There are some sick, weird fucks out there – and 4 other things blogging has taught me

Today as I looked at my site stats I noticed, by chance, that to date I have written 99 blogs which means that this one you are reading marks 100. And, while I was going to write about something else entirely, it feels like I should commemorate this round number in some way. And I think the best way would be to reflect on what those 99 blogs were like to write, and what they’ve taught me about people and about myself. So, here goes:

1. They are some sick, weird fucks out there parading as normal people

Sometimes I find myself in the queue at Checkers looking at somebody who appears to have it together and is just out buying rolls and wondering if it was them who wrote me that spewy, venom-filled missive about how much they hate me and my blog and that I should go away and die forever and also that I come from hell. There are some people walking among us who seriously need a hug and a therapist, in that order, because they are so sad and angry that they hardly know how to contain it. And illogical. And harbouring more bitterness than an aloe on the Swartberg Pass. And I try to remember that it’s nothing to do with me and all about them, but sometimes I can’t help being shocked that human beings can have gotten so damaged along the way. I mean, were they kept in a cardboard box and fed ants when they were children? And I think about how bad their lives must be, and I try to understand what drove them to this point, but honestly, I can’t. And then I decide to feel sorry for them and the people who have to live with them and move on.

2. …but many more awesome ones, so who even cares about the freaks?

Over and above the vast majority of people who like the blog and write nice things and tell me their own stories, a handful have contacted me personally and I can honestly say, over the past year or so, that they have become friends. Not just ‘friends’, but friends – people I would (and will) meet with next time we’re in the same city (I’m talking primarily to you, Mark, Tanya, Johan, Jennie). Good people, kindred spirits with warm hearts and happy energy. Who knew that would happen?

3. You’ll only ever please 80% of your audience

I can write the sweetest, most heartfelt and uncontroversial piece in existence and I’ll always have that one person who cannot resist being a schmuck and posting a snarky comment. At first it surprised me and made me question myself and what I was doing. Now I expect it and am even a little disappointed when I don’t get to spam at least one person a week. So come on, Trolls, don’t let me down!

4. Only ever write from the heart because people know the difference

Sometimes I’ll write something, the honesty and revelatory nature of which makes me shudder at my own out-thereness, and I press the ‘publish’ button with trepidation and worriedly wait for feedback, and then the reactions I’ll get will be so heartfelt and sharey as people seem grateful to have their own lives/feelings affirmed and that I’ve made it okay to speak the truth about situations they know all too well. Your audience has a sixth sense for BS, so don’t insult people. Having integrity as a writer means telling it like it is even when that notion is scary.

5. We are (much) more the same than different
Underneath it all – the cost of our handbag, the texture of our hair, the kind of school our parents could afford to send us to – we are like one person with minor, pretty irrelevant details. That’s my experience, anyway. I have 70-year-old white men and 18-year-old black girls reading and relating to my blog. Which is pretty surprising, but true. We all want the same things: to be happy, to be loved, to sometimes make sense of this life we find ourselves navigating without a compass. And if we could remember that more it would help us to be kinder and more forgiving of one another, and of ourselves.

Thank you for the amazing lessons you, my readers, have taught me xxxx

On Internet Trolls and Sifting Through the Vomit

What I’ve discovered over the past three months since I started Disco Pants is that there are two kinds of people who comment on your blog – there are the interesting, engaged and reasonable folk who, while they might not agree with you, have valid points to make and you’d have them around for dinner tomorrow for a fun discussion. And then there are those who are so cross about their lives they can barely believe the horror of their own existence, and for them, the internet has provided a very handy tool for unleashing all the anger they’ve been storing since they were seven and had to sit in the naughty corner even though it was their brother who set fire to the cat. And I know the common parlance for these sorts is internet trolls, but I rather think trolls is too nice a word for them. I mean, trolls are kind of cute. Take this guy for instance – I’d give him a cuddle and a cup of tea any day.

A huggable troll in Norway.
A huggable troll in Norway.

I think we have to find a new word – one that properly describes their poofiness, and for me Tokoloshe is that word. They are no longer internet trolls, they are internet Tokoloshes who come out of their hokkies in the middle of the night to scare the living daylights out of the normal people who forgot to put their metaphorical beds on bricks. Tokoloshes are freaking scary, man. Pepper Spray aint gonna cut it – you need some strong muti to save yourself from these things. And you’d be surprised at how many shapes and sizes they come in. Some of them are school teachers living in Australia (yep – bet you didn’t know Australia has Tokoloshes too), some are rich, young black men living in the UK (Tokoloshes alive and well in Marble Arch, people) and some are made of pap – the spineless kind who scream at you from behind the safety of their computer screens but are too cowardly to leave their names, and run away when you call them on their hexing.

