I reach into the manila envelope, tall and thick and freckled with spots of rain. The paper on the top of the pile, crisp white and razor sharp, catches the pad of my index finger and slices it cleanly. A rush of heat, a trickle of blood. A paper cut.
I see the stack of paper in his left hand, the black ink of his pen having peppered the sheets with comments.
“It’s a good start,” he says. “I like where you’re going with it.”
“Where I’m going?” I ask. “But not where I am?”
“You’re not there yet, I don’t think. But keep going,” he smiles, handing the papers to me, the staple scratching my thumb. “You’re on your way.”
But not there yet.
You guys spoil me. You really do. No matter what I write – the deep, the silly, the provocative – you greet my words with kindness and respect. You challenge me when I need it, but gently. You make me feel safe here in my space to speak honestly, even if what I have to say is not pretty or popular.
Last week I had a run-in with a nasty commenter. Her words were mean. They were illogical and rude. After licking my wounds, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, figuring she could have misread what I’d written. I worried out a reply that acknowledged her position and then explained how she had misrepresented my own. I felt better after I posted my reply, congratulating myself on meeting her assumptions and contempt with measured tones.
And then she responded to my reply. And then to another commenter who had come to my defense. And she showed me that she wasn’t interested in having a discussion. She had an axe to grind (into my back?) and was looking for a fight.
I gave up and decided to ignore her. I knew I wasn’t going to convince her of anything. It was time to move on, but her words – as sharp as that staple, as painful as that paper cut – left me wounded.
“You shouldn’t have even dignified her comment with a response,” advised a friend, but too late. “You’ve just got to ignore the trolls or else they can really get under your skin.”
Yup, that’s just where she was. Crawled right through and lodged herself underneath.
I look into the mirror, the bags under my eyes as blue as bruises. The years of nighttime feedings and teething and anxiety show through the crepey skin. I pick up a tube of eye cream and start patting, then rubbing it under my eyes. It promises to get rid of the dark circles, to thicken the skin.
That’s just what I need.
Do you have thick skin or thin? How well do you handle criticism? And tips on staying tough in the online world?