Thursday, February 10, 2005

THEORETICALLY

You know that kid on the playground? The one who called you a stupid-head, or a kaka-brain, or who was more than gleeful to be able to tell you that you had more than a few cooties? His persistence was obnoxious, even if his comments held no truths or resonance. He was more annoying than harmful, even to the fragilest egos. He was the one who would pull your pigtails, then run away before you could find a teacher. When you were growing up, adult figures told you not to play with kids like him--if you ignore him, he'll go away. But the truth is, he never goes away, and never really changes.

From those early interchanges on the playground, it's not immediately clear how he'll evolve into an adult. He might become a lawyer, or a doctor, or an actor: a profession in which he's paid to talk and people pay to listen. The only thing you know for sure is that after the recess of your education is over, he vanishes. And you're glad.

You grow up, get a job, a life, etc. So does he. Theoretically. He grows physically, often intellectually, even reaching a place where he can use language fairly effectively. He might become a writer of sorts, immerse himself in himself (as he always liked to do), and emerge on the other side of the struggle as a scraggly, cantankerous, provocative version of his younger, pigtail-pulling self.

He has learned from his time on the playground that if you hate someone, you don't have to have logic on your team; you just need to assert yourself, louder than anyone else. He has learned that the pen is mightier than the sword, and that he can pull your emotional pigtails much more effectively if he can infect others with his opinion, and effect a manner of wounding even wider than usual.

Say there's a former playground-dweller who has refused to take a recess from his desire to make other people feel uncomfortable and unworthy. Say he finds himself on a different kind of asphalt, but with the adult-size representations of the kids he liked to make uncomfortable when he was a kid...

Say it's because of his own feelings of displacement that he's internalized the lesson that making other people feel bad about themselves, their professional ability and their worthiness generates an intoxicating power. Say he's masquerading as a paragon of religious virtue, but his actions convey a certain sense of Satanic soullessness.

Say you become aware of such a man-child, so consumed with himself-as-empty-calories that he feels the need to take cheap shots at others without cause. And say he's selected you as his target. In loco parentis, on a protoplasmic level, your cells are screaming, "ignore him, and he'll go away." But you can't, because you are wounded, however mildly and illogically, by this person who doesn't even know enough of you or your work to make the statements he makes. You know it's wrong to engage him. "It's what he wants," your inner voice warns.

So you don't engage him directly. You do what you can with the tools available. And you hope that he doesn't notice that he's gotten to you, because you want to be so much better than that. But you can't help your humanity. And that's where you differ.

Say there's someone out there (and there is someone out there) who always seems to hate what you've written. He spews negativity about you and your work. And yet, he keeps reading you.

You might wonder what his motivation is.

I'm just saying.

26 Comments:

At 2:09 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger T.A.B. said...

Bullying is the tactic of the callow, weak, and insecure. Eventually, he will be placed in a situation where he will be called on for his words or actions. Remember that for comfort.

 
At 2:59 PM, February 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I will be the one who calls on him. I ignore SOB's until, I don't. Enjoyed your "writing/essay" Urban.

 
At 3:43 PM, February 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Said, Esther. I wonder...

 
At 4:36 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger Gooch said...

I know exactly who and what you are talking about and all I can say in support is that his single-minded obsession with you is in and of itself a sign of your success. And listen to your cells.

 
At 4:39 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger Yaron said...

Hey, we all get cyber-stalkers, it comes with the territory. Consider it a badge of honor.

At least yours is moral. :)

 
At 4:41 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger writersbloc gal said...

i've no idea who it is you're talking about but seriously, the fact that they take the time to pay attention to you is a testament of your success. whoever it is must be feeling quite insecure around you.
in any case, i think you rock!! :)

 
At 8:42 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger annabel lee said...

You are fabulous. He is lame. Ergo, don't waste another second of your valuable life on him. See, once you grow up, you start to realize that you can create your own playground...and you get to decide who's allowed in. And bitter, narrow-minded, repressed jerks? Are not allowed.

 
At 10:17 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger Wes said...