Personally, I'd kak myself if this guy appeared in my room in the dead of night.
One of my readers.
Or him, for that matter. And this proves that Tokoloshes come in all shapes and sizes.
And another one, proving that Tokoloshes come in all shapes and sizes.

Tokoloshe made of pap

At first I used to think I had to engage with everyone who commented on my blog, but then a friend shared a useful analogy. She said, why catch everyone’s vomit? Because a lot of them are just vomiting. Sometimes they’re not even talking about the blog because I can tell they haven’t really read it. They just want to shout at somebody because, I suppose, they’re unhappy with their lives or they got a traffic fine that day or a bird pooped on the their shoe. And engaging with these mad invectives is a bit like sifting through the vomit looking for an intact Endearment. Why do it? There are loads of lovely people for whom my writing resonates, and it’s a joy reading what they have to say, and having them share their stuff with me. The others? Not worth the effort. So, now I have an assistant (a-hem) who reads my comments for me and simply trashes the crazies so that I can get on with the business of doing what I genuinely love.

And it’s a weird thing when people say (like one chick did yesterday) I HATE YOUR WRITING! STOP WRITING! I WISH WORDPRESS WOULD CLOSE YOUR BLOG DOWN! Because I just want to know why they’re reading it if it displeases them so much. There is SO much other stuff they could be reading instead, and I urge them, with all my heart, to step away from my blog. I don’t assume to appeal to everyone. Honestly, I don’t even think about my audience when I’m writing. I write what has meaning for me. I write about what moves me, and what is, ultimately, my personal truth, and it makes me happy to know that some of the things I say make sense to some people. But if these musings feel indulgent or vacuous or annoying, by all means MOVE ON.

After viciously attacking me, being contemptuous of my viewpoint and saying ‘what do you expect, anyway, of a blog called DISCO PANTS?!’ this same guy went on to comment 43 times. Why, with tears in my eyes? GO AWAY! Unfortunately, the nature of the internet is that there’s no way you can block these nasty, small-minded people, but you can blacklist them by marking them as spam which means they can’t comment anymore, thank god, and I’ve had to do that with a few. Oh, and then there’s this woman who calls herself doctor something or other (pretentious, much?) who doesn’t write anything of value, but leaves these half-threatening one-liners about how everyone HATES my blog which is going viral in a NOT GOOD WAY. And you think, god, Tokoloshe chick, what the hell happened to you in your life that you got so mean? You must go talk to someone man, it can’t be good for you, all this venom.

A new writer friend who contacted me because of my blog and with whom I enjoyed the most wonderful winey lunch yesterday said something terribly clever, and it was this: there are no new stories, but sometimes people will only resonate with it the way you tell it. What wise words. Nothing I say is new, but for whatever reason, people relate to it, or parts of it. And in this way we are conduits of truth for one other. When I am stuck or confused or pondering over something, a friend or an acquaintance will miraculously show up (in real life or on facebook) and answer the question for me, and I’m always amazed at how this type of synchronicity happens if you take the time to notice it.
So, to the many, many lovely individuals who take time out of their day to read this blog, and then write me sweet comments and e-mails or just offer their insights and stories – thank you! You make my day so sunshiny. And to all the internet Tokoloshes, I will now quote the fabulous Jack Parow (who’s also apparently had some trouble with these sad little people): HOSH TOKOLOSH, WAT SOEK JY IN MY BOS?!

On that deplorable breed of person, the Facebook spy

Sometimes I’ll bump into someone I haven’t seen for a bajilllion years and they’ll say, oh, so how was that seminar/restaurant/school function you attended drunk and I’ll be completely puzzled as to how they can know these details of my life… Until the penny drops. They are spies.

They are that deplorable breed of person who friends you on Facebook and then says nothing ever again so that you completely forget they exist and you post away, assuming your updates are being read by the nice people who can be bothered to lift a finger and comment and share their own stuff, helping you not feel like the only person in the world whose life is an endless play by Beckett.

Oh no – why would they give you that satisfaction? While everyone and their mother is privy to the intimate details of your life, all they’ll give you by means of sharing is a photograph of their cat. It’s just not cool. Facebook is a two-way street, folks. You want to know about other people’s dirty laundry, you need to show some of your own. Shy? Tough titties. Don’t have time? Close your account. Because, for realzies, you’re not playing fair.

I’m not saying everyone has to overshare to the extent of some people (a-hem), but please, for god’s sake, post one picture of yourself taken within the last ten years. You have other people’s entire lives at your disposal – there is not a single holiday snap or dinner event you can’t look at any time you want. And all you’ll give us is a photo of Snowy? Well, we don’t want to see fucking Snowy.

So, go take a long-armed picture of yourself right this very minute and for every tenth update you read, post a freaking comment. It’s the right thing to do.