve up (there’s that good old preposition ending). Occasionally, the wrong person is going to accidentally take a bite. That doesn’t mean I have to change the recipe. I just need to pay attention to who’s sitting at the table and better define it so folks can really be sure they want a taste.
Our friend Shannon (real name) said it best. “The way you write in such full disclosure and total honesty is an extraordinary and beautiful thing. But it’s not without it’s consequence.”
The last elevator pitch I tossed around was “fun essays on the disjunctures of daily living.” Despite this not being a sex blog, nothing seems more disjuncturey than that of sex. So it’s something I will absolutely continue to explore. But delving into such subjects can be a bit like running through a minefield (or in this case a “mindfield”). And whenever we run through such territory, we’re bound to occasionally get blown up.
I’ve yet to actually make this apology to Addie - partly because of timing and partly because it’ll be horribly awkward and I want to be a coward. Regardless, since my partner knows his family best, I'll follow his lead on if or when that should happen.
And I’m now back to tackling the monster of defining my work. Seeing as how I don’t plan on changing a thing, some of you dedicated InkReaders might be better at describing it than me. So if you have an idea, I’m all ears.
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