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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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On being mean  

A handful of people have let me know that they thought my post about Zoe was mean-spirited. My first reaction was: Moi? Mean? But I was only having fun! And perhaps having a laugh with Zoe! You people really need to look at the world as I do. In a whimsical and laugh-filled fashion! Tra la!

But then I thought some more. People were telling me I made fun of Zoe for no good reason. And here I didn't think I was making fun of her at all. But, then, who was I making fun of? Was I really writing those emails from a place of goodwill and bonhomie?

No. No, I wasn't.

I'm annoyed by these emails. I get them constantly. Anyone who blogs gets these pitches a lot, but once the column started, they ramped up to an unmanageable degree. And every time I would respond graciously, and tell them, look, this is a personal column, I write about my kid and my painful gas, I'm not going to interview Elizabeth Banks although she sure is pretty--but the queries and pitches kept on, and keep on coming. Even now that the column is defunct (I'm only on the website now, not the print mag). So you know what? I was annoyed with Zoe. Not with her specifically, but with Zoe the symbol for every single PR person who would email me 5, 6, 20 times a day. I was.

And when I wrote that silly email, I thought she'd take the hint and not reply, but then she did, and her reply was so pleasant and yet also completely clueless, I was a little giddy and amazed. Did she know what I was up to, but choose to ignore it? Was she going to keep up this charade for as long as I did? Or did she simply not read my previous email? So I wrote the follow-up, at that point honestly and truly just trying to amuse her.

Also, I suspected she hadn't read the previous email, and I felt a little like I did in high school, when I would work on these complicated science lab reports and put all kinds of insane directions in the middle of the report, just to see if the teacher was actually reading them, and he never commented, so I ramped up the crazy for the next report, but nope, he still didn't notice, so then for the third report I just drew cartoons of a farting pig for pages and pages, and those he finally caught. So it was kind of like that.

And then I was sick with the flu and felt like I should put something up, and there you have it. Not my proudest of moments. I completely am okay with that post being a misfire for some of you. (Steph, come back!) Zoe: if you're reading this, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I made you the butt of my dumb joke.

I don't mean to, but sometimes I do venture into mean-girl territory, and it's not an area I enjoy exploring. I'm a nice person, as most of us are, but I also have a lot of anger, as most of us do, and sometimes it hits the wrong target.

Speaking of which, here's something that's been bothering me for, oh, a loong while: Jenny McCarthy. A year or so (?) ago, I was in a Momversation about autism and vaccines, and I told Jenny McCarthy to go fuck herself. I know a lot of people decided I was some kind of a folk hero for saying that, and thank you for your support, but to be honest I feel shitty about it. It's one thing to tell Andrew Wakefield where he can take a flying leap: the man consciously, purposely misled the public and wasted untold resources that were funneled into study after study on the nonexistent, fictional link between autism and vaccines. He's a worthy target. But Jenny McCarthy, misinformed as she might be, and I do know she hurt many other parents of autistic children with some of her statements--she was fighting what she fully believed to be a good fight. She was wrong, but she wasn't malicious, and didn't deserve my wrath. And I'm sorry.

And I'm sure she has better things to do with her time than watch old Momversation episodes, but nonetheless, that's been bothering me, and I wanted to get it out there.

Whew! Thank you, everyone, for keeping me honest. I love you guys.

Reader Comments (56)

Hi Alice. Great post. Keeping it real is where its at and if that includes a bit of insight into one's own darkside so much the better. Nice has its place but its bland and meaningless without the darker hinterlands where we all wrestle with ourselves. Honest without self indulgence makes for excellence!

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJmcefalas

I didn't think you were being mean and what happened with Redbook?

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjennie w.

Why am I not surprised, and whooo boy I saw this coming.

I knew it when I read it, I thought, "alice will ruminate on this all night and then come back, and then apologize and hopefully not lose another night's sleep over it."

And, voila! The Alice we know.

It's exhausting..I tell my family, "You think it's easy living overthinking and overanalyzing? You try it...see how you do."

We love you, Alice.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteralexandra

Eh, I didn't think you were mean. I know MUUUUUCH meaner people than you. *Sigh*

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJB

This paragraph just summed up the last month or so of my life:

"I don't mean to, but sometimes I do venture into mean-girl territory, and it's not an area I enjoy exploring. I'm a nice person, as most of us are, but I also have a lot of anger, as most of us do, and sometimes it hits the wrong target. "

Well said.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJammie J.

Oh, look, it's midnight and I'm going to turn into a pumpkin (instead of remaining a butternut squash) if I write down my long over-thought response to this. Saved by the imaginary bell!

Short version: I liked this post. I do think that you are funny even when a little mean, but I do probably prefer the meanness be aimed at an anonymous type or group of deserving persons, rather than at a real/specific person. Also I think you are just as funny when you are not mean. And I also prefer civil disagreement to its opposite, although I'm definitely in your camp vs. Jenny McCarthy on the issue itself.

Sigh--so much for short versions. But probably I was already a pumpkin anyway, and just wasn't admitting it to myself.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZina

First - I think you weren't mean at all.
Second - I think that if Zoe would have actually read your first email, she would've had her fair hint at where this was going.
Third - Being pointlessly mean is mean. Your email was more ironic and spiritual than mean.

Anyways - I admire your introspection and the way you strive to find out if you were actually mean and when. But I think we're only humans and sometimes, unfortunately, the moment sweeps us more than our heads would ever allow it if given the right amount of time to think things through. I do that. Because (and that's me trying to find excuses) I'm a woman and I feel more than I think. And I react with my immediate feelings more than with my brain.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkpriss

If there was one word to describe you, it would be delightful. You delight me! And I don't even have to pay you! Thanks!!

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJo

ya know? I thought it was funny. but then I always think you're funny. you're not a mean girl. you're the sweet girl who is friends with all the mean girls and makes them laugh. and if you have a moment of much needed snark, it's okay. more than okay. awesome. and not the slightest bit reproachable or mean.

plus? I bet the Bloggess was super proud.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterandygirl

You've totally won me over with this post. You apologized to Jenny McCarthy. It's very hard to apologize to Playmates of the Year, no matter what you've said or done. Zoe? I think it's okay to mess with Zoe. And I'm sure her name isn't even Zoe, it's Zoanne or something. And there are certain people that are okay to make fun of: those in power, those who pester you, and those who think they're totally balls-to-the-wall awesome. If you stick to those categories, you're fairly safe. And if you apologize to Jenny McCarthy, you fall in the mensch category--which is totally not makefunofable.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreta People take life waaay too seriously. I think you are fabulous and funny and HUMAN. We all have thoughts that are maybe a little out of line sometimes but totally REAL. Besides, I assumed Zoe was a compliation of all the crazy ppl asking you to write about something, and not exactly a real person. Lighten up world, life is too short.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

Everybody is mean sometimes. And your email to Zoe? It was hardly mean. It was most certainly funny. I try to be nice, too. And happen to think you are a nice person - it comes through in your writing and Momversations quite clearly. But being nice all the freaking time? Totally boring. Your tiny forays into "mean girl" territory are blips on the mean girl scale. Whoever told you that your emails were mean need to lighten up.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermeg

Nope. Not mean. At all.

Really, they were funny. Zoe should be able to laugh at those.

Keep doing what you do. From where I sit, I can't see a mean bone in your body! You're sweet and silly and self-depreciating and witty and wry. But not mean.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWendyPinNJ

I don't think your post was out of line. As a former PR Hack myself, I know exactly what Zoe was doing, the same thing my mindless interns used to do - create form letter in word, link it to a contact list and hit send.

The fact that it took her so long to "get" that she was the butt of a joke only underscores that she didn't do her homework to find out if you were an appropriate contact, and that she really wasn't paying attention to your previous emails.

It bugs me that companies hire these huge PR companies (I worked for 2 global pr agencies in my career) and pay exorbatant fees for what is really a disgruntled 21 year old pushing buttons mid AIMing with her friends and posting on FB.

Zoe's agency is probably billing her client anywhere between $115 and $140 an hour and probably charged 3.5 hours for your brief back and forth exchange.

If you feel sorry for anyone, feel sorry for the client that Zoe is hawking for.

End of rant, stepping off soapbox now... :)

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBecki

I've only recently started getting pitches from PR people for my blog.

I get so annoyed because they clearly don't read my blog at all, if they did...they'd know there is no way I can partake in their products because I live in Australia and they don't ship out of the US.

I thought your emails to Zoe were funny.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeidre

What timing! Two nights ago I had a dream that I was in a science class (?!!) with Jenny McCarthy, and in fact we were sitting at the same table. All went well, until I said something about the anti-vaccine crowd being wrong, and then she & a friend got up & left the room. But then the professor took me aside and thanked me for trying.

I think you probably shouldn't have said that she should go fuck herself, but only b/c that doesn't do anything to improve the tone of the conversation. And lord knows, the anti-vax crowd is doing enough on their own to bring the level of discourse down. In general, I'm on the side of civility & reason, and catching flies with honey (and science). OTOH, if I actually *were* in a room w/ Jenny McCarthy? Yeah, I'd have just a few things to say to her about the lives she's endangering with her little crusade...

