Would You Say That to My Face?

Deciding to run a public blog or website has plenty of pros (I won’t bother listing them all…) but it also has more than its fair share of cons. I’m not naïve — I know when you stick your head above the parapet that there will always be at least one person keen to bite it off. I’m also not over-sensitive…shite, who am I kidding. I am insanely sensitive; always have been, always will be. Knowing that, it was probably a very silly idea to ever put my average mug in front of a camera, as what else did I expect? But I am also increasingly pragmatic when it comes to knowing what not to give a second thought to — like the person who said I shouldn’t be on TV because I had bad teeth — but other comments do sting a little more.

I spend about 90% of my time alone — I mean that — I’m on my own with my toddler most of the time. I’m also not looking for sympathy because we all make choices in life, and I’m not stupid enough to think that every person I chat to online is a friend. But with this website and blog, I felt a bit safer putting my thoughts, silliness and some fears out there, because it’s not being forced into people’s homes or inboxes. If you like the tone, great, if you don’t, there are plenty of other sites you can follow instead. No one has to like everything that’s posted, but the reaction this week to the photo of my little boy with a poo on the floor beside him has surprised me. I have been accused of being deliberately controversial, looking for attention, and having ‘thrown my toys out of the pram’ because I wasn’t receiving ‘complete adoration’.

I am unhealthily obsessed with my little boy — I think all of us mums are — but I don’t go on about it too much as frankly, no one but me and my own family actually cares. But I am fiercely protective of him which is why I don’t show his face online. My husband and I have had lucrative offers for our wedding photos, at-home-with spreads and countless baby shoot requests with pretty attractive pay cheques (which despite what anyone might think, would be very welcome) but some things just aren’t for sale. Yes, I’ve done magazine shoots myself, but only when it’s a promotional tool for work which I’m usually contractually obliged to do.

I am acutely aware that many of the other offers are down to my husband being very well known, rather than my own career or us having the cutest baby that ever was, which is why I’ve always tried to blaze my own trail rather than ride on his. I was tempted by the baby shoots. I loved the idea of showing anyone who cared (or had nothing else to do whilst sitting under a dryer in the hairdressers) how lovely my little boy is (he is so lovely), but I realised that you can’t pick and choose how privacy works once you dip your toe in those murky waters. I can’t sell photos of my beaming boy in a sandpit wearing borrowed, posh clothes to a magazine, and then berate anyone else who dares print a picture of him. And so I’m resigned to boring my friends and family on my private Facebook page and Whatsapp groups.

When it came to the bottom and poo image, I was travelling for most of the day after I posted it, so arrived home to a shitstorm (pun kind of intended) of mainly comments about deleted comments which just served to make me paranoid as hell, as I couldn’t see the original ones. Facebook had taken down the post as it was reported for flouting its decency laws. I gather many people were horrified by the nudity (it was only a side on shot of a baby’s bum, less than you’d see in many nappy ads) and a poo on the floor (less than you’d see on the pavement walking through a park on an average Saturday) and the child was completely unidentifiable so it might not even have been my son (it was my son). I can live with that level of horror, and I am sorry if anyone finds that sort of thing offensive (backhanded apology anyone?).

What genuinely upset me were the few comments that implied I was endangering my son, that I didn’t know who might get their reprehensible hands on the image. Then there were those trotting out the now mandatory “he won’t thank you when he’s older” gospel.

I honestly, truthfully, categorically believe that this fear we all have of our kids suing us in twenty years’ time for images we posted lovingly of them on Facebook will not come to pass. Yes, I know we are charting new waters with the internet, and that some girl in Austria sued her parents for this exact reason, but I think it’s fair to say there must have been some other familial discontent in that case. There is a massive naked photo of me on a beach, aged around 2, which is trotted out regularly by my family. It was on my 21st birthday card, in a book passed around on my hen night, and I believe ended up as a meme at some point. I’m not going to sue anyone (unless things get really tight), and I don’t think my son will be suing me over anything similar. Although when he discovers how good chocolate is, he may make a mental note to at least send me a legal letter for depriving him of it for so long.

We live in a shitty world and are exposed to the absolute worst of humanity on a daily basis. There are vile people who trawl the internet looking for images of naked children. There are videos of people being beheaded on YouTube. I wince turning the news on every morning in anticipation of what latest atrocity might be in the headlines. And killer Asian Hornets have arrived in Europe.

But there’s plenty of good as well. This site is supposed to predominantly be about the good. Yes, I want to discuss the bad stuff too, and it’s important, but for the most part, this was supposed to be about support, women, children and cracking jokes about wine to hide the fact that I probably drink too much. I was at a talk last week where Blindboy Boatclub from the Rubberbandits said we need to apply the “would you say it to someone’s face in a pub” rule to online comments. So by all means, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and no one is expected to like everything that’s posted (I’m not Kim Jong Un just yet…), but if we could just apply the “would you say it to my face” rule, that would be much appreciated, both by me and the brilliant, candid women who also write for the site.

PS. If anyone missed the baby-bum-floor-poo image, it will be available on cupcakes at my son’s 21st birthday. Venue TBC.

Originally published at themword.ie on June 20, 2017.

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