Saturday, 13 October 2012

It's a Sin

A few weeks ago I had a few days where I actually struggled to eat.

Regular readers (if there are any left) know that is not very Beth. I do not lose my appetite. Ever. In fact, I am the person who cannot answer the question “Are you hungry?” without first thinking: Hmmm, how recently has this person seen me eat and what did I eat?

The struggle to eat was only the second time I can remember such a thing happening in my entire life. (The first was Labor Day Weekend 2001, when I truly understood that my mother was dying, and that we would have to hire her an aide.)

I had a week that I thought would be career-destroying. It may yet still be career-maiming; I will never know for sure.

All it took was one blogger – one 23-year-old blogger who fancies himself a media reporter -- to hurl the accusation that I had committed the cardinal sin of journalism in what is arguably the U.S.’s preeminent paper of record. Which is to say, that I had made up some of the people in an article.

He eventually retracted this claim – and the story is a little more complicated; my sin in this case is to have been a bit na├»ve and too trusting – but the damage was done. Few people read corrections and clarifications. Though my editors gracefully and graciously defended both me and my work (unbelievable, when you consider that in these days the generally accepted response is to let the freelancer take the fall), I had (and may still have) bloggers and Tweeps and all manner of other witch-hunters picking through my previous stories, looking for any possible evidence of wrongdoing and gleefully posting it to social media.

It was horrible.

People I knew were retweeting things that weren’t true. Media writers I know pointed out my (perceived) sins, most of the time without reaching out to me for comment (which is in itself a sin of journalism) and without saying they knew me and in one case, had actually worked for them at one point. And I’m still hurt by the lack of support shown by people I thought were my friends. (If you wonder if perhaps they didn’t know – suffice it to say that some of them are both in the media and have a personal interest in the story I wrote.)

Thanks to Google, this incident will follow me around for the rest of my life, trailing me like cans tied to the back of a car bumper. And so I spent a week questioning whether I wanted to be in this profession any more – this profession that eats sinners and perceived sinners alive; this cynical, nasty profession.

I don’t know and can’t say if this incident will make it impossible for me ever to write for the two magazines that always have been my goal. Frankly, I don’t know if even without this if I would ever make it into them.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I do and why I do it and what I might do instead. (I come up blank on that last one.) I still think about it.

What? What’s that you say? This is a diet blog?

Oh right.

I didn’t struggle not to binge for the three days immediately after this episode. I forced myself to eat, trying not to indulge in fantasies about what might fit if I didn’t. Severe restriction has never done me any great favors.

I knew that the trouble would probably come when things calmed down, which I knew they would eventually, even thought in the middle of something like that it feels like they never will.

I’m afraid to jinx myself by saying things have calmed down, but at the moment they are not as bad as they were. I can check my e-mail without the dread of what might be there, and even focus on conversations. (Right in the thick of things my editor encouraged me to go and get a massage, and I had to tell her that it would be ruined by spending the whole time dreading what might be waiting for me on my e-mail or Twitter.)

Today, should I get through it – there are about four hours left of it, but I can do crazy amounts of damage in about 90 seconds – will be 23 without a binge.