On Reading Comprehension, Paper Trails and the Internet Ego

Solidarity is easy when all you have to do is tap some keys and walk away.

My friend recently went and bought a gun, against her principles, so she could feel safe from a harmful man in her past. She’d also done all the “right” things, like getting a restraining order and testifying against him. For her, the bureaucratic measures were effective, because she not only generated a meticulous paper trail, but she followed the rules of restraining orders, which include accusers also not contacting the accused — this is key.

Could he have harmed her anyway? Of course, which is why she bought a gun against her very beliefs.

Then, this same friend — Aussa Lorens — wrote an article about how easy it is to get a gun, easier in fact, than getting a restraining order. The latter, if used properly, can make a big difference as it did for her, so in a second article, she shared generous information for the benefit of other women who might be dealing with domestic abuse.

Not once did she mention that guns and restraining orders are interchangeable or even mutually exclusive, only that in the realm of her practical experience, one was easier to obtain than the other. It takes no leap of logic or particular mastery of English to understand the point of her first article.

Was she ever claiming a restraining order is the end all solution? Absolutely not. But it is a necessary step for sufferers of domestic abuse and others if they aim to cover all their bases.

By covering her bases, Aussa was able to bring charges against the trash heap of a man when he contacted her during the restraining order period. Had he bugged her a second time, it would have equaled felony and jail time for him.

After the comment barrage of “it’s just a piece of paper,” Aussa published a second article encouraging women to take charge in abuse situations, starting with “a piece of paper” that may make a lot more difference than not having it.

Two clear articles in plain English by Aussa Lorens, and still, many readers don’t seem to understand the words in front of them. Or worse, they’re merely skimming and manufacturing outrage to use for their own agenda.

I don’t have personal experience with restraining orders, but I do have experience with both the benefit of paper trails, and readers who seemingly don’t read. I also value my friend’s insight and generosity when it comes to the stories she shares, and I have the conviction to say so.

She’d do it for me, and she’d probably do it for you too, if someone unjustly maligned you.

* * *

No ego is more absurd the internet ego. On the internet people get to fabricate the life they don’t have and the character they wish they had. We “curate” a show for each other. But some start to take the response seriously, as if it has any basis in reality. Often with these folks, there’s an alarming disconnect between who they are in real life and the online persona they cultivate. Fortunately, there are others with whom the online and real-life person are astoundingly similar. I’ve met both types. I have intensely close friendships with the latter.

It’s fair to say the “internet ego” wears poorly on any type. My own internet ego embarrasses me. So I toy with it — I don’t delete unpopular posts, I resist posting every sure-to-please rant or rave, and I take social media breaks at the “risk” of losing momentum and the good grace of my online community. Real life is lovely when you live more than you browse.

Virtual compassion and solidarity, even “happy birthdays” and thumbs ups, are easy when all you have to do is tap some keys and walk away. What do the ranters, and supporters alike, do in real life and behind closed doors that mirrors the valiant or compassionate human they wish to project? I’m online. I rant. I support. But I also work very hard to follow through on being strong, honest and kind in actual life. I’d like to think everyone does. Except we know better, especially now that more and more famous hypocrites are exposed on a daily basis.

Those who buy into cultivated personas complete a symbiotic delusion between the two parties. In a way, it’s the nature of most fandom. Have fans, be a fan, but infusing it with more meaning than it merits doesn’t just distract from real life, it’s unhealthy for the mind.

A while ago, I had a combo nightmare about Trump and one of my boyfriend’s exes. The first villain is everyone’s nightmare. But my boyfriend’s ex? Dumb human shit on my part — making up stories to self-torment over likely-harmless people I’ve never met. Angry at my man, I said a bunch of veiled stuff about him, or to him, in a blog post. I joked about taking the low road where a surprising amount of empathy can be found.

Next thing I know, on social media, one of these internet ego types posts something very obviously related to the Trump-and-ex dream on my blog. In her comment thread, she goes on and on about how she’s fodder for everyone’s stories, and before I burst into laughter at the absurdity, my jaw falls to the ground, applies for college and moves away from home: The woman actually believed the blog post referring to my man was about her!

This was not just a serious lack in reading comprehension, but full-fledged narcissism.

I let it go at the time because you generally feel bad for those who crave a sense of importance. Of course they’re important. All humans are. Let them imagine air time for themselves in minds and hearts where none exist.

However, they do not get to malign my friends.

* * *

Careless reading is common in this attention-depleting digital age. But it’s inexcusable to argue against concepts you don’t absorb properly — or didn’t read at all.

I came into my own when I earned six hundred nasty comments on an article I wrote for Harper’s Bazaar. I didn’t read more than the first couple of comments, but had a friend monitor on my behalf. It turned out the great majority of the responses were based on the headline in tandem with the picture of an interracial couple chosen by the magazine, rather than the content of the article itself.

I’m guilty of careless reading myself. Without realizing it, I tend to not read personal correspondence thoroughly. A point in the first paragraph might rise up to fixate me, making me glaze over — or altogether skip — the rest without knowing I’m doing it. This is how you miss crucial context. I’ve literally misread words and had strong emotional responses to things that weren’t even said.

Just yesterday, I glanced as a text slid across my screen from a friend who had attended a performance of mine the night before. I read:

    It was great being there last night.

So I’m thinking, wow, I guess she didn’t like my performance, because she’s doing everything to avoid mentioning it. If I hadn’t clicked over to the text to read it again, I would have never known that the actual text said:

    You were great last night.

