Thursday 26 November 2009

Say what you say.

One of the many ace things about writing this blog (besides not having to repeat myself about health stuff, the lovely folk I’ve met through it, and being able to tell people how I’m really feeling without having to stutter, blush and shuffle my feet nervously) is the immediate feedback I get.

‘How many are you up to?’ Dad will ask in a phonecall from his car on the way home from work.
‘Eh?’ I’ll grunt.
‘Comments. How many? Because I checked just before I left and you had four, so I was just wondering whether you’d had any more since I got in the car?’
‘No Dad, still four,’ I’ll say, with my head tilted to one side in that ‘aww, ain’t he cute’ way that I used to reserve for Grandad when he’d falsely boast to everyone at the nursing home about his granddaughter’s Business Studies degree.

‘You’ve got another one,’ Dad will say in a mid-morning call from his desk the following day.
‘Eh?’ I’ll reply again, wondering what it could possibly be that I’ve suddenly got another one of before my third brew of the day has had its chance to wake me up.
‘Comment. Another comment. I just saw it. Who’s that then?’
‘I don’t know, Dad,’ I’ll say. ‘I don’t know everyone who comments on the blog, y’know.’
‘Oh right, okay,’ he’ll say. ‘I wonder who all these people are, then?’

My parents are baffled by the freedom of reply that the internet offers. ‘Who’s this @lilianavonk?’ Mum will ask after reading my tweets. ‘Do you know her through @zuhamy?’
‘I don’t know them personally, Mum,’ I’ll explain. ‘Just through Twitter.’
‘Oh. But how do they know you?’
‘The blog, probably.’
‘Oh... Oh, right,’ she’ll say, in a confused manner that suggests we’ll be having the same conversation again next week.

It’s not that my folks are idiot technophobes who don’t know the difference between a weblog and a wiki. It’s just that in the same time it’s taken their daughter to get through – and, mostly, over – The Bullshit, they’ve also had to come to terms with the online world in which she now operates. A world in which your friends are no longer just the people you meet at the pub, but the people you meet through the internet-specific personality you’ve created. And that kind of seismic shift is bewildering enough for my generation – who laughed when given an email address upon enrolling at uni, as though it were as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike – let alone their own.

‘I’ve left a comment,’ said Dad last week, seconds after reading my The other side of defence post.
‘I know, I just got the email,’ I said.
‘I hope I’ve not offended you,’ he continued, sheepishly. ‘It’s just that I wanted to comment that it was fair enough for Anonymous to have their say. Who is Anonymous, anyway?’
‘I don’t know, Dad, they’re anonymous.’
‘Oh, right.’
‘And don’t be daft, shitface – of course you’ve not offended me,’ I said, easing his worry with a choice pet name.
‘Good,’ he said. ‘I just felt strongly about the comments people had made, is all, so I thought I’d add my tuppence worth.’
‘Fair enough,’ I answered.

And fair enough indeed. Because that’s what we love about blogging and social networking and the like, right? The ability to say what we want to say. The ability to open ourselves up to hearing other people’s opinions – whether we like them or not. The ability to respond immediately to something we’ve read, heard or seen, without having to endure endless hold-music on automated phone lines, or decide whether sincerely or faithfully is the right sign-off.

Last week, I blogged about asking Smiley Surgeon for an elective mastectomy, but having my mind put to rest when he suggested otherwise. Anonymous then sparked a debate with the comment that post-breast-cancer, she’d decided to have further surgery herself and had never regretted it, and that – were The Bullshit ever to return – I’d be the one having to go through chemo again, not Smiley Surgeon. And, as I say – fair enough.

Different bloggers deal with their comments in different ways. I particularly like the way that Bete de Jour responds to each of his readers and, much as I’d like to tell you that I don’t do the same because I think you’ve heard enough from me already, the truth is that he is an exceptionally dedicated blogger and I’m a lazy fatarse. But while the I’ve-said-my-piece approach is more my style, in this case I think that – wonderful as it was for my Dad to do so – the comments on the aforementioned post didn’t ought to be tied up by my old man.

