How to Complain on Your Blog Without Sounding Like a Spoiled White Girl

by Rachel on October 12, 2010 · 58 comments

When I was in college, living in my sorority house, I’d often hear my friends (or myself) complaining.

“I don’t know if I should bring a Theta Chi or a Delt Sig to Formal…and I still need to lose three pounds so I can fit into my BCBG dress!”

“I’m so torn between taking the internship at the White House and studying abroad in Rome!”

“I don’t know how I am going to get everything packed before I leave for Mexico on Spring Break! I’ve just been so busy with Greek Week…”

My response was always the same: “Our lives…are so hard.”

It was silly but to the point — it was my way of putting things in perspective and reminding us all to quit being ridiculous.

And seriously? I’d like to start leaving “Your life is so hard” as a comment on far too many blogs.

Do bloggers not realize that complaining about the one little problem in an otherwise awesome life — a life that many of their readers envy and would be perfectly happy to lead — is the fastest way to turn people off?

Have you ever read White Whine? If that is what your blog is starting to sound like, you have a problem on your hands.

Now, I’m not saying you can’t complain. I have a post on my blog today about my crap day on Monday. I’m a firm believer that we need to show people we’re not shiny, happy, and leading some sort of abnormally perfect existence. But I’m also a firm believer that all complaining must be done with a bit of thoughtfulness on our parts.

Here are some tips for doing it well.

1. Make sure your readers can relate to your problem. This is crucial. Car trouble? We’ve all been there and everyone knows how much that sucks. Stressed about your upcoming appearance on “Good Morning America”? Ummm…wow, your life is so hard. If you absolutely must complain about something like this, then you need to frame it in a way your readers can relate to — describe it as a work problem or talk about not feeling like you have enough time to do everything you want to do.

2. Whine with a purpose. If you’re going to post about a crappy day, do it with a purpose. What can your readers take away from this? Maybe it’s how working out made you feel better about getting dumped by your boyfriend. Maybe it’s a post about how you’re working at finding a new job.

Tweeting your complaints is the worst way to do it because, really, what is going to come of that? No good can be done in 140 characters. You’re just bitching because you want attention for your problems. It’s like masturbation; you’re only doing it to make yourself feel good. Let’s try to make your readers feel good once in a while too, shall we?

When you’re whining, just try to keep in mind, What is the moral of this story?

3. Don’t complain about blog-related responsibilities. This is where so many bloggers come across like spoiled brats. How do you feel when you hear celebrities complaining? Try to remember that yeah, the paparazzi sucks, but how bad do we really feel for reality-show celebs whining about photographers all up in their business? Starting a blog, like going on “Jersey Shore,” is pretty much saying, “Hey, public, put me in your eye!” So don’t complain about what happens once you’ve made it there.

Good complaining: “I saved up for a month and finally splurged on a pair of Lululemon yoga pants, only to spill hot chocolate on them the first time I wore them!”

Bad complaining: “I just bought three new pairs of Lululemon yoga pants because the ones I bought last month are starting to look a little faded. I was wearing one of the pairs at the skiing event that Healthy Cocoa Co. flew me to to write about and I spilled Healthy Cocoa Co’s cocoa all over them. I’m sooooooo pissed!”

Your. Life. Is. So. Hard.

Not complaining about blog-related responsibilities also means not complaining about comments. That means no complaining in your next post and no complaining on Twitter. (Seriously — go read up on passive-aggressive tweeting.) You put yourself out there, and that means getting criticized from time to time. But posting about how your commenters made you cry isn’t going to win you any fans.

Also, don’t open every post with a complaint in the form of “Sorry I’ve been MIA!” followed by a long list of your responsibilities. Oh, I’m so glad you’re back — I can now end my hunger strike! Seriously…shhhhhh. Just move on. If every week it’s the same (“So busy!”), it gets old. We’re all busy, but no one is forcing us to blog. So unless you’re doing a post about improving one’s poor time management skills, just don’t bother.