Well! I'm sure you're not talking about me, but as someone who once fit that description (and may still, if that kind of person never really changes), take some heart in the knowledge that these kinds of people often don't hate their targets. This guy may just think you're totally hot, Esther, and he doesn't know any other way to show his affection than by picking on you when he feels it's appropriate to do so. Because thoughtful criticism takes so much more effort (and is therefore more romantic!) than blind and empty praise.

I'm just saying. ;)

 
At 4:04 AM, February 11, 2005, Anonymous Debs said...

oooh--I stink at ignoring this stuff..For the record I was a pretty good defender against the bully's in grade school--who is this guy? tell him to meet me by the jungle gym during recess....

 
At 6:53 AM, February 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very, very good work, my darling. Hokay, I admit it. I'm the obssessed guy. And yes, I'm a writer who is very much involved with himself. But then you came along. Your beauty, your wit, your charm, your youth. I'm transfixed. So if I pull your metaphorical pigtails, you know the reason why.
And I can contain myself no longer. I must shed the cloak of anonymity and declare my passion to you and the blogging community.
So here it is for all to see.
My name is. . .Leon Wiseltier

 
At 8:29 AM, February 11, 2005, Blogger Sarah said...

I'll give you one more warning Leon, and then I'll have to give you a time out and take away your recess. That kind of behavior is unacceptable in my classroom and you are going to have to watch everyone else have fun and play nicely while you sit with me and we talk about what you have done. Am I going to have to phone your mother?

 
At 10:12 AM, February 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What exactly are you trying to say? It's not clear.

 
At 10:49 AM, February 11, 2005, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Esther,

I'd not place much stock in his efforts. Just think about all the energy he spends on you and smile.

 
At 11:38 AM, February 11, 2005, Blogger DovBear said...

I don't get the Leon joke either.

I think you should name the mamzer so we can shower his multiple sites with gobs of hate mail.

He'll learn: no one messes with the princess of darkness

Note: this would be an opportune moment to remind the masses that DovBear really likes your writing, (and that it's simply paranoia making him think that all those emails he's received slugged "stop bothering Esther" or similar, mean this post was about him)

 
At 11:40 AM, February 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummm its spelled 'Wieseltier'

 
At 11:47 AM, February 11, 2005, Blogger Ken Wheaton said...

Esther,
You talking about me kaka-head? Yoink! Just joking.
I will say this, though, and I don't mean to be rude to the other commenters, but so much of this sounds like recycled advice from a sitcom dad.
Outside of TV and movies, bullies--the intelligent ones at any rate (and they do exist)--are rarely called to the mat for words or actions, precisely because everyone is running around saying "Oh, don't let him bother you. He'll get his sooner or later." On a global stage, those people would be France or Chamberlain. Don't be those people. Take this fucker out. Publicly. Some might say you're "reducing yourself to his level." Bullshit. You're not picking on someone just for the joy of it. You'd be bitchsmacking someone who gets away with this sort of behavior all the time and possibly be saving other folks down the line from having to deal with his shit.

(Then again, he/she could find out where you live and beat you up. There's always that risk).

 
At 1:07 PM, February 11, 2005, Blogger PetiteDov said...

First, great post.
Second i have to agree with Ken on this one. The advice grin and ignore is all well and good. However, people need to be called on their b.s. As someone who has experienced ridicule it hasn't never comforted me when the explanantion people gave me was "he's just doing it to get attention/they actually are in awe of you etc." I guess what i'm saying is bullies are bullies sometimes just to be mean and you don't have to take it.
P.S. The new comments section is confusing me.

 
At 1:54 PM, February 11, 2005, Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

Thanks, everyone.

Annabel Lee, I love your equation. Quite logical. :-)

I'm pretty sure that Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic since 1983, is not riveted to My Urban Kvetch for his daily dose of Esther.

For the record, I'm not talking about Wes or DovBear. To the person who said I'm not being clear, I say that it's intentional. I really don't feel like turning my blog into a space for personality and ego clashes, which it would be if I were to link to the pigtail-puller in question.

And I don't view him as a bully, so much. He's more of an annoying enigma at this point.

