the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Are you a social media “influencer”? Well then, pull on up a chair and pay attention.

Saturday night the girls and I continued our annual Halloween tradition by celebrating with friends Lola and Gigi and their parents Ivy and Josh. I suppose I should use the term “celebrating” loosely since this is probably my least favorite holiday (which I touched on a little bit here), and should change that to say “we are going to make it through this fucking night alive so help us god.”

Sure, kids are cute in costumes. Wait, nope. I’m not even going to pretend to be enthusiastic about that. Because a lot of customs are super half-assed (a white wig and mustache do not transform you into a very convincing Einstein, CADEN), and the ones that are not make me hyperventilate thinking about the amount of work that went into their creation. Like, I was watching elaborate step-by-step Pinterest boards walking the streets that night. I calculated over 70 years of time that went into costume-creation that could have been spent on something more important like, oh, I don’t know, watching reruns of “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

“I’d do the very least I could to help dismantle white privilege except I’m a little busy over here getting the dress on this goblin to hang just so.”


Yep. I am an unabashed scrooge about Halloween, but that does not mean that I don’t try to make it as fun for the kids as possible. We trick or treat for hours in costumes, and I let them eat a shit ton of candy. It’s just what parents do. I don’t like having to stand behind Leta every afternoon to make her play certain sections of her concerto over and over again in preparation for her performance next week, BUT I DO IT ANYWAY. You want to know why? Because I am a kick ass mother. Because I’m really fucking good at this. Because I am a parent who shows up.

You want to know what, though? A couple of things you are going to want to know. Swear to god, you are going to want to know right the fuck what.

First, I have been doing this for… how long? Almost 15 years. Yeah. That long. My website could get a drivers’ permit, y’all. How scary is that? There are probably a handful of websites you could think of right off the top of your head which if anthropomorphized would be the most horrifying drivers, and you’re going, “Holy shit, I’d much rather be in a car with TMZ behind the wheel than”


While I’m on that tangent I’ll just go ahead and admit that I am a pretty aggressive and punishing driver, and ATTENTION RESIDENTS OF SALT LAKE CITY: anyone who tries to make a left turn ANYWHERE on South Temple deserves to be followed home and have the golden trumpet of the angel Moroni shoved straight up your butt.

POINT IS: how long have people been saying to me, “Oh, you’ve crossed the line this time, Heather! UNFOLLOW!” Or, “NOW you’ve gone too far, UNSUBSCRIBE!” Turns out people have been saying that for a really long time. The entire time, in fact. And you’d think that people would realize that the number of lines I have yet to cross and will eventually jump over while wearing absolutely nothing except pasties that are shooting fire is endless. Gleefully crossing lines is the shit I’ve been peddling for 15 years.

But they don’t realize this. And by hating Halloween I have finally, FINALLY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, gone too far:


ME! I’m the one who brought the pooper to the fun party. And I do believe that this comment is one of those instances that deserves this photo in response.

A photo posted by Heather B. Armstrong (@dooce) on

Someone else told me very recently that they are not ever going to read my “blog” and they hissed when they said it and gave it an inflection that made it sound like Hepatitis C. So, you’re not going to read my blog. Hmm…

A photo posted by Heather B. Armstrong (@dooce) on

Second! This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party experienced what was by far the most enjoyable Halloween as a parent. The best one. And I know exactly why. I can pinpoint the exact reason, and you are going to want to know right the fuck why. Because it didn’t have anything to do with neon fireworks or Anglo-Saxon Jesus descending from the sky or a giant hole opening up and swallowing everyone dressed in a costume, burping in satisfaction afterward.

In fact, Marlo refused to wear half of her costume and complained that her legs hurt the entire time we roamed the neighborhood. I didn’t care at all because I was right there in it. I was living it to live it. I didn’t have to stage photos of my kids or dogs (I’m still not over my grief, so that stays plural for now) in their costumes that I’d need to post online. I didn’t have to take mental notes the entire night for a recap of the experience I’d have to write in order to maintain page views. I was not thinking about CONTENT CREATION and it was fucking glorious.

