Hi, Cary. I wrote an imaginary letter as an imaginary L.W.:
I am a highly educated/hardly educated upper/middle/lower/working class Salon subscriber, and I find myself preternaturally drawn to your column. It could be because nobody ever asks me for myadvice, but I find myself lurking at the letters pages. Although I try to stop myself, I can't help posting hostile comments about the letter writers (L.W.) and about you, whom I have never even met.
I have a good marriage, a good job, great kids, and I live in a great urban/suburban/tropical area, and I know I shouldn't feel this way, but I find myself thinking contemptuous thoughts about your L.W.s and you, all day long. I'm not perfect, but for some reason, I tend to feel as though I know what is really going on with the L.W., and it disgusts me! Anyone with problems should just shut the hell up, get out of their bad relationship and don't look back. They should be just like me! If they don't have problems that seem "authentic" to me, then they should just not have them, and they/you must be faking it.
I also find myself dripping with contempt for you and your advice. My most spasmodic knee jerk occurs when you express compassion for someone's stupid problem. I could write your column way better than you, but nobody ever asks me to do it.
Signed, Need to Get a (Human) Life
OK, got that off my chest. I actually liked your column way better without the letters. Does there have to be a letters section? I guess I don't have to read them, but you know how Web sites work -- "If you publish a link, they will come."
Anyway, carry on.
Regards, S., aka Everyreader
What you say strikes a chord.
I have wanted for some time to comment on the phenomenon of column readership itself, the unaccountably powerful emotions that arise when we read other people's accounts of their problems and struggles. I'm particularly interested in that unsavory mix of envy and resentment we get when we overhear these sometimes unintentionally revealing dialogues.
Not too long ago I actually did craft a request for writers of highly vitriolic letters to talk honestly about why they do that, but I could not perfect the tone of the request, and as there was no actual letter to hang the request on I let it go.
Now, lo and behold, your letter provides a perfect opening for such a dialogue, bloody as it might be.
So what about it, letter writers and column readers? If you occasionally writhe in disgust or sheer embarrassment at what you see in this column, if it seems to you that we are all nothing but whiners, if you occasionally feel an unnatural rage rising in you and find pleasure in giving vent to it, if there are people or subjects that truly drive you nuts: What is up with that?
Let us talk about these things in an atmosphere of free and open discussion.
Now is your chance.
Go for it.
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