A couple of years ago, I sat in an old friend’s office in Cape Girardeau, and since we’d been planning a big reunion mostly via Facebook, we asked each other what we thought of the whole FB thing.

Me:  You don’t post much.

Him:  You don’t post much either, unless it’s a picture of your dogs.

Me:  Because I’ve learned the hard way that my dogs are the least controversial thing I can put out there.


19071-Cold-Vanilla-Ice-Cream-ConeThe problem with this kind of thinking, especially when you’re a writer or really anybody, is that makes it easy to become lulled into vanilla, wary about taking a stance.  And come on.  Who wants to read anything where the writer — the person thinking-on-the-page — doesn’t come right out with it already?

Last week I came out with it by criticizing the Pope because I was outraged, and I couldn’t understand why every person wouldn’t be outraged.  I’m still outraged and wondering where the bigger outrage is.  But when many of my Catholic friends went silent —- not a “like” in the land —- I knew I’d left Vanilla Land.  Which was both hurtful and a big neon sign.  I found my missing voice, but the cost was a really long and quiet week.


Last night I was making dinner for the neighbors on my patio and switched plans less than an hour before.  This very “right” decision resulted in my rushing to cut the bread which resulted in me trying, accidentally, to cut off the tip my finger, which resulted in me pretending for the rest of the night that my finger was “fine,” that I was “fine.”  Because haven’t we all been trained from early on not to be a bother, even when we’re bleeding?


An old friend recently said that just because I have an opinion doesn’t mean I need to state that opinion.  This comment has been  heavy on my mind.  Because it makes me wonder about the price of being quiet.  The price I pay by posting only pictures of my dogs because they are so very very vanilla.


Today I read this.

When was the last time I woke up and didn’t think about whether I was fat or thin, could fit into these or those pants?  I’m thinking we could all do with a little more speaking out like this.  Brave woman.


Which brings me back to the voice. Our voices.  To why we keep quiet. Don’t bother anyone. Don’t cause a stir. Don’t draw attention. Don’t cause “trouble.” Don’t stir the pot.

One of the most difficult lessons I’ve learned about memoir writing is that you have to boil that pot. Or why bother?  And when is “boiling” ever comfortable?


20 thoughts on “Vanilla

  1. LauraMaylene

    I am guilty of not posting anything political or of deep value on my FB feed. I don’t know why, but I just haven’t felt right about it, and it’s not quite because I don’t feel like stating my opinions or making my voice heard. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’d be preaching to the choir based on the people on my feed? Not sure. Sometimes I catch myself worrying that what I post on FB makes me look really unconcerned with the larger world, but then I remember everyone else is worrying about themselves and not thinking about me!

    Anyway, I do think it’s interesting that it’s women being told most often to not speak their opinions. Not men.

    1. Teri Post author

      I’m starting to feel like too many conversations, whether in person or especially online, have become nothing(s). How are you? Isn’t that a pretty picture? Life must be grand!

      My fear is that we allow the FBs of the world to sneakily do that trick of lulling us into vanilla-land. Where everything is fine, just fine. Where we all have perfectly photogenic families. Where all pets are cute and all lives are positive and lovely and a soundbite. Where all is well, or even fabulous, always.

      1. Averil Dean

        Stepford wives, every last one of us, as soon as we log on. I think it’s just something about the culture of Facebook that is not conducive to real conversation. I’m too fucking pessimistic and angsty—anything I’d want to say feels horribly out of place there. I posted a poem once, a lovely Neruda, one of my favorites, and it was met with absolute silence. That was it for me. I mean, NERUDA!

      2. Teri Post author

        How accurate, or at least it feels like that to me, too. I’m going to be thinking about the 1970’s version of Stepford Wives. That movie scared the hell out of me.

      3. amyg

        What about Boys from Brazil (another Ira Levin 1970s classic) all I can remember is how horrifying the Great Danes were in it…scared the be-jeesus out of me.

  2. joplingirl

    I do post political and literary related articles–some controversial– on Facebook. Not afraid of controversy in my work or any social arena. I’m Much more afraid of pretending all is well in our society when it so clearly is not.

