It was 17 years ago today I hit the “Send” button on my very first Dangerspouse entry.
A lot has changed in 17 years.
Did you know I only began blogging to keep myself from falling asleep at work? I’d recently started working overnights, and the transition was awful. I was constantly in danger of nodding off in the middle of my shift, and when you’re on the radio that’s not a good thing. This was before YouTube and Facebook, so no Dr. Pimple Popper videos to jolt me awake in horror, and no…well, whatever it is that Facebook does to cause horror. I’m still not signed up. The point is, I had very little options open to me in the way of mental stimulation. And coffee wasn’t cutting it.
Then one night I read an article about this thing called “blogging”, which was apparently getting very popular with all the cool kids. It seems all you had to do was write a paragraph or two about what you had for lunch, and strangers would like you! Well, I had to get in on that. I mean, I ate lunch all the time. I signed up for one of the services mentioned, “Diaryland”.
At first it was a bit of a disappointment. The article lied! Nobody liked me. It was just like real life. But blogging did have one benefit: it kept me awake at work. Aside from the sheer fun of thinking up ridiculous stories, I could also finally say all the inflammatory things I was thinking but would catapult me right onto the unemployment line if said on air.
If you read any of my early entries, they’re awful. Not that later ones ever got *that* much better, but still. For the first year or three I would just hammer out whatever word salad was being tossed in my brain that night, and hit “Send”. The entries were overwrought, over long, and usually just plain stupid. But quality wasn’t my concern. Not getting fired was.
Then a funny thing happened. People started reading my blog and leaving comments. After a few famous bloggers mentioned me, the number of readers and comments grew. Then they absolutely exploded when one of my entries took “Blog of the Day” honors at some giant meme site. Suddenly my site meter was telling me tens of thousands of people were checking me out from all over the world! I even got an offer to move to California and write for a TV show. (I didn’t take it, thankfully, because I later found out the guy doing the offering was a fraud. But I still bragged about it.)
Well of course, it all went to my head immediately. I became an insufferable jerk. Don’t get me wrong, I was always full of myself. You don’t go into radio because you’re the shy, self-effacing type. But I wasn’t quite so blatant about it back when I didn’t think people were actually paying attention to me. But once they did, my entries became self centered and incredibly boorish. I was still working overnights though, so they were still insanely long.
Then a succession of things occurred that started to affect my output, most important of which was my being named to a big morning drive show in New York City. Suddenly I didn’t need an outside agent to keep me awake at work. Fear worked just fine. Fear, and constant show duties. Even if I wanted to, I just didn’t have time to scribble stories about imagined sexual conquests and disastrous attempts at international intrigue.
At the same time, I was getting more and more requests for “favors” from readers. People with a Cause would write me, imploring me to mention everything from their nephew’s lemonade stand, to the surefire plan for world peace that just occurred to them which everyone needed to hear RIGHT NOW. “Would you pleeeeeeeeeeze pen a few paragraphs and link to the following sites in your next 5 or 6 entries?”
No. No I won’t. I write funny stories. Not PSA’s.
I caved a few times to some favored readers out of a sense of obligation, but always through gritted teeth. But even when I didn’t cave, I still felt indignant. Write your own damn promos. Y’know, if you were a better wordsmith people would read YOUR blog too, and soon “Nephew Pierre’s Un Citron Pressé” stand would have to hire illegal Mexicans to keep up with the demand.
Then probably the biggest wet blanket for blogging in general descended on the world: Facebook. There were some defections before that when MySpace came on the scene, but it was the Siren’s call of Zuckerberg’s monster that triggered the real extinction event. Suddenly it was considered not just unfashionable to craft long-form works, but downright impolite. You’re looked on askance if you even use indefinite articles there. For people who dreamed of having followers but just didn’t posses the writing skills to attract any, this was their dream come true. They left in droves – even some of the luminaries, like Uncle Bob and Dancing Brave (and she was a professional writer!).
The effect was amazing, and amazingly swift. Withing weeks of FB’s launch I watched my number of reads drop from the tens, sometimes hundreds, of thousands, to – and I’m not kidding – single digits. Diary rings – the sub-groups that catered to all sorts of nuttiness – closed seemingly overnight, and even the guy who runs the place seemed to have abandoned ship for a while.
All those things – no need for an anti-sleep aid any more, pushy people demanding favors, rats jumping overboard – led to my first Great Hiatus. I would sometimes go weeks, months without posting, rather than hours. I missed it, because I found I really enjoyed writing, but what could I do. The cards were now stacked against me.
But then a couple of Good Samaritans set me up a WordPress account. “It’s so much better than Diaryland!” they said. “It’s easier to put in entries, you can add pictures right from their menu, and lots more people are there to stroke your fragile ego!”
I fell for the sales pitch. And you know what? They were right. WordPress was (is) everything they say. I started to get my mojo back. I began writing again, even though I don’t need it to stay awake any more. I even managed to write while convalescing from two successive elbow surgeries where I could barely move my fingers. I rediscovered the joy of writing for its own sake.
But then….yes, another funny thing happened.
To wit: people I know in real life began reading my diary. Or rather – and this is worse – people NewWifey(tm) knows began reading my diary (Hi!). NewWifey(tm) would read my entries, as she’s done from the very first, but now every once in a while she will now groan with real anguish, “Oh no. Now my friend is going to think that I (whatever idiocy I happened to write – usually sexual).”
On top of that, I think NewWifey(tm) herself is/was starting to get a little tired of my Bad Boy schtick. She denies it, but I’m pretty sure I’ve see the Eye Roll a few times. You have no idea how sad that makes me. She used to be my biggest enabler of smut, urging me, in the Good Olde Days, to make her more evil, more lascivious. Her favorite invective used the be “cunt”, which she alternated with “cocksucker” depending on the gender of the person who just cut her off.
Damn the maturation process. Damn it to hell.
But the biggest change I’ve seen in the last 17 years has to be the chilling effect social media has had on nonconformists. Many, many things now fit into only one of two categories: “Acceptable” or “Not Acceptable”. If you do something, say something, post something, think something, and ONE PERSON finds it “Not Acceptable”, that person can instantly call legions of likewise small minded lemmings to arms, and retribution will be swift and terrible.
Even though I’m not on any social media platform myself, the situation has gotten so bad that even I’m worried about it. What if one of the people who knows who I am takes umbrage to some pedophile joke I make, writes a Facebook post about it, and it goes viral? Not only could I lose my job – as someone in the media, public disclosure of a pedophile joke is certainly grounds – but no one would hire me ever again.
So no pedophile jokes. No dead baby jokes. No calling fat chicks “fat chicks”. No mentioning a person’s ethnicity, disability, or political leanings. No sneezing. Eat your vegetables.
It’s no fun any more. I’m constantly re-writing entries after realizing some line or other might result in a groan, an eye roll, or career ending retribution. This isn’t what I signed up for.
17 years is long enough for a blog to last, don’t you think?
Yeah, me too.
Thank you all. You’ve been a lovely audience.
This is Dangerspouse, signing off.
Oh stop crying. Who knows, I may be back someday if I get bored.
In fact, I’ll come back briefly right now to leave you with some final thoughts. These are a few of the things I’ve learned the hard way in the now 50+ trips I’ve made around the sun. Take ’em or leave ’em:
My secret to having the happiest marriage of anyone I know:
- Have a common passion. Something you do together that unfailingly makes you smile at each other. It will smooth over more rough patches than you will believe.
- A constant stream of small acts of consideration is far, far preferable to long stretches of apathy punctuated by the occasional Grand Gesture.
- Don’t stop having sex. If you do, you don’t have a spouse any more. You have a roommate.
My tips for anyone trying to be a cooking god:
- Learn techniques, not recipes.
- Don’t criticize any dish anyone makes for you. In a world where it is stupidly easy to serve pre-made crap, anyone who takes the time to make anything from scratch is to applauded. No matter how bad, applaud it and eat it thankfully.(2a): Don’t apologize for home cooking that you produce. Ever. It showed you care, and that trumps everything. Unless you poison them.
- Never grab anything hot with anything wet. I’m not kidding abut this one.
How to punch someone when you absolutely, positively have to stop them in their tracks:
- Start the punch from the ground up. Bend your knees, then as you straighten up simultaneously twist your torso and shoulder towards the person you’re punching. THEN shoot your fist out, so that when it makes contact it’s got the full weight of your body behind it. If you just throw your fist out, you only have the weight of your hand and arm. This is why a 90 pound professional female boxer can drop an NFL linesman.
- Aim for a point just behind your intended target. If you want to punch someone in the nose, pretend you’re aiming for the back of the person’s head. That way you’ll still be accelerating on impact, which is a much more devastating blow.
- If you have time, wrap something around your hand a few times. A towel, a belt, anything. It doesn’t help the punch (unless it’s studded), but it might keep a few of those tiny, birdlike bones in your hand from shattering on impact. When I was a boxer, my trainer wouldn’t even let me (or anyone else) hit a speed bag without taping up my hands first.
How to be better at audio recording yourself:
- Keep a large glass of water next to you. Take a sip before you start. Take many more sips as you go along.
- Take a breath before you start.
- Imagine that you’re talking to your best friend, or a close family member. Talk only to them. That was probably the best advice I was ever given when I got into radio.
How to train a cat:
- Start with a kitten if you can.
- Learn “operant conditioning” (or “Skinnerian Conditioning”). It’s what I used to train pigeons when I was an Experimental Psych major in college, and it can be used on all other sentient beings. Including cats. Just remember: reward for successive approximations of behavior, and you will not fail. Works on spouses, too…. *cough*
How to gracefully end a 17 year relationship: