There's been a lot in the news (the UK at least) lately about a woman who has written a thinly veiled novel about parents who kick their teen-age son out of the house for smoking cannabis. This woman, Julie Myerson, has made a career out of writing about her home life apparently. And she did indeed kick her teen-age son out of the house for smoking cannabis -- and apparently being violent toward her and supplying her two younger children with cannabis.
The backlash has been against Ms. Myerson though. And I must say I agree with a lot of it. She didn't consult her son about the publicity surrounding the book and her interviews about kicking her son out. So he went to the press himself and presented his side of the story.
Both sides feel they have been wronged by the other, but I see one side as being more wronged than the other. I think Myerson's son's privacy has been terribly invaded and compromised in his mother's quest for publicity. There used to be a saying, don't air your dirty laundry in public. Some things were family matters and meant to be kept within the confines of the home. That saying doesn't seem to have much relevance these days, what with blogs, facebook and its ilk, Twitter, etc. People -- I include myself -- feel free to write about whatever. Their relationships, their fantasies, their problems, their joys, their fears. It seems almost compulsory to bare yourself figuratively.
But is it fair to do this when the act of doing it bares someone else? The word loyalty comes to mind. I have written here of hubby, son and daughter. They are anonymous to you all and will remain so, I hope. Even still, I do not write everything about what goes on with them because of a sense of loyalty to them. How would they feel if they knew that anyone could read about them?
I think Myerson would argue that by writing about her own dysfunctional family life, she is reassuring others that it can happen to anyone. But here is where her conceit begins. Of course it can happen to anyone, and it does all the time. But not everyone feels compelled to tell the world about it. She and her partner are a certain type you find within the British middle class: educated, articulate, terribly earnest and principled. So principled they wouldn't allow their three children to eat meat. So earnest they wrote about it. They didn't believe any imperfection could happen in their family. When it did -- as in the son smoking cannabis -- they were angry at the son for showing the imperfections in their perfect world. He in turn was angry at them for using him as a topic for many an article and now a novel. I don't know that this fractured family can ever be repaired.
I think anyone who writes about their family in any forum must be mindful of the family's rights too. It isn't the same as having a moan about your spouse or your child to your best friend over a coffee. Setting it down in words creates a permanence. But all relationships, particularly the parent-teen-ager ones -- are fluid beings, full of ebb and flow. What is today will not be tomorrow.
Perhaps Myerson should have known that before all the hundreds of words were written by and about her and her family.