When It All Went Viral – Part 1

Yep, up and out went my life/story...on the Twitter.

After a few interruptions in my posts, I’d like to return to the days leading up to when my Marie Claire article was posted online. As the article was to appear in the December 2010 issue, I expected it to be on stands sometime around November 12. I was told it would be online Nov. 10 after Marie Claire had called me in, in late October, to sit for a voice recorded interview for their iPAD version of the story which would accompany the online article and supplement the magazine issue. During my time in the sleek Hearst building in NYC, I remember being handed a late edit copy of the piece with photos. That was a very strange moment. There I was, looking at a two-page photo of myself next to the headline “My Great Escape.” And I discovered they had used the photo of me with Marco and my traveling acquaintance on the next two pages. They had blurred Marco’s face. I didn’t love that. If I was showing my face, I feel pretty certain they should have shown his. But magazines have lawyers, and lawyers tell them to avoid lawsuits, and I sure knew all about lawyers, so, I understood. But still, it was jarring to see that after all that time and two years of fighting, there was my little story, all gussied up in print. In that moment, the article was very real to me and its approaching date of publish.

The editor took the article back after my brief look at it. They do that so you don’t read it and demand all sorts of changes at the last minute, make threats, etc. But I have my ways…and soon enough, I had a copy in hand. I knew the article would hold few surprises. I had written it with Erin many months earlier and knew most, if not all, of its content save for the strokes of the editor’s pen. But still, it was strange to read my story back to me. I shook a little as I absorbed each sentence. And after accepting some minor edits, I realized I was really, really pleased with it.

Things moved quickly thereafter. On a Monday morning, two weeks out from Nov. 10, at an all-staff meeting for my department, as we were taking our turns giving our updates, I pretty much dropped a bomb:  I told everyone there about the forthcoming article, about my life the past two years and about the great help our executives and fellow co-workers had provided me. I did pretty well, but choked back tears once as the shock and concern on the many faces surrounding me rattled me a bit. I remember telling everyone “Life isn’t always neat and tidy; Life is messy sometimes…but I’m not embarrassed.” When the meeting broke, I remember feeling like a huge weight had been lifted. I didn’t have to lie about things anymore such as flying to Italy in the middle of a week for two days the previous summer, or make excuses for my weight loss. I received many hugs and words of encouragement. It was a best case scenario, really.

In the days right after that, I worked furiously on creating this blog. I researched domain names. I created a content list so I’d know my first 20-30 topics to write about. I worked on understanding how to blog and how to design a blog. And I worked every night and all weekend in between to write my first dozen posts or so.

When November 10 came, it’s safe to say that despite my best efforts, I was unprepared for the response. I received the link to the story from the editor at Marie Claire early in the morning. And I sent it to a handful of people who I felt had taken great care of me and my needs throughout the ordeal. Then, I emailed it to my coworkers with a note. And from there, I gave my consent to have it tweeted out on Twitter. Because…you don’t go public with an article like that only to hide it. What ensued was tweet after retweet after retweet after email and text message. Writers at the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Chicago Tribune and many, many more commented on my life and retweeted the story. I barely remember getting up from my desk at mid-morning, closing my door, and promptly sitting under my desk and hugging my knees. The response had freaked me out. The last part of the victim process is the public part if you choose to go public this way or by prosecuting your attacker. I guess in the flurry of activity I hadn’t pondered what the exposure would do to me. I was caught between relief and nerves, pride that my story would reach so many women AND men all at once, and fear of how it could all harm me.

A writer I work with at USA Today called me at my desk at noon and asked to interview me for his blog Game On! I had not really considered being interviewed about my essay. And I asked for some time to consider his request. Before I could process it though, I was looped into an impromptu conference call with my department where my new job was announced to them.  The timing was uncanny, mid-maelstrom and overwhelming. Soon, new job congratulations hit my inbox in between the concern- and care-filled emails from coworkers, colleagues and strangers I had never heard of but who had read my article.

I grabbed my cellphone to call my parents around 3 p.m. that day, and saw I had email to my personal account. Curious, I opened it. And my jaw dropped…

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