Dealing with Online Criticism of that “Bald, Ugly, Old” Man: Me


You probably haven’t read anything quite like this before.

I received a comment to my blog post entitled Beautiful and Smart, But Unlucky in Love: The Reasons Why from someone named Brenda. Here is the comment in full:

You seem to really dwell on the part where women get older and lose their looks. I could even sense some anger or revenge in your words. I then realized that the bald ugly old picture of a man at the top of the article was a picture of you. Then it all made sense. I would never take any advise [advice] or criticism from an disgustingly ugly human being like yourself who claims to be a professional.

Anyway, spelling problems and missing commas aside, pretty strong words. As you might have noticed on the page that contains this post, I have had over 500,000 views of my blog, but never anything like this in response to it. Not even close. So you might wonder, how does one deal with criticism such as this?

First, although I have Brenda’s full name and email address, I have done her the favor of not posting her comment and making her a target of others. My guess is that she might possibly not be a happy soul. Anyway, most of us have enough crap in our lives without starting an email war.

I’m able to adopt this stance, in part, because I don’t take what she said too personally. Let’s look at her attack. She said that I am “bald ugly old” and that I am “a man.” It seems to me that she is right on at least three out of four! I am clearly bald and have even written a humorous blog post about that condition: Bald is Beautiful: Reflections on Hairlessness. I am also undeniably old and I am a man. On the question of ugly, I do not believe that I am Brad Pitt, but I’ll let you, dear reader, determine if I am ugly for a man of my antique age.

Not Gerald M. Stein

Not Gerald M. Stein

One of the things about beauty, in men or women, is that age tends not to improve outward physical things. Think about Robert Redford. He is now long past his heart-throb years — a man who once made women swoon. But I digress. So, yes, it is true I am not a stud-muffin. But, neither am I particularly vain, so Brenda’s remaining point — that I am ugly — isn’t a big concern either way.

Oh, but she added I am a “disgustingly ugly human being.” Has Brenda been talking with my neighbors? Seriously, her words here are so “over the line” that I think she discredits herself and reduces the strength of her entire diatribe against me.

In short, my response to this person is that it is difficult for me to take what she is saying to heart. Yes, it is intended to cause personal injury, but she doesn’t know me and she seems to have a “bee in her bonnet” for reasons I can’t possibly know, since I don’t know her either. Were someone to take issue with my posts in a more reasonable, less ad hominem fashion, then I would have to give their concerns more thought. And, if someone close to me whom I respected had criticisms, then I would definitely consider them seriously, at least to some degree.

Another helpful way to respond to Brenda is to take a rather “Zen” approach to her, using an insight from Buddhist teachings (although I’m not Buddhist). That is, to look at what I might learn from her or to find some way in which she has actually done me a service. For example, if you ever find yourself stuck in a slow-moving line of traffic, you might realize its slowness actually gives you a chance to practice being patient. Looking for “the good” tends to make you feel better than sitting and fuming.

Just so, it is pretty easy to frame what Brenda has written as something useful to me. No, I’m not at the cosmetic surgeon’s office as I write this, now that I am aware of Brenda’s delicately delivered assessment of my appearance. But, she has done me, and perhaps you, one favor.

She gave me the idea for this blog post.

The top image as called a Cartoon of a Man with No Hair and No Real Face by Catboi. The image of Brad Pitt is by Chris_Natt. Both are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

25 thoughts on “Dealing with Online Criticism of that “Bald, Ugly, Old” Man: Me

  1. Dr. Stein, if you need someone young and handsome to help on your blog, you can count on … oops, I just checked the mirror — never mind!


  2. LOL! Truly a humorous zinger is worth any damage your ego suffered! Let’s look at the big picture! (Still smiling here.)

    Reminds me a couple years ago when a middle-aged woman called this middle-aged gay man, “faggot” in anger. All I said back to her was, “You think that bothers me at my age?”

    So also as a bald man, I will say it’s highly underrated. I can be in and out of the shower in less than 7 minutes, including shaving!


    Thanks for the Sunday smiles (and Sunday Zen and vocabulary lessons — I had to look up what “ad hominem” meant). 🙂

    Harry Martin


  3. There is something about comment sections that brings out the ugliest parts of people (a large number of people, anyway). I don’t know why that is, but it is.

    Also, regarding you “dwelling” on women getting older and losing their looks — I couldn’t even find what she was talking about on a skim of the article (I read it in full, when it came out, and I don’t remember that it jumped out then, either). I had to do a search on the page to find the word “older”. If that hit her so hard, well, she’s giving away more about herself than she realizes….


  4. I’m glad you found the “dwelling” comment as puzzling as I did. Of course, men lose their looks too, but people seem to care less. Another example of life’s unfairness. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.


  5. Hi Dr. Stein,

    Since I am no writer by any means, I am sending this response privately. My own lack of commas and other grammatical errors hinders me from articulation myself in the way I would like. Please bare with me.

