I had finished what was to be today’s post when something happened yesterday afternoon that so disheartened me, I need to address it right away.
A few weeks ago, I was delighted when actor Betty White agreed to an interview for TimeGoesBy. Further, I was pretty sure you would be equally delighted and I eagerly set about preparing for our conversation.
Betty often talks about her beloved husband, Allen Ludden, who died 30 years ago. One interviewer told her that he always asks about Allen because he likes the look on her face when Betty speaks of him. I know what he means.
It seemed to me that her marriage and loss would be a good topic for readers of TGB many of whom are at an age when they have already or may in the future become widows and widowers.
Comments on the interview yesterday followed on my conviction that nobody doesn’t like Betty White until – wham! – there appeared a comment so ungenerous and so off-base in its assumptions that A) due to her celebrity, widowhood is somehow easier for Betty White and B) that she was advising, as the commenter inelegantly put it, “tits up to widows” – neither of which is true – that I sit here now, an hour after reading it, angry and embarrassed.
It is no different than if one guest in my home had rudely attacked another at dinner. This blog is my online home and Betty White was an invited guest. But there was no way for me to intervene in real time, as there would be at dinner, to try to set it right.
Given the wild west nature of much of the web, I think of TimeGoesBy as a respite from trolls and name-calling – a little corner of the internet where elders can speak openly and honestly about issues and ideas that concern us beyond the decline, debility and disease (but those too) by which too many in the world define us.
Overall, that’s what TGB is. More, some of you are friends. Others are acquaintances that are perhaps growing into friendship. New connections spark all the time.
The last thing I expected here was bad manners. I thought we were all old enough – or ought to be – to know better.
In case anyone misunderstands, Betty White did not need to do this interview – she appears on Saturday Night Live, Letterman, Leno and other talk shows pretty much any time she wants.
She and other celebrities are not sitting around home wishing they had an interview to do. It is part of their job, usually by contract, to promote their projects and it’s hard work. I often wonder how they can stand to answer the same questions over and over as graciously as they do.
In exchange, we the audience get a little bit more personal insight into people whose movies, TV shows, concerts, recordings and books we admire, respect or are entertained by. They are not politicians whose decisions can change the nature of our country, the world, even our day-to-day personal lives and are therefore fair game to be nailed.
Betty White was my guest and someone spit in her soup.
In regard to the subject of grief which apparently caused the outburst, I’ll repeat here in part what I posted in a follow-up comment on yesterday’s interview:
“No one knows another person’s grief. In personal tragedy, well-known people have no more or no fewer resources, necessarily, than anyone else.
“Neither Betty White, Darla or anyone here has indicated in any manner that widows (or widowers, for that matter, or anyone who has lost someone dear to them who is not a spouse) is not to be honored in their sorrow.”
I also wrote that there will be no more interviews. That may have been hasty, but being nervous now about how future guests might be received, I will certainly hesitate. Betty White in no way deserved this tirade and neither do I deserve the aftermath of bad feelings it has caused me.
I was particularly surprised that this comment is not from some troll, but a regular reader whose contributions until now have been smart and worth reading. I refer her and others who may want a refresher to the Comment Rules. You can always find a link to them in the upper left corner of any page.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Refinishing Furniture