I was in my mid-20's the first time I received an anonymous letter. I remember the moment clearly. My mood matched the weather that day. Clear skies and sunny. I was happily sitting at my cubicle desk, sorting through junk mail, work mail and "fan mail." After years of working behind the scenes in television as a producer, I landed one of my first big jobs in front of the camera as a talk show host. It was a dream job. I was a couple of months into my new gig and still getting used to the many opinions of viewers. Some liked me. Some didn't. But as my father always told me, "Andrea, if there's one thing you can take to the bank, it's that not every one is going to like you. There are plenty of people who probably think I'm a jerk. But I just say, to hell with 'em." My father is actually one of the most likable people I know. And his views on people and the world are often right. So I accepted this fact... not every one was going to like me. But back to that anonymous letter. It came in a cream envelope without a return address. My name and work address were typed on the front. I opened the letter with a sense that it was from a viewer of my show. "Dear Andrea..." it began in typed print. I continued reading. As I stared at this letter from a nameless, faceless writer, my heart started to beat faster and I'm certain that my face looked horrified. I recall that the writer accused me of "sleeping my way into my current position" and that every time they saw me "they would be laughing at me behind my back." The anonymously written letter was short. It was mean. It was hurtful. It was violating. And it was completely and utterly FALSE! I immediately walked over to the office of my employer’s human resources manager. I showed her the letter with anger and tears in my eyes. She shook her head as she read the letter. And then she looked me in the eyes. With a sensitive yet certain tone, she told me that what just happened to me was wrong and a violation of my integrity. She told me that I should not give another thought to this cruel person's words. And she assured me of what I already knew... I EARNED my job because of my talents. Any other false accusations should be immediately dismissed, she told me. That was the last time I ever spoke of that letter written by some anonymous whack job.
Yes, I said it. That person was a whack job. Why should they be described as anything better than a slang term? Anyone who takes the time to write a mean-spirited letter, making untrue accusation or falsehoods and who doesn't have the guts to own their words with a signature is crazy! I was a young woman starting a new professional adventure. I was eager to learn. I was making my own way. I was trying to build a reputation as a smart and talented broadcaster. And then one letter, comprised of four or five sentences, completely deflated me. But then I remembered my father's words... "To hell with 'em." I knew my own truths. I knew that I won my position fairly. And somewhere inside, I knew that anyone who wrote an anonymous letter was a coward. And by definition, a coward is either 1. a person who lacks the courage to endure dangerous or unpleasant things, or 2. (an animal) depicted with a tail between its hind legs. No one wants to be a coward.
As I progressed in my professional career, my anonymous letter was forgotten and tossed out to decompose in a landfill somewhere in Ohio. But as I became a successful woman, I started having insightful conversations with other successful people. It turns out, anonymous letters are not solely for broadcast professionals. Anonymous letters are more common than I thought. Some anonymous letters seem to be sent from neighbor to neighbor. While others are guessed to be written by an employee to a fellow employee. But all hurtful, anonymous letters are written by a coward to their target. As I heard the stories of these strange letters, they were all laced with false accusations, mean-spirited words and signed by... no one. I think this anonymous group of cowardly people make up a small percentage of the population. Sure, some people gossip behind the backs of others. And some are even two-faced. But the small few who actually take the time to write a letter, look up an address, buy a stamp, drive to the post office and drop an anonymous note in the mail with the intent to upset or destroy the receiver are flat out mentally disturbed people. Those people can't be helped through this story. But, if this happens to you, consider the source of your letter: nameless, faceless and cowardly. And then consider the simple words of my wise father: "to hell with 'em." People who write anonymous letters are whack jobs. I'll sign my name to those words.
The Anonymous Letter Playlist: