I’m hardly being original in saying that the comments made to most items posted on the Internet represent something independent of what was originally posted. What I mean is, you shouldn’t take comments personally as a writer, as the substance of the comments often have nothing to do with what you’ve written.
I’m generally pretty successful in this regard, one of the ways in which being a self-involved egotist tends to work in my favor. I don’t get upset about negative comments, by and large. I love myself already–what do I need with anyone else’s love (in those few nice comments I get)? And since I’m perfect, well, then the negative comments must be absurdly wrong, and why get agitated about that?
But I did find one theme of the comments regarding my latest post in the New York Times Opinionator blog rather difficult to ignore. The subject of the post was how Tomoko and I were going to be married soon, largely because I had lost my job and needed to get health insurance for me and the children.
A fair number of comments to the piece reacted to the fact that Tomoko and I had had Ellie while unmarried–“ever heard of contraception?” wrote one wit. Granted, the Times is a national publication, which means its commenters will reflect the opinions of a wider cross-section of American opinion than might be found among the brilliant, good-looking, and progressive readers of DadWagon. But that still didn’t really prepare me for reading people’s disapproval of the existence of my child.
I was writing about health insurance and marriage and joblessness. Nowhere, I think, did I indicate that my daughter was to be included among the roster of my problems. It’s an ugly thought, and an ugly sentiment, and one that was too easily and regularly included among the comments.
So, to be clear: Ellie was a planned child, one that both parents wanted greatly, and who came as no surprise. For those who find that unpalatable because we aren’t yet married, well, I suppose that’s what the Internet is for: intolerance, bad jokes, and naked pictures. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.