The other day I made a joke about enjoying child abuse in fiction, because that’s the sort of person I am. It was in Tony Noland’s fiction in person, and he responded like so:
I don’t know why I’m compelled to share what went through my head. Maybe it’s that I want affirmation that it happens other people, or maybe I’m just getting off on embarrassing myself. Here is a taste of my neurosis, scribbling down minutes after he messaged me.
Did I call Tony a dick?
No, I definitely didn’t. We are not good enough friends for me to get away with that level of insult-humor yet.
Did I say something like, “Hey, you’re a dick”?
I don’t remember anything like that. We haven’t had many conversations recently…
Wait, this morning I posted a story about an author. Tony’s an author. Did he think it was about him?
My author wasn’t a dick. That’s really judgmental of him.
Wait, my author wasn’t on Twitter. He left a note on a car. Is that a form of messaging, and thus like Twitter? Is he saying that character was too aggressive in promotion, and it made him think of his own regrets?
That’s fucking crazy. He can’t have thought that.
But did you call him a dick?
Okay, so he thought the author story was about him, and took it as an extreme burn on him. How do we tell him that? We can’t just say, “That story you saw as an extreme burn wasn’t about you,” because that’ll acknowledge the intent, and then he’ll think it was already in our head, and then he’ll be even more offended thinking we lied.
I guess the other sane option is that he’s talking about somebody else. Somebody else made the comment while we were joking about child abuse. That seems much more reasonable. Let’s ask him.
No, if we do that, then he’ll think we’re pretending to have not called him a dick. Or pretending we’re so important we don’t remember clearly deeply offending him. After already putting him a bad mood, he doesn’t deserve more grief from us.
So is the only option to say nothing? I mean, I know the internet makes it feel like if I say nothing then everyone will forget it, but the internet is a fucking liar. That really just makes people stew. I don’t want him to stew over something I don’t remember doing.
The honest thing is to ask him what he’s talking about, and of course he’ll respond emotionally about it, but I can parse facts and defuse from there. If it was somebody else, I can jump into that conversation and defend him so he feels better, and get whoever was mad at him now mad at me, and enjoy a week of that Twitter feud. Or it’ll turn out I really did call him a dick and now he hates my guts and thinks I’m a liar, and kiss that friendship goodbye. Regardless, it’ll be a week of thinking way too long about what to tweet.
Then it’s settled. I’ll say nothing.
I talked it over with him later. It turns out it was someone else. I don't know who. Some dick.