I’m not a very politically active person. I have never voted in my entire life. Politics is just too big of a commitment for me; I will state my educated views, but that’s about it. Yet, if there is an opportunity for me to extend my civic duty that doesn’t require too much effort on my part, sure, I’ll play the patriot.
Proposition 8 was a hot button issue in South Carolina the fall of 2007. Charleston is one of the more liberal cities in the state, and the university-town atmosphere fueled a debate of “to vote or not to vote” for this issue. I was a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance at the time – my coworker was the moderator, my best friend had just come out to me. It just felt like the right group to join.
Members of the GSA were getting ready to canvas the city, pass out buttons, fliers, etc. One of the things they provided as a passive aggressive approach to gaining voter approval was a plastic sign you could pitch on your front lawn or place in your window. I picked one up for my apartment. There. I did my part.
Walking home from the meeting, sign clenched within my armpit, I passed a familiar College of Charleston character. He was of the hippie persuasion, had an odd name – like Allister or Timothy, or something. He was one of those people that you see around campus and can recognize, mostly because he doesn’t fit in with the majority of WASPy attendants CofC is known for.
Charlemagne, or whatever his name was, had wiry brown hair and an extensive beard set into a ponytail with an elastic hair tie. He wore a stained brown shirt, green cargo pants, and Birkenstocks. He called out to me.
“Hey,” he began. “Where do you think you’re going with that sign?”
I was puzzled. I had actually just assumed that Patricio was a hippie and upheld liberal values. Was he a secret conservative in disguise? I became defensive.
“I’m taking it back to my house,” I bluntly replied. If he was going to start shit with me for befriending gays, this was going to get ugly.
“And what do you plan on doing with it?” his words were like a lawyer’s – threatening, gruff and intimidating.
“I’m going to put it on my front lawn so that people can read the message!” I shot back. I could feel the color rising in my cheeks. My heart beat at a rapid pace. If this Jet was hunting for a battle of cultural sensitivities, he was rumbling with the wrong Shark.
Ulysses was taken aback, as though someone had pushed or startled him. I braced myself for the cat-call.
Caught unawares, he simply replied, “Oh.”
“Well that’s great then,” he threw a fist into the air. “Thanks for spreading the word!”
My blood pressure slowed, and I smiled at him. “No problem,” and we carried on, walking in opposite directions.
Lancelot had judged me because I wore a polo shirt with Bermuda shorts and looked like the conservative sorori-whores that shared the same block as me. He wouldn’t put it past those types to dispose of such a sign promoting values they did not share. He was just keeping trying to keep the peace.
What Hugo – actually, I think that may have been his name, Hugo – what Hugo apparently did not remember was that three years prior, I had seen him naked. He was a nude model for one of my studio art classes. But I suppose he didn’t recognize me without my charcoals.
I’ve written a few things for Matador Network recently but I’m being published almost as fast as I send over the draft, so it’s been tough to keep up! This is my latest endeavor though. Nearly overnight the piece when viral and I have no idea why. But it’s awesome! Probably my most popular piece yet!
It’s been a crazy experience. I have people who love the post and email me to say how awesome it is that someone has taken an interest in the Czech culture. I have people who absolutely hate me and think I am stereotyping Czechs. I have people who have lambasted my identity, saying that I am not “Czech” even though I have lived in the Czech Republic, have Czech family, and speak the language (oh well…). And then I have Czechs who think it’s hilarious and can’t stop spreading it around.
Compare us to Russians.
We are not, and never have been, Russian. Look on a bloody map — blocked by Poland, the Ukraine, and Belarus, the Czech Republic isn’t anywhere close. We make marionettes, not Matryoshka dolls. We don’t wear babushkas, we have babičkas (Czech grannies). Our country is landlocked so we don’t eat herring, and we drink beer, not vodka.
We don’t know how to read Cyrillic writing, and we don’t care either. The Russian Orthodox church means nothing to us because only about 21% of the country is religious. If you need further convincing, we dislike Russians because the Soviets invaded our country with tanks in 1968, and fucked everything up. So just stop.
I’m proud of this piece, despite whatever negative comments I might receive. Most of them are from expats who think they somehow know the Czech Republic better than I do. I’m not saying I’m all encompassing, but I will say that I proofed the piece with actual Czechs before sending it off, so…You win some you lose some. But I’m happy to have contributed this piece of Czech culture to the world and it makes me love Czechs all the more for it.
Read it here:
SADcars Iceland is hosting an AWESOME competition in which one lucky traveler will win a trip to Iceland! I rented my car through these guys when I went to Iceland in September and I couldn’t recommend them more. The cars are in great shape and are reliable, they are inexpensive, and the service is fantastic. When I go back to Iceland I’m going to make sure I hire them again as renting a car was one of my favorite things!
But now, I need your help! I’ve entered the contest with my INSANE travel story about sort of, kind of dating a drug dealer while living in London. It was crazy, but a lot of fun. The top 5 most voted stories will be selected by a panel of judges to win the trip. Right now I’m in second place.
I encourage you to enter the contest yourself, but if you don’t want to, please vote for my story! All you have to do is “like” or tweet my story at the bottom of the page, using Facebook or Twitter. I’d love you forever! If you enter the contest, let me know and I’ll vote for you too!
Here’s hoping I get to go to Iceland a second time around!
There’s a rumor floating about the world, that nowadays, everyone speaks at least a little English.
That’s simply not true.
So I reasoned that those working in the central tourist districts must speak English. After all, their main clientele was garish, English-speaking tourists. Surely they could understand the fact that I needed a blow dryer for my unruly American hair.
I started at Tesco because it was a known, international brand. A huge department store located in the middle of a central tourist district in Prague, they catered to the needs of foreigners. I was able to find peanut butter there before; surely they would have other Westernized items.
I’m always polite when asking locals for directions or help. Never do I just come out and say “Hey where’s the chocolate milk in this place?” That is rude. No, I start of slow and cautiously, always asking, in the native tongue, “Do you speak English?”
‘Twas the blunt reply provided to me by the majority of the workers at Národní Třída’s megolith of a Tesco. Even the young workers, who must have had English-training in school, could not help me out. I saw a youngish-looking woman stocking shampoo on a shelf.
“Mluvite anglicky?” I asked.
She looked nervous. “Ne…a little,” she struggled.
An attempt to ask where blow dryers could be found was made.
“Nerozumim,” she replied. “I don’t understand…”
I resorted to desperate, flailing hand gestures. “Uh, blow dryer,” I pretended to hold the hilt of the blow dryer in one hand, the other hand whirling around my head to signify wind.
“Oh, baby?” she asked, showing me some baby products.
“Ne, dekuji,” I sullenly respond as I trudged into another department.
I was so angry, so frustrated at the fact that these Czechs, in this “supposedly” cosmopolitan city, out of a whole department store, none could help me find what I “so desperately” needed. Eventually I stumbled upon the electrics department, when a sparkly young lad who spoke near-perfect English was able to help me purchase a hot iron hair straightener.
That’s when I sighed and regretted my previous feelings towards the Czechs. It wasn’t their fault they couldn’t speak English, it was my fault that I couldn’t speak Czech.
My new role at Matador Network has been nothing but exciting. It’s probably the best feeling in the world to come home after my day job and really delve into a job I love. I’ve received praise and acclaim from all kinds of sources – readers, other authors, publications, websites. It feels good, and is a nice ego boost.
But you can’t always be the perfect writer. At some point in your life, not everyone is going to like what you have to say. This is the author’s dilemma – we want to please everyone because we want people to like our stuff. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you’re going to come across people that will purposely go out of their way to make your work seem like the worst thing they ever read.
It’s a fine line, writing. It’s also a bit about probability – the more people see your piece, the more your chance of getting criticized increases. You write something in one way because you have the offensive party in mind and don’t want to upset them more. But at the same time, a different wording, or fixing it to appease the “trolls,” would illicit even worse commentary. So who do you please?
The answer is, you please yourself. You please yourself based on the experiences that you have encountered and the writing style you are capable of. Not everyone is going to agree with you. But then again, not everyone is going to insult you either. Good writing should spark debate, and the best thing you can do is to get people talking. The more the talk, the more your piece is exposed. And the more exposure you get, the better it is for your career.
One of my favorite authors has been criticized up and down. He even had one of his articles lambasted as “The worst thing on the internet today” by Gawker. Yet, he has a book deal. He does enough freelance work to spend all day in his PJs if he wants to. He’s a very popular writer on Thought Catalog and, despite any negative commentary, he still gets work.
Do negative comments get me down? I’d be lying if I said no. How’s the best way to deal with them? Take them in stride. For every bad comment, you probably have a dozen that are good. And that shouldn’t keep you from writing – if anything, learn from your experience, and produce something different. Once you get a new piece published, you can re-shift your focus, and explode creatively.
For further reading, check out this awesome article which breaks down the different types of negative comments you are likely to receive, and how to deal with them effectively. Below it is a prior post I wrote in a similar vein. If all else fails and the comments are getting you down, stop reading them and focus on your next piece. Use your energy wisely – there is no law saying you must ruminate over the nasty remarks of total strangers.
- Home Stories A to Z: How to Respond to Negative Comments
- “Your Article SUCKS!”: How do you respond to negative commentary/criticism?
How do you deal with negative comments? What tips can you share for users having a hard time?
I had a lot of fun with the Blogging AtoZ Challenge. It certainly was more challenging that I thought it would be! But it also made me realize how much I have truly traveled and all of the wonderful experiences that have shaped who I am. Out of all 26 posts, only two of them were places I have never actually been to.
The hardest part of the AtoZ challenge was posting regularly. Usually I am able to pre-write and schedule my posts, but April 1st brought on some new opportunities that unfortunately took up a lot of my time. I also don’t blog on Saturdays and always seemed to forget to schedule a post on that day, forcing me to be out of sync and double post on Mondays. It was annoying, but at least I still posted and didn’t totally drop off the face of the earth.
I definitely want to participate next year, and my hope is that I will have ALL of my posts scheduled before the post so I don’t run into any snags. I also want to ensure I maintain the regular content on my blog along with these posts, to keep within consistency. April was an exciting month for sure, and AtoZ challenge was definitely a part of that excitement!
How did you survive the challenge? What did you take away from it? Would you do it again?