Sticks and Stones

Image“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

We all learned that rhyme as kids and even back then, we knew it was crap. Sticks and stones hurt, but so can words.

A few months ago I wrote a post about living in Austin, Texas. When I initially posted it, it didn’t make much of a splash. Some people loved it. Some people hated it. Some people didn’t care either way. Jump ahead to yesterday and… BOOM!

Over the last two days that post has had over 18,000 views and over 300 comments.

To say that I am overwhelmed by the attention is an understatement. I thought I had hit my biggest number of views when I was featured as “Freshly Pressed” last month. Wow, was I wrong. Almost overnight my blog views exploded. And so did the comments. While I’m happy and grateful to have so much attention, I am also a little freaked out by all the hate.

I knew my piece on Austin wasn’t going to be popular with… some people. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Texans, it is this: Texans LOVE Texas. Texans do not want to hear about/from/of people who do not love Texas. Oh, and this: Texans hate Californians. Not one to back down from opposition, I wrote about my personal experiences here in Austin.

Knowing what I know, I expected some criticism. And I welcome criticism. I welcome dissent and discussion. What I don’t welcome is hateful or hurtful speech. I don’t welcome rude comments. I do not welcome personal attacks. I don’t know what it is about the internet that lets people think they can be assholes, but people be assholes! Here is a short list of things people wrote to me, or about me because I don’t like living in Austin.

Bitch, loser, pretentious snob, whore, asshole, cunt, twat,”Get the fuck out”, privileged rich bitch, co-ed, idiot, stupid, ugly, lame, retarded and finally, evil. Yes, evil

After a day and a half of trying to wade through these comments and find the ones worth reading, I gave up. I closed the comments and gave myself some peace.

Now, I am left with a weird feeling. The comments don’t really bother me. I’m used to it. I think it is the sheer volume of them – both good and bad. But who does that? Who logs on the internet, reads an opinion they don’t like and then calls that person a cunt? Who does that? And the fact that someone would say such ugly things and then think I am stupid enough to actually post them just astounds me. Honestly. My blog is not a democracy. (Nobody can publish a comment without it getting through me first. If I don’t like it, it goes in the trash. So be nice.)

The internet should be a place for opinions and discussion. It shouldn’t be a place for bad behavior. Don’t assume you know someone from reading one thing they have written. Or twenty. Unless you actually call that person a “friend”, you don’t know them. Don’t go assuming that all people different from you are crazy, and don’t yell at people who have a different opinion. Just because you scream doesn’t mean you’ll be heard.

All I can do is keep on doing what I’ve been doing for the last 8 years. Write. I’m going to keep on writing about where I am and what I see. Hopefully some of you get something from it. People asked me what I thought of Austin, so I told them. It’s my opinion. You might have a different one and that’s rad. If that different opinion is something you are passionate about, you can tell me about it. If you tell me about it using respect I’ll even post it. If you do not use respect your opinion will not be heard. It will go in the trash. Telling someone to move out of “your” city is juvenile. Screaming about how amazing Austin was in the 90’s doesn’t do anyone any good in 2013. Name calling, and ignorant statements will be ignored.

I did have some kind folks who wrote and apologized on behalf of their city and the lovely language used by some of Austin’s finest citizens. They said thank you for sharing and best of luck for the future. It made me smile. A little politeness goes a long way. So just be nice. Even if you don’t agree with someone. You can disagree without calling someone a rude name, or sounding ignorant.

Or at least most of us can.


22 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones

  1. I have lived in Austin for all of my 24 years of life. I was born in Brackenridge Hospital, and have lived on the east side, downtown, north, and everywhere in between. As a native Austinite and Texan, I had to comment and say I found your article to be nearly 100% accurate. I guarantee most of the people trashing the article and yourself probably moved here a few years ago and are caught up in the fake Austin snobbery that you noted in the article. In the early 90s? Yeah, Austin was weird and it was cool. Obviously I wasn’t here in the 70s, but I hear tell it was a much more enjoyable place to live.

    Nowadays people go on and on about how unique and interesting it is, when it’s nothing more than a boring Texas city on par with maybe San Antonio. I just wanted to comment to let you know that not every Austinite is brainwashed and defensive about the city.

    • The 70s were great — I just wasn’t old enough to really enjoy any of it. And I agree … I think that this was a really bad time for her to move to Austin. The very best part of it is long behind us now. As for it being boring … any big city is going to be “unique” compared to most of the staid, small towns in this state (and others).

  2. I love Austin. I lived there from ’79 to ’88. Everything you said is pretty much right on the money. Come to El Paso! You’ll dig it, I promise.