I don’t know why within a quick glance my mind replaced words with other ones, but it wasn’t the first time. Maybe there were words on other parts of the screen at the same time, and my eyes picked up “there” and my brain filled in the blanks. Whatever the cause, it’s a good thing I became conscious of this issue over the past year. I’ve learned to read all correspondence twice, beginning to end, no exceptions.

* * *

As essential as it is to understand that which is communicated to us before emotionally responding, it’s perhaps equally important to be a careful and thorough record-keeper. It’s effortful but valuable, because credit cards are commonly hijacked, banks make deposit and withdrawal mistakes, traffic cops wrongly issue tickets and businesses double-bill.

In my case, meticulous paperwork has always worked to my advantage. I won arbitration without representation against a rich landlady who had a $500/per hour lawyer present. On another occasion, due to the “preponderance of evidence” I brought with me, I won an appeal with EDD in arbitration, which is rare. A large home retailer paid me a claim more than the value of my Toyota because they hadn’t shut a paint can properly and it spilled in the car and on my jacket. In order to receive triple the amount of their default payout, I bombarded them with pictures, receipts and statements. After a car accident, my friend provided the insurance company a textbook-thick stack of documents resulting in a $17k payout as opposed to the paltry amount they were originally offering.

The point is, papers do make a difference, mathematically and otherwise.

Do yourself a favor and keep good records. You may never end up using them, but sometimes, they are the only preemptive and/or protective measure you’ve got in an extremely bureaucratic system.

For the “record,” the “just a piece of paper” restraining order, according to Aussa’s latest article, achieved the following:

  • Created a powerful element in her paper trail, which in turn brought her victory in the trial against the accused.
  • Got him fired, so she wasn’t forced to work with him.
  • Scared him enough to leave her alone after the first time she reported him. (Hint: Report their violations.)
  • Because of that “piece of paper,” she had him sit in the hallway while she testified against him, so she wouldn’t have to bear the humiliation of looking at him.
  • Showing up on public record searches, she was contacted by future girlfriends of the accused, who she then successfully warned.
  • She’s eligible for a program that keeps her address from being published publicly.

Based on Aussa’s results, I’d have to conclude going for the restraining order is well-worth the effort, even if we can all agree it’s not the whole solution.

Furthermore, when someone like Aussa goes out of her way to provide help to a women’s cause, the most indecent thing you could do is go on social media to malign her.

Yes, that happened, which is exactly why I’m here standing up for my friend who is always standing up for others.


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  1. I’ve seen some of the, perhaps, to put it charitably, confusion around Aussa’s articles on Face Book, and your point here is right on. And, our legal system runs on paper trails at all levels. I still have copies of Orders of Protection a woman friend had against two of her ex-boyfriends twenty five years ago, even though she died of cancer fourteen years ago. Why? Because, unlikely as it may be, if I ever hear of either of those guys abusing or threatening another person that document will be evidence of a history of pattern and practice I can share with the new victim. Pieces of paper do matter. So does careful reading and critical comprehension, both of which take time which the culture of instant reaction work against.

    1. Yes, “confusion” is charitable, but that’s good of you. And I would keep those papers too, are you kidding? Good for you!

  2. Reblogged this on cabbagesandkings524 and commented:
    The Geisha stands up for a friend.

  3. Lizzi · · Reply

    My family has had involvement with restraining orders and paper trails and I didn’t feel any more safe. I knew that the piece of paper would only be useful, or useable, after the fact. After any damage, to whatever level, had been inflicted.

    I don’t blame her for getting a gun. I am also intensely glad the person in my situation did not have any kind of easy access to firearms.

    I am a lot different in real life than online. Less courageous and far more tongue-tied. I am always impressed by people who live up to the good they project.

    1. Thanks for reading this and commenting, Lizzi. I hear and understand what you’re saying. I’m sorry you had to experience any of that, even by association.

  4. Long time! I can’t believe Aussa is still having problems with that person. Also, I have been accused of skimming an article or two in my life and taking things out of context. Luckily, I read yours and they are always well worth it. I hope Aussa gets a little peace, but it seems like she never will.

    1. Hi Ben! I don’t believe she’s actively having to deal with the guy at all, but after years of worry and anxiety because of him, I’m assuming she’s been conditioned to feel unsafe. I think she has a lot of peace, and she certainly has a wonderful marriage.

  5. The click-bait mentality and corresponding instant half-baked rage is well noted. That said, I think we’ve all heard instances when the RO wasn’t enough to deter the perp – doesn’t have to be someone you know directly, just turn on the news. I will just suggest that maybe some of the negative comments came from people that experienced or witnessed an ineffective RO. For those people they might take it as “victim blaming”. It’s unfortunate that our society is at the point where someone can’t share their own experience without being personally criticized. I’m glad it worked out for Aussa. I wish it worked out for more victims…hell I wish victims & perps didn’t exist…..but here we are…again. A well written piece and I love a person that stands by her friends.

    1. Agreed, Bryce. I feel pain on behalf of every individual the system fails. But attacking the author of a success story when it comes to restraining orders is disgraceful. It’s the inciter of such disparagement whose motives could stand scrutiny.

  6. You’ve knocked it out of the ballpark, GG.

    1. You’re too kind, Sylvia. Thank you so much.

      By the way, I just watched The Spinster and read all the prep work you put into it. Enjoyed all. Intriguing.


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