just to, y’know, take the edge off

3/9/06

So my wonderful wife Tessa has a great article on the front page of Salon today, about an old boyfriend of hers that use to take Ambien, propose marriage, and then wake up without remembering any of it. Yes, unless you subscribe to Salon like a normal human being, you have to watch a 10-second ad, but take one for the home team, yes?

Her article sprang out of Wednesday’s NYT article about people taking Ambien and “sleep-driving,” occasionally peeing in the middle of intersections, hitting telephone poles, and not knowing any of it had happened. Of course, the Times article has been in the Top 5 Most Emailed list for two days, so there’s obviously a lot of mileage to be gotten from your daffy Ambien-addicted friends.

One thing that Tessa didn’t entirely anticipate was the “letters” section that is unmoderated and attached to the end of each article. I was vilified somewhat for my Salon piece on the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping (thankfully, only one letter still survives), but I’m always amazed at the amount of time nad-scratching armchair philosophers in jammies will take to let their invective loose on a writer exposing his or herself (anonymously, of course).

The letters regarding Tessa’s article got immediately nasty, because if there’s one thing the hoi polloi of the internet can’t stand, it’s people from Manhattan writing about other people from Manhattan who have money. Never mind that the main point of the article was about the power of the drug, and the secondary point was Tessa’s self-effacement – some readers just react to stories mentioning Cosima von Bulow with the sort of holier-than-thou disdain usually reserved for people who sneeze on the subway.

The sheer pretention and Upper East Sidieness of the article was part of the delivery, but whatever, you can’t teach people three things: vibrato, a vertical leap, and irony.

Before other letter-writers rallied to her defense, Tessa got that look in her eye, the I-just-pulled-my-pants-down gaze that I know so well, having suffered through it on this very blog. I think back to some of my entries in 2002-2003 before I had comments, where I was savaged for being a yuppie, having my priorities out of whack, having a house in Columbia County, being sexist, being an asshole, and not being cute enough to marry Tessa.

Being disparaged right after my wedding hurt, to be sure, but it wasn’t long before those calluses became strong enough to endure pretty much anything on this site. I mean, I know what I look like to most people. I fully GET what Tessa and I might seem like to those who don’t know us. If you don’t think I (or we) have attained that level of self-awareness, you grossly underestimate your humble servants.

The regular commentary on here is wonderful, to be sure, but you people should see some of the stuff I delete from older entries, people who find this website on a whim, and then post the nastiest character assassinations they can muster. The spam filter blocks most of them, and I trash the rest. There may be a day when I get sick of it and take my toys and go home, but for now, I DON’T GIVE A FUCK. THINK WHATEVER YOU WANT.

I’m so proud of my wife, who just dashed off a great piece of writing in a matter of hours. And I’d like to thank you, the mean-spirited internet at large, for giving me enough shit that I don’t care what you think anymore.

0 thoughts on “just to, y’know, take the edge off

  1. CP

    the FUCK is WRONG with those people? (tessa — respect. good story. interesting and funny and sad and rueful and naked and detached. relevant, personal, etc. you know your work was solid.) and she gets slammed for writing it? I mean, I may be a schmuck (I actually prefer the term idiot savant), but one thing I do know from is writing. (also drugs and manhattan, and cold society dicks from across central park we all thought were lame, but that’s another story.)
    anyway, sucks about the bad reaction. on the bright side, it only seemed like a select few internet trolls. still though, mean buggers.
    last thing before bed (pacific time) — liana: americans never understand irony? really? I mean, the generation before mine (ian’s) pretty much helped foster and mainstream the concept to such a degree that my peers and I all grew up on it as both a generally understood part of the zeitgeist and a marketing tool used by “The Man.” (ironic, no? you’ll please refer to the use of both Caps and “quotes.”) also, half my family isn’t american and I’m not sure all of them fully grasp the concept either. (not that you’re saying americans don’t and everyone else does…) I actually think it’s maybe more about where in america one was raised, at what point in time, in tandem with how predisposed any given person (american, french, ghanaian…) might be to really “get” irony in the first place.
    (nature/nurture, blah blah blah.)
    (unless of course you were being ironic…)

  2. Matt

    “Americans never understand irony.”
    That’s usually said by people who don’t understand Americans. Irony indeed.

  3. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Eek! Those letter-writers frighten me! Getting flack like that for my writing (and my background) would be very upsetting. You both are made of stronger stuff than I.
    I enjoyed Tessa’s article. You both write so well!

  4. The Other Lee

    Yes we do understand Irony.
    It’s like Goldy or Bronzy, only made of Iron.
    (all due respect to Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robbins)
    Great article by the way.

  5. Kevin from Philadelphia

    I actually first heard about your site when one of the right-wing radio hosts read the “American Coastopia” on the air here in Philadelphia. I found it to be clever, well-written, and fairly true at the time. I still google the entry now and then and read it when I need a laugh. My point is to ignore the “haters” – I know how you love the term. Anger becasue of a general lack of contribution to society is a very ugly character trait. I even overlook your love of UNC basketball and make my way here everyday. Cheers, and keep making people think.

  6. kevin from NC

    WOW!!! I thought ‘all the critics love you in NY’!!!!
    Some catty folk up that way. Nice articles….both of you. k

  7. Anne D.

    Oh, Tessa… that was a nice article. I can totally understand why you hung on with Sam against your better judgment.
    Exposing pieces of yourself in a personal essay (or an opinionated blog, like this one) is always fraught with risk. Don’t let the snarky people get you down. It’s easy to spew bile on the Internet; not so much face to face. There will always be haters out there. Here. Wherever we are!

