Tag Archives: essays

Toxic Citizens, Bullies Beware

I Y Books ButtonI’ve been thinking more and more that some writers should come with warning labels: “Extremely Volatile,” “Contents Under Pressure May Explode,” “Does Not Play Well With Others,” etc. Perhaps at least with some advance notice, we could choose to avoid situations where citizens of the literary community, especially online, step onto land mines of aggression without even realizing it. To avoid turning this post into an extended nebulous subtweet, I’ll cut to the chase: Why do we often tolerate extremely bad behavior from certain members of our community? 

I don’t know if five years counts as “a long time” — perhaps it’s been just under five — but that’s how long I’ve been an active contributor to the online literary community (though I’ve been a writer since I was knee-high to a grasshopper), both with writing and editing, which means I’ve been a citizen of that community for that long. Citizen is an important word, I think. My default M.O. in dealing with other writers and editors is to treat all of them like a close friend, kindly and respectfully. I treat them like they can teach me something new, with an open mind, because it’s the truth. I also stand up for those who’ve been treated poorly and go to bat for those whose voices have/had been marginalized. I do all of this because I believe in the community and all of the wonderfully diverse things it can teach me and that it stands for.

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The Terror of Fatherly Frailty

Joey Hat Green onesie

Many people are terrified of becoming a parent; sometimes fears overlap with those of others, but often, they feel singular and impossible to cope with. I wrote a piece for Thought Catalog talking about exactly this, opening deeply personal veins and bleeding them onto the page. Here’s an excerpt:

On December 21, 2013, I became a father for the first time. However, I feel like I should qualify what I’m going to say before I even say it, lest I alienate ~90 percent of my audience before this essay hits sixty words. In any case, here goes: I actually never really wanted to be a father. I’ve known many men who’ve shared this sentiment, but few, if any, who meant it the same way I did. I say this now in retrospect, which is an important distinction, I think. I say this because, while most people are universally worried about sleepless nights, changing diapers, a formerly vibrant social life atrophied and on life support, being responsible for another (tiny) human life, or any/all of the above. Admittedly, I’ve always had my own reservations about those things, but they’d barely pinged my anxiety meter (which, n.b. is incredibly sensitive). . . .

My reservations about becoming a father stem from my set of seemingly shattered genetics, the sum total of which often makes it a Herculean feat to simply get through any given day. I’ve become accustomed to reaching the point of each day where exhaustion sets in — deep into the marrow of my bones, my being — turning menial daily tasks into Gordian Knot-like productions. Changing diapers is not scary; trying to raise a child who might have to help take care of you sooner than he should ever have to is scary. It’s the stuff of nightmares. I’ve had them already. . . .

. . . [But even] while there are definitely things I can’t do with my son—and won’t be able to do unless modern science comes up with a full-body transplant for my somewhat functional brain—there’s still so much I can  do, so much I can teach him that isn’t predicated on my health that it makes me feel almost silly for fretting the way I did before he was born. . . .

Read the rest over at Thought Catalog if you’re interested!

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Bittersweet Start to 2014. . .

Antikythera mechanismWhere 2013 went out with a decent bang, 2014 is sort of “meh” so far. Granted, we’re only one day in, but hopefully things progress from here.

Something about which I have a much more significant piece forthcoming is becoming a father. On December 21, 2013, Joseph Paul Owens made his debut into the world. This is important enough that it deserves a post/essay that doesn’t stray from the subject.

Nebraska beat Georgia, but that’s ostensibly irrelevant comparatively (though, still, Go Big Red!).

No, these things I’ve just mentioned are not what’s left a bad taste in my mouth; that dubious honor goes to the special way that only all out, diametrically-opposed arguments with family members can.

I’ve been vocal in my disapproval of A&E’s capitulation in the whole Duck Dynasty racism/homophobia fiasco. I’m not going to rehash it here. The bottom line is that, when you say ignorant things that your insularity has caused (or whatever) in 2013, don’t be shocked when someone calls you on your bigoted bullshit.

Of course — like so many of the most infuriating arguments are wont to do — what amounts to a verbal fraternal brawl broke out on my Facebook wall. I’m embarrassed to say, but I’ve got family members who wish they lived in pre-1860s America (or in the parts of Texas not called Austin, today). I support equal rights for everyone — no qualifications, no justifications. I was accused of preaching today, but if I preach anything, it’s equality and tolerance.

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