You really want to know who he is and what this is about? Replace the word "what you've written" with "your song selections," and you'll surely understand. If he hates me so much, Simon Cowell's got to stop following me to karaoke bars.

 
At 2:20 PM, February 11, 2005, Blogger Stephanie said...

I really enjoy your blog! Great posts :)

 
At 2:44 PM, February 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh. . .Esther, mein malka, thanks for covering for me. Of course I'm not Leon WIESELTIER of TNR. I'm that psychological hair-puller, Leon Wiseltier.
And ani ohev ohtach the most behbeh.
By rhe way, you might as well know now, I slept with your best friend, Sadie, at the Camp Ramah retreat.

 
At 2:58 PM, February 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, ummm it's spelled "it's" when it's a contraction for "it is". Not "its", Mr. Anonymous Correction Person

 
At 3:53 PM, February 11, 2005, Blogger DovBear said...

::I slept with your best friend, Sadie, at the Camp Ramah retreat.::

People sleep around at Camp Rama? No {-} way!!!

 
At 4:53 PM, February 11, 2005, Blogger Coelecanth said...

Yikes! Yah go away for a few days and the trolls come out at MUK.

While I agree that calling the idiot out might be what's needed to get him to stop, I'm not sure I'd bother. I suspect it would take a fundamental change in his personality and that would take a lot of effort on E's part.

We all have a responsiblity to try and help our fellow humans be better people, but you have to pick your battles. A web troll? Seems like a low percentage play in the self improvement gamble. Don't ignore him 'cause he'll go away, ignore him 'cause he's not worth the effort.

 
At 2:12 AM, February 12, 2005, Blogger Plantation said...

I think I know this dude. Heard from him just the other day. Goes by the name of Anonymous.

 
At 5:22 PM, February 12, 2005, Anonymous Karol said...

I have a strong suspicion that I know who it is.

 
At 11:48 PM, February 12, 2005, Blogger Captain Mainline said...

So many people say "one complaint won't do any good" but this is cowardly and incorrect. One complaint puts them on notice & the next complaint establishes a trend.

 

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My Urban Kvetch: THEORETICALLY

Thursday, February 10, 2005

THEORETICALLY

You know that kid on the playground? The one who called you a stupid-head, or a kaka-brain, or who was more than gleeful to be able to tell you that you had more than a few cooties? His persistence was obnoxious, even if his comments held no truths or resonance. He was more annoying than harmful, even to the fragilest egos. He was the one who would pull your pigtails, then run away before you could find a teacher. When you were growing up, adult figures told you not to play with kids like him--if you ignore him, he'll go away. But the truth is, he never goes away, and never really changes.

From those early interchanges on the playground, it's not immediately clear how he'll evolve into an adult. He might become a lawyer, or a doctor, or an actor: a profession in which he's paid to talk and people pay to listen. The only thing you know for sure is that after the recess of your education is over, he vanishes. And you're glad.

You grow up, get a job, a life, etc. So does he. Theoretically. He grows physically, often intellectually, even reaching a place where he can use language fairly effectively. He might become a writer of sorts, immerse himself in himself (as he always liked to do), and emerge on the other side of the struggle as a scraggly, cantankerous, provocative version of his younger, pigtail-pulling self.

He has learned from his time on the playground that if you hate someone, you don't have to have logic on your team; you just need to assert yourself, louder than anyone else. He has learned that the pen is mightier than the sword, and that he can pull your emotional pigtails much more effectively if he can infect others with his opinion, and effect a manner of wounding even wider than usual.

Say there's a former playground-dweller who has refused to take a recess from his desire to make other people feel uncomfortable and unworthy. Say he finds himself on a different kind of asphalt, but with the adult-size representations of the kids he liked to make uncomfortable when he was a kid...

Say it's because of his own feelings of displacement that he's internalized the lesson that making other people feel bad about themselves, their professional ability and their worthiness generates an intoxicating power. Say he's masquerading as a paragon of religious virtue, but his actions convey a certain sense of Satanic soullessness.

