Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

This is Going to Be A Long One, So Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You

So the story goes something like this:

A reporter from the Washington Post contacted me last November and asked if I’d be willing to contribute my experience to her article on the perils of blogging about your job. She’d heard and read about what had happened to me, that on February 26, 2002, my boss pulled me into a corner conference room and told me that the company no longer had any use for me, that the CEO had read an email from an anonymous person alerting everyone to my website and that I should be fired instantly.

The Post reporter and I talked for several hours on the telephone, and I felt comfortable enough in our conversation to let her know details about the firing that I hadn’t ever revealed on the website. Details like, my boss said the words to me, “You’re being fired because of your website.” The Human Resources rep. who escorted me to my car, however, sort of fumbled a memorized speech and said on the way out the door, “Um, lemme think, um, we’re not firing you for your website, I think. I guess we’re not allowed to do that. Um, let’s just say the official reason is that it’s just not a good fit.”

I found it interesting that no less than a month before the firing I had been lauded in a company-wide email for coming up with a sleek interface to a new software product, and I was described as helping to take the company “to the next level.” God, how I don’t miss working in an office where I had top-level deliverables on my plate coming down the pipe which most of my co-workers were SMOKING on a daily basis.

A few days before the Post story ran the reporter contacted me again to find out the name of the company that fired me, primarily so that she could call and backup my claims. I understood her need to do this, but I told her that I wasn’t comfortable giving up the name of the company. I had never named the company on my website, nor had I ever revealed names of the people whose personalities or characteristics I had used in some of the sketches I had written of co-workers. My purpose in writing about my job WAS NOT to slander the company or to endanger the integrity of their product. I also have not pursued legal action against the company because I believe that I don’t have a legitimate case. I do not think, however, that the company that fired me would extend any sort of grace to me if they found out that I was taking this story to the press and giving their names to journalists.

The Post reporter, perhaps in an act of sheer kindness or mercy, decided not to push it any further and said that she could still use my story as long as I was cited as an anonymous source. The story ran in December, and I was referred to as a 27-yr old web designer living in Los Angeles. I did not receive any traffic from the story, which brings me to the first point I want to make with today’s entry:

Contrary to what many have said to me in recent emails, I do not believe that I am trying to exploit what happened to me to get more traffic to my site. Yes, the initial post about losing my job was linked to by several high-level community sites, and many of the readers I have now came to my site as a result. But I am also now THAT GIRL who lost her job because of her website, a label I will always have to wear and one that I don’t think I will ever entirely transcend. I am not complaining about this label, nor do I consider it a crutch, necessarily. I do feel, however, a sort of social responsibility in sharing this experience as a cautionary tale to other bloggers and any potential bloggers who even for a second think that what they publish online can’t hurt them offline.

So when a reporter from The New York Times called and asked me to contribute to his story, I told him immediately that I would be more than happy to answer any of his questions as long as he didn’t ask about the name of the company that fired me. We talked for about 20 minutes, and I gave him more details about what had happened between me and my family more so than what had happened between me an my former employers.

And I don’t know if it came across in the article or not, but I cannot stress enough how terribly devastating it was for my family to read my website. It’s not a time in my life I like to think about, and if I could erase from my mind the late night phone call from my father wherein he dismissed me as a “vile and disgusting human being” who had succumbed like a weakling to “the dark side,” I would take back EVERYTHING I had written that had hurt them. For the record, I never explicitly called my family “technophobes,” but I think that was the only creative license the reporter took in relaying the details of my story. So, for those of you who were curious, NO, this Times reporter fabricated nothing.

I assumed that in the Times article I would be quoted anonymously as I was in the Post story, and so I didn’t go into the interview thinking that I would exploit my family for traffic. I realized that they were going to use my name, however, when I got a call last Thursday from someone at the Times who said they’d like to send a photographer over to my home to take a picture for the article. The call totally surprised me, but ultimately I didn’t see the harm in the interview and agreed to the photograph.

