Trailblazer: Heather Armstrong (Q&A)

A Q&A with Heather Armstrong

Heather, more famously known as dooce®, has been at this blogging gig since 2001 and is the tall, sexy, dinosaur of the blogging world. In our real lives, we are both starting over from acrimonious divorces, have new loves in our lives, each have two girls, and adore animals – we are basically like twins, except she is like a towering 6ft ramp model, and well, I am not. The Sisters Hood have compiled a Q&A for Heather and we are steering clear of religion, politics and sex. Edited to add: we may talk about sex.

Way back in 2001, you decided to blog – was it even called blogging then? My kids think you invented blogging btw.

It was called blogging. Weblogging, to be more specific. Then it got shortened to blogging. And now it’s just called Exploiting Our Entire Lives For Hard Cash.

Who was your audience back then and how did you share?

I forwarded my original site to a few of my friends from college and didn’t think anyone else would read it. I emailed a few of my favorite bloggers at the time to ask for advice and one of them linked to me. My traffic quadrupled in one day from that link and just grew from there.

Do you think the online space was friendlier back then?

Absolutely. No question about it. People were looking for community and trying to build it among themselves. People went online to feel less alone. I don’t think that’s a primary motivator anymore.

What advice would you give #thesistershood when it comes to sharing their lives online?

Whoever you are writing about is going to find what you are writing. Period. Writing online is and never has been in a vacuum. Write as if everyone is reading it.

There has been a lot of crap thrown around about you, and frankly, we think people are just jelly jellyBut you hit a nerve with many by facing it head on at your keynote at a blog conference a few years back – you let people into what it was really like to have so much vitriol thrown your way. Could you share a little of that here? Has it eased, or have you learned to ignore it?

It has eased but it rears its head from time to time. In fact, some stranger told me this week on an Instagram post that I should have never had children if I was going to complain about it ever being hard. Luckily, my audience got all up in her business and was like, um, she’s been doing that for over 14 years. Where did you come from? I am much better equipped to ignore it now. I wasn’t when it started happening and when it was at its peak. I didn’t know how to handle it. I was blindsided by the volume and intensity of it all.

Now I know to skip past a bad email or comment and move on with my day. They have something going on in their lives that is bothering them so badly that saying something horrible to me makes them feel better for, like, two seconds.

And then they go back to being miserable. That’s just how it works. I’m okay with it now.

By the way, that was the first time you had seen your ex with his not so new to you girlfriend – did you feel all eyes were on you? Did you chat? Did you spit in his cocktail?

I did feel like all eyes were on me. And they were, according to a few of my friends. I can’t remember if we chatted. I didn’t spit in his cocktail, no. I may have an irreverent persona online but I was raised to be civil and proper when that is called for. And since he’s the father of my two girls, I like to think that I offer him that. A LOT. EVEN WHEN IT CAN BE REALLY, REALLY, REALLY HARD.

So when you are, quoting you here – not exploiting your kids for millions and millions of dollars on your mommyblog – you do things like travel across the globe to raise awareness of the exploitation of young girls. And you were undercover – how did that work being a long-legged blonde bombshell? And tell us about how you choose to advocate.

 

I try to advocate for issues that mean a lot to me and for issues that resonate with my audience: depression, animal welfare, maternal health, human trafficking, etc. Funny thing, in Thailand where I was technically “undercover”, I’m not considered a conventionally pretty woman. I’m tall and I’m blonde. The idea of beauty there is very different from the standard here. No one noticed me in Thailand. It was easy to sail under the radar.

You revamped your blog a little while back after a complete rebranding or more like reclaiming your life, going back to your roots. Tell us more.

Long story short, I took a break from blogging because I was really burned out. But then I happened to train for a marathon and stick to a strict vegan diet at the same time. A lot of factors played into the depressive episode I experienced in 2016, including what I just mentioned, but I found myself in a really bad place. I realized that I had abandoned one of the things I had always used to work my way through sadness: writing. So I revamped my site and started telling stories again. It’s been a huge part of my recovery.

This being #thesistershood, are you a good ‘girl’ friend? Friends for seasons, friends for life …how have you built your besties?

I like to believe I am a good “girl” friend. I have to work at it because more often than not I am so consumed with taking care of every single need of my two girls. It’s hard to find time outside of our rigorous daily routine. But my friends are solid and we know we can count on each other. Most of my closest friendships are with women I have met because of my website. They’re either colleagues or were reading me at some point, and we found each other.

Which brings us to your significant other, the one you hide from the public eye, use a movie to describe your relationship … and then – is this LOVE? And because we promised – sleep or sex – embellish at will.

A movie… haha! You know, I love cinema, but I don’t see a lot of movies. For a few years I went months and months without seeing anything, and during that time I found myself on a plane to New York and decided to close my laptop and watch a damn movie. I’d heard Mad Max: Fury Road was fun, but I had no idea. And ten minutes into the film I yanked out my earphones, turned to the guy next to me and yelled, “MOVIES ARE AWESOME!”

I will say that, yes, this is love. Love like I’ve never known. And as much as I love to sleep and could beat anyone in the Olympics if Sleeping In On Sunday Morning were a sport, I’ll take sex, thank you very much. What they say about women in their early 40s is absolutely true. I had no idea sex could be this good, this mind-blowing. I feel like a woman more than I ever have in my life, and I love it. And now that I know, GOOD GOD.

If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?

“Let Down” by Radiohead. It’s a downer, but I’ve lived through some pretty intense periods of depression in my life and have managed to come out the other side each time. To me it is the most beautiful song ever written, and it reminds me of what I have overcome.

And then because everyone in #theistershood has to share this – what is your favorite quote?

I’m terrible at this… hm…

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” – Mark Twain

or

“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” – Charles Bukowski.

Nicole Morgan
Nicole Morgan

Mom, Homeschooler, Marketer, Writer, Wine drinker, Friend. Saved by Social Good, the grace of God … and Blogging.