The way I found out about all of this was through a comment he left on my post: "Feeling targeted."
At first, my mind raced back over the lines I had written about my roommates to see if I had said anything deliberately cutting that he could have taken offense to. I was worried that this friend would be hurt by my jests about my roommates and their cleanliness and less than ideal habits. He didn't answer my first phone call, probably because of the different time zones in Utah and Amman, and I was left to my preoccupation. Was my work causing more harm than good?
When I finally got a hold of him, it turned out that he had just found the post to be very accurate of our friends and the time we all lived together. However, I had been thinking so much about offending others through writing that I asked him how far he felt was too far when writing about personal experience. We narrowed it down to a couple key points:
- Omit names. By not explicitly naming anyone, any offense can be avoided to a general audience.
- Be honest while still not saying anything you would be embarrassed for someone else to read. This is the key issue, and it is both a challenge to be vulnerable in problem solving in real life as well as cautious in a literary approach.
- Make sure to be self depreciating so that your reader can trust your complaints are not overly biased.
We discussed other elements of the piece and laughed together, but this feedback and experience are things I will not easily forget.