Wonder Boi Writes

A Celebrity Is Not A People

I’ve had a wonderful week!  Our dear friend (and Jackson’s Big Papi) Will has been in town.  We’ve spent several days on the ski slopes and we made a trip up to Buffalo to shop and see the Muppet movie.  During the show, the Muppets are trying to kidnap someone to act as a celebrity host for their show when Kermit says it’s wrong to kidnap people.  One of the Muppets replies, “A celebrity is not a people.”   Everyone laughed.

The next day we headed back to the ski hill and continued our family vacation.  Friday afternoon when I finally got settled in back at home and started going through my e-mails,  I wasn’t laughing any more.  Amid the literally 1,000+ e-mails were all the usual suspects.  Politicians, charities, petitions to signs, notes from friends, listserv chatter, my mother forgot my textplus number (again), my editor has a question, my publisher needs some paperwork. and a few nice letters from some readers.  I set about deleting some messages, replying to the time sensitive ones and setting aside some to answer when Will goes home today.  But as is becoming more and more the case, there’s a small pile of emails I’m just not sure how to respond to.

Recently I ran a series of funny blogs about the role Diane Gaidry played in the writing of LoveLife.  Well, at least I thought it was funny.  Diane and I have become friends.  I enjoy her company and value her opinions.  We are, however, not an item, not besties, and contrary to google search terms, I am not stalking her from the bushes.  What’s more, I will not give you her address. I will not give you her cell phone number, and I will not tell you what she feels like to hug.  I have been shocked and a little scared by the e-mails I’ve gotten to that effect. Perhaps it’s my fault for trying to set a humorous tone, but you see, despite the fact that Diane is a celebrity, she’s also a person.  I recently told her she was too famous for me to post about anymore because I couldn’t handle the aftermath. Guess I just broke that rule.

While we’re on the topic of famous friends, I’m also very blessed to know Georgia Beers.  Her name is the number two search term on the blog, and her website is my number one reference link, so I think most of you know we’re close.  She is one of the few lesbians I actually consider myself to be very close with, and I get that sometimes that sparks some interest.  We both laugh at the  jokes about her wife, Bonnie, killing me, because that’s what they are, jokes.  I love and respect Bonnie and like to think she feels the same for me. When someone told us there were rumors about our relationship, we laughed, and another writer friend said, “We all know you two started those rumors yourself.”   So naturally I didn’t take it seriously when someone asked me if the rumors were true.  When she pushed harder, I was bemused. I got a little pissed off and thought, “well if they were, I certainly wouldn’t tell you and left it at that.  But now I’ve begun to suspect what pissed me off wasn’t the rumor but the entitlement behind it. Despite her celebrity, Georgia Beers is a person.  So too is her wife and my wife and my son and her niece.  Still, I assumed people just felt entitled to personal information about famous women like Diane and Georgia, and they has misread my humor as opening the door for them.

I thought the trouble started with joking about my more famous friends. I blamed myself. Joking is all fun and good. We all do it, but I’ve started to wonder if maybe some folks just don’t get it. But then I got a Facebook message that wasn’t at all funny.  A reader had emailed me earlier in the week to say she’d enjoyed one of my books.  Then she emailed again to accuse me of being too big to e-mail her back.  She said I must not care about the “little people” and she’d think twice about ever buying my books again.  I was shocked and hurt.  I didn’t respond right away.  I didn’t know how to.  My immediate impulse was to defend myself by explaining I’d been on vacation, and apologize, but why?  Should I apologize for taking a few days to give my attention to my family? Or for occasionally being stretched a little thin? Should I be sorry for not being on call, for not working on her schedule? I alway work very hard to answer every e-mail.  I try to be open and available with blogs and Facebook and e-mails.  Anyone who takes 5 minutes to get to know me usually says, if anything, my problems stem from being too open, too light, too playful.

I’m terribly frustrated. Maybe “celebrity is not a people,” but I’m not even really that famous. Since when do I fall into the category of someone who must be on call 24/7? I am not a surgeon or a medical courier.   No one’s life or livelihood depends on my being available around the clock.  I don’t even have a real cell phone, just a pay-per-minute number I keep in the car for emergencies.  My extended family doesn’t even have unfettered access to my life.  When did complete strangers start to feel entitled to demand I drop everything to respond to them or give them private information?

Maybe some people really do believe “celebrity is not a people,” or maybe we’ve just grown accustomed to not seeing anyone as a person. I suppose it’s possible we just live in a society that’s used to no limits and instant gratification, but I’m not okay with it. I am a person. I have a family full of people. My friends are people. And my readers are people too. We have jobs and interests and responsibilities and passions.  We all make mistakes, we all do great things, we all get overwhelmed, and we all deserve a break.  Maybe the readers who’ve emailed lately have been overwhelmed, or have had bad days, or maybe they really wanted a piece of someone they don’t have  a right to take, but either way my response is the same. I do not regret working with Diane or being friends with Georgia or taking a vacation with my family, and I will not allow myself to be made to feel guilty about those things anymore.

