Leftovers: Ghosts aren’t (usually) real

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Readers never fail to delight me with emails, texts, voice mail, and rare snail mail.

From reaching out for my Bubbie’s latke recipe to asking me what happened to the Devastatingly Handsome Landscaper, to showing me the love after my sister’s funeral, the communication is plentiful and appreciated. 

Natalie LaddOnce in a while, I share a tidbit with my colleagues, but most of the correspondence stays close to the vest. In fact, I have a dog-eared, coffee-stained, doodled-upon manilla folder where handwritten cards and printed letters are kept. The folder has been shlepped around for years; over the course of three different newspapers, four physical workplaces (five when including my kitchen table), and as many editors.

So, as glib and cavalier as I pretend to be, I care deeply about what my readers think, enjoy, and what interests them. 

Your compliments, even the shamelessly solicited ones, give me warm fuzzies. On the other hand, constructive criticism and feedback – even when condescending and tough to take – are noted and given due consideration so I can learn and grow.

The only exception to the latter was when a super-snarker called me “sanctimonious” after I wrote a tribute to my hero, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (may she rest in peace). The reader thought I should have taken RBG to task for not stepping down so a younger, equally as liberal judge could be appointed by President Barack Obama.

Many agreed that would have been a wise political move, but I wasn’t focused on what RBG should have done. Instead, I was honoring what she did. That column was straight-up fan-girling over the woman who, in 1974, wrote the first textbook about sex-discrimination law. 

Just so you know, my intent this week was to write about the abundance of community chatter on Nextdoor.com, both positive and negative, around the lengthy and loud fireworks originating from last Friday’s Westbrook Together Days. There was also much social commentary referencing Chick-fil-A traffic jams, concerts, and Rock Row in general. Some points were valid, some were informative, and almost all were amusing to some degree.

But things took a different direction.

That same Friday evening, around 9:30, one of my elderly neighbors pounded on my door to ask if I heard the mass shooting taking place and where did I think it was happening. She was unsettled and visibly intoxicated and it was a bit of a challenge to walk her back from the cliff. I assured her the gun-like noises were colorful festivities taking place one city over, rather than the dark tragedy she imagined. My dog Mellie accompanied us as I walked her home (while the fireworks terrified Mellie, too, she was not at all tipsy). 

This leads me back to the many nice comments I received after last week’s column about opening windows of kindness to deal with more than life’s basic drama. 

These days, our drama is truly extra rather than basic. In fact, one of you told me the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial verdict was a #metoo extra setback as serious and as deadly as the uptick in mass shootings. You went on to talk about drug overdoses and suicides stemming from the unbearable pain of domestic abuse that’s never been reported. But even worse, you said abuse gets reported but is ignored, disbelieved, ostracized, or deemed foolish because the victim is an average Jane Doe, or may have a record, or might be mentally ill. 

When I emailed back and asked if you’d please write a letter to our editor, or share an op-ed piece, you went dark. But, that’s alright. I want you to know that I have heard you and I am flattered you shared your perspective with me. This is heavy stuff, but I’m here to help you if need be. 

You (the #metoo extra setback reader) have been carefully paraphrased, just as I have done with other readers who have something to say but are afraid to do so beyond my text or email box. I get it. It’s scary to say something controversial and have everyone know your opinions, or perhaps your private painful business. It takes great courage, but if you’re willing to follow our required submission formats, we’re willing to help you be heard.

And there’s no need to worry about grammar or spelling. Just say what needs to be said and our editorial team will make you sound like a pro. Look what they do for me (not kidding).

No matter if you choose to be heard or not, I should finally tell you what happened with the landscaper. One day, the switch just flipped and I had enough of his disrespect. Feeling empowered, I ghosted him until one night when I saw him looking devastatingly handsome while in line at Hannaford. I quickly headed for the door, happy to never speak to him again.

It is a completely different feeling than I have for most of you. Except the super-snarker. I’m ghosting her, too.

Natalie Ladd is an award-winning columnist, freelance writer, and Portland restaurant veteran. She loves Boston sports, California cabernets, and has never sampled a cheese she didn’t like. Reach her at [email protected].

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