The thing is, there’s some stuff I didn’t say in that post which, in the spirit of honesty, I probably ought to decant. I didn’t say, for instance, that as much as I thought it might be the right thing to do to have an elective mastectomy, I was hugely uneasy about the idea of losing another nipple. Something I suspect I’ve never made clear is that, in losing my left tit, I’ve also lost the sensation – that glorious, glorious sensation – that came with it. So by choosing to do away with my right’un too, I worry that I’d effectively be doing the same with my enjoyment of sex. You might think that’s like refusing chemo because I want to keep my hair. I prefer to think of it in terms of wanting as pleasurable a life as possible.

Something else I didn’t say – but which regular readers of this blog will doubtless know already – is that I trust Smiley Surgeon implicitly, and have complete confidence in his opinions. If Smiley Surgeon said that buying Toploader albums or supporting Nottingham Forest or wearing shell-suits would improve my chances of avoiding Round 2 with The Bullshit, I’d do it. And if Smiley Surgeon said that an elective mastectomy were a good idea, I’d be in a hospital gown faster than you can say fun-bags, quickly brushing aside my orgasm worries (while immediately sending off for an Ann Summers catalogue).

So while we’re sharing here, I might as well also admit to initially being a bit defensive when Anonymous posted her comment.
‘Ere, have a read of this,’ I said to P, thrusting my iPhone into his palm. ‘Does that mean that if I ever get cancer again, it’ll be my fault because I didn’t have an elective mastectomy?’
‘Course it doesn’t,’ he said.
‘But is that what she’s suggesting?’ I persisted.
‘I don’t think it is, babe. I think she’s just saying that’s how she felt.’
‘Okay, that’s fair enough then.’
‘It was right for her, Lis – that doesn’t mean it’s right for you too. You’ve got to find your own way.’
‘Hm,’ I hummed. ‘You’re always the voice of reason.’
‘Weeeell,’ said P, purposely not disagreeing. ‘It’s each to their own, innit? That’s what you always say.’
‘Yeah, I s’pose I do. But for the record, if I do get The Bullshit again, I simply WILL NOT ACCEPT that it was my fault, okay?’
‘Well it won’t be your fault, babe, so why should you?’
‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘Exactly.’

The problem, of course, was all mine – and not what Anonymous posted. I’m a touchy little sod at the best of times (one school teacher once wrote on my report that I was ‘at times sensitive to criticism’ – and how right she was, the nit-picking bitch), so being forced to consider a future in which I could have done something to prevent a recurrence of The Bullshit instantly got my back up, and wrongly so. Because P and my Dad were right: though I don’t know her personally (I think), I do know that Anonymous’ intentions with her comment weren’t to piss me off, but simply to communicate how she had dealt with breast cancer. The exact same thing I’m doing right now.

To use a wanky phrase I promise you’ll never read on this blog again, the problem with putting yourself out there (yeesh) online is that people will have an emotional response to you. They might pity you; they might warm to you; they might think you’re a whingeing old git and never click on your site again. They might feel protective of you; they might want to offer you advice; they might become as defensive of you as you are of the comments that make you reconsider your decisions. But whatever they might think of you and what you have to say, your job as a blogger is to make like David Dimbleby (minus the increasingly dodgy ties) and point your pen in the direction of whoever wants to add, in the words of my old man, ‘their tuppence worth’.

Which leads me onto something else I haven’t said. I might try to act cool when Dad rings me to talk about new comments on my blog, but his excitement when a new one appears is nothing on mine. So, whatever it is you’ve said, however often you’ve said it, or whatever it is you’re yet to say – I thank you.


Rob Stradling said...

Hello, Lisa's dad!

Lisa doesn't know me from Adam, I'm afraid; and I only know her as "The Web's Top Cancer Bitch". And in that capacity, at least, she is bloody brilliant. So well done, little Lynch sperms; back of the net!

365'er said...

Comments are the reinforcers that keep us writing our blogs, the occasional rewards that tell us that our efforts are worthwhile, that the time taken to "craft" (emm, too strong, maybe?) our posts was time well spent. Even when the comments are sparse and extremely occasional, as in my own case(!), the pleasure in reading them, knowing someone out there was bothered to not only read my waffle, but enter into some kind of dialogue with me, fills me with joy, just the same as you describe, Lisa ... though I'm still waiting for the tingling nipple sensation! ;-) Stay well, girl, and keep sharing! (and "Hi" Lisa's Mum and Dad)

Lisa Lynch said...