4. Apply the “white girl problems” litmus test. Before you think about posting your complaint, take a step back and ask yourself, “Is this a white girl problem?”

“I had to get up at the crack of dawn this morning to get my blood drawn and was super cranky because I had to fast first and then had nothing healthy to make for breakfast!” Normal person problem.

“Whole Foods was all out of organic raw almond butter so I had to drive all the way across town to get it at the other Whole Foods!” White girl problem.

“I really wanted to go to spin class today but all the bikes were taken so I had to do the elliptical instead. BUMMER.” Normal person problem.

“I really wanted to go to Equinox at 5 AM today, but they don’t open until 6 AM, so I had to stay home and work out in my amazing home gym that a company gave me for free!” Wow, are you a Kennedy or something?

5. If you must whine, take the Vogue approach. Does Vogue apologize for calling a $10,000 handbag a “must have”? No, they don’t. They just write to a very specific audience and make that very clear to anyone reading the magazine. You know how I feel about owning it, so I say, if you want to whine about your seriously hard life as a blogger, do it — but you absolutely must own it. The more clear you make it that you write for privileged, spoiled white girls, the more people are going to come to expect that from you, and they can decide whether or not to keep reading. I mean, the fact is, Vogue has hundreds of thousands of devoted followers. You are better off being true to yourself and losing readers for it than pretending to be just like everyone else when you’re leading a life the majority of your everyday readers can’t relate to.

The bottom line is, even on our worst days, we are a blessed bunch. We have access to good nutritious food — even if it’s not always organic — and to the running sneakers — even old worn-out ones — that allow us to run so many 5Ks. We are literate, we are educated, we believe in good health, and we have our own shiny computers where we can share this with the world — and this makes us better off than so many people out there. It’s OK to have crappy days and be annoyed, but don’t forget to be grateful for the wonderful opportunities you’ve been given.


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{ 46 comments }

Dori October 12, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Funny and true. I’ve been guilty of the “sorry I’ve been MIA” shtick but that was long ago and I have since matured. I see a lot of what you are saying in the blogworld and it does irritate and upset me sometimes. Great advice!
Dori´s last post ..Half Marathon Playlist-Share Your Running Songs

Liz October 12, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Another great post!

Julie @ Peanut Butter Fingers October 12, 2010 at 8:39 pm

amen, sista! i’ve wanted to shake my computer screen after reading some blog posts where the author complains about problems i would LOVE to have… i.e. working from home (i.e. blogging for a living) and juggling lots of freelance writing projects. i totally get that these projects can be overwhelming, but i must admit that i’ve rolled my eyes a time or two (or 20) when i’ve read complaints of that nature.
Julie @ Peanut Butter Fingers´s last post ..Tomboy

FoodCents October 12, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Great post, so many great points that resonated strongly.

It is irksome when a blogger Tweets about a negative comment,, in a whiney manner. You blog in a public forum -> you will get negative comments – welcome to the real world. Is it cool? No, not so much? Could someone perhaps go about it in a more tactful manner? Perhaps. However, the world isn’t all puppies & vintage wine.

When I see bloggers either tweeting or blogging about having “the worst day EVER”, I am often times baffled. Time & time again one is having “the worst day EVER” – for real? Shitty days happen, we all have them. There is a HUGE difference between “worst day EVER” and one rather crappy day.

betsy October 12, 2010 at 8:46 pm

This is a great post. I see so many complaints daily on blogs and by people that I am friends with that it makes me sad.

There are people in the world without running water and food and medicine – get over the fact that the mayo was left on your sandwich or you had a wait an extra few minutes at a table at a restaurant on a Saturday night. C’mon people, the shit you complain about is so not the end of the world.

