I've been writing this column for a year now, and it's taught me a few things, and maybe it's taught some readers a couple of things as well, though I am still seeing leggings with short shirts, hooker-riffic 12-year-olds, and baseball hats in nice restaurants, so maybe not...
I will go ahead and admit I was shocked anyone would recognize me based on the cartoonish pic that accompanied the column in the beginning. For someone who has written openly about how much I dislike public conversations in grocery stores, I sure was recognized there quite a bit. "Are you the one that writes that mean column?" Umm. I guess? "Hey! Jen Papin! I'm wearing leggings!" And how flattering they are on you, stranger. "Is this your real hair?" Yes, she tugged my hair.
Most people have been nice. Some have been ... odd. When I wrote the column about screaming kids in public places, I took a tremendous amount of heat about it. Everything from me bashing single mothers to me bashing disabled kids came out of that one, even though I never typed “single” or “disabled” once. I've been told I am "way too conservative" and "the voice of local conservative mothers,” which was hugely disturbing to me. Funny thing, as I am the mom who took her son and his friend to see Nine Inch Nails this year and those who have been in my reality know how non-conservative a mother I can be. If being “conservative” means I think people should still use some basic manners and etiquette these days, I guess I will have to suck that one up, but it still shocked me to the core that anyone really thought “conservative” applied to me.
Poor hubby and the kids have had more than their fair share of comments regarding the column. A kid repeatedly bothered one of mine about her clothing choices: "Did your mom let you out of the house in those shorts? Are those leggings? Are you allowed to wear skinny jeans?" I was very proud that mine didn't punch the other in the nose, but had it happened, I wouldn't have blamed her. All three of them have discussed various columns with teachers and classmates, to their collective chagrin, since they never read them. I'd get a text: "What was this week’s column? People keep talking to me about it and I don't know what it's about. Please say it's not about ME." Sorry kid.
But more than anything, I think I heard this the most: “You are saying what people are thinking. We just don't want to admit we are thinking it” — which is so odd to me. Why not, folks? I tried to avoid politics and religion, even though I could write daily snarky columns on both, so what was so hard for the rest of you to say, that apparently came easy to me? When you see a waiter being abused by a jerk, or have the dog from the depths of hell barking non-stop next door, or hear the nasty, silly remark about some mom who is, or isn't, nursing and how their child will be affected FOREVER, or hear the jerk parent screaming at a coach, why aren't you calling them out? Somehow we, collectively, have forgotten that it's OK to stick up for the right things in life. Nobody wants to make waves, create drama, put themselves in any line of fire. So nothing ever changes, and the dog next door to you is still barking. You know, it IS OK for you to do the right thing, to stick up for what's right, for the underdog, and for your family. You don't need me to write about it to make it OK to discuss. You just have to do it.
As it's becoming harder and harder to come up with something entertaining - or even vaguely interesting - on a weekly basis, I've decided to stop writing for a bit. I may come back at some point. I may go to a blog format, heck, maybe I will write a book. But I know one thing; it's been a great adventure, and I have enjoyed the friendships I've made along the way. I've even enjoyed the critics. It's been an interesting social experiment in a very small town, and I think for a while I'm going to focus on creating more life experiences and writing about them less. But I truly, deeply thank you for reading this, and I have to thank my friends at AdVantage News for giving me this opportunity. I still don't know what they saw in me when they asked me if I was interested in writing this, but thanks, friends.
Even though I've learned I'm a conservative, baby-hating, rule follower who says what you think but won't say, I'm still glad that I wrote these, so remember, please be kind to the grieving, take your damn hat off at dinner, dress your kid like a kid, vote them ALL out, stand up to the bullies of the world, and let your kids drink out of the hose. Cheers!