Fifteen minutes later I received a knock on my door from Deseret News photographer, Tom Smart, who also happens to be Elizabeth Smart’s uncle. He’d been told on the drive over that he would be taking a picture of a “blogger” whose anti-Mormon rants had alienated her from her family, and when he showed up to my home he was visibly interested in my story. I wasn’t sure initially if he was related to the Smarts, but when he said he was curious because he was himself the only member of his family who wasn’t a member of the Mormon Church, I couldn’t help but ask him, somewhat cautiously, “Are you related to THE Smarts?” He nodded softly, and I invited him to have a seat on my couch. For the next two hours he told me about the last year of his family’s ordeal in striking detail, things I hadn’t heard on the news, and every two or three minutes I had to check my surroundings to make sure that I wasn’t being Punk’d or set up for “Candid Camera.” He is probably one of the kindest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in my entire life, and I felt so humbled sitting there having HIM take MY picture for a story that is NOTHING in comparison to what he has lived through. He reminded me that we take risks with our art, and that sometimes we can fall on our face, and sometimes we can succeed brilliantly, you just have to live with both.

And so I guess there is no second point I wanted to make with this entry today, only that despite the hate mail and the negative attention, and depsite losing my job and the consequent humiliation, and despite the pain I have put my family through, I do feel good about what I do here. I’ve used the pain, the criticism, and the restrictions to try and become a better writer. I know that I have specific responsibilities to my family, to my husband, and to my friends, and that I can’t just say anything I want to say, no matter HOW BADLY my na�ve sense of “freedom” urges me to do so. There is no such thing as unadulterated freedom of speech with a blog, not if you’re brave enough to tack on your real name to what you write.

Tom Smart’s photograph obviously didn’t make it into the article, probably because they thought I’d be some sort of punk rock web grrrrrl, and I turned out to be a rather harmless, domesticated posterchild for a quilting guild. Here is the photograph of THAT GIRL who lost her job because of her website if you’d like to see it, at least until the Times sends me a cease and desist order. And that would totally be SO cool.

  • Mel

    It’s time for a publicist Dooce. Oh yes it is.

  • dvl

    “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.” (quoting Alice Roosevelt Longworth)

  • it’s really a problem for most bloggers as to what they should, and shouldn’t put up on their blog.

    nonetheless, great picture, and keep up with the great writing. dooce.com rocks =)

  • I don’t think I have ever commented here before- but I have been reading for a while and I have read a good bit of the archives. You are a great writer and I love coming here to read about your life. The photo is beautiful!

  • cheeken

    Some people have wondered how people could send hate-mail, or even talk bad about, people that they don’t know (in this case Heather). But isn’t the reverse also true? How can we sit here and defend all of Heather’s wrongs and free-speechiness without knowing her.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big dooce fan, and have been for some time, but aren’t both sides of the debate jumping to some pretty big conclusions about the person they think is behind this site, supporters and nay-sayers alike. Just an observation.

  • Pat

    My vote is for dooce ruler of the world btw rocken pic.

  • i got in trouble because of my blog too. i wrote an entry about professors in my college always marrying students…i thought that was pretty funny and kinda weird. well, what i didn’t think of, was that my digital arts professor had just married a student himself. needless to say, he wasn’t very happy about my entry and ‘strongly encouraged’ me to delete it…getting my grades at the end of that same semester was another reminder that i need to think twice before posting anything. ah well. and, before i forget, LOVELY picure!

  • J

    dooce & petya: it’s a shame that freedom of speech doesn’t ACTUALLY mean freedom of speech.

  • why DO we blog anyway? too much damn trouble just to stroke our hungry egos.

    and gain some weight, girl! i can barely see you behind the slats of the rocking chair.

  • Jon

    Remember what Usher said:
    “Hey ladies / hey fellas
    You know your doin’ good because they jealous
    They only hate you cos your a go-getter
    Something something somethin (pop! pop!)”
    Think on friends

  • I’m really happy you didn’t run the other way after blogging turned into an nightmare for you. I’m glad you stuck it out and came back after your hiatus. Others can share your experience and learn from you… and ultimately, you can keep doing what you love to do and we can keep reading what we love to read.

  • dooce. you either get it or you don’t.

  • I wish I had your eloquence. You rock.

  • It is good to know you are still alive and living on this planet.
    By the way, firing you from any job would be like throwing away the dead sea scrolls because they are old.
    You are one of the smartest people I have ever met. And God knows, I have been here a very long time..

  • ms. lauren, it is neither progressive nor “feministe” to bash another woman because of her weight (regardless if she is thin or not) — don’t you think?

  • You don’t need me to tell you this, but you have done the right things all along — you have been true to yourself and readers. Your writing is excellent.

    You may have been naive thinking the web shielded you from hurting your family or employer assholery, but it your goals were genuine.

    Keep up the good work, and fuck your critics. Who care what they think, anyway?