Did I post photos that night? I did. I certainly did. Because I wanted to. Not because it was required as a means to pay my bills. The sense of relief and freedom I felt almost put me into a coma.

I am constantly taking photos and videos with my phone now. It has very quickly become my favorite pastime, and my friend John wrote a piece for Slate that really gets to the heart of why I document my life like this:

I’m not just trying to photograph the kids now to look at them later. I’m photographing them now to look at them now. They’re never in one place long enough, and neither am I. It is pleasing to look at their faces while bouncing around in the dark on a plane, alone…

At this point, some helpful person will point out to all of us that our experiences with our children are to be lived in the moment, so stop trying to photograph them. But it is possible to live in the moment and photograph it. Experience is not limited by the search for the photogenic. The fellows who were able to capture the moment at Rouen Cathedral in the daylight and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence at night almost certainly felt those moments deeply as they were taking place. They couldn’t have created those images otherwise.

I have found that since I have stepped back dramatically from this website that my desire to document my life in photos has increased tenfold. And I know it’s because the joy in doing it has been restored. I also see other people online who are headed straight into the arms of the monster who crushed that joy, headed for panic and frustration and burnout because the living of their life has been commodified. The living of their life has been filtered down into the number of unique visitors. And I’m not saying that living that way is wrong or bad. But I am testifying that not living that way has intensified every color that fills in the lines of the world around me.

  • Amy G

    2015/11/03 at 1:35 pm

    Good for you. I’m glad you are enjoying your new freedom! You’ve certainly earned it!

  • LashleyR

    2015/11/03 at 1:42 pm

    I will stay as long as you continue to use the correct form of peddle/pedal.

  • Marie

    2015/11/03 at 1:42 pm

    I’m happy for you Heather and mrumfola can eat it.

  • jill

    2015/11/03 at 1:43 pm

    Hm. It’s gonna take a much heavier hand for me to unfollow you. Hating Halloween? Pff. You can even hate Christmas. I don’t care. You make me laugh my ass off. SO WHAT ELSE YOU GOT UP YOUR SLEEVES, SISTER?

  • Arnebya

    2015/11/03 at 2:01 pm

    1). Figuring out what works for us, individually, online, is key. B). Halloween is about the “novelty of being a kid? When did childhood become a novelty? Halloween is about motherfucking Smarties and Pixie Stix and Laffy Taffy found weeks later stuck to the bottom of my purse that I still eat because I’m about that cavity (and happy) life. And maybe it’s about demons. 42f). Realizing, in the moment, that we are in the moment, enjoying rather than manipulating, and that that was our decision, not motivated by nary a number? That shit there is magical. Like mini Milky Ways.

  • Stacy

    2015/11/03 at 2:12 pm

    Just tell them: “see ya wouldn’t want to be ya” and let them go, that rant couldn’t be good for your blood pressure! New motto: Dooce don’t answer to no one! Write on!

  • Lauren3

    2015/11/03 at 2:19 pm

    “mrumfola” sounds like the name of a bacteria that causes diarrhea.

    “Ah shit you guys I can’t come out tonight, I must’ve picked up some mrumfola from that turkey sammy I got from the farmer’s market. I’ve been on the john for going on 45 minutes now, terrible things are happening. Ghosts with x’s for eyes are coming out my butt.”

  • REK981

    2015/11/03 at 2:19 pm

    This makes me happy for you!! I also take a ton of photos with my phone. Photos that will never be shared, cropped, filtered, or altered in any way. But every couple of days I open up my camera roll and scroll through the silly or blurred face of my child or cat or something I ate and it takes me right back to that memory which is the entire point! Now if you will excuse me, I need to go look at my cats floofy toes!

  • REK981

    2015/11/03 at 2:21 pm

    That fuzzy Laffy Taffy is the shit too.

