For someone who started a blog dedicated to changing the cultural/internet narrative around weddings, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do what other people wanted online. When you start a site that ends up with a super dedicated readership, it’s easy to start to feel responsible to those people. You stop answering to your writing, to your creative instinct, or to the talents that got you there in the first place. Instead, you start people pleasing. You tell yourself that you got where you are not because of your skills, but because of a small group of people, and if you anger them, you’ll have lost your chance. So you make yourself smaller (appropriately sized, you think). You keep yourself within acceptable limits, and you blend in to keep the peace.
I tell you this because it doesn’t just have to do with blogging. It has to do with our ideas of success, creativity, friendship, and ultimately our femininity. It’s how many of us have learned to be women—be dutiful daughters, obedient friends, model employees. Don’t become full of ourselves, or too confident in our own skills. Instead, answer to the people around you, put their desires before your own, and stay in line. We think that this is the ticket to happiness. We think that this is how to stay out of trouble, keep friends, and not loose whatever success we’ve managed to cobble together.
For me, it began to crumble when I got pregnant. The beginning was insidious. I was tired, I was sick, almost no one knew I was pregnant. I stopped having energy to do extra things—I couldn’t do internet favors, the social bits and bobs that I’d done over the years to give back. There was no ill will on my part, I was just tired, and sick. I couldn’t get out of bed a lot of the time, and I couldn’t tell anyone why I didn’t have the energy. And so it began, in subtle and not so subtle ways. Who Did I Think I Was? It came from innocuous sources, people I thought I liked and trusted. It was rattling, but I didn’t have enough energy to fix it. But finally, I announced my pregnancy, something I had no desire to do. It didn’t feel like public news. But I’d been doing press, and it had gotten to the point that I was having a hard time covering things up. There is only so long you can get away with, “Can you just take this photo from the shoulders up, and please not mention that I’m pregnant?” So I went public. And the world, or at least the internet, fell down around me.
There were hate forum threads. There were Twitter streams trashing me for days. There were emails. Whenever I talk about this over drinks, I’m asked to explain why people would trash someone for getting pregnant, and the truth is, there is no logical explanation. I’ve seen it happen since, and every time it seems shockingly out of place. Woman announces she’s knocked up, supposed friends and readers release years of pent up venom. She’s so self-satisfied; she’s stuck up; her work isn’t any good anymore; her partner is a jerk—and on and on. It’s illogical, it’s virulent, and it’s nasty. But it’s common.
When it happened to me, I was in the middle of one of the darkest periods of my life. While the internet exploded with, “Well, I guess she really thinks she has it all,” I was dangerously ill and dealing with a series of family emergencies. Plus, like some sort of a twisted indie film plot, while the worst of the internet attacks were happening, a drunk driver was thrown from their car and killed, right by my house. It was a sharp reminder that the real problems of the world are not what a bunch of people on Twitter think about you.
That was 2012. By the time 2013 (blessedly) rolled around, I’d had a baby. I’d been through the hell of finding out the people you were trying to keep yourself in line for, had none of your best interests at heart. And I decided it was time for me to not give a fuck.
Giving a fuck had seemed the way to play the game. Be liked, stay liked, do what you think people want you to do. It was a slightly twisted version of “Work hard, be kind.” Giving a fuck ended in an inferno of betrayal. And yet. I was still on my feet, writing, running a website, and contributing to the world. So I decided it was time to rip the chains off this thing. Turns out? 2013 was a bang up year.
Yes, professionally and personally, 2013 was a long, hard slog. I worked long hours; I juggled tasks; the baby didn’t sleep through the night; weekends were often way harder work than weekdays. But it was also one of the most enjoyable and rewarding years in my life. The baby grew into an almost-toddler. I grew into myself as mother. At APW, we started creating the content I’d been dreaming of for years. We rebuilt the site into what I’d always wanted it to be. By deciding to let go of what other people expected of me, and how angry they were when I didn’t fall in line, I freed myself. Yeah, sure, people talked shit. Really mean shit, even. But I chose not to read a line of it, and I threw myself into doing exactly the work I wanted to be doing. And I thrived—my business thrived, my staff thrived, my kid thrived, my family thrived. Once I stopped carrying the weight of other people’s expectations (at least most days) I had so much more energy to get on with it.
I’m writing this with the remains of a ridiculous photo shoot in my living room. I went and bought a huge roll of grey paper for a backdrop, cut a bunch of confetti out of wrapping paper at 8pm the night before, and talked Maddie into coming over to take photos before David went to work (a.k.a., 7:30am). Why? Because we wanted to take holiday card photos, and the theme of this year has been go big, or go home. This year, when we send out our holiday card, we’ll be celebrating the year with me in a Vegas showgirl-worthy gold glitter dress ($30, ladies). I’ll be celebrating with the world’s cutest baby, and the world’s most up-for-it husband. But mostly, I’ll be celebrating a year of letting go of what the world thought, and saying, “Fuck it, let’s do it.”
It turns out, that’s all the world really needs from you in the first place. You: crazy gold glitter dress, unapologetic ideas, and all.
Happy 2013. Happier 2014. Let’s rip the chains off this thing.
Photo: Personal for APW