Writers don’t write for money alone. It’s true: If writers had a theme song, it would be “Reach Out and Touch Someone.” And when we get phone calls and e-mails from readers — or when they approach us in grocery stores or restaurants — we know that we have connected with them, and it makes us feel good.
Not everyone is pleased with what we write, of course, but, hey, even negative responses show they’ve read it. One columnist recently wrote about a Web site featuring e-mails from crazy people. I’ve had a few of those over the years, although I wouldn’t term the people crazy ... just angry. Really, really angry.
When I wrote that I was creeped out by the piercing of tongues and other sensitive body parts, my column was picked up by several body modification Web sites, which evoked a worldwide firestorm of criticism from pierced folks. The Brits mostly wanted to politely educate me with regard to WHY they pierced, while many from the U.S. and other countries wanted to tell me exactly WHAT they pierced. (I’d tell you, but you wouldn’t believe it!) The only response that hurt my feelings was from a reader who suggested I hadn’t done sufficient research. Hello! It wasn’t a serious article. I thought the fact this column is called “Jest for Grins” made that clear.
There was the time I wrote about a cougar suspected of patrolling the neck of the woods where husband Ray and I walk. I casually mentioned my concern that Ray wouldn’t have to outrun the cougar, only me, and that brought me an irate e-mail from a woman who made the leap that I was inciting “men to get their guns and shoot that poor animal.”
Then there was the man who wrote to tell me Ray and I “should pave our yard if snakes aren’t welcome.” That angry response came when I wrote about a large and very aggressive water snake that had serially killed frogs and fish in our water garden. The snake made the mistake of coming after Ray as he innocently walked by the crime scene. I wrote then — and still believe — that one has to question the IQ of a snake that attacks a man carrying a hoe, but the angry guy didn’t see it that way.
In a column titled “Let’s hear it for the boys,” I said I thought the boys of today were getting a raw deal. A woman misunderstood that to mean I believed girls should “just go away.” That wasn’t my intent, of course; after all, I AM a girl.
When I wrote about my troubles finding a Wii for Ray one Christmas, an anonymous (aren’t they always) guy snidely suggested my husband suffered from arrested development if he needed to play video games. Fact is, I’ve exercised using the Wii more than Ray has played games on it.
I don’t take any of the angry comments personally; readers are entitled to their opinions the same as I am. Sometimes they even educate me. I once used the word “gypped” in a column only to have a woman write and say it was an aspersion of gypsies. That wasn’t my intention, but I looked it up, and she was right. Who knew?
My favorite responses, though, are the many funny ones in which people share their similar experiences. I’m still laughing over a recent comment by a man who suggested Ray put on some clothes when he goes out to shoo raccoons off the deck. Seems this man, clad only in white, gray and hot-pink boxers, went out at night to retrieve his dog, who was chasing a skunk. Problem was, he didn’t live in the country as we do and was caught in his neighbors’ car headlights. He claimed his neighbors were “scarred for life.”
Fortunately, coons and cows don’t care what Ray is — or isn’t — wearing. Better yet, even if they did, they couldn’t write me to complain about it.
— Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence whose latest book is “Human Nature Calls.”