Earlier this month, I (we) published this article.
Some negative feedback (mostly toward an earlier version of the article) upset me and caused me to reflect deeply on exactly why I was so upset (nothing at all to do with the lovely Jamie Khoo).
Sex and the City poked fun at dating in this way, so I thought I could do it too—though in reality my perspective on dating these days is much more mindful, inclusive and balanced.
This article is reflecting back on a point in my life when dating really was confusing and scary and lonely, days where conversations with girlfriends over coffee really did evolve similarly, not because we are mean, but because we do see people’s quirks and laugh with them.
And because we know we can be weird and difficult too.
People who haven’t spent a lot of time in the dating world may be less likely to understand the tongue-in-cheek element of what we wrote. It was really a commentary on the strangeness that comes with these attempts at meeting people and hoping to resonate and then just having it go wayward, sometimes due to things that might seem superficial.
It is really. Freaking. Weird.
One woman wished me (us) well, saying “I hope you meet Mr. Right.” This was so sweet, but I don’t really believe in ‘a’ Mr. Right. I think if it all as relative: relationships occur on a spectrum (no two are the same), and the ‘rightness’ of any given person for you can change over time and space.
I’m fairly content, now, with the ways my relationships are going. Much of that kind of dating attitude is behind me: the weirdness, the cynicism, the insecurity, the bitching.
And this is why I happily poke fun at myself about those times. That slightly cynical voice is still a part of me, for sure, and I’m not ashamed of it. But mostly when I catch it before letting it run loose, it just feels better.
But what I didn’t fully realize before publishing that post is that I have an audience now: people are listening.
Maybe this voice is not the one that I want to use anymore. That’s not what I want people to associate me with. It’s not what I truly want to offer, or how I would like to invite people in.
That voice is a part of my past self that I’ve been letting go of for a while now, because I’ve recognized that it no longer serves me. And if it doesn’t serve me that means it’s probably not serving others.
So I think that from here on in I’m going to save it for giggly (digital) gossip times over tea with a girlfriend.
I’d been kind of upset when I received some negative comments on the article, and I wondered why. It’s not that I can’t handle criticism (a few friends have told me they didn’t love the article and I’m fine with this).
Then it hit me: I was worried that, by writing something in a somewhat cynical or sarcastic tone, I felt like I was not doing my job as a writer.
I was not using the voice that I hope inspires and encourages others to also express themselves in authentic and loving ways.
Then a good friend had a point. He said:
“If you were mindful all the time, you’d be less real. Allow yourself to be low-brow or superficial from time to time. Sometimes we (the readers) need it. Sometimes, people also need something superficial to rail against in order to feel their own depth. You’ve done your job. You’re a writer, not a saint.” ~ Joshua Solomon
This was quite possibly one of the most brilliant and comforting things I’ve ever heard said to me.
It’s true that we don’t need to take things so seriously. It’s okay to experiment and have fun while exploring different tones, voices, genres. Whatever my message is, I have to believe that it is still effective.
Still, I have a deep-seated desire to inspire real conversation and real change. Although I know I can’t please everyone, I want to switch people ‘on,’ not turn them off.
I strive for richness in my writing, for it to have enough layers to inspire a second, third, or fourth read, be it for ‘good’ reasons or bad.
I really do believe that part of my ‘job’ as a writer is to honour my own authentic voice. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve recognized that a part of using this voice is about honouring my audience.
The more people are listening, the greater responsibility I have to use this voice towards the greater good.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons