the more I love my dogs.
These two never disappoint me, even if they make messes on my rugs and steal loaves of fresh baked bread. They are happy to accept my affection and attention and they don't tell me how I can improve myself.
Yesterday, right after my unfortunate run in with the apple cider vinegar lady, a visitor to my blog wrote to tell me that I need to "develop thicker skin". He was referring to a piece I wrote in July 2012, when I came home to nasty comments people had left on my Jessica McCord blog post. For some strange reason, that post is far and away the most popular one I've ever written. It has more than 13,000 hits. None of the other posts on this blog have even come close.
Because of what I wrote in that post about McCord, comparing how she seemed so eerily like my husband's ex wife, I got a slew of comments that were attacks on Bill's and my character. I tolerated the comments for a long time, even though they were upsetting and untrue. Finally, in June 2013, about eighteen months after I posted about Jessica McCord, I closed the comments section. That post remains the only one on this blog where comments aren't welcome.
I was pissed off when I addressed the haters in July 2012, just a few months after I blogged about Jessica McCord. It was a whole eleven months later that I closed comments on my Jessica McCord post. In the interim, people did take advantage of that time to tell me how much Bill and I suck because he lost contact with his kids. Folks, it happens to parents everyday… dads especially. Some of them are to blame for losing contact, but quite often the dads who get pushed out of their kids' lives are pushed out against their will.
Some of the brave fathers who do try to preserve their rights to their kids often get lambasted by women's rights proponents and their ilk, who think that father's rights activists have no right to their own agenda. I'm not sure what the answer is. It seems like a lot of people view men with suspicion. I can't tell you how many times I have read comments by people that presuppose a man is inherently more dangerous than a woman is. Not long ago, I read an article about a man who was fighting for visitation of his child. More than once, a person commented that "if there was no abuse", of course he should have rights. I rarely read comments like that about a woman, qualifying that she should have visitation rights "if there is no abuse", even if there is proof that she's got "issues".
If you're a guy in the military trying to stay in contact against the mother's wishes, it can be even more difficult. When Bill and his ex were doing most of their fighting, we lived in Virginia and she lived in Arizona. She moved to Arizona after they divorced in Arkansas. Bill, being in the Army, was eventually ordered to move to the east coast while she voluntarily moved out west. Even if Bill had wanted to go to Arizona to fight for his kids, the only Army installation there is Fort Huachuca, which is in southern Arizona and primarily serves the intelligence community. Bill is not an intelligence officer. Ex and the kids were in northern Arizona. Even if Bill could have moved to Fort Huachuca, there was no way to stop the ex from moving again, nor could Bill guarantee that the Army would not have moved him again. In fact, it's likely that they would have moved him. Before anyone tells me that Bill should have left the military, let me ask you, would you ask a doctor or a lawyer to give up their career to stay in contact with their kids? It's easy to say that you would, but what if you had to pay child support? If you don't pay, you go into arrears and have to pay interest… and you might lose your driver's license. You might fall into a quagmire of indentured servitude for choosing your kids over your career. And then your ex might move anyway, unless you have an enforceable court order that prevents that.
In many western societies, a man is often automatically tasked to prove that he isn't an abuser, even if there is no evidence that he is one. When it comes to parenting, a man is often presupposed to be less mature, less capable, less nurturing, and less caring than a woman is. When couples divorce, it's generally assumed the mother will get the kids and the dad will get visitation. If dad gets the kids, there must be something very wrong with mom. And yet, when mom decides to use her kids to hurt dad and won't let him see them, nobody tells the mom to grow up and put the interests of her children first. In fact, if she tearfully tells them what a monster her ex is, they will more often than not offer her support and a sympathetic ear, even if there's no evidence she's telling them the truth.
Many men ultimately get fed up spending money on legal fees and being verbally abused and disrespected by the ex and the alienated kids. Sometimes they decide to quit fighting for what should be an automatic right, and then people get disgusted and call him a loser or a deadbeat or an absentee parent… How long should we expect fathers to bang their heads against a wall before they decide to attend to their own lives? And why do people assume that a judge is in a better place to determine what's best for a family than the people involved are?
I was there when Bill was fighting his ex for access to their daughters. I know what kind of situation he was in and I know what kind of a man Bill is. He was denied by his ex wife the chance to be a father to his kids. Had he had them with me, he would have been an outstanding dad. This I know for certain. He made the mistake of making kids with the wrong woman. It was a mistake, but it was also a mistake his ex wife made. And no one (except maybe me) gives her shit for her poor choices. She's made a whole lot more of them than Bill has, by the way, and that is a provable fact.
As for my need to "grow a thicker skin", just so you know, I am often irritated or annoyed when I write. That is what fuels a lot of the thought that goes into this blog. I find when I'm in a happy mood, my posts are less interesting. To me, it makes perfect sense. What would I write about if my life was hunky dory every day? I don't have kids, so I can't write a blog about how cute and happy my kids are. I don't have a regular job, so I can't write about working… and if I did have a good position somewhere, it probably wouldn't be smart to blog about that. You'd probably get bored if all of my posts were about my dogs. So I do often write about people, situations, and things that annoy me. I try to intersperse those posts with ones that are lighter and more fun. I can't please everyone though. Good thing the Internet is a big place.
It does upset me when people who don't know me, Bill, the ex, his kids, or our situation presume to tell me what we did wrong, especially since telling me those things now serves no purpose. I think it's only natural that it would annoy me when people who don't know me and spend less than twenty minutes reading this blog presume to have the answers to my husband's problems. However, as a writer, I do understand that other people have their opinions and they often think they know more than we do about how life is. I may get snarky and irritable when people leave me comments I don't agree with, but I do generally allow them with very little moderation. I cut off the comments on Jessica McCord because most of the comments I was getting had little to do with her and everything to do with what shitty people Bill and I are. I may be cranky and thin-skinned, but I'm not a bad person.
I think there's a limit to how much of that I should be expected to tolerate, especially on a personal blog. No one pays to read this thing. I think of it as my "house". I am willing to put up with a lot of stuff in my house, but if you are abusive and uncivil, you should expect to be asked to leave or otherwise dealt with in a way that involves negative reinforcement. It's reasonable to expect anyone with a public forum to moderate comments to some extent. Otherwise, it can quickly turn into a free for all.
Anyway… that's about it for me and discussion of my "thin skin". I know I've got one, especially when it comes to certain issues. I accept it as one of my many faults. No need to advise me to "grow a thicker skin" because if I did that, it would change things around here. And I like this place the way it is.