Say you become aware of such a man-child, so consumed with himself-as-empty-calories that he feels the need to take cheap shots at others without cause. And say he's selected you as his target. In loco parentis, on a protoplasmic level, your cells are screaming, "ignore him, and he'll go away." But you can't, because you are wounded, however mildly and illogically, by this person who doesn't even know enough of you or your work to make the statements he makes. You know it's wrong to engage him. "It's what he wants," your inner voice warns.

So you don't engage him directly. You do what you can with the tools available. And you hope that he doesn't notice that he's gotten to you, because you want to be so much better than that. But you can't help your humanity. And that's where you differ.

Say there's someone out there (and there is someone out there) who always seems to hate what you've written. He spews negativity about you and your work. And yet, he keeps reading you.

You might wonder what his motivation is.

I'm just saying.

26 Comments:

At 2:09 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger T.A.B. said...

Bullying is the tactic of the callow, weak, and insecure. Eventually, he will be placed in a situation where he will be called on for his words or actions. Remember that for comfort.

 
At 2:59 PM, February 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I will be the one who calls on him. I ignore SOB's until, I don't. Enjoyed your "writing/essay" Urban.

 
At 3:43 PM, February 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Said, Esther. I wonder...

 
At 4:36 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger Gooch said...

I know exactly who and what you are talking about and all I can say in support is that his single-minded obsession with you is in and of itself a sign of your success. And listen to your cells.

 
At 4:39 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger Yaron said...

Hey, we all get cyber-stalkers, it comes with the territory. Consider it a badge of honor.

At least yours is moral. :)

 
At 4:41 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger writersbloc gal said...

i've no idea who it is you're talking about but seriously, the fact that they take the time to pay attention to you is a testament of your success. whoever it is must be feeling quite insecure around you.
in any case, i think you rock!! :)

 
At 8:42 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger annabel lee said...

You are fabulous. He is lame. Ergo, don't waste another second of your valuable life on him. See, once you grow up, you start to realize that you can create your own playground...and you get to decide who's allowed in. And bitter, narrow-minded, repressed jerks? Are not allowed.

 
At 10:17 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger Wes said...

Well! I'm sure you're not talking about me, but as someone who once fit that description (and may still, if that kind of person never really changes), take some heart in the knowledge that these kinds of people often don't hate their targets. This guy may just think you're totally hot, Esther, and he doesn't know any other way to show his affection than by picking on you when he feels it's appropriate to do so. Because thoughtful criticism takes so much more effort (and is therefore more romantic!) than blind and empty praise.

I'm just saying. ;)

 
At 4:04 AM, February 11, 2005, Anonymous Debs said...

oooh--I stink at ignoring this stuff..For the record I was a pretty good defender against the bully's in grade school--who is this guy? tell him to meet me by the jungle gym during recess....

 
At 6:53 AM, February 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very, very good work, my darling. Hokay, I admit it. I'm the obssessed guy. And yes, I'm a writer who is very much involved with himself. But then you came along. Your beauty, your wit, your charm, your youth. I'm transfixed. So if I pull your metaphorical pigtails, you know the reason why.
And I can contain myself no longer. I must shed the cloak of anonymity and declare my passion to you and the blogging community.
So here it is for all to see.
My name is. . .Leon Wiseltier

 
At 8:29 AM, February 11, 2005, Blogger Sarah said...

I'll give you one more warning Leon, and then I'll have to give you a time out and take away your recess. That kind of behavior is unacceptable in my classroom and you are going to have to watch everyone else have fun and play nicely while you sit with me and we talk about what you have done. Am I going to have to phone your mother?

 
At 10:12 AM, February 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What exactly are you trying to say? It's not clear.

 
At 10:49 AM, February 11, 2005, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Esther,

I'd not place much stock in his efforts. Just think about all the energy he spends on you and smile.

 
At 11:38 AM, February 11, 2005, Blogger DovBear said...

I don't get the Leon joke either.

I think you should name the mamzer so we can shower his multiple sites with gobs of hate mail.

He'll learn: no one messes with the princess of darkness

Note: this would be an opportune moment to remind the masses that DovBear really likes your writing, (and that it's simply paranoia making him think that all those emails he's received slugged "stop bothering Esther" or similar, mean this post was about him)

 
At 11:40 AM, February 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummm its spelled 'Wieseltier'

 
At 11:47 AM, February 11, 2005, Blogger Ken Wheaton said...

