At my friend’s wedding, I had to walk down the aisle with a man who’d given my book one star on Goodreads.
How did I know he’d assigned my book the worst possible rating? That he’d flipped through my heart and soul and then told the internet it sucked? Simple: because I monitored my Goodreads obsessively.
Everyone warned me to steer clear of reading my own reviews. But, I told myself each time I pulled up the website, there was always a chance that a Goodreads spree would leave me feeling great. Maybe I’d discover a new reader who just got my book and wanted to shout about it from the rooftops. I’d read that magic review and know that the work I had done was good, and I’d never get mired in self-doubt again!
The Goodreads spree where I discovered the one star from Stephen (name changed to protect the not-so-innocent) did not leave me feeling great. I immediately decided that I’d prefer never to see him again.
Unfortunately, I was the maid of honor, and he was the best man. And I wasn’t going to screw up tradition on my friend’s special day just because my tender, tender feelings had gotten hurt.
I greeted him cordially and linked my arm through his.
Does this sound like the start to a rom-com? Where we trade barbs all during dinner, but as we get progressively drunker and move to the dance floor, sparks fly, and it turns out that the real reason he gave me one star was because my book made him feel all sorts of vulnerable things he just couldn’t deal with?
Or perhaps it’s more of an empowering, burn-it-all-down vibe, where I give the most beautifully written wedding toast the world has ever seen and then, when he steps up to take the microphone for his own toast amid the thunderous applause for mine, I leave him tongue-tied by asking him, “So how many stars would you rate that?”
In reality, zero sparks flew. And though I did give a kick-ass toast, I swallowed my pettiness and killed him with kindness instead, so much so that, at the end of the night, he told me that we should hang out sometime. (Like a date? I’m not sure. I did not take him up on it.)
The real reason he gave me one star was because the book hadn’t been his cup of tea, and he liked to keep an accurate account of his reading history on Goodreads. He’d thrown me that rating and moved on. Now I’d spent far more time obsessing over it than he ever had.
So what did I learn from all of this? That there’s no pleasing everyone. That life’s better when you put aside vendettas and focus on the things that actually matter (like how happy my friend and her new husband were!). And that there’s a filter on Goodreads where you can only read your positive reviews. I think I’ll be sticking to that from now on.
Laura Hankin has written for McSweeney’s and HuffPost, among other publications. The viral videos that she creates and stars in with her comedy duo, Feminarchy, have been featured in Now This, The New York Times, and Funny or Die. She grew up in Washington, D.C., attended Princeton University, and now lives in New York City, where she has performed off-Broadway, acted onscreen, and sung to far too many babies.
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