Making peace with something I published that was polarizing and gave rise to complicated feelings—in my readers, and me.
Dear Sari, I am glad that in the end you came around to not regret publishing the questionnaire. Personally speaking, I don't think you did anything wrong by publishing it - it was within the scope of the questionnaire definition, it was on subject, he appeared to be honest, and most of all - what a prove of what we (women and people of color) have felt and fought about all along. We have been dismissed, our feelings and opinions disregarded, but OMG this is exactly what we are up against in this world. The words of the privileged proved it.
Thanks for your work in what has become rare - true journalism!
There’s a huge difference between only publishing those voices (as Wenner demonstrates) and publishing them among many voices that cast what they are saying into different perspectives. You most definitely did the latter, and that’s good journalism, in my book.
It is very difficult to be the age I am and realize that I have dealt with so many of these situations. Yet not had the opportunity to put it out in the world as you did and receive the feedback ( positive and negative) that might help my perspective become broader. Kudos to you for chancing it!
I agree that it was good to publish. Much as I love reading about women dealing with aging, and would celebrate them even when they grapple with the effects on things like their looks and sex life, it seems only right that men can be as honest about what aging means to them (for better or worse.) Did I respond mentally to the sense of privilege I saw, yes, but I have responded in a similar fashion to some women in their interviews. And, I couldn't help but be reminded of my father who became less likely to censor himself with the early effects of his Alzheimer's talking to me about sex to a degree that he would never have done before. He told me about single-mindedly losing his virginity the night before he shipped out to fight in WWII, and how much good sex he had in his seventies when he remarried (having lovingly nursed my mother through years of illness that had both of them living as if they were in their 80s instead of their 60s). I was so glad for him to have found this second chance to feel young and vital, and my stepmother loved him for it, because it gave her a second chance at love that she never expected. We are diverse, in our experiences and expectations, and I am glad you are celebrating our diversity even as we age.
When I first came across Mr. B's response to the Oldster questionnaire, I skimmed it quickly and moved on. Part of being a creative is living one's life in a creative manner. Mr. B, it seems, has moved through his life on a predictable and well-worn path as a "creative writing teacher" who scans his female students and other young women as potential sexual conquests. Since I saw nothing interesting while I skimmed his response, I moved on.
Then, in Adventures in "Journalism," I read Sari's essay about having conflicting feelings about a questionnaire response she had published in Oldster. I was pulled into her essay to see what she had published and why she felt conflicted about it. I then went back to Oldster and read Mr. B's full sad, shriveled response to the Oldster questionnaire.
What a contrast between Mr. B and a true creative genius, Patti Smith, who at 76 is as vibrant as ever. She's traveled in her life from being a poet to a punk rocker to a mother removed from the music scene to a National Book Award winner to providing Smithposiums on Paul Verlaine and other poets. She is generous, productive, humble, sexy and brilliant. Let's hear more from older creatives like Patti Smith and allow folks like Mr. B to continue living their narrow, stymied lives at home where they hound successful publications to publish their musings.
Oh, I think it was so valuable to read-- not for the "aha" but just to be in the presence of someone's truth, no matter how gobsmacking
Thanks for posting this open-souled exploration of your choice to publish that poet oldster. My response to him was to pronounce to my husband, "Why do the Oldster women inspire me and actually help me change my life and attitude, and the Oldster men have to humble brag about how incredibly sexy they were. And then announce that for his birthday, his WIFE will bake him a cake?" I felt a little apologetic to the friends with whom I share Oldster. What if his is the first post they read and they think THAT'S what I'm loving. Ew! And it wasn't just him. When I first discovered Oldster, another male contributor humble bragged about his "much younger wife" and how he just couldn't believe how he'd been so lucky. Also Ew. I actually googled to find out what "older wife" and probably mother of his children he'd probably ditched along the way.
I hadn't read the original questionnaire (too many newsletters, an embarrassment of riches!) but I went back to do so . It was shocking, near the end, for me to see that he was married. I assumed he was single/divorced/widowed. I guess good for him for being honest, but his constant on-the-prowl answers took on a different dimension next to "I guess my wife will bake me a cake for my birthday". WHAT.
I'm proud of you and I trust your editorial judgment, even more now. I see how thoughtful you are.
Thank you for the questionnaire and the response. The questionnaire was a good reminder to me that many people think differently than I do but they have a right to describe how they feel. Your response helped me solidify how I felt. The opportunity to see differing sides of the coin is what we all need
I glanced at that questionnaire when it came out and thought, nah, not for me and moved on. Kudos to you for publishing it and giving your readers a choice.
Somehow I missed that Sari has two substacks -- Oldster and this one. So, I'm late to comment but wanted to say, I'm glad you published the questionnaire response! Once you start censoring, it's a slippery slope. I would draw the line at hate-filled invective, but the thoughts of an aging narcissist are illuminating in their own way.
Like you, Sari, I am rethinking a comment I made about your “rethinking.” I posted it to notes accidentally, but now can’t find it. In short, I respect (and relate to) your response. I still hate that men get their say by default. Movin’ on myself. PS. Poetry is beautiful thinking.
Yes, to everything you say here. I had many of the same reactions. But I don’t think you made a mistake in publishing this questionnaire by a 70-something white male. He revealed himself and now we understand better. “Understand” does not mean condone or agree. (sorry for note + comment; figuring that out)
There is so much effort put into judging what is offensive or not offensive that I often feel like no one can just be honest anymore. This isn’t healthy either. You were brave to publish that piece, even if you had those concerns.
Oh Sari this made me sad. I read wenner's interview too and he did not say that "musical artists who were women or people of color 'just didn’t articulate at that level.'" He said that he didn't know any that did it for him. And there is nothing wrong with that. It's his opinion. Should he have been forced to choose other artists do that he looked better? I love his honesty, and the honesty of Blumenthal in his interview. What other gaze could he have than a male one? I am a woman, feminist, a writer, and I am complex, sometimes pervy, sometimes mysandrist. We are complex humans and should be able to state our opinions. I don't think Wenner is sexist or racist. He likes what he likes.