  3. There’s a lot in your initial piece that rings true. Your thoughts about the music scene, the heat, absolutely. And the obscene ad hominem attacks against you are excessive and, I’m sure, a little scary. As an Austinite for the last eleven or so years, however… you actually have a problem with name calling? you attacked and trashed our city. You insulted the people who live in it. You called us stupid and deluded. You characterized an entire city as little more than a bunch of smug and self-righteous crappy hipsters who don’t dress to your standards. And that’s your right. But can you really ask for politeness or respect now? It’s beyond hypocritical, and I’m just not getting how your mind works, at all. Gross generalizations, apparently.

      • First off, I appreciate that you allowed my admittedly critical comment to go up. So thank you.

        But yes, trashed, attacked, absolutely. This is textbook trashing:

        “Austin is not a beautiful city. It’s flat and brown… The drivers here are discourteous and stupid… Austin is a city that is full of itself… Austin is smug and self-righteous…. This city has a lack of class, culture, and style and is long overdue a makeover… There is a weird combination of lack of self-pride mixed with batshit crazy “Texas Pride”… A good percent of the population here could stand to lose some LBS, and most of the population could be on Fashion Emergency… Austin is under its own spell. It is a mass delusion.”

        Et cetera. To be clear, people (myself included) aren’t mad at you because you “don’t like living in Austin.” You don’t like living here? That’s okay, it’s not for everyone. But what we ARE mad about is the way you insulted our city and the people who live here. Your initial article is, frankly, a breach of civility, and what surprises me the most is that you’re surprised by the feedback you’re getting. My only ideas as to why that might be are 1) you wrote this piece assuming that it wouldn’t blow up and go viral, and perhaps your tone seemed appropriate for a smaller, more sympathetic audience, and 2) you’re a self-professed vagabond, which is great, but I wonder if because of that you don’t understand what it’s like to have a true, lasting relationship to a city. People love the places they put down roots and they will defend those places the same way they would a person they love. In light of this, the reaction you’re getting seems very, very predictable.

        At any rate, a little politeness goes a long way. So just be nice. Even if you don’t like living here. You can disagree with the city without insulting the people who live here, or sounding ignorant. And the whole “be nice or leave – thank you” thing? Well, um, yes. Yes indeed.

      • Well, I don’t think it is trashing or attacking to say my opinion. Perhaps Texans are just not as tough as they want to think 🙂

  4. I lived there for several years. I’m from the east coast and also a world traveler. Your blog made me giggle; it is a cute Op Ed and it isn’t being written into law so people need to either calm down or go take that aggression out on their Governor Perry for trying to steal everyone’s vagina. When I lived there it seemed to me that maybe the “weird” status was in comparison to Waco or Lubbock, or as some have said, a leftover sentiment from the 70s. I grew up in a very progressive, creative city so in comparison Austin felt bland and I couldn’t grasp why they insisted it was weird. “Keep Austin Laid Back” – that I’d believe. I’ve witnessed people becoming belligerent when a cultural difference was observed, even a moment after they joked that Texas is it’s own country. [Ahem, it’s the same thing]. It was hypocritical and never made sense to me. It’s a decent place, but it has flaws in areas that are marketed as above average. In the big picture, it’s simply not for everyone. We are all different. Unfortunately, embracing diversity isn’t what Texas is famous for. Sorry people went over the top with their insults to you.

  5. I moved to Austin at the tail end of 1998, although I’m originally from California. I love it here–but probably not for the same reasons most other people claim to love it. (I’m at a place in my life where I’m willing to deal with cultural mediocrity for an affordable mortgage, a low crime rate, and some decent schools for my kids to go to. I also love not having to dress up for anything.)

    I also found a lot of your post to be very true, and pretty hilarious.

    I always say that if something pisses you off, it’s probably because it’s true. 😉

    Anyway, I’m sorry you got so much flak for your post.

  6. Who ever you are and wherever you go, you may or may not like things, but bashing anyone’s town just isn’t polite. I am from California and I love it, currently live in the PNW and I love it and have sons who live in Austin, and they love it! Are any of these places perfect, of course not, but I make the best of where ever I am and wonders never cease, seem to find things to love where ever I go. I have lived in Calif, Ark, Ohio, Oregon, Florida, Washington, Australia and Switzerland and also visited many other countries, states and towns. I am grateful for my travels and always found wonder where ever I have been privileged to get to travel:) You might find that listing the good things about your travels will help you find more good things to list. Preconceived ideas about any place or people are kind of like assuming and you know what happens when you assume! I hope you find somewhere that you do like to live. I feel sorry for your negative take on so many things. There is good everywhere, some places you just have to look harder to find it but if you want to find it you will! 🙂

  7. First off, I don’t in any way condone the crude, sitting in the safety of my bedroom, name calling that I’m sure you received. I actually agree with you on some levels, even though it seems like you have yet to experience enough here to make a fair judgement. I am, however, kind of surprised that you’re surprised at the reaction you got. Austinites are proud of their city for good reason and are very open and hospitable (usually) to visitors, transplants, fellow residents, etc. That’s not 100% across the board, but it’s the general vibe.

