Stupid Stupid Person

Most regrettable thing I ever wrote? Easy. Summer of ‘93, a column about self help meetings. It started this way:

“Once, only old guys with thinning hair and pinstripe suits went to meetings,” it said in paragraph two. “Or fat ladies in hats. Or members of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

I positively cringe now at the sight of this glib targeting. I mean Old guys with thinning hair? Fat ladies? People in recovery, for Heaven’s sake? 

Here’s how this gem of a column started:

“You know the TV ad where the dressed-up woman says she’s too busy for a yeast infection? Well “What is she so busy WITH?” you might ask. Meetings of course! These days everyone goes to them. Pick up your local paper and turned to the community calenda,r as I am doing now…..”

I then went on to list some actual meetings, adding my own supposedly humorous details: For the Mothers and Sons Group, for example I wrote, “Thursday night’s topic: “Should You Still Be Making His Bed” and “How About With Him Still In It?” For the Body Image Group: “This week’s theme: I’m Okay (But Your Head Is Growing.”) And for the Women in Menopause Group I had two topics: “There’s No Flash like a Hot Flash” and “Making Rage Work for You.” 

I even made light of people with compulsions, as when I had an OCD support Group taking on both the topics (1) “DID I Turn off the Stove? and (2) “Counting Cars”.

But my real low point came when I got to the meeting of the Mild Head Injury Group, joking “What meeting?” “Is there a door to this room?” and, almost unbelievably “Duh.” 

Well THAT DID IT for one reader who having seen the column in her local paper, called the Editor to demand I be fired, and then sent a long denunciation of all my work to the Publisher. She called the piece “toxic tripe” and ridiculed especially the fact that I said “no offense intended” near the beginning: “It takes an irresponsible hypocrite to say ‘no offense’ before dishing out abuse about those suffering loss and crisis, and victims of crippling accidents.”

She also she led by calling me “Jabba the Hutt in espadrilles” which really threw me. 

Still, as stung as I felt, I knew I had to sit down and write a letter of an apology, which I did. Then, “Case closed.” I told myself. “Move on.”

Tick tick tick….

Then three years passed and one day a letter appeared in my mailbox complimenting me on a column I’d done about Cosmo the fashion magazine. The letter was signed only with the writer’s initials but I recognized them; and the return address; and even the type-face.

When I wrote back to say thanks for the kind words I added a spur-of-the-moment postscript: “I know this is you, M.” I said. “And I’m still sorry for what I did.”

And then and there this stranger and I began walking down a new road together. I changed and she changed and we became friends.

This story served as my column last week. I promised there to tell the rest of the tale in seven days so stop by again on October 11th for the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say,