#56, Evil Twitterers & Life Lessons, by Paul Florez

I was in the West Village the other night, seeking solace with friends after receiving a butt load of hateful comments for an article I had published earlier in the week. The article, which was conceived and written within a twenty-four-hour span, was suppose to be a humorous piece about LGBT allies who unintentionally insult LGBT people with certain phrases and questions like, “We always knew you were gay!” or “How does gay sex work?”

Admittedly it was a tough article to sell to a progressive audience, but I wanted to test myself and see if I could write something very tongue and cheek while still bringing a fresh take to an old conversation.

Well, I couldn’t have foreseen the kind of reaction I’d get.

“Crybaby bitch,” One reader posted in the comment section.

“Whiny queen,” another wrote.

There were even angry e-mails coming through my author website. Imagine that! My readers had such a profound disdain for my words that they actually clicked on my bio at the end of the article and followed the links to my personal website.

So that Friday I did what every whiny queen in New York City does when they’ve had a bad week: I got shit faced. Mind you, I had no intention of going out to the patio of some trendy bar I read about in Time Out, and sip wine like the mature thirty year old man that I am. Oh no, dear reader. I wanted to relive my party days from year one in New York. I literally rolled out of bed at noon, threw a wrinkly flannel over my night tee, and stormed the doors of the first bar I could find. You should’ve seen my bartenders’ face when she saw me. There was drool streaming down the side of her mouth because I’m fairly certain functioning alcoholics like me are what put her kids through college.

It wasn’t hard getting two of my best friends, Amy and Mike, to join me because, hello, summer Fridays are the perfect excuse for day drinking.

And before I go on with this story I want to say that the cure for your readers calling you a “crybaby bitch” is chugging a variety of well drinks with people like Amy and Mike. Mike, a quick-witted financial advisor who doesn’t sugar coat anything, is endlessly proud of my work, and Amy, my sassy partner in crime, is my biggest fan and reads everything I write (Hi, Amy!). They both made sure I was leaving that bar with my confidence reinstated.

All was becoming better and soon the article felt so insignificant…that is until an acquaintance, let’s call her Evil Twitterer, entered the bar.

Evil Twitterer is someone who works in Publishing, like I once had. And I know her primarily through her—you guessed it—Twitter. In the past when I’d hang out with her, she was amazing: sassy, charming and someone I wanted to learn from. When she entered the bar I thought, “Now the party is really going to get started!”

Spoilers, Evil Twitterer was in a mood.

She sat down. “How much have you had to drink?” she asked, very judgmentally.

Evil Twitterer started discussing publishing manger salaries, and I weighed in having been a publishing manager at a small press many (many) moons ago.

“Excuse me, but what do you do for a living again?” she said, wagging her index finger in my face.

I don’t know how most people react when an unmanicured finger is wagged in their face, but mine was one of horror and shock. Evil Twitterer knew I worked in publishing and had quit to become a writer.

“I’m a writer,” I said, somewhat catty.

I wasn’t trying to fight shade with shade. I was genuinely baffled at why she was asking me that question.

What’s more I am a writer. It’s because of people like me who have the balls to write full-time, starve and buy all my clothes at those corner street sample sales, that there is a publishing industry to begin with. When I worked in publishing, and was around writers, I always treated them with respect no matter how successful they were. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

In fairness, Evil Twitterer did apologize but it was downhill from that point. She mentioned other things to get a rise out of me and was just an overall sour addition to our happy hour. I’ve heard of people who walk into a room and just light it up with their smile. However I’ve never heard of someone who could walk into a room and be an immediate buzz kill to a bar full of inebriated New Yorkers.

When my friends got up to leave I contemplated making an excuse and leaving as well. But then I looked at Evil Twitterer, her hair sheepishly tucked behind her ears, staring down at her phone, and avoiding eye contact with everyone. She’d just ordered another beer and didn’t look like the type of person who was comfortable being left alone at a bar. Perhaps I was over analyzing her, but my father always taught me to treat others with respect even when they spit in your face.

So I stayed with her, tried to make small talk but it was futile. When my boyfriend arrived, she was barley civil and just dismissed us.

“You guys can go. I’m going to read.”

I came out of that bar feeling belittled and worse off than when I entered. In my drunken stupor, her unmanicured finger haunted me. I was a thirty-year-old grad student with only 300 Twitter followers, and my readers hated me. What did I do for a living?

It wasn’t until I got coffee with my friend Lisa a few days ago did I start to see the forest for the trees. And by the way, Lisa is indeed that rare kind of girl who walks into a room and brightens it with her smile.

“The teacher appears when the student is ready for the lesson,” she told me. “What lesson did Evil Twitterer teach you?”

I hadn’t thought of Evil Twitterer as a teacher, but Lisa was right. There was something to be gained from everything that had happened.

I sat there at the coffee shop, once more starting to feel better because I had yet another best friend who took the time in her day to listen.  People like Evil Twitterer probably don’t have that.

In a world of anonymity, anyone can sit behind a computer and insult you. What’s more there are industry professionals who want nothing more than to humiliate you. So what lesson did I learn? A fresh take on an old classic: Keep your friends close but leave your enemies at the bar.

Paul Florez is currently receiving his MFA in fiction at The New School. He is a contributor for the Huffington Post and his work has also appeared in Thought CatalogueQueerty, and The Advocate. You can follow his misadventures over on Twitter @mrpaulflorez.