A Reputation to Uphold, A Reputation to Live Down

I was at a work event, day lighting as the normal person that I am all the time, when a well respected colleague of mine approached me.

“A********” she said. (That’s someone’s name.) “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about her.”

Ugh. Her. It hadn’t occurred to me that they knew each other, but they do, so, fine, let’s do this.

My colleague wanted to talk about an altercation I got into with that person eight years ago. Yeah, eight years ago. I mean, I get that we’re all “cancel culture” nowadays, and we’re having all these heavy, pop-philosophical conversations about “to cancel or not to cancel – that is the question.” As someone who had a great time during the early days of local Internet cancel culture, I would just like to assure everybody that the point of cancelling people was to root out people who were racist or sexist and remove them from positions of power in our society. No more secret nazis pumping coded racist messages into our news casts, no more closet rapists leveraging power to coerce sex from us, no more heroes who only save themselves. Sure, the conversation has become deeply nuanced to the point where we’re splitting moral hairs, but I’m trying to keep my ‘cancel culture’ commentary brief so let’s just stop there.

I was standing there, wondering, ‘Is this bitch trynna cancel me because I did some unfeministy things eight years ago?’ There was that deep, narcissistic part of me that knew, ‘If I’m about to get cancelled, I probably gotta take it lying down,’ but then the self effacing part of me replied, ‘I’m not important enough to get cancelled.’ It’s a complicated mixture of self loathing and low self esteem.

Sure, I’ve done some things in the past that don’t align with my current ‘woke’ persona. But I grew up Catholic, so I know how this game gets played: I confess my sins to Jesus, get absolved, and live a good life and let everyone know that “I’ve found Jesus.” Born again Christians do this shit all the time – they act like they’ve been absolved of all responsibility for their sinful, pre-Jesus ways and everything’s fine now. So, is there a feminist equivalence for that? Can’t I say, “I converted to feminism on May 8th, 2013, look, here’s my stamped card to prove it” and we can all move on. Although, I guess there’s all those not-so-feministy things I did after May 8th, 2013, but if we’re not talking about those things right now, I won’t bring them up.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: why are you dancing in circles trying to avoid cancellation when you have danced in glee at other people’s cancellation parties? Well, let me tell you, the sin of self preservation is pretty inexplicable. But, what can I say, don’t we all enjoy the tire fire sideshow of watching someone else’s life burn to the ground? I’ll admit it. I love to see it. On the other hand, self immolation? No, I’ll pass on that one. Or, to put it lightly, you are correct, this is entirely self serving.

So, I brushed it off, said something like, “Oh, man that was so long ago, I’ve changed so much since then,” ran out the bar, called bae, and said, “Why do I have to deal with consequences for my actions! It’s not fair!”

“What are you talking about?” he said.

“I’m not that person anymore!” I whined.

“You were never that person.”

“You’re right. I was never very tough. That’s why I bought that gun.”

Then I went home, had a bunch of controversial opinions about a variety of hot button topics, kept them to myself, and the next day I slunk back into society and pretended like I belonged there.

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