"Comfortgate": Dealing With Bitchy Trolls Online.

My boyfriend, he is so wise.

Huffington Post ran my "Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Housewives" piece last week. It was my first "wildly" popular post, not even close to going viral but it received over 1,000 comments and over 5,000 people liked it on the Facebook. I had a feeling that it would spark some interesting conversations...and I was right.

Whenever something I've written runs on HuffPost Divorce, I brace myself for the inevitable barrage of comments from what I like to call the He-Man Woman Hater's Club. There's a small group of men, very angry, somewhat bitter and extremely caustic men, who love to comment on articles written from a woman's perspective on divorce and single parenting. They blather on about the evils of alimony, about leeching ex-wives and their favorite factoid to spout off about is that "70% of all divorces are initiated by WOMEN!". I've told them, many times, that the majority of divorces are initiated by women because in many cases the men are too cheap, too chicken or too busy boning their new girlfriend(s) to do it. They have yet to embrace my logic.

This time, with this post, the He-Man Woman Hater's Club didn't attack. In fact, a few of them made "nice" comments. Gave me props, wished me luck, that sort of thing. I got a little weepy when one particularly gnarly guy actually reached out and sent me an email wherein he apologized for past remarks and said that he was going to print out my post and share it with his daughters. All together now: AWWWWW! It was really sweet.

What I didn't prepare myself for was the backlash from women. Granted, out of over 1,000 comments there were maybe 15 outright critical ones. All from women. And the worst were from supposed stay at home moms. Three in particular. One eventually apologized for being such a twat, but the other two are still bleating in the comment section a week later. 

Some of the nasty comments came from people who most likely just read the title and maybe up to the part where I think to myself, "What the hell do you do all day?". I imagine that's when they rolled their eyes and quickly commented about "how dare you say what I do all day isn't work!" and "I'm so sick of stay at home moms being criticized!". Of course, if they had read farther, or perhaps if I had come up with a less-inflammatory title, they'd have realized that I am a strong supporter of BOTH stay at home moms AND working mothers. BECAUSE I'VE BEEN BOTH.

The most baffling one, however, was the woman who took great offense over the use of the word "comfortable" which I used to describe married sex. Her first comment lambasted me about it, suggesting that I quit taking out my anger over a failed marriage on innocent wives everywhere. And that mayhap the fact that I used the word "comfortable" to describe sex with my ex was the very reason he ended up leaving me.

Now, those of you who have read my stuff before know I have openly discussed the less-than-hot aspects of my marital sexy times. Is it impossible to have fireworks-inducing lovemaking when you are married? Of course not. Is it easy? Of course not. I was 5 months pregnant when Big Daddy and I tied the knot. And after that baby was born, three more came along in very quick succession (I was also raked over the coals on the HuffPost for having four kids, but we'll get to that in a bit). Pregnancy, breastfeeding, colicky infants, insecurity about having a postpartum body...all of that can make sex not only challenging, but let's be honest: it can make it feel like yet another chore, another task that needs tending. Not all of the time, though. There were always times when it was so beautiful, so tender, so mother effing COMFORTABLE. 

I don't miss my ex-husband. Not one bit. But I do miss comfortable sex. Because it's a perk, a benefit that only couples who have snored next to each other for an extended length of time get to enjoy. 

Sex when you're single can be AMAZING. It can be hot and racy and sweaty and can make you tingle right down to your toes. But one thing it isn't (at least not right away), is comfortable. 

To me, comfortable sex is the kind where you know each other so well that there's no need to whisper "a little higher" or "whoa, cowboy, not so fast!" in your partner's ear. Oh sure, you can still whisper but when you've been with someone for a certain length of time, they know just how high to go and they know exactly when to speed up or slow down. 

Comfortable sex is the kind where you can laugh. You can talk. Or you can remain silent, eyes closed and still be communicating. Your bodies know each other, they fit together and move together like a bow and violin that have been played in tandem for hours, years, decades.

That was what I meant when I used the word comfortable. Which I reiterated to this snarky chick. But she wouldn't let it die. She kept at it, and me. 

I confess: my skin isn't as thick as it should be. I'm getting better at ignoring the mean stuff, but sometimes I just can't ignore it. This particular commenter happened to have her twitter handle alongside her little HuffPost avatar, so I clicked on it. I don't know why. 

