An Open Letter to Heather Armstrong, aka DOOCE


copyright H. Armstrong, used without permission, for reasons that I hope she’ll forgive

And I hope regular readers of this blog will not mind my taking this moment. While my blog is a kind of Dorothy — meek and humble — there are other bloggers whose reach is enormous, and deservedly so. If you’ve ever doubted the power of a blogger to burrow under your skin, then you’ve never read Dooce.

Open Letter to Heather Armstrong:

Back in the days of gainful employment, I wrote a small bit of magazine furniture called Website of the Week, which ran on Saturdays in The Scotsman Magazine. It was a great excuse for doing what I loved anyway — prowling the internet — and alerted our readers to everything from fabulous design blogs to places where they could learn maths trivia. Somewhere along the way I found Dooce.

I don’t have children. Never wanted, never had, never regretted it. There is no obvious reason for me to read a Mummy Blog like the daily devotion. But you made me laugh and you touched my heart. I was hooked like a fish.

This is what I wrote for the 8 June, 2006 issue:

Heather B Armstrong is our new heroine. A former web designer turned stay-at-home mum, she’s been blogging since 2001. A year later she was fired for writing about work, including her boss’s habit of ordering Prada over the telephone in a loud, envy-provoking voice. The blog lived on, which is a blessing, since it allows us to stay in touch. Thus we’ve learned all the gory details about her courtship of and marriage to Jon, the truly mind-blowing details of her pregnancy, and her ongoing battle against exploding poop, ie: the joys of raising their two-year-old daughter, Leta Elise. If that sounds remotely dull, allow Heather (whose pictures reveal her to be a bit of a babe, we might add) to convince you otherwise: “My parents raised me Mormon, and I grew up believing that the Mormon Church was true. …and I grew up believing that the Mormon Church was true. In fact, I never had a cup of coffee until I was 23 years old. I had pre-marital sex for the first time at age 22, but BY GOD I waited an extra year for the coffee. There had better be a special place in heaven for me.” We’ve reserved the girl an extra-squishy cloud, if only for entries with titles such as: “Thankful for bacon every single day”, “Hungry and hormonal” and “Did Mona Lisa have a period?”.

It’s been my pleasure to read about your life for nine years, even when the reading was painful. Marlo arrived to amaze and entertain us all, Leta continued to evolve into a wonderfully complicated, compelling young woman, the insanity that is Coco joined the canine lineup, and Chuck delighted us endlessly with his Zen tranquility, his poop eating (okay, maybe you weren’t so delighted) and his balancing skills.

When you and Jon split, knowing how hard you’d worked on yourselves and your marriage, I felt a visceral jolt, identical to the tearing sensation in my chest when intimate “In Real Life” friends split. I sent an email from my (then) work account, not to claim your crisis for my own, but because you’d written about feeling buffeted by people taking sides and demanding explanations. I wanted you to know that thousands of miles away, someone held your family in her heart. No questions asked. No sides.

Your recent decision to give up daily blogging to concentrate on other commitments, including charity work on behalf of women around the world, freaked me out. It was like hearing that a favourite author had decided to become an accountant, instead.

My first selfish thought was: NO! I need to know how those girls turn out! My second selfish thought was: Chuck’s getting old; at least now I won’t ever have to read that he’s dead. He’ll remain in my heart and mind like Schrodinger’s Chuck.

But you didn’t abandon the blog completely. (Thank f***!) Every time I checked in it was with growing trepidation. You’d sent off warning flares, alerting us that things were getting worse. Yesterday I read the post I’d been dreading. The inevitable post. The horrible post.

I have zero shame in saying that I cried. That I’m crying writing this, tears that are for your family as much as they’re for my own sense of loss. I’ll miss this dog I never met IRL, because I spent the best part of the last decade enjoying his company. He was special to me and to millions of us readers — he was irreplaceable to you.

My first impulse was to fire off a tweet, but you don’t follow me and won’t have seen it. You’ll have received millions of @s similar to mine expressing love and condolences for your extraordinary dog. There is every reason to believe that you won’t see this blogpost either, but what the hell, I want to put it out there anyway.

You gave Chuck a wonderful life and he enriched yours in return. He enriched mine, as well. Thank you for making that possible. There are painful times ahead as your remarkable daughters, and Chuck’s companion Coco adjust to his absence. This will likely feel like salt pouring over slow-healing wounds.

For the second time, please know that there are people out here wishing you well. All of you. Without reserve.

R.I.P. Chuck. You were one in a million.

This entry was posted in blogpost and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s