It’s a big day.
Today is the eighteenth anniversary of my blog – Grin and Bare It – and its earlier permutations, Perpetual Perpetuity and Conform Me Not.
My blog is old enough to vote.
My blogging career began on December 10, 2005. In the fall of 2005, I took a class on blogging at Trinity College with Colin McEnroe. Part of that assignment was to create an actual blog of my own, which I did. That first blog only contained assignments for the class, but once I finished the course, I began blogging on my own, titling that first blog Perpetual Perpetuity.
That blog existed from December 10, 2005, through June 11, 2007, when I removed it from the internet after an anonymous group of cowards excerpted that blog in deliberately deceitful and misleading ways in order to compile a 46-page packet demanding that I be fired from my position as a teacher based upon the things I wrote.
They sent that packet to the Superintendent of Schools, the Board of Education, the Town Council, and ultimately about 300 families in my school district. They compared me to the Virginia Tech killer, complained that I was benefiting from favoritism in our school, and implied that I was a sexual deviant.
They signed their work “The Concerned Parrent Body of West Hartford,” though it was quickly determined that they were not who they claimed to be.
Here are just a couple of examples of their deceit:
On the day that my mother died, I wrote that my principal told me that I could take as much time as I needed to deal with my loss. “Do whatever you want to do,” he said. “No worries.”
Under the heading “Favoritism” in the packet, these cretins wrote that my principal told me I could “Do whatever you want to do,” failing to mention that it was about the death of my mother and implying it was a permanent policy.
In another post, I questioned the decision of parents who sent their children into the world wearing sweatpants with the word “Juicy” on the butt. I wrote, “The eye is automatically drawn to text, so I find myself inadvertently staring at girl’s butts, which is stupid and terrible.”
In the packet, the cretins only quoted, “I find myself staring at girl’s butts.”
Example after example of this kind of deception. Also some terrible formatting, a whole bunch of poorly written sentences, and some nonsensical content. Also, content they did not like but in no way indicated that I was violent or dangerous as they claimed.
The authors of the packet also called for the firing of Elysha and my principal. They also threatened to take their concerns to the press and take “legal action” if their demands were unmet.
Can you imagine?
A few specific things motivated the actions of these monsters, including my winning West Haertford’s Teacher of the Year in 2006 and becoming one of three finalists for Connecticut Teacher of the Year.
Other things, too, which I will save for another day.
It was quite an adventure. Ultimately, the ordeal involved a team of attorneys, a police investigation to determine the authors of the packet, a fair and admirable Human Resources department, a relentlessly supportive group of colleagues, and an actual concerned parent body of West Hartford rising up in a spectacular, almost cinematic way, demanding that I continue to teach their children.
It’s quite a story.
More than 17 years after that act of cowardice and deceit, I’m still standing, doing my job, loving my career, and still writing this blog, and those unnamed scumbags (whose identities I have since determined) remain hidden under some rock where they belong.
Happily, I still have the content from that first blog—every single post. I’ve re-posted some of the more relevant and evergreen content over the years on subsequent blogs, but most remains on my hard drive. Maybe someday I’ll return the blog to the internet just for spite.
The last post on the day I took that blog off the internet was this:
I see Elysha half-naked every day! All the way naked, too!
The photographer at Saturday’s wedding informed me that lingerie photos are the latest wedding craze. Brides are giving their future husbands photo albums of themselves wearing lingerie as a wedding gift.
I don’t get it.
Can’t the average husband expect to see his wife in lingerie from time to time, and if so, why the need for a photo album? If a bride is so willing to pose in lingerie for a stranger with a camera, isn’t it reasonable to expect that she will occasionally don a negligee or teddy in the presence of the love of her life?
Elysha gave me a new golf bag and a sand wedge on our wedding day, and this was better than a slew of half-naked photos.
I can see Elysha half-naked every day. Fully naked, too! I don’t need a photo album to remind me how good she looks.
As you can see, not much has changed since 2007.
After removing that first blog from the internet at the request of my school district, I stopped blogging for precisely zero days before launching a new blog entitled Conform Me Not. Amid a public firestorm over my first blog and fighting for my job and future, I refused to be deterred. Conform Me Not was initially launched quietly, without any attempt at publicity, but as I began winning battles that summer and ensuring that my teaching position was secure, I started letting people know that I was writing again.
That blog still exists online at conformmenot.com.
Elysha used to design the mastheads of my blog. This is the masthead for conformmenot.com.
Conform Me Not ran from June 25, 2007, through November 1, 2008, when I switched from a purely blogging platform to a website that supported blogging. By then, I had published my first novel and realized I needed a place for readers to land that included more than just a blog. I needed links to my books, a schedule of my author talks, and more.
So began Grin and Bare It, which I am still writing today.
That’s 18 years of writing a post without missing a day.
Not always a good post, mind you. Looking back, some are ridiculous, purposeless, and moronic. Some of my opinions, in retrospect, are ill-informed and stupid. Not surprisingly, I have changed over time, and my blog represents that in all its ugliness and glory.
But quite a few posts are pretty great, too. Things I’m proud to have written.
If you do the math, that’s 6,574 consecutive days of blogging.
More than 6,574 actual posts, though, since there were many days, especially in the past, when I would post more than once on a single day.
7,486 posts in total, counting this one.
A diary of sorts, except instead of cataloging just the events of the day (which I sometimes do), my posts often reflect my thoughts of the day. Opinions, feelings, arguments, beliefs, questions, and rants.
Occasionally, something sweet.
I’m so grateful for the last 18 years of blog posts. Not only have I created a written record of my life, but blogging has proven to be an excellent training ground for my storytelling, comedy, public speaking, and the magazine columns and newspaper pieces I write today.
When you’re required to say something every day, you get really good at generating new ideas.
I’ve also met an enormous number of people through blogging. Some have gotten to know me online, and others have become friends in real life. My life is filled with acquaintances and friends who I would’ve never met had I not been writing every day.
My blog is also an excellent way to stay connected to friends, especially those who have moved away. Though we can’t talk daily, many read every day and send me emails or messages through social media that keep us connected.
Yes, it also created an enormous problem for me in 2007, but even that will likely work out well. It will probably become the subject of a memoir, including previously undisclosed information on the horrible people responsible for the attack on me, Elysha, and my principal, including many things that I have never spoken about before.
It’s quite the story.
Also, I didn’t do anything wrong. It took purposeful deceit to make me look terrible, so although 2007 was challenging for Elysha and me, it was not my doing. I was not at fault. Tiny, infantile monsters were entirely to blame, either through their direct action or their awareness of the packet prior to its dissemination and their failure to stop it from happening or warn me when the opportunity presented itself.
In addition to all of that, some amazing things have happened as a result of putting so much of my life into writing for anyone to read.
Here are just a few:
In the fall of 2016, I wrote a post advising Hillary Clinton to take specific strategic steps in her subsequent two debates with Donald Trump. That post made it into the hands of a senior staffer on the Clinton campaign and was passed amongst campaign staffers. I don’t know if Clinton herself read it, but I like to pretend that she did.
Though based upon her performances in the debates, she did not.
In June of 2010, I wrote a post about the Blackstone Valley sniper. When I was a child, a pair of men spent almost two years firing bullets into windows in my hometown of Blackstone, MA, and the adjacent towns, forcing us to turn out our lights at night and crawl under the picture window as we passed through the living room. We lived in fear for a long time. There was a total of eleven shootings from 1986-1987 (in addition to acts of arson and burglaries), and though no one was killed, four people were wounded in the attacks.
The two men guilty of the shootings were sentenced to prison in 1989 and were released on probation in 2008.
Five years after writing that post, the girlfriend of one of the shooters saw the post and wrote to me, complaining about my disparaging remarks about her boyfriend, who was going to be paroled and was turning his life around.
It was an interesting exchange of ideas.
In April 2011, I wrote about my desire to become a professional best man. I declared myself ready and able if anyone needed my services.
Since I wrote that post, four grooms and one bride have attempted to hire me (scheduling prevented those bookings from happening), and a fifth groom actually hired me for his wedding but canceled later on after paying me a nonrefundable deposit.
I’ve also been contacted by three different reality television producers about the possibility of doing a show in which I would be a professional best man at a series of weddings. None of these shows came to fruition.
In 2015, comedian Kevin Hart wrote to me upon releasing his film The Wedding Ringer, in which he plays a professional best man. He acknowledged that it was my idea first.
In 2012, I wrote about my desire to find my first library book. I recalled a few details about the book – the color of the cover and a few details about the plot – but nothing terribly specific.
Two years later, a reader correctly identified the book. A couple of months later, another reader sent it to me. It now sits on my bookshelf.
In 2016, I wrote about Mrs. Carroll, who taught me how to tie my shoes in kindergarten.
One day later, I was informed by a reader that she was 94 years old and still going strong.
By the end of that day, I had been given her home address by yet another reader. I sent her a letter telling her how much she meant to me and how I think about her every time I tie my shoes, and on the last day of my school year, I received a letter detailing specific memories about me from my year in kindergarten.
In June of 2017, I wrote about the death of a classmate, Joey Makar, and how he saved me with a simple act of kindness when I was feeling small, sad, and vulnerable.
A few days later, his widow sent me a message, telling me how much my words had meant to her in this difficult time.
In March of 2016, I wrote about telling a story at The Moth about my former elementary school principal, Fred Hartnett, for whom a new middle school in my hometown is now named. A few days after writing about the story, Mr. Hartnett, who retired after more than 20 years, contacted me after being directed to my post, and we’ve since exchanged several emails.
In February of 2o22, I wrote about my former McDonald’s manager, Jalloul Montacer, and the important lessons he taught me while working together. After posting, several readers managed to locate Jalloul, now in Texas, and I’ve since reconnected with him.
In October of this year, I wrote about how much Mrs. Schultz, my sixth-grade homeroom and math teacher, meant to me and how I had been unable to find her to express my gratitude.
A week later, her contact information arrived in my inbox, and we have since exchanged emails. I hope to connect in person when I am back in Massachusetts.
Over the past 18 years, I have written about my father, whom I don’t know very well. On more than one occasion, people who knew my father when he was younger have written to me, filling in a few of the many enormous gaps I have in his life story.
Those messages have meant the world to me.
I’ve officiated the weddings of at least three people who I met via my blog.
One of the people who I married had previously gone on a date and discovered that she and her date both knew me. She lived in Wisconsin, and he lived in Connecticut. They met online and eventually agreed to meet in person for the weekend.
She was a reader of my books and blog, and he followed me and read my blog on social media. I had met him two years before in the green room of a local TV studio, where we exchanged contact information.
She (and her mother) loved my work. He saw my novels in her apartment and declared his hatred for me. Their date went nowhere. I like to think it was because of me.
My blog saved her from a potentially disastrous second date.
Clara has started reading my blog every day. It has resulted in some fantastic conversations and some eye-opening revelations for her about her father.
She is currently my favorite reader.
These are just a few of the many remarkable things that have happened because I write and publish every single day.
I guess it makes sense. When thousands of people read your work each day, connections will be made. You’re going to occasionally touch hearts and minds.
Sometimes annoy people, too.
But even that can be fun.
Thanks so much for reading every day. I’m honored and humbled by the thousands of people who read my posts here and on the social media outlets where my blog posts go every day.
But even if I had just ten readers, I’d still write every day. The rewards, audience or no audience, have made it more than worth my time.