Shouts And Mallomars

Bonnie Bernstein

bonnie bernstein

bonnie bernstein
New York, New York,
November 02
Starving Writer
Quirky, Edgy Authoress, Phanatically Baseball Lite. Writing the great American smutty memoir. Bonnie's words can be found in places like TheFix, YourTango, Modern Love Rejects, Salon, Petside, Babble, Perils of Divorced Pauline, Newsday and NYResident. Lisa Belkin wrote about Bonnie in Motherlode and Anderson Cooper interviewed her. Follow Bonnie on Twitter: bonnieb_writer


JANUARY 21, 2014 8:47PM

My Facebook Bully Called Me A Panhandler

Rate: 5 Flag

A Facebook friend accused me of panhandling because I kept reposting my plea seeking financial help for my sick dog. Upset at the accusation from a man I had an interest in, I couldn’t stop staring at his words. The paragraph became a humiliating mess in front of me for all my over 1,000 Facebook friends to see.

And then I, a divorced mother, became upset at myself for being the panhandler. Yes, I admit it. A panhandler for the life of my love, a chihuahua mix named Ferrell. But still a panhandler. I conjured up horrid visions of me cleaning car windows by the FDR for nickels and dimes. I imagined myself spanging in front of Port Authority for spare quarters. And wanting to throw up, I hated myself even more.

I forgot the time it took to write the 1,000 word essay about what I felt was a hopeless situation, trying to pay the devastating vet bills on my own. As I heard the word panhandler repeat itself in a masculine voice in my brain, I didn’t think about the many hours of tearful writing it took to produce a piece I wish I never had to write.

And I thought about how I was a beggar who did not deserve the pet I was fighting for. An abused and abandoned dog my son rescued off of a Brooklyn beach. Ferrell only deserved the best and was just getting me, a woman alone, a writer who barely collects a paycheck while working hard to get that big break.

This dog has been with me for six and a half years. I fed him, walked him, adored him and yes slept with him. When he was sick, I got him the best medical care I could try to afford. Except this time, my guy’s illness became catastrophic. Vomiting, extreme thirst, seizures. Medical terms were being thrown at me, hypocalcemia, hyperparathyroid, steroid usage, an absorption problem. The list is actually longer. The doctors have said they’ve never seen anything like this before.

What was I to do? Tell myself, “you don't get the pet or anything else you can't afford,” as my now former Facebook friend cyber yelled. The dog was here, is here. All ten pounds of him, down from his husky sixteen. I did the best I could do for this beautiful boy. And I was not going to let him down. I was not going to let him die. I was not going to kick myself because even with my horrible finances I took in a living being who has been so good to me after he lived on the streets being kicked around by the world.

That Facebook friend said to me for all the world to see, “I am beyond offended and everyone I asked or showed your posts to, were as offended or much worse.” I felt like my underwear was being passed around. This was the same man who would kid me for having the same name as a famous person, and who went along with my silly musings about Chris Christie. Facebook friend had unfriended me before I got a chance to cyber dump him.

In that paragraph, this man continued railing against me by saying, “Funding sites were NEVER intended to be used for people who couldn't pay their bills.” I wanted to crawl up and hide, seeing myself as an evil, selfish, thieving woman. But what was I supposed to do? Watch Ferrell be miserable when I knew he could be saved?

Facebook friend told me I was “cyber panhandling.” He suggested that I should “stand out on a street corner.” And you know what, if I had the talents to stand on the street corner for my dog’s well being I would do it in a minute. I would stand out on a cold dark city sidewalk dressed in whatever is needed if that meant paying the bill to save the life of my love, my Ferrell.

Yes I panhandled. I panhandled my words. I panhandled an essay I wrote on I did that instead of begging an editor to take the piece and pay me what I needed. Is there really any difference between the two?

It was my choice to put on my Facebook page whatever I wanted. Of course I hoped everyone would read the essay that took many hours to write, and financially contribute. The vet bills are staggering. Whether I collect a paycheck or not, I would need help financially. But I can’t blame people who did not contribute. It’s hard these days, even giving five dollars can be a hardship as that buys a day’s worth of food for one person. So it was the choice of my Facebook friends to decide if they wanted to read my words or walk by me.

It was heartening when a couple of my friends came to my defense. I pumped my fist when one said, “ Congrats xxxxx, you've won the worst human being on the face of the Earth award.” Another seconded the thought, and from my one room apartment, I screamed out, “Yes!”

And another accused him of cyber bullying when she wrote, “xxxxx, I showed your comment to some of the people I work with and they are all offended (and we don't even know you!).” She questioned his manners and told him to “get lost!” She made me smile, and I thank her for those words.

