Over the last couple of weeks I've received at least five marriage proposals and a couple of death threats. One guy told me he wanted to shoot me. Another thought a knife would be best. I was called a bad father and a wonderful, caring man. Several women admitted their undying love for me, and several men wanted to do something to me with a shoe that is anatomically impossible. At least one person thinks I'm "friggin' hilarious." But many, many more have concluded that I am an "idiot," a "dork" and a "loser."
My crime? I wrote an essay for NEWSWEEK in which I said that I sorta, kinda, maybe don't like Crocs shoes all that much. OK, I said I hated them and that people who wear them are dorky. It was an Ed Anger-style rant for a lazy August afternoon, intended to brighten the Friday of our Web readers and maybe make them chuckle a little. I had hoped a few people who noticed the story would even leave a quick comment.
I had no idea what I was in for. Within hours, there were hundreds and hundreds of comments. Within a few days there were thousands. The people who wrote in were elated. They were furious. They demanded to be heard. Tip to fellow journalists: Forget the presidential election. Never mind Iraq. The death penalty? Gun control? Feh. If you want to inflame the passions of the American people, write about rubber clogs.
I was called "absolutely brilliant" and a complete "dumbass." I was accused of being a racist and yet somehow pro-Barack Obama because I ended my rant with a jokey "Yes! We! Can!" Some said I was just plain un-American for criticizing neon clown shoes that are made in Mexico, Italy, Romania, China, Canada, and the United States. One patriot went so far as to accuse me of stirring the pot "with the stick of America." I honestly have no idea what that means, but at least it makes me sound manly.
Many, many people speculated that I was a big loser in high school. If being in charge of the Senior Class Homecoming float and being the water carrier for the varsity football team makes me a loser, then fine. But one guy defended me on this front: "I want to be a has-been high school loser, too. He's clever, witty, ironic AND brilliant." Clearly, this reader gets me.
Two themes ran through the negative comments: One, that I shouldn't spend my time railing against rubber shoes in a world threatened by war and disease and global warming; and two, that I am an idiot. Many of those who accused me of slacking off as a journalist—and there were hundreds—were no doubt themselves reading the article and posting about it while they were at work, on company time. As far as I can tell, I was the only one who was actually doing my job. Some of the more entertaining comments came from the second group—the ones who accused me of being an idiot. A reader with the user name Castanee was "amased of myself that was cappable of reading through this lines." Ouch. that stings, I think. A Crocs lover who goes by Allen54456 thought I should try to be more "revenant." Another angry reader wondered how I ever got "publicated."
There were many suggestions about how I could better use my time, from killing myself to seeing "how long it takes to replace all your light bulbs with energy saver bulbs." I'll choose the latter if that's OK. One guy said my essay was "fascism disguised as humor." Many thought my outlandish opinions about the shoes were a threat to our free society. At least a couple of people accused me of encouraging genocide. For the record, in no way did I intend the article to encourage genocide, and to the extent that it might have done so, I apologize.
Bitter Crocs owners said they were going to rush out to buy more Crocs to punish me. Darn, didn't see that coming. Many, many readers thought I was a terrible father because I let my son poke gentle fun at people who wore Crocs. Farmgirl12 put it best when she said, "I cant beleive your raisin your son like that." One thought I was a cool dad for spending time with my boy, but that maybe it might be best if I "didn't procreate again." From your typewriter to God's ear, my friend. Another felt sorry for my son for "having a goober dad with a job writing about shoes." That one made me laugh out loud; I'll definitely be stealing that line. So will my boy.
One angry reader said he could picture me in my ivory tower sipping wine by candlelight as I typed my essay. That is a gross mischaracterization. I drink bourbon. Guilty on the candle, though.
One woman wrote that she thought it was unfair to judge me just from one story so she went and looked up my other work. She thought all of those stories sucked, too. SeriouslySad agreed: "The writer is obviously not a good one, he works for Newsweek." Another careful reader said he couldn't believe Time magazine paid me to write such garbage. The good news for me is that all of this angry reading of my awful prose drove up my traffic numbers, which only encourages my editors to let me commit more acts of bad writing. The Crocs story alone got millions of hits, so you haters can look forward to hilarious rants about people talking in public on cell phones and nasty airline food. You have only yourselves to thank.
One quick side note: To reader Eroticism, who wrote, "I think I love you," and to laftacad who went all the way and said, "I officially love you," and to all of the women who proposed marriage: could you please send photos? I know we'll have at least two important things in common right off the bat: you love me and you don't wear Crocs.
I went through every single one of the thousands of responses and letters, and some of them were tough to read. But one stood out, and I'd like to close with it, because one Crocs wearer, Leayellowrose, got the joke: "OMG ... This was hilarious!!! Thanks for the laugh. I lost my 4 year old to brain cancer in January and hadn't laughed this much since ... Now, that being said, I wear Crocs all the time!!!"
It was signed, "A dork in Texas."