Up Front by Emma Hart


The Ex Files

The last couple of weeks I've been busier than usual, moving Bardic Web onto its new platform. While our office has only ever been virtual and all our files electronic, this is still a major pain in the arse. I found I was picturing myself stacking white file boxes and manila folders onto an office chair and pushing it through a cold blue corridor into a massive room where all the windows were too high up to see out of. My virtual world is a tad depressing. Neal Stephenson would be deeply disappointed in me.

And what files they are. There are records of user disputes, and staff disputes, going back eight years. I wonder sometimes if we're doing ourselves any good keeping them. Do those objects and memories you hold onto from the past do you any good, or do they just stop the wounds from closing?

We do keep them for good reason. There are times a user will reappear after years, and we'll think, didn't we ban her? Did we ban her? And what for? A quick look through the records and we'll know if she pushed us too far, or successfully toed the line of just being completely annoying.

I used keeping records to improve my work, too. For a couple of years, I kept a copy of every email I sent out in a stress situation. I'd go back and re-read each one after a month had gone by, and see if it still seemed proportionate, or if I felt embarrassed by how aggressive I'd been. What I learned from this was to hone my sarcasm to such a razor-sharp edge it was barely noticeable.

There's a down side, though, and it came home to me again this week. Those nasty files are like Kiwiblog comment threads: you know you shouldn't look, but it's just so hard not to.

Those files include a fifteen hundred word slew of personal abuse I received from my then-boss. There are two sides to every story, but I'm struggling to think of a story where it's okay to call one of your employees 'the bisexal bitch from hell'. (I don't know what a sexal is, but apparently I have two of them, and the odds are I'm not afraid to use them.) I should give the woman her due, she did explicitly give me permission to

have 5 husbands and 10 wives and have sex with them all out in your front yard at noon everyday

Not today though, it's bloody freezing out there.

It's not just those files. I have a box of old objects that remind me of past events and people, and they're not all happy happy joy joy. What the hell am I supposed to do with my last-time-round wedding and engagement rings? After two divorces, my role-playing character had them all made into a wind-chime. Possibly the healthiest thing I ever did was burn all the cards and letters from one of my ex-boyfriends, but do I really want to slough all those things off and pretend they didn't make me what I am? They're talismans: I pick one up and probably the first thing I'm going to say is 'god, I'd completely forgotten…'.

These days I think I just keep all those things because one day I'll die, and my kids will find the box and be totally flummoxed as to why I have a bunch of old beermats with equations all over the backs of them. The odds of them working out that drunk people were trying to calculate the speed of light in Moro bars per micro-fortnight is pretty much nil.

Anyway, the point* is that, even though she was completely wrong and it's all over and done with and I now work in an environment where I am actually allowed to have principles, reading that letter from my old boss all these years later still hurts. It triggers the emotions I felt at the time, the anger and the pain. If she can still hurt me, hasn't she won?

On consideration, the answer is still probably no. She lost way back at the point where we were playing 'every time I see your IP number stalking my blog, I'm going to post gay erotica'. She lost again when I decided not to call this column '[Redacted] is a Scum-Sucking Bitch', making it the top Google result for her somewhat unusual name. It's enough to know that should I ever decide to use my powers for evil, I would fucking rock at it.

*I use the term loosely.

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