Thank you, Honest Company

Last night I was in a place darker than any place I’ve ever had the displeasure of visiting. To say the fog was thick would be the understatement of a lifetime. Months of tension, weeks of fear, days of anger led up to a 12 hour obsessive Internet checking, reading, responding and defending marathon. I’d heard things would get ugly and they did. What was once a fun, for the first time felt like a job. And a bad one at that.

But I’m a strong woman, right? I can handle it. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. And then it happened. Not a physical death. No flowers, procession of loved ones, or long speeches about a life well lived. Just an all-encompassing mental retreat. I felt a walking crime scene. A zombie. Despite the outpouring of support, I found myself facing my own personal night.

I tortured myself, playing the day’s events in my mind over and over. Rather than focus on the positive comments, I put the words “she lied” “she stole” “she mislead” on repeat. I imagined someone standing on a raised platform shouting the accusations to a listening crowd of thousands. “SHE LIED” “SHE STOLE” “SHE MISLEAD” over and over. I could feel the burn of being raked over coals.

Pretty soon the chants changed to “SHE’S BAD SHE’S BAD SHE’S BAD” and before I knew what was happening I was shouting along with the crowd. “SHE’S BAD SHE’S BAD SHE’S BAD!” I wasn’t saying the words out loud but letting them find rest inside of me felt like the same thing.

Maybe sticks and stones would have been better. At least I’d have physical evidence, real scars to match what was growing behind my eyes.

If you’ve seen The Perfect Storm you’re probably haunted, as I am, by once of the final scenes. Mark Wahlberg’s character is left alone, without a ship, without a crew, floating on massive dark waves. They waves are viciously unapologetic and majestic, in the way mother nature so often is. In those final moments what was the doomed fisherman thinking? Even though death was a certainty, he still had a choice: sink or swim. In that moment, he could still decide. Alone and face to face with his end, he was not completely without options.

After the children had gone to sleep, I went opened my front door and went outside. The thick humidity of day had broken into a tremendous downpour of rain. The weather conditions had left the streets devoid of man and only the occasional car passed by. I took a seat on the stoop. My body was soaked in a matter of minutes plastering my dress to me like shrink wrap. Sink or swim. I couldn’t decide. With every wave that tossed me up and then down again, it was getting harder and harder to catch my breath. Not because there was no air, it was all around me, the fear just gobbled it up before I had a chance to partake. What would they say about me next? When will they say it? Who will hear it? Who will believe them? When? Who? What? When? Where? What? Who? When? What if? Why? My arms grew limp and the water rose to cover my mouth and nose. In one single action I slipped below the surface and eyes closed. Silence. The terror of losing myself to the nothingness was immediately calmed by the relief of no longer having to fight against the current.

I didn’t dare open my eyes for fear of what I might see. I could hear deep echos in the distance, not the beautiful sort made my whales, but a deep familiar groan. No longer in charge of my movements, I traveled to wherever the undertow dictated. We made the memory rounds visiting every ghost I thought I’d packed away. For a moment I entertained the idea of making a grab at the surface, using all of my strength to push myself upward but as quickly as the thought came, it was rebutted. Surely it’s better to get used to my new home rather than risking experiencing the descent again. Because isn’t the fall the worst part? We’re scared of the plane crash but utterly terrified of the moments preceding it.

Morning came and and I was still frozen. I was given an ultimatum: either get help or I’d be driven to a hospital. Three hours later I was sitting across from a professional. I felt comfortable in her medium-sized office and tried my hardest to look normal. I spoke. Explained everything.

“They said…” “I felt…” “Why…”

She listened.  As the words left my mouth, some of the sting did, too. I continued.

“I just can’t take the idea of people thinking these things about me. I feel like my name is ruined. I don’t know why this is happening.”

She paused and looked at me intently.

“It’s happening so that you can find out who you are.”

What.

“What?”

“When you know who you are, anyone can say anything to you without you internalizing it.”

“But they’re saying I’m__________.”

“Are you?”

“No.”

“Then who are you.”

I almost said, “Who do you want me to be” but decided to take a moment to think.

“I’m nice.”

“Are you a good person?”

“Yes.”

“Then why does it matter what they said.”

“Because people might believe them.”

“But what do you believe.”

And suddenly, the realization that what I believe about myself is more important than what anyone else does fell on top of me like a cloak. It was slightly ill-fitting and felt rather uncomfortable to be honest, but it was mine.

The “SHE’S BAD SHE’S BAD SHE’S BADs” grew quieter. I felt a small glow begin to emerge in my center and it frightened me. No gifts, please. I’ve gotten used to this drowning thing.

“It’s time for you to stop listening to the negativity and find your own voice. Who are you?”

“I know who I am,” I said tentatively like a child taking their first wobbly steps, “I’m kind. Stubborn. Smart.”