    The problem I do have with your post is that it wreaks of entitlement. It really does read in a ‘spoiled daddy’s girl didn’t get what she wanted for her birthday and the now party’s off’ kind of vibe. Not everyone here has had the luxury of living in all the exotic places that you’ve been so privileged to call home, but the long time residents here have worked really hard to make it as livable as they can (considering we’re stuck in the middle of a Conservative wasteland).

    I didn’t spend much time on your blog, but I couldn’t help but notice all the Buddhist positivity stuff going on. Don’t you think that spending all that negative energy on a piece without a shred of positivity comes off as hypocritical? I’m sure there’s one or two positive things you can say about the city that you will very briefly call home, isn’t there? If not, I’m afraid that happiness will always escape you. Even if it’s right in front of you.

    • Hi. I’m a critic. That’s what I do. That means pointing out good and bad.

      And, why everyone assumes I’m a daddy’s rich girl is beyond me. I don’t have a dad and I put myself through school. I work. I am almost 40 years old. I am happy in my life because I follow my heart. Everyone’s assumptions about me are so far off they are laughable.

      I gave this city a try and found it lackluster. I thought Texans had thicker skin. But what do I know.

      • In the comment I made no assumptions about who you are or what you have. I simply pointed out how the article is interpreted by someone who doesn’t know you. Can you really disagree that you don’t come off as a little entitled?

        Being the critic that you are who “points out the GOOD and bad”, I’m seriously challenging you to respond with 2 positive things about this city that you’ve encountered since moving here. You up for it?

      • read more carefully. I said I like The Alamo Drafthouse. I even wrote an entire article about things I DO like there. But, nobody read THAT one.

        I don’t think I come off as entitled since I’m not. I’ve worked my whole life. Made my own money in three different countries and I’m still broke. And happy. REALLY Happy. People see what they want to see. They’ve made me into a person who fits their mold as “asshole” without researching first. It’s all there.

  8. I posted a paragraph by paragraph analysis or your original piece. It was not insulting and there was no foul language. I agreed with some of your opinions and wished you the best. Yet you did not post it. Why?

  9. I havent read the original article but here in the UK, Birmingham, my city is ridiculed a lot. I hate it because they say it’s dirty and ugly without setting foot outside the train station. How is that an informed opinion? The people i know that live here and hate it, ok i will grant you your opinion and i won’t call you an idiot. I might suggest pubs to try, or areas to explore, or i would walk away from the conversation but i would never call anybody anything more than ill-informed. You’ve lived in Austin and you’re entitled to your opinion 🙂

    i saw a big facebook feed all about your post and thought that it was really stupid.
    srsly, who fucking cares??? is your city your identity??? so weird how defensive ppl can be. with all austin’s “badass” swag (and its not just the chamber of commerce, yall), it sure can’t take a little bit of criticism. Also, somehow its NOT COOL to “bash” on austin, but they all bash on brooklyn, cause brooklyn is fake and full of hipsters or whatever. sheesh.

    the minute someone attacks YOU, things have gone too far. you were criticizing a TOWN, an abstract idea. when they call you names that shit is too personal, and its wrong!
    keep your head up 🙂

  11. Hey, no harm, no foul. I’m a native Austinite who’s lived all over the place during my salad days, and honestly? I agree with a lot of what you said, Alicia. I don’t think that Austin’s a terrible city, because I’ve lived in far worse (the Alaskan arctic was just the WORST) … but it’s not all that and a pack of chips anymore. I don’t notice too much difference between Austin and many same-sized cities I’ve traveled. The main “weird” factor is that voters consistently elect democrats. And in Texas? Yeah. That’s pretty damned weird. Masses of mixed-used structures, a glorified strip mall (the Domain), and more than one Anthropologie is not.

    Sentimentality keeps me here. My friends and family live in Austin. I’ve got a really good career that pays me well enough to keep me downtown. All of those things really matter to me, but your priorities shouldn’t be mine. It’s good that you’re moving on, and I do mean that sincerely. Life’s just too short.

  12. I appreciated what you had to say, I’m sorry anyone was awful to you. Can’t think of any good excuse for being hateful.

    I agreed with a lot of your post (lived in DC and Houston, moved to Austin 15 years ago – I sometimes miss an actual big city vibe, one that includes 24 hour bookstores…).

    After going through a small range of emotions from reading your post (that the klbj-fm, Dudley and Bob show posted a link to, in case you were wondering why it all exploded), I realized that, even though I was nodding, my feelings were hurt, because this is my home. I want to visit other places, but come back here. I don’t feel as integrated in the city that I use to be so comfortable with, but I enjoy discovering what is new, while missing the town that it was, even 15 year ago. The analogy you made about parents and their kids is true – we (not just Texans) are protective of what we love, buck teeth and all.

    There is value and serendipity everywhere. I hope you enjoy your travels, I’m interested to see where you go next! I hope you enjoy your new home.

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