  8. caveman

    I love your writing, Tessa, but I think you should have spent a little more time exploring the angry, argument-fueled sex angle to the story.
    (I kid….I kid…)

  9. CL

    >>>There will always be haters out there. Here. Wherever we are!
    Oh yeah??!?!?!?! I know another person who used that argument once. His name was Adolph Hitler!

  10. kmeelyon

    A friend of mine forwarded me Tessa’s article today and I said, “Hey! I *know* the person who wrote that!” I was glad to discover that it was not you, Ian, who was the ambien-fueled love monster.
    These ambien reviews are personally relevent b/c I recently got an ambien prescription for insomnia. I was troubled when I woke up one morning to find an empty bag of tollhouse cookie dough on my desk and found my browser open to craigslist’s casual encounters. I did not recall any of these activities and had to immediately check my sent mail to see what kind of trouble I may have gotten myself into. Wacky shit. Maybe if I had a partner, I’d turn into a cuddly process queen…but I doubt I could stay awake for more than fifteen minutes. Anyway, I digress. I really enjoyed Tessa’s piece, and the NYTimes article really shocked me. Given that I can barely trust myself to browse the web on ambien (or to manage the contents of my refrigerator), I can’t imagine being behind the wheel on that drug.
    So anyway, where can I find more of Tessa’s writing?

  11. james frey

    the fury was rising again. i knew only one way to stem its burgeoning tide. i hooked down fifty ambiens with a case of scotch and then went to a cafeteria and ate and ate until they ran out of food. i woke up three days later naked in the middle of times square with twenty federal indictments taped to my chest. everyone who was in times square that morning is already dead, so don’t go looking for witnesses, haters. i’m currently serving five hundred years of house arrest. really, i am! i swear!

  12. Beth

    And about Ambien, though it’s a sidebar to this post–my insomnia is cyclical and pervasive when it hits, and one time I couldn’t get to sleep even after I’d taken the damn pill. I was surprised when I started to hallucinate; I hadn’t had that happen since I tried acid in college. One morning I had to move the car for street sweeping after taking Ambien the night before, and afterward, I couldn’t remember any of it–not walking to the car, not getting in it, not driving around the block, not getting home. And this was the day after! So I take Ambien very seriously and very sparingly and never, ever with alcohol, because God only knows what would happen to me then. Needless to say, I read Tessa’s article with great interest.

  13. CL

    Well, how do you know I was talking about THAT Adolf Hitler?
    The name used to be much more common…

  14. Rebecca

    What impresses me the most is that Tessa can write an article and get it published the next day. Clearly you both are gifted writers, and have great connections. Most of us, especially the people who wrote the nasty editorials, have neither gifts nor connections. Your honesty and bravery in putting stuff out there for the world to see and respond to never ceases to amaze me.
    Have a great weekend. GO HEELS!

  15. LFMD

    You know, the responses of the Salon letter writers and other comments like Xuxe’s remind me of all the times I was off-handedly acid-tongued on your blog comments. I am sorry for my past snarkiness! You have built a nice little community here, and I have always felt welcomed. If we were all meeting in person, I would not be as smart-ass as I often am . . . I think it is the nature of the Internet to shoot from the hip without consequence. I need to remind myself of my manners sometimes!
    Have a great weekend. And, I am so glad that you and Tessa found each other and escaped the dreariness of the dating world!
    P.S.: what do you think would happen if I took Ambien with my daily Lexapro? I think you would be reading about me in the Baltimore Sun (“raving MD woman goes berserk, can’t remember a thing. . . “)

  16. kjf

    tessa – i enjoyed your article. sorry about those assholes but remember we live in a country that elected george w.

  17. jje

    Tessa, I’m not even sure if you’ll see this but I thought it was worthwhile to post my comment on this particularly blog entry.
    I just finished watching “Five Wives” and I LOVED it! Your dad was certainly one of a kind and I appreciated that peek into your world. It was very easy to see how all the women in his life fell under his spell – I found myself a little mesmerized! And if the documentary itself wasn’t impressive enough, then I was further blown away by your Q&A session. We should all be lucky enough to be as charming, witty, articulate, intelligent and beautiful as you. It was obvious that you inheirited some of your dad’s magic – the audience was clearly enchanted by you (including Ian!).
    The soundtrack was absolutely perfect and gorgeous, even more so considering your dad wrote most of the music. And I walked away from it mulling over your comments about loving the people you disagree with – something I can definitely relate to as my late stepfather was an Alabama version of “Blakey.”
    At any rate, I think you’re amazing! Please don’t let those stupid comments bother you for even one second. I don’t know why miserable, jealous people take such pleasure in ripping apart someone they don’t even know.
    Just wait until Lucy realizes just how blessed she is to have you as her mom!

  18. Steph Mineart

    When the first articles started coming out about Ambien, I immediately thought “well that makes sense” — having read a bunch of medical stuff about sleep, dreaming and body chemistry during sleep cycles. Ambien is fucking with the natural sleep paralysis that the body produces to keep us from getting up and walking around while we’re dreaming. And by at least some accounts, people were using Ambien in ways that were quite outside the recommendation — it’s supposed to help you get on normal sleep cycles, not distort your patterns to your own benefit.