Hiding Under My Bed
When I was six, I asked my mom to take me to the park. She leaned down in my face and screamed at me. I covered my ears. She started slamming cabinets and throwing things at me. She did that sometimes.
Okay, she did it a lot.
Sometimes she threw glasses. Sometimes she threw coffee cups. Sometimes she threw eggs. The day I asked to go somewhere fun, she screamed about how selfish and entitled I was. She seemed to enjoy it.
It wasn't going to stop anytime soon.
I scurried into my room.
I hid under the bed.
Eventually, she lost her steam. She went into her default mode, doing chores while talking to herself. I snuck out from under the bed. I spent the rest of the day in the basement, grateful she'd forgotten about me.
Part of me stayed there.
She's still hiding.
Sometimes the irony hits me like a brick. I spent the last two decades constructing a person from the rubble of that, just in time for the pandemicene and the age of global boiling.
My mom hated me, even before the schizophrenia possessed her completely. She used to sit on the couch and describe her disdain at length. She said I would never fit in anywhere, and she was right.
Most of you don't know this, but I'm nonbinary. I'm gay. Sometimes I dress like a dude. Sometimes I dress like a girl. I identify as both. I socialized as both, and I got the shit end of both sticks. When I dress up like a guy, I'm not masculine enough. When I dress up like a girl, I'm not feminine enough.
They like me, but they don't like me.
I can't win.
I'm attracted to guys and girls. I've dated girls. Back in 2019 when I was writing viral clickbait about relationships, I hid it. I figured nobody wanted relationship advice from an autistic, atheist queer. Sometimes when I wrote about a "friend" who dated a crazy chick...
It was me. I was the friend.
Hey, I know.
I was lucky to have a bed to hide under. Other kids had it worse. They didn't even have a mom to scream at them. If you're bored reading this, btw, I promise you it's going somewhere.
It feels a little selfish and self-indulgent to talk about childhood trauma these days, doesn't it? After all, twenty thousand people just died in Libya. Western news outlets are blaming corruption, not climate change. They seem to think Libya had millions of dollars to build new dams. They seem to forget that bridges and dams are collapsing over here in the U.S. all the time.
There's plenty of corruption in the U.S. to write about these days. Maybe it's corruption. Maybe it's incompetence. It's probably a mix of both. As we speak, pharmacies are canceling appointments for Covid boosters because of confusion over insurance coverage. We're neck deep in another surge, arguably the worst one since the pandemic began. We don't know for sure because our governments have stopped tracking the virus.
Our CDC director visits nursing homes without a mask.
We're all struggling.
It's been a rough couple of years for me as a writer and a parent. Yes, I already felt abandoned by society, but the pandemic really drove the knife in. Back in the spring, we almost died in a tornado. My daughter plays tornado shelter with her stuffed animals now, and it recently occurred to me that this is how we're dealing with her trauma. A few weeks ago, another freak storm knocked our power out for days. We spent all summer enduring heat wave after heat wave. Some days the heat index climbed to 115F (46C) and stayed in the 90s well into the night. We made one trip to scope out a new home, and I got so sick from the Canadian wildfire smoke I thought I was coming down with Covid.
As some of you know, I left Medium for Substack last year. There were several reasons. First, their new CEO decided I was a divisive clickbait artist. They started pulling my stories from distribution. He started cuddling up with people on the platform who were harassing me.
I don't even write on Medium anymore, and dudes are still harassing me there. They're still posting stories about me.
It was especially bad back in 2022. Every day, someone threw my name into a headline and bashed my writing. Medium then curated that and promoted it to me on my own feed. I asked them to take it down.
I'm supposed to be tough, but I have to admit: After a year of that, it starts to turn your stomach. I didn't want to be there anymore.
I felt unwelcome.
Some of these dudes believed they were engaged in some kind of personal feud with me. They thought I was reading their articles and responding to them personally. Nope, it was hundreds of them and sometimes their fangirls ganging up on me, churning out a steady stream of hate about what a horrible person I was because I... don't really know.
