The most common piece of hate mail I get is something to the effect of "you're such a loser." This coming from people who spend their day crafting letters to someone who doesn't care about what they're saying.
Hate mail doesn't get to me. It did when I first started receiving it. See, I received it, I just didn't get it. I used to want the whole world to like me. But the more people I meet, the more I realize that there are some people who I don't want in my corner.
I will never understand the mindset that makes someone send hate mail. And I don't mean a letter disagreeing with a statement or arguing a point. I encourage that; we were raised as a society to voice our differences, and while some people's differences are based on a culture of ignorance and inbreeding, I still respect our ability to voice them. What I will never understand are those words that come out of stupidity, say nothing valid, and read like they're written by a fourth-grader recently left back for having the reading level of a first-grader. But Ashlee Simpson aside, I also don't understand most hate mail. (Oh, snap!)
I get several letters each week telling me I'm not funny. What a waste of time. Is this really going to accomplish anything?
"Well, my book sales are at an all time high, I'm playing to bigger crowds, and I just won an award as one of the best new comics in the business. But this guy who can't seem to spell "'Steve' doesn't think I'm funny. I guess I should retire. And change my name to Stve."
Not everyone is going to find me funny, I accept that. The vast majority of the world doesn't think I'm funny. In fairness, that could be due to many people not knowing how to speak English. Still, I'm not funny to everyone. But if we all wrote letters to everyone we didn't find funny, we'd have no time to do anything else. Though if we did and if there was justice in the world, Larry The Cable Guy's mailbox would look like that kid's locker in the pop tarts commercial.
A phrase I read sometimes is "don't quit your day job." This is even more pointless, since I don't have a day job. And the people who write this most commonly have a day job that includes playing Splinter Cell in their mother's basement.
I get called a sellout sometimes, which is curious since it's been years since I took money for something I didn't believe in. And that was a summer job. Taking money for something you're passionate about doesn't mean you're a sellout it means you've sold up. In the meantime, the people calling me a sellout are pushing Moons Over My Hammy at Denny's for $5.50 an hour.
There are many reasons hate mail doesn't bother me. The first one is that anger shows I'm making a difference in the world. Which is ironically the opposite of what these vitriolic letters are intended for, since they are actually validating my writing. And something important for me to remember is that these people's hatred has nothing to do with me. When someone writes me hate mail of the "you suck" nature, it's because they're currently failing at something, or their mother didn't hug them enough, or their uncle hugged them too much. So to those who write me such letters (assuming you have the mental wherewithal to have read this far), please recognize that your problem is not with me. Your problem is with you.
But most importantly, my hate mail makes me laugh. I laugh at the spelling, the liberal use of expletive, and the idea that this person has actually made it this far in life without getting beaten to death. If you're curious, I posted an archive of some of my favorite hate mail on SteveHofstetter.com I'd print it here, but this column runs in family newspapers.
I will, however, share my all-time favorite hate mail with you. When Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was quoted saying some racist things in Sports Illustrated, my brother and I wrote some columns blasting him. One reader wrote:
THE REASON YOU WRITE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLES LIVES IS BECAUSE YOU HAVE NONE OF YOUR OWN. LOSERS!
YOU PEOPLE EAT MY (edited for family newspapers) JOHN ROCKER RULES YOU ARE JUST JELOUSE OF HIM BECAUSE HE IS GOOD LOOKING AND HAS A GTREAT SENSE OF HUMOOR YOU WANT TO BE LIKE HIM. HE JUST TELLS THE TRUTH AND I SEE THAT THIS SITE IS MADE BY YOU SMELLY NEW YORK PEOPLE YOU ARE PROVING JOHN ROCKER RIGHT. ROCKER FOR PRESIDENT BETTER YET KING!
What choice did we have but to respond?
"Your caps lock key seems to be on," we wrote. "Your ignorant racist moron key is also stuck."
Steve Hofstetter is the author of the Student Body Shots books, which are available at SteveHofstetter.com. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.