    I worked at UCLA for many long years and during that time, I worked closely with the Public Policy Department and was privy to their studies of Online dating, friendships, bullying, angry debates, etc. One thing I learned during the early years of the worldwide web and AOL Chat rooms was that the reason people “connected” so well with some complete strangers or lashed out at others is that the only spin you can put on the words of someone who’s voice you have never heard is your own.

    The men and women who left their significant others for people they met online thinking that the other person could read their very minds and see into their souls only to discover upon meeting that person “in person” they didn’t know them at all and things fell apart quickly. When you read another persons words with your own tone of voice, trust, inflection, etc., you think my goodness! this person is just like me! They know me so well. This person is my soul mate.

    I think you are right in that Brenda is an unhappy person and when you look at her response as her putting her own spin on your words, she probably is feeling rejected by men, misunderstood and defensive. She has never heard your voice, tone or inflection, so she has to use her own.

    I wish I could express my meaning better. Hopefully this is making sense to you.

    I have never heard you speak either, but I guess my own spin is that you are observational of human behavior and when you write, you do so in a thoughtful way with Introspection and self examination before you put pen to paper.

    I say to you, thank you for taking the time to write about some very interesting subjects, studying their meaning and sharing your thoughts with us.

    I say to Brenda, if you don’t like it, lump it.


    On Sat, Nov 16, 2013 at 12:23 PM, Dr. Gerald Stein – Blogging About


  6. Very much appreciated, Jayne. I think you put it very, very well — no need for apologies. Sounds like you learned quite a lot in your post at UCLA. And, for what it is worth, there are a couple of links to speeches I’ve given in the “links” section on the right, if you’d like to hear how I actually do sound. You said that you sent this privately, but it appeared on the blog site. If you’d like, I will delete it, but I hope you don’t because I think your comment informs the discussion and is likely to be helpful to some readers. Thanks again!


  7. How sad that Brenda was unable to take the richness of your experience as a therapist to transform her life.

    By the way, I connected right away with that “bald ugly old picture of a man” on your blog page. You’re comfortable with who you are as a person and that says a lot in our age of photo-shopped images.


  8. Hello, again. I just had to reply to say that you have helped me so generously and graciously in the past and with subsequent posts that, for me and with my own spin on your words, you are one of life’s truly beautiful people.


  9. You are very sweet. Thank you.


  10. You look quite a bit like me and I have never been called ugly so I really take offense to Brenda’s statement. Partially hairless, okay, but ugly, you certainly are not and old, not to me and never disgusting. Perhaps Brenda is an old patient who could not handle her life after you retired. Anyway, you look pretty good to me!!!!!


    • Thanks for the brotherly support, Jack! We must be looking into the same mirror! Mine has always told me that “You are the fairest of them all.” That is, me, not you!


  11. […] Dealing with Online Criticism of that “Bald, Ugly, Old” Man: Me” Beautiful and Smart, But Unlucky in Love: The Reasons Why […]


  12. […] This post has generated one very heated and critical comment. You might want to read it and see what you think Dealing with Online Criticism of that “Bald, Ugly, Old” Man: Me. […]


    • “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who
      break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
      Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

      Brenda simply doesn’t understand.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. “The Velveteen Rabbit” is a story I (and other therapists) frequently used in therapy with Dissociative Identity Disorder (aka Multiple Personality Disorder) patients.


  13. I find your eyes keen and intelligent, and the hint of a smile appealing. Perhaps I’m biased as I am a 45 year old woman married to a 61 year old, bald man, but I find you attractive in visage and personality.


  14. Fascinating. I tend to agree with the analysis of Nzumel and Jayne, but that makes me want to ask: Since none of us know Brenda, are we reading too much into our interpretation of her comment? But her reaction is so out of proportion, aren’t those interpretations reasonable? It reminds me of what someone once described to me as “‘not present’ anger”: What ever the person is angry about, it has nothing (or very little) to do with what is happening in the present. Just found your blog. Good stuff! Keep it up.


    • Indeed, I may have been the target Brenda needed at the moment, receiving something stored up and misplaced. But, as you say, Nat, none of us know for sure. Thanks for the kudos and for signing up to get my posts. I’ll try to earn your continuing interest.


  15. Hey, I’m 56 years old and I think you are hot! 😊 Plus kindness, intelligence and a sense-of-humor is very attractive. I am happily married to a bald man and I embrace his baldness. I am new to your blogs and find your articles soothing. I have GAD, overthink (would love an article on this topic), and am being helped by a wonderful male psychologist, who would be considered old, but is not bald. He is a gem and I am grateful. Thank you for all your posts!


    • It was a real treat to go to my email first thing this morning and hear your lovely virtual voice say “I think you are hot!” Normally this doesn’t happen until I look in the mirror! 😉 Thanks for ALL your praise. I’m delighted to be of whatever help I can offer. I’ll “think” about overthinking and perhaps write something in the future. Thank you, Nancy.


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