  • Andy Payne

    2015/11/03 at 2:28 pm

    “Haters gonna hate, Heather!” “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.” or how about, “You go, Gurl!” – But srsly, I have followed you since before MySpace and before Facebook when blogs were like just having three networks. You have a free pass because of your openness about your life and your family’s lives (and because you taught me how to use Gaussian blur combined with reducing the opacity of the adjustment layer). Rock On!

  • antigone78

    2015/11/03 at 2:29 pm

    Halloween is the ONE DAY kids have? Man, I guess Christmas, Easter, their birthdays, 4th of July, AND EVERY OTHER HOLIDAY must have been cancelled without me hearing about it. huh… You’d think that shit would have been all over Facebook.

  • Sara Haugen

    2015/11/03 at 2:54 pm

    This makes me feel better about my not blogging. Happy NaBloPoMo, Heather! *fanatical laughter*

  • KimFunk

    2015/11/03 at 3:21 pm

    I’m going to get off work in an hour and a half and I shall head to South Temple to turn left. Because there’s a line I’ll cross! Hah!

  • Annie

    2015/11/03 at 3:30 pm

    People are nuts. He’ll, we’re all nuts in one way or another. Rock on.

  • Annie

    2015/11/03 at 3:31 pm

    Hell. DYAC !!

  • kmpinkel

    2015/11/03 at 3:31 pm

    Why do people feel the need to tell you they are unsubscribing? Just do it! Like Shia LeBouef tells you. I should have dressed up like him for Halloween. If I bothered to dress up. Maybe next year. Oh? Am I rambling on your blog? Shit. Sorry.

  • Jos

    2015/11/03 at 3:42 pm

    I SO agree with everything you’ve written here. I take a lot of photos, and it doesn’t mean I’m not in the moment or loving time with my kids and family. I also take more now that I’ve stopped blogging so much. Funny how that happens. 🙂 I’m happy that you’re happy. 7 years of following you, and a lot has changed, but I still love reading every word you write.

  • PhotoCoyote

    2015/11/03 at 3:59 pm

    And petal!

  • Dee

    2015/11/03 at 4:44 pm

    So what do you do for money if your blog goes down? By the way I kinda love your blog and would hate to see it gone but everything changes and things end.

  • kaptaink

    2015/11/03 at 4:49 pm

    Yes! You are BAAAAAACK! Thanks for not giving this up, and finding another way to feed yourself, all so that I can continue to selfishly enjoy your writing and acerbic take on modern life and motherhood. Long Live HAIRY VAGINAS!

  • evonna

    2015/11/03 at 5:00 pm

    I wonder why you are so angry – somewhat feels like reading angry teenager diary. I have to be honest I more scrolled than read. please do not punish us the blog or whatever medium you post readers…
    anyway, i would suggest you focus on the positive, whether you write on your blog or not… either way this blog brought you to the position you can reflect but your words scream kind of in a “halloween spooky” way….

  • susanfishy

    2015/11/03 at 5:16 pm

    I love Halloween a lot, although it keeps disappointing me. But no one has to love it. I’m okay with that. I like the open-our-doors-up-to-kids part the most. Next to Reese’s peanut butter cups. Also I like dressing up.

  • K.t. Moreis

    2015/11/03 at 6:00 pm

    Holy shit! The letting go of…of…shit, shit. Yeah! Hell yeah!!! Because I’ve been up to my eyeballs in shit that I’ve been clinging to for a very long time. And some of that shit isn’t even mine, but I kept holding on thinking it was of value to someone, but not any more, and wow! Yeah! I’ve been letting it go and singing about it just to piss off the cats. I’m letting go and I don’t fucking care what anyone thinks. Welcome to the Flying Fig Club. Our motto is: We don’t give a.

    Sorry, I refuse to unsubscribe or unfollow. I’m like gum on your flip-flop.