Angela @ A Healthy Fit October 12, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Love this post! The passive agressive tweets have been out of control. We can all gripe and whine a bit, but sometimes I want to play my little mini violin and ask these bloggers if they want some whine with their cheese.
Angela @ A Healthy Fit´s last post ..Insomnia

Katie October 12, 2010 at 9:02 pm

“the world isn’t all puppies & vintage wine”…. but oh Dottie, what a world that would be! I’ve definitely read blogs and wanted to tell them to shut the eff up but I’ve also read blogs and thought how lucky I am to have my health, family, etc!
PS- The things people bitch about on facebook realllly get to me.

Kendra October 12, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I once had a friend who had the most charming way of complaining about everything. Like, we all knew that there was no sincerity in the complaint but it was always so funny that no once called her out on it. Most people, however do not have this gift.

I’ve had to catch myself today because I have to (ahem… get to) go to this event for the Opera but I’m tired. How much more of a white whine can you get?
Kendra´s last post ..2566lbs- 36lbs Lost This Week- 394lbs Lost Total

Lisa October 12, 2010 at 9:09 pm

This made me laugh. I’ve stopped reading a lot of blogs because of “white girl whining” (thank god it now has a name! lol). Then I thought, “I sure hope I haven’t done any of these sins!
Lisa´s last post ..I’ll Take a Case of Wine Please

Anna October 12, 2010 at 9:11 pm

AMEN. This ground my gears especially when I was studying abroad in Nairobi and checking up on blogs from time to time. What with all the intense poverty surrounding me every day, I found it reaaaaaal hard to sympathize with some bloggers’ plights. Ain’t nothing like white first-world privilege.

Regarding twitter, I’ve been making to conscious effort to stop myself whenever I feel tempted to rant to complain on twitter. Not what it’s for. Email your mom that shiz, don’t blab it to the world.

MelissaNibbles October 12, 2010 at 9:16 pm

I was going to write this exact same thing. I’ll just pump my fist behind you.
MelissaNibbles´s last post ..October Beer Summit – CBS Scene

MelissaNibbles October 12, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Woops! I meant my last comment to be in reply to PBFingers. What she said!
MelissaNibbles´s last post ..October Beer Summit – CBS Scene

Kaytee October 12, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Lately I have been sending my friends this comic (http://www.nataliedee.com/092710/) when they start to seem a little white-whiney in a public setting. Sums it up quite well.

Laura Georgina October 12, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! One thing is having these problems and keeping them to yourself; but putting them out there for all to see casts them in an entirely different (and quite self-absorbed) life.

I’m 100% with Anna on white first-world privilege. I’m lucky to find crunchy AND smooth peanut butter, much less half the other stuff I see on blogs. Sorry your gym doesn’t provide pumpkin-scented soap; I’m lucky to have regular running water to shower in after a run.

I’m not jealous of what others have, but it leaves me wondering whether some bloggers know how fortunate they are–and whether they realize that 75% or more of the rest of the world is NOT like that. So a call to perspective is totally overdue.
Laura Georgina´s last post ..Half-Marathoning It- Week 7 Update

Rachael October 12, 2010 at 9:34 pm

In regards to passive aggressive tweeting, I think I would look like total bullshit if I pulled that “oh my life sucks so bad because I have a hangnail” type shit all the time. Here’s the thing about me and twitter: I like to make my life seem decently perfect. Not so much faking it, but I don’t think anyone really needs to know that I had my hands in human feces (hospital worker.) or that my husband has a hairy butt crack. I’d rather glaze over that fun stuff and post pictures of the perfect soup I’m consuming or tweet about the amazing nail polish I just discovered, or often I just like to say funny shit that makes people laugh. No need to drag the world down with me (assuming the world follows my tweets … muhahaha, one day.) whilst simultaneously making my life look like the ass-hat it really is. People would catch on REAL quick.
Rachael´s last post ..Little Autumn Induced Orgasms

Dori October 12, 2010 at 9:39 pm
Rachael October 12, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I tweeted that cartoon just, it’s GOLD.
Rachael´s last post ..Little Autumn Induced Orgasms

Aj October 12, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Literal LOL. Mom QueerVeganRunner calls these P.O.R. or “problems of the rich.”