One of these dudes wrote a piece satirizing my fears for my daughter, who was three and unvaccinated at the time. This someone once claimed to be a fan and a supporter of my work.
Anyway, it wasn't exactly new.
Dudes and angry anti-feminist women have been making videos, podcasts, and listicles about me for years, even before I started writing more exclusively about pandemics and climate change. They hate-read my work and called me a whore, all for clicks and attention. Back when I had a public email address, men emailed me just to explain at length how ugly and stupid I was.
One popular writer even published an article encouraging other aspiring writers not to read my stuff because... it was too good.
It would make them feel insecure.
Then I had to leave Substack. They started a war with Elon Musk, and it's only hurting content creators. It's funny, because I'm not convinced Substack cares one bit about making a better internet. I remember when they made fun of Twitter employees for quitting after Musk took over.
So, now I'm here.
Substack won't export Stripe membership IDs, so I've had to manually go through and convert everyone myself. I had to do this by giving paid subscribers "complimentary" subscriptions.
I think I got them all.
I'm ashamed to admit this, but I need money. I have a family to support. I have a spouse who can't find a safe job. I don't want my spouse taking a job that's going to leave them dying of heat stroke in a fulfillment center.
I'm a tenured college professor.
I teach 3-4 courses a semester.
I make $50,000.
A lot of people seem to think I'm rich, or at least affluent. They talk about my privilege. I don't really know how to respond to that anymore. Right now I'm applying for online adjunct jobs. I can't ask anyone to support my free blog. When I do, I get shamed for profiting off doom.
The tech elite on Medium have been complaining about their earnings. Some of them brought in 10 percent of the engagement I did. They were earning as much as me, sometimes more. I guess that's why they were so angry. They thought I was stealing their views and income. In reality, I was bringing in the readers who paid their bills. I was their livelihood. Talk about irony.
Last year, I had to put a special disclaimer on my Substack because people thought I was making commissions by promoting nasal sprays and air purifiers. I had to stop mentioning them in my posts.
Earlier this summer, I started a hashtag that trended at the top of Twitter. It made me a grand total of sixty-five bucks.
Is that privileged?
People have accused me of making Covid my niche.
I was hospitalized with pneumonia when I was four. My parents were chain smokers. I'm prone to respiratory infections. Every day, I wake up astonished and grateful that I don't have Long Covid.
My mom's schizophrenia was caused by Epstein-Barr Virus. I spent the first 30 years of my life watching it kill her.
I don't know how guys like Judd Legum do it. They can write about things they care about. They can ask for money.
I don't know how guys like Wil Wheaton do it. They can write about depression and childhood trauma.
Nobody judges them.
I don't know how Russell Brand does it. He convinced the world he was a bleeding heart leftist liberal, all while building a net worth of $20 million and grooming teens. I just want to send my daughter to a school where she won't catch Covid endlessly or get shot by a lunatic. My spouse and I have agreed that at some point, we'll probably have to homeschool her, at any cost, no matter how much income or sanity we have to give up.
I was told this makes me privileged.
Some people say I have a brand. I don't know about that. I don't know how to sell myself. I don't know how to promote myself. I'm bad at it. If I were better, I wouldn't be looking for adjunct work.
I'll try to keep this site going, but it's getting tough.
There are more days when I want to quit now.
If you're among the 5 percent who support my work, I appreciate it. I hate having to write stuff like this. It makes me feel like shit.
I'm often told that my work is too valuable and too important to put behind a paywall. Sometimes it feels like I'm becoming a victim of the vocational awe that I've written about, the irony that the more you contribute, the less you're valued and the more you're scorned for trying to benefit from your own labor. People simply feel entitled to it, because it's "essential."
Then again, maybe I'm not that good. Maybe I don't deserve anything, and I have no right to ask a dime from anyone.
Part of me is still hiding under the bed.