I started feeling self-conscious and couldn’t contain a shy smile.

After I’d finished, she went on, “One day you’re going to thank this company.”

I laughed loudly but it only took three or four seconds to realize she was on to something.

Up until that moment in her office I’d always acted based on who I am but had also used other people’s trash to piece together my self-image. Compliments were deflected or held in my hands awkwardly the way an amateur chef would handle truffles. But criticisms: whether constructive or shot to kill, those would be picked apart like a chicken dinner and consumed down to the cartilage.

On the drive home I sat in the passenger’s seat and watched the rain make hieroglyphics on the windshield. “Sink or swim,” I was asked again. Swim. Most definitely, swim.

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27 thoughts on “Thank you, Honest Company

  1. I wish you could have learned how amazing you are another way, but I’m glad you’re figuring it out. And while I *know* the point is not to rely on the judgment of strangers, I can’t help pointing out that you are funny and empathetic and your readers know it.

  2. bunmi, this is so beautiful. and i completely agree–no one knows you and your heart but you. you know that you didn’t steal. you know that you didn’t lie. you know that you are good. the fact that this trademark infringement threat is becoming psychological warfare is just awful. you’re a kickass comedian who works on her own and doesn’t have lawyers and a PR team to shield you from all of this. and managing this crap isn’t your job. you’ve just been thrust into the middle of it by a greedy company who thinks that bigger must be “right-er.”

    here’s what i also think: those of us who have been around honest toddler know you. you are such a respectful, funny, kind person. i know this because you never stoop to mocking toddlers, though you satirize their lives. under everything you tweet and blog, there is an inherent respect for children as human beings. this is what sets you apart from blogs that think it’s funny to post pictures of their toddlers having tantrums.

    and those of us who have been around also have watched this all play out. we know that this is a pattern for the company-who-shall-not-be-named. their lack of honor or amiability has been shown again and again. those who say negative things against you clearly don’t know you.

    and increasingly, as they slung mud at a woman they don’t know or haven’t followed, it because clear to me that they care more about cheap eco-friendly diapers and not having to shop elsewhere. shallow, but seems to be true.

    i genuinely hope that you can remember to moor yourself to what you know to be true about yourself, and let the haters hate. they’re just threatened because they know that you’re powerful.

    i am praying for this whole situation, and for you personally. (and also asking God to green light that HT show, because HELLO!!! who *wouldn’t* want to watch that?!)

  3. I really think I know how you feel. Nothing quite like going from loved to loathed…even though you aren’t loathed, mostly loved. But the negative feedback has so much more impact than the positive. Hang in there, you are doing great. It will get better. You will look back on this one day and you will be able to shake your head and roll your eyes. I know that probably sounds crazy, but it will happen. This does not define who you are. You make miserable, sleep-deprived, greasy-haired mommies everywhere feel like FINALLY, someone understands me!!! SOMEONE knows what it’s really like! And you make them laugh and feel better. WOW. You make people who are sad feel better. That is the best thing you can do.

  4. I know that darkness. Sometimes it seems it would be easier to give into it. But that darkness lies. I’m glad you swam for the light. Keep swimming. You got this.

  5. Oh, Bunmi…I am so sorry about all of this. I really am. It just all stinks, it’s just all wrong. You’re brilliant and witty and so creative; my favorite writer EVER! While you are strong you are kind and thoughtful. From the way outside looking in; you look right and they look terribly small, petty and wrong. I know you will continue to swim then stand strong, and in the big picture of this whole thing, you will not only win but as the therapist said, you will grow and better define yourself. Gosh – so many of us never really get there. I hope you will fight for this with all that you have – for yourself and for kids and husband and selfishly, for your readers. 🙂 I think the words spoken to you at your lowest were apocalyptic – they’ll bring about momentous change in your innermost being. I hope this helps you drown the voices instead (they are liars!) and that you’ll never let them come near you again.

    God bless you and keep you, honey. (())

  6. The reason your Honest Toddler resonates is because you are so authentic. I follow you (and envy you) because you see the perspective of our growing tots and give us a chance to see things from their side.

    Always swim. Everyone’s head goes under water sometimes. Mine is bobbing right now. So this really helped me. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Growth is so hard sometimes, but those who choose to run from it really don’t actualize their purpose here. I think many of us, who can relate to your plight, not only wish for you material success, but most importantly to recognize the wonderful woman you were born to be. The inner voice here is actually the culprit since the outer turmoil is just (weird and sometimes scary) circumstances that are out of your control. How you work with, deal with and grow from this ordeal is your work here. Please keep taking advantage of support (in whatever way it appears) to get you to that place of inner strength and inner knowing. It’s a lifetime of work, but it’s really all good. Try to forget about vicious attacks and compliments and uncover and hang onto YOUR truth. (It’s amazing how people feel the need to be nasty to another human being, isn’t it? Clearly they are not on the same journey in life.) Blessings to you and always take the high ground…….beautiful woman.
    P.S. For as much as you may feel existentially alone, you never are.