Esther,
You talking about me kaka-head? Yoink! Just joking.
I will say this, though, and I don't mean to be rude to the other commenters, but so much of this sounds like recycled advice from a sitcom dad.
Outside of TV and movies, bullies--the intelligent ones at any rate (and they do exist)--are rarely called to the mat for words or actions, precisely because everyone is running around saying "Oh, don't let him bother you. He'll get his sooner or later." On a global stage, those people would be France or Chamberlain. Don't be those people. Take this fucker out. Publicly. Some might say you're "reducing yourself to his level." Bullshit. You're not picking on someone just for the joy of it. You'd be bitchsmacking someone who gets away with this sort of behavior all the time and possibly be saving other folks down the line from having to deal with his shit.

(Then again, he/she could find out where you live and beat you up. There's always that risk).

 
At 1:07 PM, February 11, 2005, Blogger PetiteDov said...

First, great post.
Second i have to agree with Ken on this one. The advice grin and ignore is all well and good. However, people need to be called on their b.s. As someone who has experienced ridicule it hasn't never comforted me when the explanantion people gave me was "he's just doing it to get attention/they actually are in awe of you etc." I guess what i'm saying is bullies are bullies sometimes just to be mean and you don't have to take it.
P.S. The new comments section is confusing me.

 
At 1:54 PM, February 11, 2005, Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

Thanks, everyone.

Annabel Lee, I love your equation. Quite logical. :-)

I'm pretty sure that Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic since 1983, is not riveted to My Urban Kvetch for his daily dose of Esther.

For the record, I'm not talking about Wes or DovBear. To the person who said I'm not being clear, I say that it's intentional. I really don't feel like turning my blog into a space for personality and ego clashes, which it would be if I were to link to the pigtail-puller in question.

And I don't view him as a bully, so much. He's more of an annoying enigma at this point.

You really want to know who he is and what this is about? Replace the word "what you've written" with "your song selections," and you'll surely understand. If he hates me so much, Simon Cowell's got to stop following me to karaoke bars.

 
At 2:20 PM, February 11, 2005, Blogger Stephanie said...

I really enjoy your blog! Great posts :)

 
At 2:44 PM, February 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh. . .Esther, mein malka, thanks for covering for me. Of course I'm not Leon WIESELTIER of TNR. I'm that psychological hair-puller, Leon Wiseltier.
And ani ohev ohtach the most behbeh.
By rhe way, you might as well know now, I slept with your best friend, Sadie, at the Camp Ramah retreat.

 
At 2:58 PM, February 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, ummm it's spelled "it's" when it's a contraction for "it is". Not "its", Mr. Anonymous Correction Person

 
At 3:53 PM, February 11, 2005, Blogger DovBear said...

::I slept with your best friend, Sadie, at the Camp Ramah retreat.::

People sleep around at Camp Rama? No {-} way!!!

 
At 4:53 PM, February 11, 2005, Blogger Coelecanth said...

Yikes! Yah go away for a few days and the trolls come out at MUK.

While I agree that calling the idiot out might be what's needed to get him to stop, I'm not sure I'd bother. I suspect it would take a fundamental change in his personality and that would take a lot of effort on E's part.

We all have a responsiblity to try and help our fellow humans be better people, but you have to pick your battles. A web troll? Seems like a low percentage play in the self improvement gamble. Don't ignore him 'cause he'll go away, ignore him 'cause he's not worth the effort.

 
At 2:12 AM, February 12, 2005, Blogger Plantation said...

I think I know this dude. Heard from him just the other day. Goes by the name of Anonymous.

 
At 5:22 PM, February 12, 2005, Anonymous Karol said...

I have a strong suspicion that I know who it is.

 
At 11:48 PM, February 12, 2005, Blogger Captain Mainline said...

So many people say "one complaint won't do any good" but this is cowardly and incorrect. One complaint puts them on notice & the next complaint establishes a trend.

 

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