Preaching to the Converted: How Watermark Ruined My Life

By : Ken Kundis
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KenKundisHeadshotDamn you, Watermark!

In celebration of this newspaper’s 20th anniversary, I’ve been asked to share my observations as a long-time contributor.

My first piece was for the second issue and I have now appeared in the paper more than 500 times—as a first person editorialist, reporter, feature writer, summer fiction author, music critic and advice columnist. I think I can summarize my experience pretty succinctly.

Watermark ruined my life.

It has affected my dating life, my family relationships and even compromised my personal safety. I’ve angered friends, gotten hate mail and even been eighty-sixed from my favorite bar.

There was the time that I wrote a column about my tendency to over-share intimate details with friends while in a relationship. My then-boyfriend was told through dozens of Letters to the Editor that he should run from me, as far and as fast as he could.

There was the time I wrote a cover story about the re-emergence of bathhouses in Orlando. My brother-in-law was mowing his lawn and listening to the radio when he heard Jim Philips on Real Radio 104.1 mention my name and my story. While Philips understood the cautionary nature of the piece, my sister was convinced that the mention of my name along with gay bathhouses would result in me being hunted down by torch-wielding residents of Seminole County. She and my father freaked out so hard that my father ended up telling me, “Someone is going to kill you if you don’t stop this shit.”

There was the time I had the audacity to suggest in my column—then entitled “Everybody Gets Read”—that Bear Bust at the Full Moon Saloon was the bear version of a circuit party. My “bear” friends froze me out, and the owner of the host bar banned me from his establishment.

There was the time a charming stalker cut out clips and wrote me clever bons mots like “you’re too pretty for an opinion,” and “your mouth should be used for something other than talking” over and around the picture that accompanied my column.

At each of these moments, I was forced to confront how I really felt about important topics and how I wanted to fit in my world. I learned to trust my instincts and probe my own judgment. These moments made me stand up straight and take arrows and kudos and treat them as the same thing.

My association with Watermark not only made me look at my community, it made me look at myself. It made me engage with people I otherwise would never have met. Being a contributor to Watermark became part of my DNA; part of my identity and my ego.

And for these reasons, Watermark, I resent you. I resent you for making me a deeper thinker, a more thoughtful member of my community and a more substantial person all around. And I know you’ve done the same thing to the entire Central Florida community.

On behalf of us all, damn you! You never stooped to sleaze, even when we wished you would. You never pandered to politicians on either side. You never failed to hold up a mirror to us even when we were mean, or ugly, or wrong.

You’ve changed us all and we can never go back.

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