  • I have been reading your blog for a little over 6 months now, and I am addicted for life.

    Thou rocketh, Dooce.

  • I also am an addict of your blog!!!!

  • Jodi

    Your writing rocks.
    Your photography rocks.
    Your dog rocks.
    Your site rocks.
    You rock, Dooce.
    Rock on, girlfriend.

  • clark

    Well wait until you have a baby. There is something about having a baby or as you know a blog that makes everyone realize you need their advice. “Watch out for that soft spot on his little head!” “More about work!” “No gassy foods!” “Gain some weight!” “You’re still breastfeeding?” “Enough with your family, tell us what it feels like when you take a shower! Now say No Daddy!” “Ha ha no sleep or movies for eighteen years!” Anyway I got kicked off a group blog for saying the admin would let a terrorist fuck her sister. It was terrible, I was just basically copying Neal Pollack anyway, but the point is it wasn’t even my blog and I was getting told what to do. Er is that a point? Oh and plus evryone got all mad at me when I flamed this canadian girl on Xanga for crapping on the US. Anyway the baby is a lot more fun than the blog.

  • galt

    god damn you’re hot. and the lady with the slender arm and the eyebrow arched just so, almost daring, ain’t too bad neither. oh, and to me there have always been two kinds of good writing: writing that is formally good but soulless and ultimately depresses me and makes me never want to write if it’s going to be like that, and 2) writing like yours, which is genuine and felt and technically conscious/accomplished as well. thanks for being an inspiration in more than one way.

  • galt

    wooHoo! number 71! and 72! sweeeeeeet. nothing like being the ass-end of the conga-line of mass adulation/witty banter.

  • That was a very interesting read. Much better than that other guy’s blog in the Times article.

  • “but is the website really worth it?”

    why do i write a blog? why do people write music? why do people paint? why do artists make art?

    you may not consider a blog a work of art, but that’s how i approach it, and i think many others approach it this way as well. i think all artists are slightly egotistical, otherwise they wouldn’t have the guts to do what they do. if i wrote music that hurt my family, or set up installations in a museum that totally offended everyone, should i stop those things just because it doesn’t sit well with others?

    i suppose blogs aren’t taken as seriously as an art form as say musicianship or illustration, and it may take years for that to happen, perhaps because the majority of us don’t get paid to do this. and because we don’t get paid IT MUST be that we’re insane to keep trying, obviously not because we’re compelled to make art.

  • the writing, the format, the ideas are amazing, don’t ever stop dooce.

    pete, if you think what dooce writes is “mean-spirited”, I believe you’re missing the whole point, or atleast the tone in which she presents it.

  • Jon

    I agree – blogs should be treated as an art form, if only in as much as they are a conspicuoulsy, and purposefully public form of self-expression.
    As such, they deserve to be afforded respect. I suppose, by the same token – while personal attacks and hate mail are unreasonable, and baffling – a certain amount of criticism is always to be expected. Once you put yourself out there, people are gonna want to have their say. Hate mail can be ignored, criticism can be absorbed…and praise can be basked in. There is plenty of that and you seem to have earned it…

  • Rockin’ site, rockin’ dog. Dooce is one of my daily reads. Thanks. =)

  • “He reminded me that we take risks with our art, and that sometimes we can fall on our face, and sometimes we can succeed brilliantly, you just have to live with both.”

    – thank you.

  • daily reader, first time commenter.

    as many have already eloquently said, you rock.

    that is all.

  • oh, google your friend Morsillo. she owns land in Schnectady. her worst punishment is being herself.

  • Glovia

    You look really pretty Dooce.

  • Elvis Pepper

    i enjoy reading your work. i started reading when i saw a link from oblivio that showed your engagement. http://oblivio.com/road/02020601.shtml

    if you are ever in denver, my wife and i will buy you a round.

  • Another big Dooce fan… 🙂 But I DO think you had a legitimate case against the company. And while I admire you for taking the high road, I’m angry on your behalf. A company could fire you if you spent time posting to a personal website from work (as they could for doing ANY non work-related thing, really), but unless they could prove that… you can’t fire someone for HAVING a personal site. That’s just such bull. You had it right there from the HR person, “umm… we can’t do that…”

    I’ve been bitching about work a lot lately on my site, but I’ve never mentioned names or anything. If I ever got fired for it, you can bet I’d sue their pants off. But I also always insist on getting the last word. 😉

    And P.S. Too bad they didn’t use the picture – you look fabulous!

