Stick a fork in it
Sometimes being a columnist seems like the best job in the world—the chance to get paid to share your opinion with the rest of world—or, at least your publication’s readership.
And, depending on the column’s focus, you can write about almost anything that strikes your interest.
There’s a downside, of course: Not everyone agrees with you. Most readers, in fact, will likely think you’re full of various, foul bodily excrements. Those are the ones more likely to call, email or, if they’re feeling particularly emotional, use the postal service to send stuffed animals and creepy ransom-note-styled missives. (Sadly, pleasant people who agree with you are rarely motivated to send similar gifts.)
During my time at this paper, countless readers have questioned my worth as a columnist—often using the same argument to bolster their point:
“It’s just your opinion!”
That’s exactly what it is, actually: My opinion. One I’ve been tasked to share as part of my job, mind you, but nonetheless still just my opinion.
And, I’ll be the first to admit, opinions are not fact, opinions are not the gospel truth, opinions are not infallible and opinions certainly are not impervious to change.
A friend cornered me the other day, for example, demanding we discuss the HBO show Girls. Initially, after reading my column on the subject (“Shallow girls” SN&R Popsmart, April 26), she’d agreed with my assessment of its first two episodes—that its depiction of white, entitled 20-something women in New York City was unappealing and troublesome.
Now, after continued viewing, however, she wanted to tell me I was wrong.
“You need to watch the rest of the series,” she said. “It’s really good.”
Actually, I’d already reached the same conclusion.
“I know!” I said. “I just watched five episodes in a row—it still bugs me, but as the characters developed, it also got a lot more interesting.”
Our conversation caught the interest of another friend.
“So what do you do when you change your mind about something you wrote about?” she asked. “Write a follow-up?”
“No, usually it’s just out there,” I said. “You don’t always get the chance to rethink or revise.”
That’s also the good and bad thing about writing a column. As thoughtful as you strive to be on a particular topic, ultimately you’re beholden to both the deadline and the need to move on. Opinions on frothy little pop-culture topics—TV, pop music, sports, fashion, et al—don’t typically warrant a second treatment. Girls is just a TV show, after all, why return to the subject?
Still, our conversation got me thinking—about all the things I’ve written about since this column made its debut nearly three years ago. Now, as it comes to an end (and I focus attention elsewhere in the paper—see this week’s Editor’s Note, page 3), I’ve got one last chance to revisit a few opinions previously thrown down in an impassioned state of conviction.
Lady Gaga: Ridiculous costumes? Yes. But she can sing, play instruments and writes her own songs. Twilight: I’m so sorry; it’s worse than I ever thought. Way worse. Gwyneth Paltrow: Talented, but the Marie Antoinette of culturally clueless actresses—dear universe, so sorry I ever defended her.
On the flipside, some beliefs remain resolute. Think Pink breast-cancer marketing research: Sorry, haters—still hate it. Obama: Still voting for him. Slutty Halloween costume: Girls, get a clue already. Kittens: They build the Internet and make life bearable (see also: puppies).
One inarguable fact: It’s been fun, but more than 125 columns later, it’s time to move on yet again—this time for good.