Dear Internet, be nice

News of Amy Winehouse’s death last week has fostered a lot of comments about the singer’s addiction-fueled past. A lot of what people have been saying online has been exceptionally rude and highly mean-spirited. Now one of Richmond’s most cynical and foul-mouthed citizens takes her turn and joins in…but it’s not directed at who you think.

Well, it’s been nearly a week and a half since I sat in the bathroom at work, catching up on Twitter (what? Oh, like you don’t poopweet!), and read the news of Amy Winehouse’s passing.

The iconic gravel-voiced soul/jazz singer was found dead on July 23 in her London home. While the initial autopsy has come back inconclusive, the 27-year-old’s battle with drugs and alcohol has been well-documented and, often, on public display. Ironically, Amy’s biggest hit was about refusing to go to rehab. But she did. Twice. Voluntarily. Showing that she, at least at a few points in her life, wanted help.

British tabloids claim that Amy Winehouse was seen buying loads of drugs at a bar, just hours before her death, and that she had spent the last week of her life on a massive bender. The likely explanation for Amy’s death–in the court of public opinion, anyway–seems to be overdose. But Amy’s family believes that her death resulted from quitting alcohol cold turkey (for severe alcoholics, going from full-go to full-stop without medical supervision can be fatal). Whether the cause of death was too much, too little, or any number of the less-likely theories that are floating around we won’t know for probably another week. In spite of the lack of any information beyond her death, people have lots of opinions.

Despite my sassy public persona (complete with permanently raised eyebrow for that perfect, ever present, “Say what?” expression), I am a secret Maria Von Trapp with an optimism that I keep wrapped in chub and sarcasm like my own version of armor. I give the benefit of the doubt to everyone that I meet. I hold everyone to the same standards I have: peace, love, and hug the stuffin’ out of your fellow man. This often leads to disappointment in people, though I’d not have it any other way. What’s my secret to looking so young? Hope. And dresses made of curtains (if you’ve met me, you believe this).

So, imagine my chagrin when, right behind actual news tweets of Amy Winehouse’s death, came the mean. I’m not talking about jokes, which I have no problem with people using to deal with grief, I’m talking about straight up malicious unpleasantness.

Now, granted, Amy’s death came on the heels of nearly 80 people being killed in Norway in two terrorism attacks: one a bombing in Oslo and one a series of shootings at a youth summer camp just north of Oslo–a tragedy, if ever the word was apt. So it’s understandable that some people were upset that news of, and grief over, Winehouse’s death seemed to eclipse the shock and sadness over those lost in Norway. However, the number of tweets I saw using phrases like “crack whore”, “loser”, “disgusting drug addict,” and suggesting that she got what she deserved, were disturbing. Many mentioned how much more distressing the news coming out of Norway was, and I happen to agree, but I don’t see that as an excuse to downplay how dispiriting the death of one person can be. Amy Winehouse was someone’s friend, someone’s sister. Someone’s daughter.

But, I’ll admit, I take news like Amy Winehouse’s passing rather personally. As someone who loves an addict and who has been blessed with an addictive personality herself, this sort of thing hits me sideways. Something like this feels like an invitation to expect a host of other things that I’d rather not. If Amy Winehouse could die, my brother could die, and I had held them both up as invincible–which from this moment forward shall be known as “The Keith Richards Memorial Pedestal.” If Amy Winehouse could die I could slide down the ever-slippery slope of my own struggles into the gaping maw of addiction, never to be seen again. Given a choice, I’d rather expect good things. And raindrops on roses.

I hope that when I die people remember me with jokes (I prefer off-color ones, if you’ve decided to start crafting yours). But, the mean? Man, keep that shit in your pocket. I’ve already got a whole host of people lined up that need haunting, and you don’t know hell on earth until you’ve heard “Do-Re-Mi” echoing through your house in the dead of night. Now, be nice, Internet, ‘cause Maria Von Trapp don’t play.

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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