I was sad to discover that she is from England. Sad, because I have several readers from across the pond and they are LOVELY, kind people. This one, she was indeed lovely, but only on the outside. 

Plus, finding out she's British meant I had to go back and re-read all of her venomous comments in a haughty English accent. 

Our last barbs traded involved her sharing with me that she loves her husband, has a hot sex life and enjoys pearl necklaces (not the kind you get at a jewelry store, if you know what I mean). Which I thought was a little bit of oversharing, but whatever. She does have a food blog, which you might want to check out. Because, despite the fact that she's kind of mean, she can obviously cook. Maybe that's what I was doing wrong in my marriage? Not cooking enough. And not enjoying pearl necklaces.

The third Mean Girl was the one who, among other things, thought that maybe it was a mistake that I had four kids. I told her that it's a little late to for me to do anything about that one. She also told me that my main problem was that I didn't "marry smart". Okay.

So, obviously, I didn't mean to offend anyone with that particular article. I thought it had a good message for pretty much anyone, especially women. I'm proud of the discussions it created, and the positive feedback I received was so awesome that those few naysayers didn't really chap my hide too badly. 

One thing I learned was that I need to toughen up. I tend to think of the things I write as my "babies", and although I know they aren't everybody's cup of tea, it still stings a bit when they are met with criticism, or even worse: bitchy personal attacks. 

I also learned that not everyone understood the title. I still love it, and I still think it fits perfectly. But it could have been something that sounded less demeaning, less insulting. For that I apologize. 

If I'd chosen a different title, though, chances are I wouldn't have had this in my head for the past few weeks:

Sing it, Willie and Waylon!


  1. My favorite part of this is the bit about going back to read those comments from her in a British accent. That's perfect.

    Listen, I've learned it's WAY too easy to offend people. Meaning, people are too freaking easily offended. It's like an epidemic. Even my post about couple friends is a good example. You--with a sense of humor-- wrote about how you sort of missed that piece of it all. It was a normal response. One person who used sort of an anonymous name wrote (not meanly, but that's not my point) a comment about how my post didn't need to just be about couples as it leaves out single people. I had to write back (okay, I didn't HAVE to) that I have tons of female friendships that have nothing to do with the husbands (or lack thereof) and I've written about my female friendships often. It's just that THIS post was about my couple friends.

    So that was my extremely long way of explaining 1. You can't please all the people. 2. You can't include every possible angle in every post so as not to offend. 3. I used to try to write posts that would make sure to answer every possible critique. In the past I WOULD HAVE written that couples post with an entire paragraph about how much I cherish my friendships with my adult female friends whether they're part of a couple or not. But that kind of stuff weakens our writing. 4. I probably shouldn't have really responded but I can't help myself. 5. I can't stop writing this comment in your comment section. Somebody stop me . . . !!!

    Sorry I made that comment mostly about me. Your post was so fantastic and thought provoking. I loved it here and loved it again there in the land of the trolls known as HuffPost.

  2. I agree totally with Nina B. And not only are people too freaking easily offended on the interwebs, there are plenty that are *looking* to be offended. A decade or so of writing fashion articles and copywriting product blurbs has led me to believe there's a certain percentage of folks who find getting angry to be very very soothing and very necessary to their survival. I've gotten my fair share and I thought I was writing about quite non-controversial stuff.

    But how else to explain the nasty comment I got on a slideshow I wrote about birthstones and their history and symbolism? I had a sad soul write a venom-dipped comment about how I was WRONG WRONG WRONG regarding aquamarines or some such. At the time I was more concerned about these commenters, so I spent the time and went back into my research and found the commenter was wrong. I politely pointed this out and heard crickets back.

    After this happened a few more times (you wouldn't believe the abuse one gets after publishing the ultra controversial Fall Fashion Trends reports) I realized I could write the most pablum-stuffed, sleep-inducing things and I'd *still* get a comment or two about how offended someone was, or how stupid I was, etc. Jenny, just remember: it's not you, it's them. There will always be these troubled, aggressive types who feel a certain relief when they can vent their anger on a perfect stranger and get away with it. So they'll use anything posted online as their excuse.

