I'm feeling remorseful about my treatment of Matt Forney after an exchange with a gal on "Jezebel" who knew him in high school.
This guy went to my high school. It actually makes me laugh when I read this stuff because the image he creates for himself is SO HILARIOUSLY FAR from reality. I remember him as an overweight, pants up to his boobs, trombone player who ran to class like a duck and couldn't look any attractive girl in the eye.
and also this:
It is pretty sad when I think about it. I'm not sure he was ever categorically bullied but he was certainly socially excluded in school. I'd be surprised to learn he had any friends. If he actually believes any of what he writes, it will be because for years he recognized what other people saw him as, a band geek that looked 12 when he was 17. A weirdo who could never get a girl's attention, an outsider. Even calling himself "the most hated man on the internet" is telling, everything he writes is a cry for acknowledgment. He doesn't care if you hate him as long as you see him! It's a way for him to collect some personal power that he hasn't owned his whole life. I'd be curious to know what his family life was like...
My heart cracks a little to know that at seventeen, he looked twelve. And now at 25, he looks forty. Has this guy ever caught a break in the looks department? The only compensation for premature balding is that when he actually is forty, he probably won't look much different.
Of course, I wouldn't have seen her comments if he hadn't linked to them on his own twitter feed. But that's the perverse rationale of these would-be provocateurs: there's no such thing as "bad" attention. Indeed, they seem to find it highly stimulating.
Her words threw into sharp relief the pain that drives guys like Matt Forney. Not for the first time, I feel remorse for mocking him. You see, I can empathize with the high school reject he was. I hated high school too. I wasn't bullied, or a social pariah, but I was a perennial outsider who attended four schools in three years. Somehow, despite skipping as much class as I attended, I managed to graduate, most likely because I had made myself so "invisible" that my teachers never noticed I was missing. I would be amazed if any of my graduating class could even recall my name or face. What sustained me, as I drifted through late adolescence in a kind of fugue state, was the conviction that everything would change once I got to college and my "real" life began. (Yes, I had my own "It Gets Better" campaign running through my head long before Dan Savage dreamed that mantra up.)
Do any of us completely recover from the trauma of early social rejection? It certainly shapes our personalities, for better or worse (and, unfortunately, as Forney demonstrates, usually worse). Forney himself once described me as someone suffering from "narcissistic injury" and I thought, Yeah, well, right back at ya, kid! I'm honestly not sure what that bit of psychoanalytical jargon even means, but maybe he was right. I don't know; I don't care. I am older than guys like Matt, and I ought to be wiser. And more compassionate.
I think again of the epiphany Lindy West experienced when she saw Forney's former "vlog" on Youtube (now removed). Although she doesn't refer to him by name, it is obvious she is referring to this particular "troll" when she explains how she realized, while watching it, that there was nothing he could say that could hurt her worse than the hurt he himself lives every day. And of course she is absolutely right.
Only losers obsess over the past. Fuck what you were like as a teenager; what are you doing NOW? THAT is what defines who you are.
True enough, but when what you are doing now is widely viewed as destructive, people are apt to scrutinize your formative years in an effort to identify the source of your pathology. And what Matt seems to be doing now is playing out a script that was written in his own troubled and not-so-distant adolescence.
Damn, life is sad, isn't it? And complicated too.