I am definitely guilty of the “ack two jobs while trying to spend time with my partner and maintain a healthy lifestyle” complaints when I recognize that having even one job in this economy and having a relationship and my health are all gifts that I have done little except being born into a certain SES to obtain. But I HOPE I do it in a way that is helpful to readers who are struggling to balance things in their lives.

Excuse me, there’s a smudge on my Gucci shoes, I have to go take care of that.
Aj´s last post ..Monday Fun Day- Required Reading

Aj October 12, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Sorry have to add, in my defense of recent tweets…I do think getting invited to an LA awards show and having absolutely no idea what to wear, let alone owning anything remotely appropriate, is totally worthy of massive “woe is me” and mass emails to any and all blends. :)
Aj´s last post ..Monday Fun Day- Required Reading

zenlizzie October 12, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Love this. I should probably have this whole post tattooed somewhere on my body so I can remind myself to can it whenever I’m feeling whiney.
And honestly, I’ve always been whiney, and for better or for worse that is kind of my “voice.” I try to edit my whiney/negative posts the most because I want to be as “not annoying” as possible. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.
Being in school for public health has made me think a lot about privilege and disparities. I, and most health bloggers, are privileged. Not only do we have those sneakers, but we usually have a safe place to wear them. We have enough time to spend working out or planning healthy meals. We usually have access to health care if we injure ourselves. We aren’t forced to live off food from gas stations or the dollar store.
Everyone’s problems matter, but it is good to keep perspective.

marie @quarterlifequandary October 12, 2010 at 10:04 pm

once again, I freaking love your posts. girl crush. majorly.

jamie @ mysocialperspective.wordpress.com October 12, 2010 at 10:11 pm

I’ve never commented on your blog before, but I totally agree. I wrote about “hellish commute” and my negative attitude on my blog this morning and questioned whether I should hit delete or not. However, since I just started blogging (ive been reading for a while) I decided that it would be okay! I want people to know my life is far from perfect and that I, like everyone else am a work in progress!

Jasmine @ Eat Move Write October 12, 2010 at 10:16 pm

The white girl thing is… God, it’s just so awesome. My husband will die laughing when he reads this. He tells me all the time to quit being a white girl lol.
Jasmine @ Eat Move Write´s last post ..This is What it Looks Like Part II

Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul October 12, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Laughing my butt off while nodding in complete agreement. Such good reminder to be grateful for what we have and to keep the whining about what we don’t to ourselves. Or better yet – we can work on being grateful for what we don’t have because it teaches us incredible humility and all sorts of other lessons that having it would not. I’m have avoided complaining on my own site about having to decide between various job offers right now (which is admittedly tough in terms of making career and location decisions) because… c’mon, there are millions of people who would like ONE offer. Thanks for the reminder.

Bess October 12, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I’m definitely guilty of speaking in extremes/using exclamation points a lot(my best friend since age 5 calls me “Ludi” when I am being ludicrous) but everybody that knows me well grasps that I have a very good sense of perspective. This does remind me though that on the blogosphere and on Twitter I should be more cognizant of how I come off to others who don’t know me well.
Bess´s last post ..Finally Perfected The Frosting For My Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Cake!!

Elizabeth October 12, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Your posts are soo funny!

I literally thought you had dropped into one of my conversations in college at my sorority house. So true! I seriously hope I’m not too guily of still complaining like that, but I guess it’s something most of us need to work on.

Hangry Pants October 12, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Can I complain when I throw my brand new Lululemon sports bra (first purchase there ever) into the dirty towel bin at the gym and don’t realize it for several hours?