    I now ignore the folks who are too abusive and obviously venters. If someone makes a coherent and respectful argument, that's another thing. But this advice is gold, and has been around as long as there have been message boards, BBs, forums, blogs, etc: Don't Feed The Trolls. I know it may be hard to ignore some of them, when they're dissing your fantastic "babies," but it may be best to not feed their neurosis. It's rather a waste of time, because most won't change their minds, don't want to change their minds. They *want* you to prolong the argument. In a word: Ewwwww.

    Now, there may be some that will soften, like that dude you speak of who apologized. That's possible. So sometimes it's hard to tell. But I think if you've responded respectfully and they continue to hurl abuse, it's just time to ignore them. O, and by the way? Those peeps really don't like being ignored. It's the worst insult you can throw back at them. :)

    And don't you dare re-think that awesome title! I was seriously envious when I read it and kept repeating it to myself in the song's melody. :D

    If you try too hard to not offend ANYone (an impossible task as Nina B points out) you won't have anything interesting or valuable to say. And I think you and all your loyal friends and readers would know if you went over the edge and became one of those writers who only write things to offend because they want attention. That would become obvious. And there's *way* too many of those writers clogging the internet, anyway. The rarest and most helpful are people like you who convey your individual struggles in an honest and complex way that neither provokes nor bores.

    You're on the right track, girlfriend! :)


  3. I could not believe some of those comments! But obviously you wrote a good, thought-provoking piece to garner so much attention. Even the haters show they're reading (er, maybe not the ones who failed to read the whole thing, but still).

  4. I think that anything that makes people think is a good thing. I realize that makes me the minority but so be it. You have a way of putting things in no nonsense, "this is so clear you can see through it" terms and that scares people. You probably broke their rose colored glasses and they took a look at their own lives and thought "huh".
    And as far as I'm concerned, there is nothing wrong with comfortable.

  5. I can't help but think that those who protest too much do so to distract from whatever it is they don't want to say. Ms. Pearl Necklace (which I had to look up on Urban Dictionary because, thank you very much)is probably miserable and as shriveled up as they come, and that's sad.

    PLEASE don't rethink your title, your perspective, your words. Even if others don't like them, they ARE your babies and they are just as valid as anyone else's. I happen to relate to every last one of them--especially the comfortable sex part--and I'm grateful that you have the balls to write what I think! You'd still be cool with thicker skin, but you wouldn't be YOU. And I adore YOU.

  6. Those commenters can go eff themselves. People revel too much in the anonymity of the Internet. They'll go off about anything.

    On my Pinterest page someone went off on me because I had a photo of a Beta fish in too small of a bowl. She said it was cruel and when I wrote back (paraphrasing here) that she needs to get a life, I swear she began to rally her troop of 'Free the Beta' supporters and was going to contact the ASPCA and lodge a formal complaint for an investigation. Now I love animals, LOVE, like I dream of being a vet or wildlife biologist but that beyotch was a little to militant in her Freedom for the Beta rhetoric. I'd hate to see what she would say if I posted anything about my children.

  7. The first thing of yours I ever read was Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Housewives. All I could think is "How does this woman know so much about me" Except for a few trifling differences, you and I have lived the same life. I suppose there are lots of us. While I thoroughly enjoyed the time I stayed home with my girls, if I could change one thing in my life, it would be that because when I needed to, I was unable to support them. The message in that blog is so important so keep preaching it, sister. My great-grandma is looking down from heaven and smiling on you. What you wrote was a mantra of hers back in the 1930's and throughout her life. I wish I had listened to her and not the ex-husband who assured me that he wasn't going anywhere.

  8. Don't change a thing! I loved your column. You gave a well-reasoned rationale for your thinking. No longer can we agree to disagree -- we all have to think alike or the discourse (especially in politics) descends to nastiness. What a shame!

  9. I think people's comments reveal more about themselves than they do about your writing. That's actually one of the cool things about writing a piece. You write it, it is yours while you write it, and then you let it go and set it loose to the universe. They will do what they will with it. You have no control of it once it's out of your hands.

    But if your writing makes somebody angry, it obviously touched a nerve with them. Something personal. Or it may resonate with someone else and they think it is the greatest thing ever. Same words. Same writer. Totally different reactions.

    Whatcha gonna do?


  10. I agree with the commenters here. Clearly you struck a nerve. I think that just means you're a great writer. ;)

    Still waiting for my first "wildly popular" post! (gotta get on Huffpost!)