  8. You are amazing. HT is amazing. I’m so happy that you are swimming and that you had the strength to reach out when you needed too. You have my support, as well as hundreds of thousands of others for whom your brilliantly funny but never hurtful words provided a much-needed laugh at just the right time. Keep on swimming, and when you need a rest, roll over onto your back and float for a few minutes!

  9. A well-written blog. I’m glad you’re on the upswing. She’s right — what you think is so much more important than what anyone else does. You have found yourself a great professional. Hang onto her! 🙂

  10. Bunmi, you’re an amazing woman, and though I hate what you had to go through to learn what we already know about you, you’ve come out the other side much stronger. You’re an inspiration to all of us, and you have the support of thousands who look forward to your humor to lighten our days a little. Stay strong, and as Dory said “Just keep swimming!”

  11. Bunmi. You sound like a crazy person. Read Jessica Gottlieb’s blog post. It explains everything in a way that even YOU should be able to understand. Everyone can come out a winner.

  12. Heidi J, that only works if Jessica Gottlieb got the real story from the Honest Company re: trademark coexistence vs. telling Ms. Laditan to withdraw her application. All you’re saying by telling her to read that is that you believe HC’s side of the story rather than HT’s. It’s a nice thought, but none of us know who is truly saying what here. However, HC feeling the need to put a giant post up defending themselves on their website says to me that perhaps they’re not being as honest as they’d like you to think (note too that they’re offering a license agreement, and DO want her to revoke her application).

  13. @Heidi – read that piece. OF course the CEO of Honest Company wants Bunmi to succeed – they want a piece of her success!! That is what it is all about – they want more money and they see HT as their new cash cow. Bunmi – you do NOT sound like a crazy person. I would make the same choices you made – how dare they want to own a piece of YOUR creativity! Without you offering it, wanting them to own it, etc.

  14. Also, Jessica Gottlieb claimed that the Honest Company owns the trademark to Honest Toddler. Do they? Or do they just own the domain name, which is entirely different. Bunmi applied for and was APPROVED for her trademark. Seems to me, she is in the legal right here.

  15. Great post – strong post. People “know” who you are – you made me laugh on some of my roughest days of parenting. They also “know” who the other side is. We’re rooting for you. Keep swimming! And kudos to whomever gave you the ultimatum to get some help!

  16. truth always prevails… even if it may take some struggle.

    thank you for being so darn honest and hilarious.
    and giving voice to the little ones we are all loving every day.
    it is a witty reminder of the sanctity & pure gift of parenthood.

    and to be completely “honest”, The HONEST COMPANY is pretty late to the “chemical free diaper-butt rub game…” at this point most already have their loyalties and this just makes them look insecure, anxiety ridden, competitive and so far from their said “mission” of giving a hoot about “healthy” environments for their children, all children, who will in the end are all of us….

    you are:
    a wise, brilliant, beyond honest mother
    an author.
    an artist.
    a leader.

    they cannot touch you.
    you will win.

    you should go on kickstarter to pay for your legal fees or any of those dealy-o’s that fund causes and take em to the high court of man while we have a constitutional lawyer as president.

    thank you for giving voice to the “little” people who are making change without any legal team and following the impulses of their hearts and not their wallets.

    In the end, if they only knew there is enough for everyone and they should just put their heads down and start playing with their children….

    They should be fighting Monsanto and all the toxic products and environmental issues which are the real culprits in their said mission…

    XO
    may you be safe, happy, healthy and at ease.
    and sleep like a baby. (who sleeps through the night)

  17. “If you worry more for others’ beliefs, then you will be their slave.”
    -Lao Tzu

    “If you care about what others think of you, then you will always be their slave.”
    -James Frey

  18. You’re so cool! I don’t believe I’ve truly read anything like that before. So wonderful to discover somebody with unique thoughts on this subject. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This web site is something that’s needed on the web,
    someone with some originality!

  19. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on the one broken cracker sitting in front of you. Don’t let it make you forget the box of unbroken crackers that grandma left for you on the bottom shelf.

  20. beautifully written. I felt your anguish. I think we have all been at that point before in our lives but you wrote it out so well. Wish you all the best!!!

  21. They do not own the trademark to “honest toddler.” Nobody does or the US Trademark and Patent Office would not have given me preliminary approval after their search and would not have published my mark. The whole thing is crazy.

    Thank you for all the kind words, guys. I really appreciate it.

  22. Thank you for this post. It applies to my life too, after my husband of 28 years suddenly and without warning one week ago, ran off with another woman. The sense of drowning is very real and terrifying. Your post resonated with me to my very molecules. I am one of your newest and most dedicated fans.

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