Hey Rob, them's mighty McFarlane sperms! (The Lynch name I've inherited through P. I only married him because I like alliteration.) Thought I'd better get in there with that clarification before my Dad did. The thought of my old man leaving blog comments about sperm rather put me off my dinner... x

Anonymous said...

And I did not dare to comment because I thought: Who am I to comment? She surely has better things to do than read a comment from someone who has - thank God - no clue what it means to have battled the bullshit and just is a faithful reader of the blog.
And so I just read here and follow on Twitter.
Thanks for sharing that comments mean something to you, makes me feel appreciated as a reader.
And so now the comment, finally: Your blog is just great or more precisely you are great. I admire your attitude, all aspects of it and especially the honesty. Thanks.
(And please excuse any mistakes and the clumsiness, I am not a native speaker).

swisslet said...

woo-hoo! hello Lisa's dad! Just another random stranger from the world of the internet (albeit just down the Nottingham end of the A52). I know nothing at all about your daughter other than what I've read here and on Twitter, and I think she's brilliant and inspirational and a wonderful writer and everything.
Good job Lisa's dad. Your daughter is aces, and that's clearly kudos to you.


Megan said...

The problem with comments is that it can sometimes come out the wrong way. Either that, or the person on the other end of the keyboard is an idiot.

I've had my share of weird comments. I've even had one from someone telling me I need psychological help.

I guess you just don't know whos reading till they comment Xx

Rob Stradling said...

Got the sperm wrong. I hate it when I do that.

Anonymous said...

I've never met Lisa either; I can't remember how I came accross this blog (most likely a bullshiter forum).I am going through a similar journey and yet so different. I've never commented as Lisa is describing my own turmoil so much better than I would ever be able to myself. It is a shame your book is not out for Xmas, it would have been in quite a few stockings.

bud932 said...

Hi I want to say hi to you....(and your dad) and to say keep up the good writing. Really enjoy the blogs as identify with them so much. Finally going back to work after getting over my bullshit. On paid hols at the moment with 1st acctual day back being 4th jan. have been off since july last year soitsa daunting thought but the next step needed to get the normal me back. looking forward to reading your book.
gail x

Claire said...

Hello mr mcf,

I don't know your daughter personally either, just thru her blog. Whilst I'm not in her situation, I hope that should I ever be I deal with it 1 billionth as well as she is doing. You and mrs mcf should be proud. She's an inspiration!

Anonymous said...

First time commenting here - I always post anonymously because I hate the blogger comment system!

I saw your through twitter - interesting blog, and one of my first thoughts were - this is the first time I've read about someone's family coming to terms with a blog.

This experience of writing must have been very beneficial to you, and to the readers, and your parents are awesome that they tuned into that.

Or you kept pestering them to read your blog before you found twitter ;-) ;-)

Either way, it is funny. Hey shitface, you sound cool.

Some guy just finishing his morning tea at home before hitting the commute.

Fletcher of the Day said...

Hi Lisa's dad!

I know Lisa because I met her (and you!) at her Super Sweet 30th Birthday bash. Since then I haven't left many comments, but I should do, as she should know how her journey has helped me to better understand my husband's journey...and to make a few friends a long the way.

This blog, Lisa's writing and Lisa herself have inspired a countless number of people. All I can say, is Thank you!

Lisa Lynch said...

Whoa whoa whoa now, readers. You're making me blush. I feel like I need to make it stop.

So instead I'll just butt in by giving my Mum a mention here. 'I need to work on building up my part,' she texted last night after reading this post. (I should add that it was in some smugness after beating my Dad to it – they're fast turning into my Nan and Grandad, who had to be sent separate copies of a magazine I used to edit when it became clear that whoever got there first would hide it from the other.) 'Plus, your Dad's going to get a big head,' she added.

'Your part is every bit as big as Dad's,' I assured her. 'But, let's be honest, he's a much easier target.'

So, in the interest of fairness, big up Mrs Mac. x

Lisa's Dad aka Shitface said...

Thank you all for your kind comments but there really is only one star in this show and that's Lisa aka Shitface 2.
How the F**K did my sperm get into this blog, at the age of 28 I had a vasectomy to make sure the little bastards didn't cause any more chaos only to find 26 years later they still come back to embarrass me.

Freudus said...