Anyway, I what troubles me more than the complains (which are annoying) is that no one seems to mind, but rather sympathize with the complaint. What? This is why I can’t stand the acronym FML. If you have fingers and access to something to type those letters, your life is not that bad.

caronae October 12, 2010 at 11:52 pm

Okay, I have to admit, the white girl litmus test just made me laugh out loud — especially your examples of normal problems vs. white girl problems. The almond butter one is too true.

Rachel Wilkerson October 12, 2010 at 11:54 pm

@Hangry Pants — Seriously, the whole “no one seems to mind” thing seems to be the biggest problem with the blog world! There’s such fear of being seen as critical, so while we may be annoyed or disgusted, we don’t say a thing. And honestly, I don’t think that fear is unfounded. If I told you to get over yourself and your Lululemon sports bra (which I wouldn’t, because that totally sucks), I’m sure a bunch of other commenters would accuse me of being jealous that I’m too poor to buy one. Calling people out for their behavior is quite often not worth the shitstorm it brings with it.
Rachel Wilkerson´s last post ..Lessons 32 &amp 33- On Being Good at Bad Days

Lindsey @ SoundEats October 13, 2010 at 12:34 am

When I want to complain, I try to remind myself that most of where I am and what happens to me is a direct consequence of my choices. i.e. Yes I’m busy, INSANELY so, and sometimes it stresses me out. But truthfully this is what I WANT and what I CHOSE. I chose to go back to school for nearly five more years to become a R.D. with a Masters. I chose to not take out loans and to work. I chose to work at lululemon (and LOVE IT!). I chose to blog. I chose to start HLB. I choose it all, and in my opinion, those choices make me forfeit the choice to complain.

Yes, some things suck. (i.e. certain contests to go to certain festivals in certain cities that were certainly rigged…) but whatever. Get pissed off about it, move on. :)

Also – I love you guys, I love you Rachel, but why does it have to be a “white girl problem”? I have heard plenty of men and women of all ethnicities complaining and whining over petty, selfish, righteous, bitchy little problems. Just sayin’. :)
Lindsey @ SoundEats´s last post ..Simple Seasonal Salad

chelsey @ clean eating chelsey October 13, 2010 at 1:40 am

You’re totally right about the complaining – I find myself finding the big red X whenever I see multiple posts of the same old complaints!
chelsey @ clean eating chelsey´s last post ..fall balls for all!

Tiffany @ Simply Shaka October 13, 2010 at 2:01 am

As a sorority girl, I love this.

I like to keep things pretty light hearted on my blog b/c I am a believer in you are what you project but I gripe about dumb things sometimes and it’s all about venting for me. Every one in a while, I will comlain about something major (like my recent post about straying away from a healthy life style) but we all have that right. I hate the whole FML thing going on and how people complain about such trivial things. “I’m stuck in traffic, FML”. Really? Thats the biggest problem going on in your life? Suck my nuts if that’s true.

I cannot stand when bloggers do #3. Cannot. Frickin. Stand. It.
Tiffany @ Simply Shaka´s last post ..All Over The Place

Jackie (Peaces of Earth) October 13, 2010 at 3:24 am

HAHA! “What are you a Kennedy or something?” Wow, literal LOL. This is so true, though. I cannot handle complaining in general, let alone on blogs about something ridiculous. Of course, some complaints are founded and we all gotta let it out every now and again, but like you said, there are ways to do it and ways to make everyone run in the other direction.

