In the spirit of Meghan’s stated desire that the XX Factor blog remain a site of amicable cacophony, I’m feeling the need to stand up for my girl Dooce . Well, the blogger who goes by that name, Heather Armstrong, is “my girl” only in the sense that, like millions of her readers, I’ve been following her life online for more than five years now on an almost daily basis. But after reading Susannah Breslin’s recent takedown of the “bad mommy” phenomenon, Ann Hulbert’s review of a spate of recent confessional parenting memoirs, and a terrific discussion of those same books between our beloved Double X editors and the redoubtable Stephen Metcalf, it strikes me that something obvious is going unsaid in these blanket dismissals of navelgazing “mommybloggers”: Not all writers on a similar subject are equally worthy (or unworthy) of being read. Heather Armstrong is a success, not only because of her subject matter or what Ann calls her “very pretty self,” but because she’s a sensational blogger.
I say “blogger” and not “writer” advisedly: Though Armstrong can write circles around most parenting memoirists online or off, where she really shines is as a serial chronicler of daily domestic life, a genre she has been crucial in helping to invent. Like the Andrew Sullivan of personal blogging, she’s created a huge following just by showing up every day and telling us what she’s thinking about. I read Dooce before Armstrong became a parent (I still remember the day she posted a photo of her positive pregnancy test, and how weird it was to feel thrilled for a total stranger) and long before I became one myself. I don’t read her because I need confirmation of my own bad or good mothering, or because I identify with her struggles with postpartum depression. I read her because she’s funny and smart as shit, and because she maintains an elegantly designed, frequently updated, terrifically entertaining website.
I haven’t read Armstrong’s new book, It Sucked and Then I Cried , and I’m not sure I will-in the past I’ve found that the work of bloggers I love doesn’t always translate that well outside the serial format. But I read her website nearly as dependably as the daily paper, and plan to keep doing so as long as she keeps making it worth the visit. Though I’m fairly sure the estimates that Dooce.com makes $40,000 a month in ad revenue are exaggerated-if monetizing online writing was that easy, we’d all be in stretch limos right now handing each other Grey Poupon-I admire the fact that she’s pulling in enough money for her husband to quit his job and work full-time designing and managing her site. (Come on, admit it-is that not the ultimate writer’s fantasy?) Dooce may not be to everyone’s taste, but as women in the process of launching an online publication, we should seriously consider, like the woman in the deli scene in When Harry Met Sally , having some of whatever she’s having.