  3. donnaeve

    Guilty!!! I’m so vanilla on FB, I bore myself. I suppose I don’t ever post anything controversial b/c I don’t look at it as a serious platform. It’s a Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum sort of interface.

    It has that “What’s On Your Mind?” box blinking blinking blinking, away. I’ve stared at it – for a long time – and then? I usually chicken out and think, what’s the point? Who cares?ur And I guess that’s what you feel like now, since you got “crickets.” I didn’t see your FB about the Pope. You know I would have LIKED it….since I was cheering you on here 🙂

  4. independentclause

    I was with you until you got to the part about the memoir. And then, as always happens, the idea scared me and I scuttled back beneath my rock. It’s a good point, though. I’ll unscuttle myself later this afternoon, perhaps, and think about it.

  5. Pamela

    I’ve stirred the pot on Facebook, upset people, been unfriended, unfriended someone, spoken out… All of that. But in the end I felt sheepish and immature. Not sure what the right answer is. Maybe if thought out my response more carefully before pressing “send,” I might feel better about it… but the fiery feeling of anger or outrage is what gets me past being too shy or people pleasing to say what I think.

    1. Teri Post author

      I didn’t make this clear at all in the post, but my angst is clearly “operator error” on my part.

  6. Alecia

    Teri-Bruce and I this past weekend both agreed how we admire and love the fact that you have always referred to your daughter and son as MY kids. They are your kids in every known sense. I’m a fan of our new pope, too, but I don’t think he was implying that it is sinful to replace the happiness childeren bring with pets in a marriage. Maybe I missed something? Anyway, LOVE Jerry and Leslie–they live behind my parents–and I think the pope would love them, too–xoxoxo

    1. Teri Post author

      Awww, thanks Alecia. And you’re right: Jerry and Leslie are 2 of the nicest people on the planet, and boy do they have ‘some kids’.

      I think the thing that put me over the edge was, right after reading the Pope’s comments which I thought were ridiculous, I read the story about the 800 babies buried in the septic tank at the home for unwed mothers in Ireland, run by nuns. Some more need to be having babies, but these babies weren’t good enough — that’s what I heard in my head. And right over the edge that pushed me …

  7. amyg

    During one of my walks last week, I was thinking about my life goals – beyond writing, and work and kids, but more me. What/who do I want to be at the end…the one thing that I remember thinking was, “I want to be able to say whatever the fuck I want whenever and not be the least bit censored by any bullshit preconceived notions of what’s acceptable.” (I curse a lot in my head when I’m walking…it helps push me up the hills.)

    of course, this will probably just be me at 97 yelling about something on TV…

    1. Teri Post author

      “I want to be able to say whatever the fuck I want whenever and not be the least bit censored by any bullshit preconceived notions of what’s acceptable.”

      That’s what I REALLY wanted to say. Thanks for putting my thoughts into real live words, AmyG.

      ** runs off to post new favorite saying on bulletin board **

  8. chillcat

    Oh but I loved the Pope post – I opened up the page.. then I don’t know what happened. So very scatty here. I don’t really leap through hoops on FB either, it’s just a bit of a jaunt. I probably don’t put much time into it is why. And my blogs too, are rather quiet. Where my hackles rise is in my stories I think, that’s where I really want attention.
    Btw I haven’t been reading the newspaper and couldn’t believe the Pope’s statement! He seemed like such a cool guy. I think it’s those nuts in the Vatican.

  9. sherrystanfastanley

    In my personal relationships, I almost always speak my mind. But, I have to admit I’m on Facebook primarily for friendship, and that often precludes religious, political, and ethical issues. It’s been a great venue for my current writing project, which is mostly humor-based but also meant to be thought-provoking. Even so, when I post something that crosses one of those lines, I do lose a few readers.

    I struggle with someone no longer “liking” me, but I figure if they’re offended by one post, they probably a) aren’t my real friend, and b) clearly won’t appreciate much of my writing.

    in the long run, I’d rather be liked for who I am than who I pretend to be.

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