Katie (Sweet Tater) October 13, 2010 at 3:55 am

i agree that complaints are obnoxious. after all, at the moment i’m watching 33 men being pulled out of the earth after being stuck down there for 69 days. there are many, many worse places to be than here in my cozy little life. and yet… i still complain. i think it’s normal. especially in this narcissistic digital world. but i’ve gotten pretty good at catching myself.

to be entirely too candid, i stopped saying “i want to kill myself” when someone close to me actually did. and i stopped (or catch myself at least) saying “this is the worst day everrrr” after watching an oprah where women talked about their children dying unthinkable deaths in front of their eyes and not being able to do anything to stop it. that is the worst day ever… not the day i overslept.

i’m a privileged white girl. i know this (even though i’ve been asked multiple times if i’m just a liiiittle bit black. truth. i am not. but that would be awesome.). i am trying to make sure i use my privileged white girl powers for good rather than evil. i make fun of myself, and i wish more people could do that. this is a stereotype, but we all know stereotypes are based juuuust a little bit on reality. (we all know this, right?) so suck it up and own it.

anyone who reads “stuff white people like” knows that white people like to be offended. so here comes a privileged white girl complaint about being offended that is probably going to get me straight up attacked… i kiiiind of wish we could let up off the race issue because i truly feel like i can’t even say “black” without people scowling at me. like, it’ll probably happen right now… i’m just saying. i know plenty of privileged black girls that complain. indian girls, latinas… hell, men, too.

so i’m cool with a post hating on unnecessary complaining. let’s just accept that fact that EVERYONE does it. everyone.

JL goes Vegan October 13, 2010 at 10:29 am

I’m laughing so hard! Great advice (by the way, found this blog after the “Marie Claire” incident. Enjoying this blog very much!

Lia October 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Totally agree, but I’m also with Lindsey. Calling it a “white girl problem” is really only taking advantage of a stereotype to give your lesson a catchy name that is funny only because of that stereotype. Sure, we are all enlightened enough to accept it to some extent as “funny ‘cuz it’s kind of true,” but it still seems like a cheap shot that, in these modern times, does not always apply. I eagerly await the day when it will be viewed as a “privileged middle-class suburbanite problem”…but I guess that’s not catchy enough, culturally or rhetorically…

Lori October 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm

GAH someone said it. Katie and Lia and Lindsey.

Funny? Yes. True? Yes. Am I tired of the race card, even in humor? It’s getting there.

Gracie October 13, 2010 at 5:01 pm

No longer seeing “FML” statuses is one of the top 5 best things that has come out of deleting my personal Facebook account. Hands down.
Gracie´s last post ..fashion myths debunked – part 2

Jess-The Semi Abnormal Gal October 14, 2010 at 2:08 am

I refuse to use FML….I try to turn any crazy unexpected mishap into a LML moment- that’s Love My Life! Cause face it, just like Rachel said, we all have a great deal to love in our lives!

Courtney (Pancakes & Postcards) October 14, 2010 at 2:28 pm

“If this is the worst thing that happens to you today, you are very lucky.”

That is my mantra whenever I have a white-girl problem. Puts my ridiculously hard life in perspective.
Courtney (Pancakes & Postcards)´s last post ..TIA- Home Improvement

Caitlin October 15, 2010 at 4:39 am

Love. Everything about this. Truth, truth, truth.
Caitlin´s last post ..Infomercial A-Go-Go

Devon (Run Sleep Rinse Repeat) October 15, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I absolutely love the title of this post. Hysterical!

I often give my problems the “White Girl Litmus Test” before complaining about them in all aspects of my life. Love it!

FoodCents October 19, 2010 at 1:13 pm

The FB bitchin’ sure is in a class of its own. If I see “FML” one more time, a puppy is getting taken hostage…

FoodCents October 19, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Heather, I remember the incident with the sports bra. I think this is an example of how you can vent when something crappy happens, but not make it out to be the “worst day EVER” sort of thang’.

Bo November 12, 2010 at 1:54 am

Brilliant post…well done! :)
Bo´s last post ..Life is real and it’s starting to freak me out

Nikenya June 19, 2012 at 5:50 am

The bottom line is, even on our worst days, we are a blessed bunch. We have access to good nutritious food — even if it’s not always organic ,that’s true, we are blessed in one way or another, we are alive but still we coplain over smaller smaller staff. let us grorify our Almight Father first before anthing.

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