Admiration & Ire - Writing the Story of Rebel Heart

Image description: writer Charlotte Kaufman seated at a dining table with her right leg tucked under her left. She is looking at and typing on a laptop on the table, in front of a window with pine trees in the distance.

My friend, Maria, told me once that I attract admiration & ire. I told her that sounded like a hipster band from Portland and she laughed but also said, ‘nonetheless’ in the same breath. Maria is often right. I don’t know why people tend to be so hot or cold about me, but I’ve found this scenario play out time and time again. Maybe the ups and downs of being bipolar attract it? Perhaps it’s because I’m an all-in kind of person. There’s nothing I’m ‘meh’ about. Life is zero chill; it’s plus 10 or negative 20.

Eric took the girls camping this weekend so I’ve had days on my own to work on edits for the Rebel Heart book. I’m working on a section that details the media coverage of mine and Eric’s rescue at sea from our sailboat, Rebel Heart, in April of 2014.

Image description: an open laptop with an article from the Voice of San Diego showing an article from April 2014 with a picture of Eric & Charlotte Kaufman and their two daughters debarking the USS Vandegrift. The laptop sits on a wooden table and a short glass of red wine to its right.

I put a call out to friends on social media on Saturday and asked for readers’ help identifying posts and articles from four years ago during and after the rescue. You can read the request for help here. If you’re on Facebook, feel free to friend me too.

And the help (and love, thank you, friends), came rolling in. I had some friends message first and say, “Are you sure you want this? I feel bad sending this.” And I sent them a giant virtual hug and said, “Let’s do this.”

And for the next day I read comments like:

-You dumbfucks should all drown.

-Idiots! Narcissists!

-Your children should be taken away. Where is CPS?

-How dare you put your children at risk?!


-You must pay back the cost of your rescue!

-Your husband is dumb looking. (Seriously, how is ‘dumb looking’ an insult in someone’s repertoire? And also, have they seen Eric? My god, the man is hot!)

-You’re fat! Put on some clothes!

And when I say I ‘read comments’ I mean thousands. There are probably 10,000+ internet comments pontificating about what happened to us aboard our boat that April. This one article on The New York Times alone has over 1,000 comments. Now think about all the online and print publications, the websites, blogs, and Facebook pages that covered our story, and yeah, lots of people were clacking on their keyboards to tell the world what they thought of us.

Admiration & Ire is what my friend Maria said.

Because for all the negative comments there were a lot of positive ones too. So many people who I have never heard of and will never meet counteracted this type of fear-based parent shaming. And while I did not have the time or emotional energy to read the multitudes of comments four years ago I know many of my friends did back then and many were online swinging battle swords of support for us and for the cruising/sailing and liveaboard lifestyle with children. It’s why the hashtag #KidsOnBoats was born. And as I read through article after article reporting on our story, the ire was swallowed up by bright beacons of admiration. Like shooting stars of living-your-best-life, the comments from friends and strangers, and some strangers who are now my friends, blasted out from the screen and made me smile. Things like:

- These people are an inspiration.

- I wish I had parents like them.

- I wish I could spend time with my kids like this.

- We need more people who live this way.

- Wait, you can live on a boat with kids?

- I’m glad they were rescued and they’re safe.

- They shouldn’t pay for the rescue, that’s what rescuers are for.

- These people are my friends and they’re good people and good parents.

Image Description: an open bullet journal on a southwest-style couch cushion on top of a roll of markers organized to the colors of the rainbow. The left page of the journal says Notes - Media Section and the text of page is blurred. The right page says Rebel Heart and the rest of the text is blurred.

I’m glad I waited several years to write this book and tell our story. It’s given me perspective. It’s helped me to be able to look at both parts of the admiration & ire while I tell you about who Eric and I are. I’m glad I’m in control of the narrative now and that one day I’ll have a book I can hand my daughters to tell them about who their parents were when they met and began their adventures together.

Until then, I’m still writing & editing. More soon. #RebelHeart #KidsOnboats #WomenWhoSail

- Charlotte

More on Instagram