A Commentary

My response to reader comments

People ask me all the time, “What is the best part about being a Crimson columnist?” There are so many benefits to the position that I don’t even know where to begin. I relish the opportunity to use Harvard’s premier media outlet to express my strong opinions about controversial topics that affect the very core of our University and even the world at large, like how chicken parmigiana should be served more often than biweekly. I love the power to stimulate intellectual debate over some of the world’s most perplexing issues. It fills my heart with glee when I overhear students arguing at breakfast over weighty questions that I bring up in my columns, like “If our noses run and our feet smell, are we built upside down?” (The answer, of course, is yes). Also, don’t even get me started on the pure rush of adrenaline and exhilaration that I feel when I get the freedom to publish certain racy words that you would think would be deemed too inappropriate for a formal Harvard publication. “Toilet.” “Ass.” “George Bush.” Too much? Sorry, my columns are designed to push the envelope.

By far the best part of being a Crimson columnist, though, is the reader comments that I receive. After each of my columns I get lots of feedback from loyal readers who like to express their feelings for my writing in a few basic forms: comments on, e-mails, blood-written notes left under my door, etc. I cherish each one of these personal messages. After all, connecting with my readers is my second most important goal as a columnist, just behind proving to my parents that I have another extracurricular other than video games. I love hearing what other people think about my columns—both the good and the bad. Plus, these reader messages are quick and easy for me to respond to. If someone compliments my writing, I’ll write back, “Thank you!” If someone complains about my writing, I’ll simply respond with the same phrase, but with the first word slightly altered.

I find that the most interesting comments that I receive from Crimson readers are the negative ones. Some people, for instance, are routinely offended that I don’t share a similar sense of humor with them. For instance, one person let me know, “The only things that I find comical about you’re columns is you’re complete butchery of proper grammar.” Some people try to be less obvious with their critical comments. Following a few positive reader comments that were posted online about an article that I wrote, someone chimed in with this message: “I couldn’t agree more with the three prior comments. You are soooo sexy, brilliant, hilarious, and awe-inspiring. Some would even say godlike.” Now unfortunately for this commentator, I am fluent in sarcasm. Some would even say my sarcasm skills are godlike. So once I accurately deciphered this witty remark for its true meaning, I immediately sought therapy to help remind me that, despite what this one person thinks, I am soooo sexy.

I also receive a lot of requests from my readers, asking that I write about certain topics that they suggest. The subject of today’s column, for instance, was suggested in the comments section of by a young man named Anonymous. I’m a little confused as to why he was so generous this time in proposing such a good topic to me, as usually Anonymous is one of my most outspoken critics. Another reader, “Jim from Lowell House,” sent me a request to write about the urinal in the Science Center bathroom that makes a real funny sound when you flush it. Jim, I can’t explain to you how relieved I am to find out that there is someone at Harvard other than me who also appreciates the hilarity of that particular urinal. But let’s be realistic here—my columns need to be around 900 words about relevant topics. There is no way that I could do that urinal justice with so few words.

So, Crimson readers, keep the questions, comments, and suggestions coming. I know that I, along with the other columnists, love hearing what you have to say. Positive feedback is great because it’s always nice to know that a few people besides our parents are actually reading our columns. Negative feedback is equally as important, as it helps us identify areas of our writing that we need to improve. I, for instance, need to improve on “not sucking”, according to “Sean from Kirkland House.” Also, feel free to challenge me. Last week a reader challenged me to write a column about colostrum. I would definitely be willing to write on such a hilarious topic if only I knew what the heck colostrum is. It sounds like it should be a nasal decongestant of some sort, and let me tell you, there is nothing funny about having a runny nose…unless your feet smell, too.

Eric A. Kester ’08 is an anthropology concentrator in Winthrop House. His column appears on alternate Fridays.