I would be a better blogger if I had fewer friends.
Correction: I would be a more honest blogger if I had fewer diverse friends.
Since I transitioned these Coconut Chronicles from “funny travel blog” to “blog about whatever I’m thinking about at any given moment”, I’ve walked the tightrope of honesty vs friendship. A walk that became somewhat easier as I realized that you cannot control what will offend people, even people you think you know well.
I’ve offended friends with my (sparse) political posts. I offended a friend because I joked about traditional marriage (aiming the comedy at my own first marriage). I offended a Christian friend because I compared the LAX airport at 3am to hell (actually, I think I said it was far worse than hell, and I stand by that). I’ve offended friends by mentioning them in posts and I’ve offended friends by not mentioning them in posts. I’ve offended friends by writing too honestly about my own failings. There is one small group of friends who have stated that I may NEVER mention them in these Chronicles or our friendship will be terminated.
It used to gut me when I wrote something that hurt a friend—even if we weren’t that close. I once shut down the Chronicles for almost a year after such an incident. I’ve learned not to take people’s reactions to my writing so personally but if a friend reaches out to say I hurt them then I consider their words and try to reply genuinely. The closer the friend, the more thought I put into my response. I may not necessarily back down from my position but I do want them to know that we can disagree and still love each other.
It would probably shock my friends who have been offended by my posts to know just how much I angst about them. I’ve deleted untold numbers of drafts because I knew that my honest opinion and experience would really hurt a friend. And, even when I’ve made my peace with possibly hurting a friend, there are still Fred’s feelings to consider. It bothers me every single time I hold back, because I strive to be a better writer and good writing comes from truth. What use am I if I’m too worried what my friends will think to tell the truth?
As a writer, at least as a blogger, I think I am damned to mediocrity.
I wish I was braver.
I tell myself it’s okay to compromise now and then, because my friends are wonderful people and have done so much for me and for Fred. But how much compromise? Where do I draw the line?
You see, I have these moments that haunt me. Real life moments where I chose not hurting or offending a friend over doing the right thing.
A few years ago, two of our dear friends took pity on our suffering through the cold Canadian winter and invited us down to spend some time at a place they were renting in California. We happily said yes and zoomed south. The sunny sojourn was just what we needed and we were so grateful. One of our friends even thoughtfully arranged a tennis match for me with three other women, whom I’d never met. Of course I was determined both to play my best and be on my best behaviour—I wanted to reflect well on my generous friend.
Shortly after meeting the three women, who were all white and retired and upper middle class (at the minimum), they joked about how many Canadians were showing up at the tennis club in the winter. “We’re taking over!” I said, jokingly.
“Well, you Canadians are welcome here,” said one of the ladies. How nice! “Better than those ones.”
On the last line, she directed her glance toward the Mexican groundskeepers.
All three women laughed.
My immediate feeling: rage.
I wanted to call out their privilege and racism. I wanted to tell them about all the years I’d spent in Mexico and how amazing and kind the people were to me. I wanted to point out that while we were prancing around in tennis skirts, those men were toiling away in the sun, doing jobs those women would never lower themselves to do. I wanted to tell them to stick their racquets up their ignorant asses and then walk away.
But then that voice in my head told me to zip it. I was here as the guest of friends and how dare I do or say anything to cause trouble for them? My friends aren’t racist and don’t think like these women, and that’s what matters. Don’t make things difficult or uncomfortable for the people you love.
And so, I gritted out a smile and carried on.
To this day, I wish I had said something. Anything. Even just, “Oh? I’ve spent a lot of time in Mexico and I’ve had almost all good experiences with the people.” I hate that I smiled. I hate that I betrayed good people simply to not rock the boat. I hated, and still hate, my cowardice.
I carry that memory in my head always. It may seem minor to you but to me it is a glaring failure. Every time I sit down to write a blog post and start to pull back from being honest because I’m worried about offending friends, I return to that memory and ask myself if I’m repeating the same mistake. I ask myself how important honesty is in that particular post and whether I will regret not speaking truth down the road.
I still hold back, many times. There are stories I would like to tell you—important stories that I likely will never share because of how they would make some of my friends feel. How they would make my husband feel.
So, these are the sometimes honest, sometimes heavily-edited, sometimes completely censored Coconut Chronicles. And I remain a coward.
And things are about to get worse.
Generally, I confine my discussion of anything political to events and issues that either directly affect me or touch on issues about which I am passionate. I try to be objective (while acknowledging my own bias) and to keep a dialogue open between left and right and all points in between. I believe we are all more alike than we are different and that our differences, for the most part, make us stronger.
But then along comes Trump.
Yep, here we go. Again.
I want to premise this by saying the following:
Long before he even announced an intention of running for office, Donald Trump represented everything I loathed in a human. Narcissistic, obsessed with wealth and the appearance of wealth, shallow, cruel, barely literate, misogynistic, attention-seeking, con-man… the descriptions could go on and on, none flattering. When he jumped on the bandwagon to hound President Obama for his birth certificate, he sunk to an even newer low. For five years he beat that racist conspiracy theory drum. And then, when it was proven beyond all doubt that Trump’s claims were false, he pointed to Hilary Clinton and tried to blame her. What the actual…?
There have been nine US presidents in my lifetime. I’ve liked some more than others, agreed with some more than others, but I’ve always seen them as people doing a job, and some were better at their jobs than others. (I was too young to have an opinion on Richard Nixon, just FYI). I disliked and opposed what George W. Bush did in Iraq, and have always been clear about that, but I’ve never seen him as a “bad” person. (Can’t say the same about some of his cronies, however).
There is an important distinction between a person who is bad at their job and a person who is bad at being a human. This is the first time in my grown life that a person who I think is a genuinely bad person sits in the US president’s seat.
My opinion. My feelings. I feel strongly about a person of Trump’s character occupying that position. I feel strongly about the words he has spoken and the actions he has taken so far. I feel strongly about the kind of intolerance, fear, and hatred his campaign inspired and how it has begun to worm its way into my country.
Others feel and think differently, just as strongly. Some of those people are my friends.
So here I am on the tightrope.
Be a coward. Edit and censor myself. Keep some of my friends happy. Betray other friends.
Be brave. Speak my truth. Offend and possibly lose some of my friends. Demonstrate loyalty to other friends but possibly close the door to dialogue with more conservative friends?
Be silent. Be silly. Write about cats and cupcakes. Write about benign things, things I don’t care about?
Are my friends there to challenge and enlighten me? Are my friends there to gag and blind me?
Does anything I write here even matter?