  • chucky looks like he’s giving that guy the evil eye. he looks dangerous. like he is sneering, “make my dooce look bad and i will tear out your spleen.”

    always a sign of a good dog.

  • tremorr

    Diaries have a long tradition in literary history, and the invitations for comments is a little talmudic. I love reading Dooce.com because it IS art, and you’re working with other bloggers to define a new literary form. And for those of us who know we should stop and examine our lives, but who don’t have the eye, wit, and sensitivity that you have, your blog is a real treat.

  • I just don’t understand the kind of mind that thinks praising someone for a good accomplishment is ass-kissing, and would feel the need to fire off an angry email for the same… Or get mad at someone for an increase in his/her web-site traffic? Isn’t that always good? It confounds me. But then stupidity and evil has always confounded me.

  • can someone send me/post the link to that article. great site dooce.

  • Lisa

    Well, the firing story is news to me. Love your writing, and I am glad you do regardless of how or why you started. Keep at it!

  • And another thing…

    I was reading your blog, Dooce, when all of those events occurred, and had been reading it for a while at that point. (The first post of yours that I read – to give you an idea – was your snarking at some lady in a line for coffee, and she deserved it.)

    In my opinion, even when you were ribbing your co-workers and your family, you were always careful and hit just the right tone. I remember thinking at the time things blew up that if I worked with you, or were related, I wouldn’t consider anything you wrote mean or out of school. You were always respectful and sweet even when you were giving someone hell. That’s a very hard thing to do via the written word, but you always manage to hit the correct tone. I bet your hubby says the same.

  • nicole

    dooce is prettier than cameron diaz.

    she is more sarcastic than daria.

    she is smarter than . . . someone really smart.

    will all you fuckheads gripin and moanin about ‘misplaced negativity’ take a hike already? if it bugs you so much, STOP READING IT.

  • You’re always inspiration for me, if someone hasn’t said it enough yet, Thanks for being who you are.

  • Matt

    Wow. Dooce in repose.

    Dooce with Rocking Chair, Dog, and Laptop. Whadda way to blog. Whadda way to live.

    Kudos for the integrity you show in not smearing the name of your former employer. And for making sure the Post and Times folks get the story right.

  • cremepouf

    This is America…you have NO rights here..especially NO right of freedom of speech/expression!

  • anna jr.

    so.

    i suppose that all the people who don’t like dooce’s PERSONAL opinions – that she posts on her PERSONAL website that she pays for with her PERSONAL money and have felt compelled to say so via nasty e-mails – have never thought, said, or written anything bad or mean or hurtful about anyone in thier lives – ever?

    oh wait – too late. they already did.

    get over yourselves, folks – it a free fucking country.

    and a much more entertaining one with all the brilliant bloggers (like dooce) in it.

    if you don’t like it – don’t read it.

  • erk

    True honesty is hard to find. People who don’t express their irritation with others, their sardonic take on people and places and things in their life, but insist on being outwardly “nice” express it in other, more dangerous ways. I would take your open-eyed honesty over political correctness any day of the week. Your work is amazing.

  • dooce really is an inspiration.

    as for those nitwits who have been giving you grief, i swear, the internet really needs an IQ requirement.

    there are way too many idiots online.

  • angelique

    it’s all a matter of balls.
    you have some of the biggest i have ever seen.
    and quite honestly, the truth hurts.
    it is those that are the sharp peaks in the norm that
    end up raising the bar.

  • Dooce,

    I love reading your blog becuse I can relate to the mormon thing kind of in the third party. My bf is from a Mormon family, but is non-practicing. So are his sisters and brother. Also, I love to read your witty comments and you leave out the bull shit.

    What I always say is “You learn from your mistakes and hopefully you don’t repeat them”.

  • Dooce, as someone who started reading *after* the whole firing thing, I think of you as the girl with the sharply witty website, NOT the girl who got fired for her blog. I mean, if I hear about work/blog issues, I do think of you, but that’s not how I think of this place and you firstly, and I’m sure a good chunk of your readers think the same way.

    You wouldn’t have so many readers if that were the case. They’d come for one look and leave. Your last post made me so sad, because those idiot Times readers totally missed the point, and the fun to be had in reading dooce.com!

  • mbm

    i have been reading your blogg for a long long time and this is the first time i have actually posted anything – i look forward GREATLY to reading what you write from day to day …. don’t stop what you do, i say screw the bastards that have a problem with what u write ……