From now on instead of apologizing for not being at someone’s beck and call, I’m going to stay, “Celebrity IS a people.” We are all people, and that’s how we deserve to be treated.

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January 7, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

19 Comments »

  1. It’s a shame that someone took offense at you not answering straight away. I think people forget that writers have lives and you’re not sitting at your computer waiting for ‘fans’ to email you!
    I’ve often emailed authors and I know I’m not going to answer me back straight away. You never know if they’re busy, ill, working, etc but everyone of them has emailed me back when they’ve had time.

    Comment by Jo | January 7, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks Jo – I do try my very best to answer e-mail. I love chatting with readers. It’s the best part of my job. If I ever miss an e-mail I hope people will see it as an honest mistake, and not a purposeful slight and send it again.

      Comment by rachelspangler | January 7, 2012 | Reply

  2. Well said. Politeness to strangers should always be commended, sometimes in this age of TV and the internet people forget that respect and boundaries should be the first consideration. Many people forget that. Just becuase I have your email address or read your blog doesn’t mean you are a BFF. My only concern is why hasn’t anyone questioned your relationship with Lee Lynch 😉

    Elaine

    Comment by Elaine Mulligan Lynch | January 7, 2012 | Reply

    • LOL Laine – I think everyone understands my relationship with Lee Lynch perfectly. I’m very much like a puppy dog happy to follow her about.

      Comment by rachelspangler | January 7, 2012 | Reply

  3. It is a big deal, and you speak very well of this conundrum – this instant, 24/7 access. Sure, when we follow on FB, or trail blogs, or click on brief Tweets, there can be a misconception that we “know” someone. What has drawn us to their sites is an admiration, afterall, an appreciation. No, we are not really friends, nor do we really communicate! We share some screen space and we voice regard for books, thoughts or ideas, but we aren’t sitting down over coffee or tea to smile, grin, laugh, contemplate, cajole, show concern or otherwise occupy an immediate and close mindspace. It is enticing to have a response from someone whose point of view we respect; it is enjoyable to have a chat on the waves; and it is a hoot to verbally spar. Most of us respect the privacy and real life that others are entitled to. Some of us may even be hesitant to intrude on that time… But, then there are some few who have yet to understand personal boundaries and who have problems distinguishing between the public and private parts of this ol’ path we are on.
    I appreciate your openness, and candor; I really like your writing and your willingness to be “present”. All best, and Write On!!
    Sheila

    Comment by Sheila Pearsons | January 7, 2012 | Reply

    • Thank you so much Shelia. I’m glad you understand this isn’t about any one person or e-mail but rather a bigger trend. And I have been so very blessed to get to know many wonderful people in the lesfic community. I consider several readers to be great friends. The thing is, the ones who really are my friends would never use that friendship to gain information, and they certainly all understand I am doing my best with a wonderfully full life.

      Comment by rachelspangler | January 7, 2012 | Reply

  4. Good job, Rach, I understand and have had a few odd queries myself.You’re absolutely correct about balancing life. It’s vital. I also agree with Elaine. Today more than ever, everyone has access to the information ‘super highway’. Knowledge is power and people develop unrealistic expectations that don’t always include privacy/boundaries.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    so…next time my place? 😉

    Comment by Barrett | January 7, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks Barrett. As for your place – I’m game. 🙂

      Comment by rachelspangler | January 7, 2012 | Reply

  5. Bravo!!!

    Comment by Emily cherin | January 7, 2012 | Reply

  6. So, we’re not really best friends?

    Comment by laycegardner | January 7, 2012 | Reply

    • LOL Of course we are Layce – I’ve forgiven you for the time you yelled at me in the Orlando airport!

      Comment by rachelspangler | January 7, 2012 | Reply

  7. Nicely done, Rachel, and thanks so much for taking on this subject. I, too, have been the recipient of a less-than-pleasant e-mail from a reader because I didn’t answer her previous e-mail quickly enough. While I was incredibly irritated by the presumptuous tone of this person’s note, I was also very hurt that it was assumed to be my duty to respond to her. Is it polite to respond? Of course. Is it required? Absolutely not. I think about the authors I enjoy and those I’ve written to about how much I enjoy their work. If I write to Patricia Cornwell and she doesn’t write me back, is it then okay for me to send her a nasty note telling her how annoyed I am that she didn’t and now I’m not buying any more of her books? Is it her *duty* to respond to me? No, it’s not. She already fulfilled what I expected from her. She wrote her book; I bought and read it. That’s the end of our relationship. If she happens to respond to my e-mail, that’s awesome. But she’s not *required* to do so, and it’s not okay for me to think she is.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m certainly not comparing my writing to Patricia Cornwell’s, but I think I’ve made my point. I always answer e-mails to me. Always. Not always in a timely fashion; like Rachel, I have a life and a family and things that take my attention away from the computer. To be scolded by a “fan” not only stings, but makes me wonder about this day and age of “instant response” and the sense of entitlement that so many of us now think is okay. I’m sorry; it’s not.

