My mother-in-law has commented on my writing exactly once. Once. “You spelled hear wrong.” That’s it. Once. But that’s how I found out she reads me – and is an excellent proofreader.
Can’t say the same about Cousin Eloise.
The perfect family matriarch strikes back. Again and again.
Cousin Eloise never comments on my writing, but emails directly her disapproval. Her dissatisfaction also graced the post-script of her annual, heavy linen Christmas card, with photographic proof of generations of perfection and privilege with matching children in matching outfits on the matching lawn of the perfectly coiffed country club with the proud and proper matriarch and patriarch gleaming with pride, surrounded by their socio-economically acceptable offspring.
This picture-perfect J Crew family portrait is professionally shot, then preprinted with their personalized, gold embossed family crest and fancy, curlicued family signature, with an added bonus, just for me, a personal note: a beautiful, cursive editorial post-script which, year after year, goes like a little like this:
“PS: Kathy, Erma Bombeck wouldn’t use that disgraceful language and either should you.”
“PS: Love your stories, but the language! Puh-lease!”
“PS: Must you? The language! You are better than that!”
Merry Christmas to me, you heathen.
There’s no tone in text. Nor in email or snail mail, but Cousin Eloise is a tiny little firecracker from a tiny little Deep South town; a country club cocktail church going socialite who without a doubt loves me and my family, just not my mouth or mind.
Cousin Eloise doesn’t take a liking to foul-mouthed young ‘uns like myself. I am young. I’m 50. She’s 80 and a damn fine 80 at that. Polished, proper, and professionally coiffed, her being a debutante from Louisiana, transplanted to the Philly – Swahhhhthmore – to be exact and married to my dad’s one and only cousin, Cousin Bubba (did you expect anything different?), even though he was transplanted Northerner – a New Yorker no less. Oh, the blasphemy.
Cousin Eloise doesn’t think young ladies should curse. Not in private, not in public, not in our imaginations, not ever. It’s not ladylike, and she likes to tell me so. Often.
So I email Cousin Eloise and tell her I’m sorry. Again. That I’ll try harder next time.
Until next time.
Next time doesn’t take long, with Cousin Eloise’s debut on Facebook, something she so ahhhhdmires and is it just mahhhhhvehhhhlous all the wonderful accomplishments of the Connecticut cousins! My the swimming and the sports and yet they are so very purty!
As with most 80-year-old southern belle social media mavens, she signs her posts ~love Cousin Eloise. Unless of course, the comment is from her betrothed, Cousin Bubba, who can’t be bothered with a Facebook of his own, but will spend hours on his wife’s reading, lurking, judging.
Marriage equality in facebook trolling
He signs his wife’s posts with an authoritative ~Bub. Or the initials of his full, Christian name: EBA. Monogramming Facebook like a tie-tack, cuff links or billfold, all of his which are branded with his initials to either brag of a tax-bracket or identify his body should it go missing.
So with Facebook, their disgruntled emails about my language stop, but the constant commenting begins. And with my advocacy work for gun violence prevention, and the political nature of the addressing the issue that devastated our Newtown community, well, that proved too much for acceptable behavior. (And this was before the current administration got the American throat in its grasp.)
“Now Kathy, you must stop. I beg you – stop! Facebook should be friendly and folksy, so please, puh-lease stop with your political rhetoric and propaganda. It’s not ladylike!” Signed, Cousin Eloise (I can almost hear “it’s not ladylike” whispered in disgust to her bridge playing lady club, but I’m guilty of country-club profiling this distant cousin.
I am confident the his and her messages seep with southern twang and debutant aristocracy even though there is no tone in commentary, but for me, it’s almost palpable. I’m not sure my responses are quite so aromatic.
Mine go a little like this, which I may or may not be quoting verbatim:
“Dear Cousin Eloise,” I respond as formal on a Facebook post as if it were a snail mail letter, signed, sealed and delivered via our US Post Office.
“I do so apologize if I offended you. You are near and dear to my heart, but perhaps you should not read what I write if it brings such discomfort. I certainly love you, but you know what you’re getting, and while I don’t aim to offend, I do hope you are no longer shocked but instead voluntarily choose not to read me inappropriate blatherings.”
Some people, relatives like Cousin Eloise, get a get-outta-jail-free-card, with their trolling Maybe they shouldn’t, but I forgive older people insensitive comments spoken out of ignorance and not hate. I ignore many language critics and public abominations of language or grammar, policy or opinion. Free speech and all.
Blocking Cousin Eloise
I blocked dear old Cousin Eloise and her Facebook squatter Cousin Bubba like I do all trolls once their critique of language evolves from critique and criticism of me, to hateful comments of mine. And mine casts a huge swath, including friends, family, and especially spawn and community. I’ve got your back.
When current hateful rhetoric moved from the hypothetical to the personal, from the “well, I’m not talking about those people, it’s the others. You know, ‘them.'” Or perpetuating hateful conspiracy hoaxing stories like gospel, or mansplaining to me why I just don’t understand the damage being done by people like me, well, see ya Cousin. See ya.
Age doesn’t get a free pass when full-blown hate, even disguised as southern charm and hospitality, knocks on my door. No matter who’s knocking or how gentle the knock. So sorry, cousin Eloise, Blocked. blockedy block block.
With love, just not as much, Cousin Kathy.
Related to a troll, eh? There’s always a black sheep somewhere on the family tree…
Brilliant solution ?
Most consider me the black sheep and I’m okay with that!
Leanne | crestingthehill
Nothing like a little bit of family criticism to put you in your place is there? My mum has just leapt into the big wide world of the interwebbities and she is busy commenting all over FB and has now added commenting on my blog to her list. Most of it’s okay but she does love to cover herself in glory if she can – and she thinks she’s hilarious (I just quietly cringe and hope she moves on to something new soon – I’m promoting Pinterest to her big time – less opportunity to comment!) Loved your post btw x
Pinterest is a brilliant idea!
I’ve come so close to blocking family members, but none of them are as interesting as yours. Seriously. I hope we all remember this when we are in our 80’s and trying to deal with a world we can’t quite understand.
I guess they’re just trying to understand this world too; but i’ll always choose kindness.
Interesting they are! But still won’t see they did anything hurtful or wrong at all.
I would have done the same thing…block her and her stalking husband..
Wasn’t the first, won’t be the last!
Age is supposed to bring wisdom and a sense of context, something your opinionated cousins missed. Their loss. (I bet you’re not the only family member who feels this way.)
I’m sure many many many of them feel the exact same way ABOUT ME.
I admire your fortitude. No doubt a tough decision. But maybe not! Maybe you reached that tipping point that I reached last summer when a relative wanted to carry his firearm into our son’s backyard wedding party. I gave him a choice and in the end, he chose to stay home alone with his weapon over celebrating a marriage in bucolic Wisconsin. Blood bonds are not collateral against hateful actions.
What a kind and generous host you are; and what a lonely and bitter old man he will grow to be with only his gun to keep him company. Thanks for your kind words and generous advocacy that promotes love and family. Your son is no doubt a very lucky man!
Good for you! I am tired of hearing that so and so uses those anti-Semitic expressions and racist comments because they are old and don’t know any better. Yes they do and really they were and are hate mongers.
Gotta pinky-promise the next generation I will try harder!
Hahhah..oh, cousin Eloise..you so crazy..
Disguised as southern charm!