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErika

Somehow this post served as a catharsis for me. Good stuff!

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

One of the reasons I've been reading you for years is your humor isn't based on mocking others incessantly. I too had no problem with the Zoe email post, but love that you can apologize for something rather than make excuses for it.

On the Jenny McCarthy/ vaccine thing- BOTH my children have been fighting off Whooping Cough this winter. Thankfully they are both fully immunized and so while terrifying to watch your kid turn purple trying to get air, it's not nearly as bad as it could be, had they not been vaccinated. Antibiotics and nebulizer treatments at home aren't fun but not the worst thing ever. We had to cancel trips to see brand new babies because I didn't want my kids to give them the potentially fatal (for newborns) illness. People need to vaccinate their kids. They are putting other children in harms way. Anyone who can look at the falsified evidence and say that it's still true deserves to be told to shut the fuck up.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJaleh

Oh purleez....Alice, you have nothing to apologise for. Regardless of the fact that your response to Zoe was, by your own assessment, borne out of years of frustration at the volume of unsolicited 'pitches' you receive, you were simply poking a bit of gentle fun, it was a bit of rib tickling, no harm done. I would be interested in Zoe's take on all this outrage on her behalf. My guess is that she did indeed read your reponses and was simply playing along, albeit in a dead pan way. I'm sorry (geez, now you have me apologising as well) but really, it is very evident from your original post and everything you have written since that you were not being malicious and everyone who feels you were being mean needs to get out more! PS. You don't know me; I'm a long time lurker.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Anyone that chooses to listen to a " celebrity" over medics and real research deserves what they get. Alice , i enjoy your blog, very refreshing.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJules

New to you. Enjoy it so far, been catching up!! My stepson has autism, and I want to tell Jenny to go fuck herself. What I have discovered is that when parents hear their child has autism, they just fall apart. And they have to blame someone/something. They can't get a grip, dust themselves off and realize it is not a death sentence. Plus they enjoy their "community", the "you can't understand how hard it is" mentality that really is self defeatist. Anyway, before I really get going, she can't give it up, not now she has to believe it, even if it puts others at risk.
So I'm not sure and apology is neccessary when you are really just asking her to wake up, get out of her own pity party, and refocus all that energy on something that could do some real good!! Power to the people and all that. Keep up insights, I'll keep coming back.

January 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

1) Good for your for apologizing to Jenny McCarthy. Though I think celebrities have way, way too much influence over the decisions of ordinary people, it's not Ms. McCarthy's fault that people will believe whatever whacked-out crap she spews. Maybe you ought to give the Huffington Post and Oprah a piece of your mind, since they're among the ones who provided a forum for Ms. McCarthy's views. (But I wouldn't want you to take on either since that would be self-destructive.) I just kind of didn't like hearing you use such harsh language in a public forum. I hope I'm not too delicate to watch your Momversation segments!

2) Though I think you were within your rights to have fun at Zoe's expense, and your post was funny, and also probably The Bloggess' fault, there is a simpler solution. I personally love the DELETE key and use it all the time. I receive e-mails addressed to Dear Blogger--and I'm editor of a small magazine that (sacre bleu!) doesn't even have a blog. The pitches are all completely inappropriate for my local monthly publication. So deletedeletedelete! So quick and satisfying!

Anyway, you're not mean. You're just not. I don't know what that handful of people was thinking.

January 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterReid

Alice, I really admire you for not only speaking your mind and having a sense of humor, but realizing that even if what you said was meant to be humorous, because it could be seen as hurtful you were willing to own up to your words and properly apologize. What a stand-up, admirable person you are! It takes a truly good and kind person to own up to a mistake, and admit to it. Well done! I didn't find what you wrote to be mean-spirited, but was impressed that you recognized how it could be seen that way. I really would like to be more like you. I think it's hard for everyone to remember to be kind when they are irritated/frustrated, and when we react/respond in a way that we realize was less than ideal it takes a LOT of guts to take responsibility for our words/actions. You are obviously a very mature woman (I'm still working at getting there) and this post shows that you have a lot of grace and genuine kindness. Wish I knew you in real life - you seem like you would be a great friend. :)

January 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRebekah

This hit home because I write humor. I never ever want to sound mean, so I have to watch it. Thanks for the reminder that it's nice to be funny, but it's never funny if you're not nice.

January 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPolly

This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday -

January 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterschmutzie

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