An Apology, An Explanation, And An Exit From Blogging (But Not Writing)

When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I idolized New York’s shock jocks – those vaguely-liberal, outrage-inducing dudebros who thought it was brave to make fun of everybody

So when I wrote my first essays in the late 1980s, I emulated Howard Stern and his buddies – writing proto-edgelord columns about personal dysfunction.  Come the 2000s, I ported that mindset to LiveJournal: three to six blog posts a day, tossing off half-chewed opinions on the day’s topics. 

In the course of that, I said some staggeringly thoughtless and sexist things.  I’m not thinking of any specific writings, sadly; just a lot of posts that accidentally stereotyped, demeaned, or just misunderstood women. 

I regret putting those ideas out into a universe that’s sexist and thoughtless enough.  I believe an essay is a statement of intent – either the intent of “Please take this idea seriously,” or the intent of “I am writing carelessly,” or both.  And I often had stupid ideas written carelessly

Not a good look. 

So if you’ve ever stumbled across some turd I crapped out and thought what idiot would think that’s a good idea?, I apologize for the harm.  I was broadcasting concepts from a left-leaning dude who had, at best, a shoddy idea of the struggles of any kind of minority.  There’s no real excuse; best I can tell you is that growing up white, straight, and cismale’s a helluva drug, and I’ve spent my life detoxing. 

Still.  I put that crap out there.  That’s on me. 

I’m sorry. 

That’s nice, Ferrett, but a true apology requires both action and change.  What are you doing about that? 

Well, the answer to that is “I’ve spent up to twenty years writing essays trying to undo the harm I unleashed on the world.”  I’ve written a custom plugin for my blog to indicate that I used to be an asshole, that I may still be an asshole (because let’s be honest, it’s not like the only problematic essays I wrote were fifteen years ago), and when I wrote newer essays I tried to do so in ways that were thoughtful and compassionate in ways my old essays were distinctly not

(Not that I was a total misogynist – I meant well – but yowza, my ideas of equality were rooted in a lot of privilege, which led to grievous missteps.  Those old essays weren’t consistently horrendous – some I’m still proud of, most were harmless – but tossing off four careless posts a day with a blinkered understanding of power dynamics means you’re occasionally gonna barf out some toxic buuuulllllshiiit.) 

Now. I wrote those newer essays because I was trying to elucidate the thought process that led me down my own personal road to Damascus, mainly in the hopes of swaying someone as thoughtless as I was.  My personal logline for my essays was “Making the mistakes so you don’t have to.” 

In fact, I’ve spent so long writing essays in attempts to stop others from duplicating my dumbassery that I’d wager some of you only know me as the More Thoughtful Ferrett who evolved from that jerk – a guy who’s been strident about women’s issues. 

That’s….part of the problem. 

See, when I wrote a viral essay about how I hoped my daughters would be sexually empowered, an essay that racked up a million views and got me invited onto talk shows (I declined), I got numerous emails saying, Wow, you’re a good Dad.  I wish you were my father.

And I was like, uh, I wrote one essay

I don’t think I’m a terrible father, at least not judging from my conversations with my daughters.  But strangers judging me based on my best writing fills me with the same itchy allergies as strangers judging me on my worst writing. 

Yet that happened all the time. I’d write some polyamory essay based on a hard-earned lesson and people would rush to assume that I was a perfect partner, that my opinion was always wise and my actions were always just.  I got asked on playdates by strangers who knew I was “a good guy” because I had skill with the keyboard. 

I’d pen an essay dissecting all the ways I’d been a thoughtless creep on some recent occasion, hoping to prevent others from slipping into my harmful obliviousness – and people would rush to justify behavior I myself had condemned, telling me I meant well, I had good excuses, anyone could have made that mistake.

I kept writing, trying to refute my past idiot self – but each time, I felt trapped between two competing interpretations of me.  I began having breakdowns.  I couldn’t win – if I wrote a good essay, people would fetishize me as some impossibly wise and noble creature.  If I accidentally put a bad opinion out there, people would take that as confirmation that I hadn’t really changed. 

It didn’t feel like there was room for me on the Internet as a human being – just as a saint or a sinner. 

Truth is, I’ve never been as bad as my worst detractors say I am – but I’ve never been as good as my most ardent fans thought.  That’s not me saying I’m a wretched human being; I’ve tried my damndest to evolve into a better person over the years.  But there will always be a gap between my aspirations and my execution. 

I think that’s just being human. 

So to sum up: yes, I feel deep shame about the stupid things I said, and I apologize for that.  And don’t you dare call that “Cancel culture” – I said some offensive things, people formed opinions based on what I was felt was acceptable to broadcast for public consumption, and some people have consumed only to decide nope, not the flavor I want

That’s how it’s worked.  That’s how it’s always worked.  And for all the right huffs about “Cancel Culture,” they’ve always been fine taking down a Colin Kaepernick or an Anthony Fauci. 

Truth is, I could still be here blogging, Tweeting, trying my best to eke out a public presence for myself.  The thing that really bothers me about so-called “Cancel Culture” is that the best way to fight it is to act without shame, pretending like nothing much happened – to pull that Trumpian tactic of speaking with such boldness that your audience says, “Well, if they’re not mortified by their behavior, it can’t have been that bad!”

Yet I do feel shame for the dumbass things I said.  Still – I could forge ahead and keep writing, taking up arms in this modern culture war, finding new people to read these more considered thoughtpieces, building up enough folks with angelic opinions of a newly-branded 2020s Ferrett to offset the negative opinions of dumbass 2000s Ferrett. 

But, I think, if I was that oblivious a decade ago, is it smart for me to be speaking up now?  I wonder.  Because I fear putting more harm out into the world – as my therapist says, “There are people who’ve been to prison who fret about their past actions less than you.”  I don’t like who I was, and that lends an uncomfortable uncertainty to who I am

The problem with being an author is that a half-decent writer can make almost any tripe sound halfway plausible.  And who’s to say I won’t regret today’s blinkered hot take another fifteen years down the road? 

I’m no longer sure I’m qualified to speak with eloquence. 

So from now on, I’ll still write novels – I can’t stop – and those more thoughtful, fictional takes will be published somewhere, eventually.  (I’ve got two full novels in the hopper searching for a home, plus a third out with beta readers now.) 

But blogging?  Social media?  An opinion on the topics of the day? 

I think I’m done. 

But it didn’t feel right to leave without explicitly apologizing for any harm I’ve inflicted to you, either textually or personally. 

(And for the record: I did step away from social media in December 2019, literally a month before this little virus called “Covid” came a-knockin’.  This time?  I’ve gotten comfortable with radio silence.) 

So.  If you want to know when my next book’s published, either subscribe to this blog, or subscribe to my newsletter.  If you want to stay in touch with Ferrett-the-fallible-human, you can email me, or even join my sparsely-populated-but-lovely Discord.  I’d love to hear from you – even if that’s just you, asking for a personal apology.  Maybe we could even be real friends instead of some parasocial relationship. 

But if you want to hear my opinion from now on, you’ll have to ask me.  And in the past few months, I’ve discovered that almost nobody cares to ask.

Honestly?  It’s kinda nice. 

(Comments are disabled because they’re only gonna encourage that angelicization/demonization problem I was discussing.  If you wanna talk about me, I’m doing my best to withdraw from public discourse; talking to me is where I’m at.)