    I despise Halloween. I do more of the Samhain style of “celebrating” but that’s it. I can’t do what I want because if I leave my home, and no one is around to dish out candy, my house gets vandalized. That really takes the joy out of a moment, you know? I like the little kids, they’re usually pretty hilarious, especially when they’re offering me a foot to smell, but those teenagers who come trolling for munchies at 11:00 p.m.? Yeah, not so awesome.

    gosh, I’m a little all over the place on this comment. Guess who’s been up since 4:15 this morning…

  • Mrs Petrie

    2015/11/03 at 8:32 pm

    Dear Heather, I have been reading you since you were pregnant with Leta, but I have never commented before. I have to tell you that this 50something, white “privileged” republican registered, but votes across party lines mother of two thinks you’re terrific. There is nothing you have written here over the years that makes me want to “unfollow” you. I admire the way you conduct your life and thoroughly enjoy reading about it. My only disappointment is that you post less frequently, but I understand that that’s what you need to do right now. i just wanted you to know that somebody out here who arguably is very different from you is quite capable of understanding you, appreciates your talent and brand of humor, thinks you’re a gifted writer and enjoys reading about you and your girls. Carry on and I’m rooting for you!

  • Ashley

    2015/11/03 at 9:41 pm

    Just… Yes.

  • L - Mama(e) in Translation

    2015/11/03 at 10:20 pm

    I’m glad you’re feeling that way & also that this ridiculous unfollower made you laugh and write this post!

    The good thing about blogging and having very few readers and no sponsors is that we feel that way all the time. I have been blogging for 11 years and I’ve mostly been doing it for my own joy. I do miss the community that I used to have — in 2006 blogging made all the difference in my life and made me into a much happier person. I felt too lonely before.

    Anyway, that doesn’t matter (I talk too much about myself), and it’s good to hear that you enjoyed this holiday (my least favorite, we don’t celebrate it) without the pressure of having to blog about it!

    Oh, yeah, and I LOOOOVE the line about looking at whole Pinterest boards walking around and despairing at the thought of the many hours wasted on those costumes. YES!

    P.S. I dreamed with you last night (I think it’s the second time in the past 7 years). And I think those photos you’ve been sharing — like the one in this post, influenced the dream, ’cause that was the precise attitude you had throughout my dream. Marlo was a little baby in the dream. and you had a little black kitten instead of Coco. Can share more if you’re curious.

  • Mandy Pettingill Nigbur

    2015/11/03 at 11:10 pm

    I love that quote from John. Thanks for sharing it here.

  • Bartlet4Gallifrey

    2015/11/04 at 12:07 am

    I haven’t been reading you since the beginning, but I’ve been reading you long enough that my reading of you could…damn, I can’t think of any good 8-year-old milestones.

    Will report back in four years, when my time reading you could have a bat mitzvah.

  • Heather Morris

    2015/11/04 at 3:28 am

    Ok this may sound weird but I just love you Heather, your blog, your writing, your photos, everything! I have been reading your blog since way back in the day and even though our lives could not be more different I relate to you. There is such beautiful truth in your writing, it is your gift and I for one really appreciate your sharing it with all of us

  • Becky

    2015/11/04 at 8:28 am

    Heather you still have many devoted followers who love hearing about your family, dogS and life! Those who don’t? Those who judge? Do what you do and ignore those hating losers.

  • Desiree Johnson

    2015/11/04 at 8:33 am

    Well Said! Keep on being you! That’s who we love!

  • Jesselyn

    2015/11/04 at 10:55 am

    That last paragraph tho
    (so good)

  • sjames

    2015/11/04 at 11:32 am

    I hate christmas. hate the music. hate the colors. hate lights on houses. hate the enforced time with family. hate the mandatory gift giving. hate the work potlucks. hate the religiosity AND hate santa claus. it’s depressing and maddening at the same time; and to me, it’s foully, grotesquely, incredibly TACKY. few understand, but maybe you do. because, like halloween, one really can’t escape it. your family gives you bambi eyes and you end up doing a shit ton of stuff you hate for people you love.