Blimey. Mr Mac, I feel I know you a hell of a lot more, well, intimately than should be the case from one brief meeting at the SS30th (tall scot in a pink shirt, btw), but such is the Internet. I could congratulate both you and mrs mac for producing such a fine exemplar of humanity, warmth and humour, but others have beaten me to it, so I won't.

Anonymous said...

I love Dad

Anonymous said...

I found Lisa's blog when I was going through this shit almost a year ago now. Was good to find someone of the same age and who was going through the same cancer and treatment as me (plus the added bonus of having it on my left side too!) Whilst on 9 long months of sick leave I would read your blogs and they genuinely brightened up my day and definitely beat watching Jeremy Kyle! Keep up the good work. Oh and Lisa's Dad, didnt want to miss you out so just wanted to say hello - "Hello!"

Anonymous said...

Lisa's Dad, you crack me up, when are you going to start your own blog?
Lisa, I think your blog is excellent, can tell you are a proper writer, with a lovely humorous turn of phrase

Anonymous said...

'The' Anonymous

Well, well, well. Who'd have thought that what was meant to be a good gestured 'you know what's best for you' comment has turned into some kind of nasty lets attack the anonymous poster!

I certainly did most definitely not intend for you to feel that I was saying if it comes back, it's your fault. Christ almighty if us women in the same boat can't get support from one another, god help us. At the risk of repeating my self somewhat, I only meant don't let some guy or some nurse or any body who thinks you need to be handled with kid gloves, make the choice for you as it's your body and you going through it.

I'm sorry if I upset you and if it's any consolation I'm deeply upset and sitting here crying because of the comments back at me.

I'm no Samaritan or thicko as someone posted, just someone who quite a few women have turned to who face the same decisions I did.

I promise you Lisa, I meant nothing bad in what I said, it was meant as kind of arm around your shoulder 'do what's best for you'. I only said about what I had gone through (minus the nipple debate because I didn't think anyone would give a toss that my nipples were my erogenous zone) to explain that I was talking about something I experienced and therefore had some inkling as to what I was talking about.

Lisa Lynch said...

Ah! Anonymous! I was so hoping you'd come back and comment in a way that distinguished you from other anonymous readers, so I'm very chuffed you're here.

I'm categorically not chuffed, however, that you were brought to tears by the comments that followed the one you left. Not least when your comment was – as I hope I got across in this post – perfectly valid, fair, reasonable and, in fact, helpful. Helpful both in the way it made me aware of other people's choices, and in making sure I had thoroughly explored my own.

What I also hope you took from this post is that I so value all of the comments on here – whatever they say, however they say it. And, since you've been through The Bullshit to boot (try saying that after a few G&Ts), I dare say I value yours even more.

Finally, I want you to know that I'm not selective with the feedback I allow on this blog. I don't publish comments according to those I agree with, and dismiss those I don't. I think the point – and beauty – of blogging is allowing everybody to have their say, whether or not it's a view you share.

I hope you won't be put off commenting/reading again. Gawd knows that, after everything you've been through, it's a bloody awful thing that you've been so personally upset by something you've read on here. I speak on behalf of myself and my readers (I hope they don't mind) when I offer my apologies. You're so very obviously ace, and if I knew who you were and where you lived, I'd come over to make you a brew, give you a hug and spend a Friday night comparing notes on our fabulous falsies.


Alison Jane said...

Given the unusually large number of comments this post has attracted I thought I, for once, should add my thoughts. I've been reading this blog since Stephen Fry, voice of wisdom, directed myself and many others to it via Twitter and I think it's bloody ace, as are you. That is all.

Miss Alissa said...

I second Alison Jane's comments! Think the blog, you, your writing, all pretty fantastic - just stumbled across you and very happy I did x

Anonymous said...

Quite simply you are amazing.

There, enough said.


Anonymous said...

I think Lisa's blog is fabulous and she's a very talented writer. I haven't commented before but thought the other Anonymous really was just offering her support for Lisa's right to choose, not criticising in any way! So hope she doesn't continue to be upset over this. But I wanted to say thank you to Lisa as well - her courage and talent make me appreciate my own life and family. All the best with the book and with your future health xx

Megan said...

That comment your Dad left, is nothing short of awesome! Xx

Barry Business said...

If your dad starts blogging, he can count on at least my readership. He's got something special.