There were many generous people who came through for the love of a living being, who by the way looks like he will recover. They all gave beyond their means, whether it was five bucks or $500 or shares or encouragement. I thank all my friends for the support. And I hope one day to pay it forward.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
First, I'm so sorry about your pet. As an owner of 3.5 cats and 2 dogs, I do understand. However, I would like to point out something for you to think about.

You deride your guy FB friend for acting in an uncharacteristically-uncool manner. Did you ever ask yourself if there's something going on in his life that makes his words seem insensitive to you?

Afterall, we're all prone to acting "uncharacteristically" in times of depression or desperation. You, yourself, suggest "taking it to the streets" if you needed to. That's pretty extreme, don't you think? And it's based on you feeling desperate. Maybe something's going on with your FB friend as well.

I have no doubt that you love your pet and you've provided for him the best that you can for many years. However, there comes a time when nature conspires against our personal wishes as pet owners for our friend to continue on with us in life.

I think you need to pay attention to the hand that nature has dealt Ferrell and act (or not act) accordingly. Perhaps it's nature's way of saying let this suffering one find rest so that you can maybe rescue another.

Peace to you and Ferrell.
While Joisey may have a point, and a lot of compassion, I think it's misplaced on this occasion. Your FB 'friend' was way out of line, regardless of whatever crap he may (or may not!) have been dealing with. It behooves us not to take our crap out on other people, esp. when those other people have put out their vulnerabilities, needs and pain for all the world to see.

One thing J said indirectly tho is worth trying to take to heart, despite your entirely appropriate indignation and hurt: You Are Not The Target. That was the name of a book written by Aldous Huxley's widow, and you don't need to read the book since the title says it all. Hard tho it may be, try not to take it personally......and even (some time in the future) be grateful that your interest in this man hadn't progressed to a *relationship* or something. He's not anyone to be involved with, even on FB.
Oh, this is tough! On all sides. Your poor dog and the suffering he's going through, the anxiety of how freaking expensive vet care can be, someone rages all over your efforts, plus he was someone you were interested in! So sorry you've had so much stress going on.

I've lost two pets who had such issues that their 'saving' would have been multi-thousands of dollars I didn't have. There was no then, but I'm not sure it would have occurred to me to use it for that if it had existed...we had to let go and put the pets down before they suffered any longer. I was also raised to 'lend, not borrow' (something I have *not* followed always, yet try to). I only add that part as point of possible understanding of someone else, not in judgment of you by any means - I hope my words are coming out correctly! Just only mean to say, that is a rigid rule for many, not borrowing, not floating your own boat entirely, come what may. A too rigid, crippling rule, possibly.

Maybe - clearly - this person has a similar rule, but that he judged anyone else at all, much less so harshly and in public - a supposed friend! - that he didn't just shut up and keep that to himself, that he chose to lash out at you, is just so, so wrong (and since you said you were interested in this person before, just maybe you got lucky here, and dodged a possibly really awful future relationship).

I am so sorry that happened to you.

I do hope you get lots more support, emotional and financial, from your friends - and I also hope your pet fully recovers to keep you company for many years going forward.
Normally, I would agree that the FB guy friend(?) would be outta line entirely if his action/words occurred during the first posting of your GoFundMe plea.

But it appears (in your own words) that you have reposted it (several? many?) times on Facebook. I'm not on Facebook, so I apologize if I'm missing something basic but it appears that your audience (FB friends?) may be getting the feeling that you're accusing them, in a backhanded way, of not supporting you enough.

With that in mind, maybe the FB-guy was speaking not only on behalf of himself, but the collective audience with "enough already! We can read, and did read your appeal the first time! Your constant bombardment appealing to our charitable hearts is burdensome."

Being a guy, he most likely framed it as a more rational flame ("panhandling", "not the intent or spirit of GoFundMe", etc.) but may have been asking/telling you to spare your friends continued reposting.

Sometimes a true friend needs to let a person know that they're out of line.
Holy hell. So I guess since he's a former FB friend, I'm within my rights to call him an asshole? Because he is. What exactly DOES he think the site is for? He says it's not for people who can't pay their bills. To me that signifies shit we have to pay monthly - rent, cable (if you're fancy), phone, electric, water, etc. A vet bill, however, isn't a monthly thing (God willing). It's something that pops up out of nowhere, rearing its ugly head and robbing us of our sleep because our worlds as family members to our animals are being turned upside down, and this piece of paper with numbers on it is our ticket to possibly, hopefully, getting our little interspecial friends back up to snuff. Screw that guy. You keep doing what you're doing, Bonnie.
People push things on FB all the time: political opinions, social causes, their books and magazine articles, religious affiliations, etc. If one of those bothers me, I simply ignore it. Which is what your former friend should have done (or if he wanted to criticize you, he could have done it privately). Having seen the FB thread in question, he definitely came off as an obnoxious bully, and you're better off rid of him.
Oh, and isn't it annoying when people sympathize with the bully ("maybe he was just having a bad day")