writing down the sun

blogging as therapy, penelope trunk’s son, and tmi

Posted in blogging, parenting by annie on April 18, 2008

Over the years, I’ve been a fan of Penelope Trunk and her Brazen Careerist blog. I was puzzled at first by the apparent animosity her posts and columns at Yahoo! on career advice.

Certainly, Penelope was a fan of the nonintuitive recommendation — her advice would set conventional wisdom on its ear every now and again. But I never saw anything in those posts that would justify the depth of vitriol she seemed to attract.

There was one blog post — I don’t even remember the context, but Penelope was taking exception to one pundit’s position on something or other, and her major objection to the woman was not based on the substance of her opinion, or the research that backed it up. Penelope objected to her because, as she put it, the lady was “fat.”

But even then, when the shitstorm hit her comments (and I contributed, after some deliberation of the “do I really want to get into this?” variety), she did the honorable thing and issued that rarest of beasts: a true public apology.

So, all was right with the world, and I went on admiring her chutzpah.

Then she started blogging about her marriage.

Briefly (as briefly as I can because the whole thing makes me squeamish): Penelope decided to use her blog, the topic of which is clearly built around her stature as a career counselor or consultant, to air some very private and somewhat dingy laundry about her relationship with her husband.

That’s one thing. Another is that Penelope was unkind about it all. She apparently continued writing about it even though her husband wasn’t at all OK with letting her readers in on their marriage woes. Through marriage counseling stories and quite honest revelations about how she and her husband attempted to implement the advice they got there, Penelope invited her readers into her marriage. She revealed not only her own foibles, but also her husband’s, and seemed to insinuate the real problem was his inability to get with the “stay at home dad” program.

Some people admired her for this. Others fell into the “Too much information!” camp. I was definitely in the latter group. But what the hell. It’s her blog, right?

Today I find out she’s also — and somehow I missed this, but it’s right here in the Times and she even apparently admits it and then defends it — blamed her son’s autism for her marriage’s dissolution.

Her defense:

“It is a generational issue,” she said. “We think it will be a big deal, but it won’t be to them. By the time they are old enough to read it, they will have spent their entire life online. It will be like, ‘Oh yeah, I expected that.’ ”

To which I can only respond, “Lady, if your son expects to read on the internet that you blamed his medical issues for your marriage’s breakup, you’ve got bigger problems than some displeased readers.”

There’s personal revelation — and there’s personal reflection. And I don’t know that there’s value in both. Each writer has to decide for herself where her line is — you know the line. The one that lies between you and your own personal “never going there.” Apparently Penelope’s line is, as my Grandma used to say, “a fur [far] piece” because there’s not much she won’t say.

To which I offer this: You have more important roles and functions than being a blogger. And this: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Finally, this: The hell?! TMI!