    Comment by Georgia Beers | January 8, 2012 | Reply

    • Oy I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this too Georgia. I’m so proud to call you a friend, and somehow as frustrating as it is to be personally attacked its even more maddening to see it happen to a friend. I hope that just brings home the point that we are people with feelings. You’re right of course it’s not okay to treat anyone as anything less than human, but especially people who are doing their best and going beyond their job description in the first place.

      Comment by rachelspangler | January 8, 2012 | Reply

  8. […] Rachel Spangler wrote A Celebrity Is Not A People. […]

    Pingback by Link Round Up « The Lesbrary | January 8, 2012 | Reply

  9. Rachel I work in a 24/7 job and the effect meant that I got to a point where I stopped venturing out socially altogether because of that whole 24/7 people feel they are entitled to, wasn’t happy still not but as it’s the job it goes with the territory. I don’t believe it’s terribly healthy or conducive to the life of those who have this kind of job, but to me if I want another one then I go find another job, and currently I am surely trying to work that one out. I consider it a real honour to be able to access authors, artists, etc that I admire, should I spell out I admire their WORK in case someone gets the wrong idea……it’s a bit like P.C. gone mad one feels…..I think it’s great I have a host of friends I put in a little “writing” folder on my facebook, it’s a “writing” folder not a “family, school,work friends folder because they are not my friends (and I don’t say that to offend merely to state a fact, that I can make a comment on a post and you may comment back or on mine is cool, it does not make us friends in the way I am with old schoolmates or people I have known for years and see often or from time to time but it allows for communication between folks who have shared interests-they may become “real” friends they may remain FB friends). Access to a “celebrity” is nice but it does not give anyone any entitlement to anything other than the “celebrity”….mmm, this is not easy to explain…..how about, we know you because you are an author, we know the author, we do not know you and anything we do know about you is because the author has told us because after all we only know the author so we cannot get the info elsewhere as all we have is what Rachel the author says. I find it really sad that some individuals take the route they have when they ought to celebrate their good fortune at having such accessible creative folks. You are an entertainer, in your case an author, hence your “celebrity” as it were. You signed up to provide folks with entertainment via your books, they have 24/7 access to that…..YOUR BOOKS, NOT YOU. If they want 24/7 access to their entertainment they have cable and internet or they can pick up a book, isn’t that why you guys write them? Oh and the comments about your famous friends…….so they want access to you, the author, the entertainer and as said entertainer you write fiction and funny stories and the author makes up funny stories about famous people, is that kinda like fiction…..cos o yeah you entertain by writing fiction, that is the celebrity to whom we have access is an author who writes fiction and/or funny stories about famous people they know, have met…….the celebrity is separate from the person or perhaps that’s how us non-celebrities OUGHT to see it. I am sure there are blurred and fuzzy lines around the person and the celebrity but should you suffer this nonsense from people because of it I think not, they oughtta remember who entertains them lest the entertainer take the same course as those who have the 24/7 job that stops them socialising, your sociallising might be translated as your blog, FB, twitter, e-mail and even your writing, I for one would not want any of you writers to stop socialising. When you e-mail the writers like Rachel have a thought to yourself before demanding, they do us all a great favour let’s not forget that folks. Sorry for long rambling rant Rachel, this really annoys me may you and your fellow authors continue to entertain us all while you enjoy spending your non writing time as you see fit just like everyone else does when they are not at work!

    Comment by G | January 9, 2012 | Reply

    • Thank you for your support G, and feel free to ramble here any time!

      Comment by rachelspangler | January 9, 2012 | Reply

  10. Hopefully those e-mails were the exception and not the rule? I’m impressed that you handled them with such level-headedness, and realized that maybe the senders were going through something weird when they sent them and that you don’t need to change. I always enjoy your wit and humor when I visit here. Happy new year!

    Comment by Abby | January 9, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks Abby! Part of being human is making mistakes. I’m far from perfect so I try not to expect perfect out of others. And 99% of my interactions with readers have been amazingly positive.

      Comment by rachelspangler | January 10, 2012 | Reply


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