  11. don't feel bad about the comfortable sex description. And about some insecure woman deciding that she needed to inform you why your marriage fell apart. This woman gets her pearl necklaces and thinks they protect her from infidelity. They are magical pearl necklaces!!

    I know what it's like to sometimes feel insecure about what people must think your sex life was like with your husband. I have that thin skin you mentioned occasionally too. Even if you're not insecure about how your sex life actually WAS, you assume people probably think it was worse. That you weren't doing enough, being crazy enough, doing it often enough, etc. and that's why he cheated. That it was your fault. And then you get some idiot that actually says these things. They have no clue. And anyone that thinks realistic married sex leads to infidelity is an idiot. If it does, that's because the person that cheats is an immature selfish child who doesn't want a relationship or sex with a real depth of feeling, a history, an emotional connection. You know, comfortable!

    So, I don't know why this woman felt the need to comment in this way, but it's gotta be because she's got her own insecurities. Anyone that thinks their sex life is so hot doesn't need to disparage others and brag about themselves so much. She has told herself a story and has to keep convincing herself and others that it's true.

  12. Ok, I'm going to just come out and say it, even though its waaaaay TMI, and too many of your local readers know me.
    I enjoy said comfortable married sex life, and you're right, comfortable does NOT equal boring. People missed the point on that one.
    But what I wanna know is this: who in the hell actually enjoys the pearl necklace? Except maybe the....jeweler?

  13. Jenny, everyone else said what I was thinking: It's natural to take trolly comments personally, since your posts are your creations. But for your own sanity, you must try not to, because it really isn't about you -- it's about them. These trolls (or troll-ettes?) honestly have nothing better to do than get bees up their asses because they totally misconstrued your point about having a Plan B in life? AND about the "comfortable married sex" comment? OMG, seriously?? It speaks VOLUMES about them and their shortcomings -- including, most likely, jealousy because you write so well about these things, and have had success and recognition from it. These people need to get a life.
    BTW, Danielle hit the nail on the head too...and the thing about pearl necklaces is, they can be good for a laugh to both the jeweller AND be-jewelled! LMAO...

  14. I missed it! Going to go read it now. I have no idea what a pearl necklace is, though.

  15. I just went and read it - it was beautiful and honest and thought-provoking. It was also exactly what I've been thinking over the past year as I have watched a friend go through a divorce and get screwed in every way imaginable. I used to think I would encourage my daughters to stay home with their babies; now, I am not so sure.

  16. Speaking to your article, it kind of nags at me and I'm not sure why. We are the same age, I am a very, very grateful SAHM but do have my BS in Ed. I have a huge family and my ass would be swinging in the wind if my sweet hubby goes off the deep end of middle age crazy. But I don't see a job as my salvation or insurance against being screwed. My mom worked while she raised her family and she is a whole nother type of screwed. She is a bitter bitch because she "sacrificed" the best years of her life to a "hateful job".
    There are choices we make and circumstances we are dealt. Life really is a bitch and then you die to resurrect a phrase from the 80's. But I would not get on the working mom treadmill simply out of fear.

  17. I am 30, happily married, with a toddler, and a lawyer. Divorce is about a 1/3 of my practice and I wish I could hand this post to male and female clients to show their children. I want this lesson to be handed to every girl who graduates high school, no who enters high school. I am now at an age where I have firends who have left the work force to stay home, scaled back, or quit school becuase of family and I have given them all the same message. Be prepared... if I have learned anything from what I do, it is that no one is immune to divorce. It ruins just as many lives as disease and illness do, probably more. Amen Sister. Preach it. I have the same thought when I am a part of these types of conversations or overhear one. I feel mean and justified for my feelings all at the same time. I worked my ass off through school, and I still work my ass off, what I wouldn't give for a day, two days, two hours at home alone or with my kids. A big part is jealous, and frankly if it weren't for my student loans for my education, I could probably stay home right now, but it is a blessing in disguise. In the long run my education and skills will benefit my family economically, socially, and security. You are doing great. Just found your blog because of this article and I will be back. Sending good vibes your way. Keep kicking ass... and really, what does she do all day? Your kids are grown..quit the act, and admit you don't have to go to work, good for you, but you my friend are no martyr...


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