The thing about hate mail is that it’s very entertaining.
One grisduntled reader who may or may not suffer from Lesdyxia writes to tell me that “The Bra Jester Chronicles are a complete waist of space.”
I am no expert on the sartorial mysteries that lie hidden in a woman’s dresser drawers (the epithet “dresser” is indispensable to my meaning here). Indeed, the first lesson that marriage teaches a man involves the folding of laundry—namely, that some of it can’t be folded—but I’m damned and double damned if chronicling the history of that particular article of clothing lacks purpose. My first book, The Thong: A History in Pictures (ghosted by a former humor columnist named Ike Wit), was an instant best-seller. I used the royalties from it to buy a power-steering rig from a junkyard for my 1983 Dodge Ram, and in the twenty years I’ve owned the truck I’ve had to weld a cracked bracket only once, twice if you count the second time I had to weld it.
But where this “waist of space” is I cannot divine. Would it be Saturn, indicated by the belt-like rings around it? Or is it the zone above Uranus?
The puzzles of this life: are they not innumerable?
Another reader writes: “if I were to psychoanalyze you, I would say you call yourself ‘The Bar Jester’ because all you want to do is tell jokes in bars. Or, I should say, behind bars, for that is where you belong.”
A palpable hit, I confess, not to mention a fine example of the sort of depth to which psychoanalysis often despires. I do rather enjoy telling and listening to jokes, and I think bars are good places for the exchange of well-wrought humor. But the name “Bar Jester” boasts no high pedigree. It came to me one day, I’m embarrassed to say, as I was contemplating Trollope. I account this fact a failure of character, certainly, but there you have it. And as for jail: I hope never to return. For one thing I can’t account for the innumerable bars of soap scattered about on the floor in no apparent pattern.
An indignant woman from Austin writes, “I pity your wife. You should buy her a Valentine. I hope you die soon and give her a chance at a happy second marriage.”
No argument there. If I weren’t a persona and actually had a wife, her happiness would be fairly high on my list as well. Not above keeping company with men and telling jokes in bars, mind you, but pretty high up there nonetheless. For example, I’d make sure she had a brand new broom and dust pan waiting for her under the tree each Christmas—and a stocking full of Windex®.
A pasty-faced fellow I’m pretty sure I played basketball with in college writes: “so this is how a bitter middle-aged man who in his youth didn’t understand the meanings of the words “pass” and “defense” spends his time. You’re a bigger jerk now than you were in your mullet-headed teens. I hope your knees grind to powder.”
I confess I’m a slow learner, and writing has never been my strong suit. So I admit I couldn’t have articulated it this way back then, but time has taught me a few things at least: passing is how I get the ball, and defense is what other people play. I hope this helps to mend things. I wouldn’t go to my grave unreconciled to those from whom, whether in knowledge or in ignorance, I’m estranged.
A raven-haired Thomist in Virginia writes: “when I heard you were going to write a libelous piece titled ‘Why I am Leaving Patrick Deneen,’ I lost all respect for you. It is shameful to joke about such things.
Going to write such a piece? Joke? I spent days on it, agonized over it, put my very heart and soul into it, only to see it fall to the editing floor, dropped from the treacherous scissored hands of the cowardly censors at FPR. “It was likely to offend a certain wealthy conservative proctologist we’re hoping to milk for cash,” reMark’d one senior editor. “First Things First. Our goal is to be as rich as Those Other Guys at That Other Website.”
A trollish fellow calling himself MilhousIsDuke writes: “You’re one of those morons who believe in god. Me, I quit god to become an intellectual.”
It’s true. I cannot deny it. It does seem to me there is a God. She’s probably Hispanic, and with my luck a Catholic, but I simply cannot outrun the Hound of Heaven. No matter how I turn things over in my head, I can’t help but come to the same conclusion: the only thing worse than the smug superiority of the agnostic is the smug superiority of the atheist. Apparently Nothing is heavier than the cross.
An undergraduate male with poor taste and worse judgment writes: “according to my calculations, you’re a few weeks shy of producing something every Wednesday on FPR for three straight years now. How do you do it and still hold a job and maintain a family life?”
The short answer is: by keeping the quality of the writing very low and the thought that goes into it out of it. But, again, I’m a persona, and personas don’t have jobs or families, so actually it’s pretty easy to knock out a few thousand words between ten o’clock and midnight on a Tuesday. Besides, if you find it hard to take anything seriously, especially during an election year, and if you spend half your time writing about what you would have made for the evening meal if you were a person rather than a persona, the work is fairly pleasant and not all that difficult. Oh, sure. There are times you can’t find your mojo, but who doesn’t toss up an airball now and then? I should add that the work goes more smoothly if you have few ties to the truth and little affection for it.
A pastor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, writes: “I cannot believe that for three whole years so vile a creature as yourself breathed the pure air of this upright City Upon a Hill. Have you no respect for those who tried to instruct you in piety and sphere sovereignty? If you are going to attend the FPR conference in Holland this September, I will see to it that all members of the CRC and RCA vacate western Michigan.”
Actually, I’m a just a persona. But, you know, I fully expect that the person behind the mask will be there. In fact I hear he’s arranging to play golf with a couple of papists. That might piss off the Calvinists more than anything, but you have to remember that Jesus pissed people off too. He didn’t have to spit in the dust and make mud to heal the blind man on the Sabbath. He could have just used spit or picked a different day altogether. He was Jesus, after all. So I think there might have been a little of the Bar Jester in him. Maybe even a little of the Bra Jester, assuming Lesdyxia was around back then.
But emptying western Michigan of all CRC and RCA members? That would be an exodus of Biblical proportions. I’m not sure I’d attempt it without Charleton Heston, his oiled chest, his magic staff, and the NRA.
A really good-looking woman of some consequence and influence (I tell you, she’s a moving violation) writes—says, rather: “how about we get a piece in the voice of the Bar Jester’s wife? She ought to be allowed to get even, you know.”
It is said that Trollope was dining at the Athenaeum one day. Someone at the table next to him was complaining about the vicar’s wife, I think it was, and Trollope happened to be in the midst of writing a novel that featured a vicar’s wife. Trollope, so the story goes, tired of hearing these complaints coming from the adjoining table, at length folded his newspaper, arose, turned to the table whence came the unwelcome noise, and said: “Very well. I shall kill her off this afternoon.”
So although I am a persona and therefore don’t have a wife, I may find that I am but one short stack of hate mail from folding my book of limericks, rising, turning to the ether, and saying: “Very well. She shall have her revenge.”