  • Cimi Ryan

    2015/11/04 at 1:32 pm

    As always I enjoy your honesty. Keep writing and I will keep reading. I love what you said about taking photos & staying in the moment. You are spot on. Take care.

  • Paris Leigh

    2015/11/04 at 1:40 pm

    My comment is stupid but in that picture you look like a Hillary’s really pretty daughter. I see Hillary in your face! I can only imagine what a relief it must be getting off that roller coaster!

  • Paris Leigh

    2015/11/04 at 1:45 pm

    Damn, I used too many exclamation marks earlier. Ugh!!!!

  • Steffi Wolter

    2015/11/04 at 2:51 pm

    Love this. Simply love it.

  • KathyB

    2015/11/05 at 4:25 pm

    One of my daughter’s costumes for Halloween – a beautiful lady. She wore something from the dressup box and draped a curtain sheer around herself. Shameless and proud this one. No idea the age. Maybe seven,eight? She enjoyed coming up with stuff. Worked for me.

    Glad you are enjoying the new perspective. Sometimes you just have to toss the keys to the teenager for a while and trust it will come home alive.

  • jess crawford!

    2015/11/05 at 5:25 pm

    So happy for you, Heather. I recently made a decision to take something that had been a daily duty and revert it back to something I only did for fun, not out of obligation. The sense of relief was staggering. I’ve resolved to quit more things in the future. It’s underrated.

    Funny how people think bloggers/online personalities/etc owe them something. You don’t owe us anything. I’m glad you’re still writing, and glad that stepping back has given you much-needed breathing space.

    Oh, and I SUPER LOVE Halloween (my costume was so elaborate and required so much spray paint/spray adhesive that I made myself sick for three days off the fumes) but by some kind of amazing voodoo magic, it is possible for me to not give a single shit whether or not you like it, or take offense that you have strong feelings about it. ISN’T THAT AMAZING. I’m not sure how somebody could get so butthurt.

  • Meg

    2015/11/05 at 6:59 pm

    I used to LOVE Halloween because, being in theatre, the costumes I’d see all week would be awesome. Now that I’m in the regular world? Eh. Don’t care. I still love carving pumpkins more than almost anything but that’s about it.

  • Lee

    2015/11/05 at 8:34 pm

    That mofo unfollowed? Excellent! That means MORE DOOCE FOR ME!

    Bwaahaahahah — HA!

  • bushra

    2015/11/05 at 11:30 pm

    yes! when you stepped back to begin with that made me realise that not wanting to monetise my blog was acceptable, and that brought the joy back for me. it’s been great to see you gradually making your way back here ❤️

  • Robyn

    2015/11/06 at 4:18 am

    sjames – OMG, you nailed it! This is how I’ve felt about Christmas for the past 25 years! And now we get to listen to the fucking music and see the shit plastered everywhere from late September through Christmas. Sickening. I no longer partake in any of it and I don’t care what my family thinks. I’m not a Christian and it is my choice to not participate. And it is so freeing and liberating! THANK YOU!

  • Erica Glade Schoerner

    2015/11/06 at 6:04 am

    Screw the haters and love what you are doing .. Stay in the moment and enjoy documenting events in images.. Great Post Heather…

  • omahacommenter1

    2015/11/06 at 7:57 am

    Ahh the internet and the opinions it gives people. I disagree with you – I love halloween! But – I’m still going to follow you because I like reading your opinions. Oh look at me – I just broke the point of the internet.

  • AG

    2015/11/06 at 8:23 am

    I’m always so confused by people who have to make a point of telling you they are going to “unfollow” your blog/instagram/twitter, etc… I mean, what do they think is going to happen? That you’re going to chase after them screaming “NOOOOO, PLEASE! I’M SORRY! DON’T GO!!”?

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

read more