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sosadtoday’s Melissa Broder

Wednesday, December 11, 2019
7:30pm Pacific Time
KQED Broadcast: 02/09/2020, 02/11/2020, 02/12/2020

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Poet, novelist, advice columnist and heroine to anyone with “issues,” Melissa Broder is author of the novel The Pisces and the poetry collection Last Sext, as well as the voice behind the viral Twitter account @sosadtoday and an essay collection based on the account. In her podcast Eating Alone in My Car, Broder rants about everything from mortality to Poptarts to depression while wielding a dark humor that is honest and open. Her other writing includes the “So Sad Today” column for Vice, the “Beauty and Death” column at, and the forthcoming Milk Fed. She is the winner of a Pushcart Prize for Poetry.

Podcasts Referenced:

Writers/Comics Referenced:

  • Walt Whitman
  • Lenny Bruce
  • Maggie Nelson

Short Stories Referenced:

  • Baby at the Mall by Melissa Broder

Publications Referenced:


City Arts & Lectures - sosadtoday's Melissa Broder performs Eating Alone in my Car. December 11, 2019. A grid of small stenciled icons of alternating steering wheels and slices of pie in shades of pink. Melissa Broder: Hello. Welcome to another episode of the Eating Alone in My Car show with your host, so sad today.

So today I’m having some bumblebee tuna in a packet. The motivation behind the public eating of tuna is manifold. What I want to do tonight is I want to bare my soul a little bit. I want to get a little nude, get a little real. And I feel as though the best way to expose oneself, as Walt Whitman would say, to reach out, you know, in an O Comarado way, for me to really reach out, like from my soul to yours, and transcend the fleshy veil, is to eat tuna publicly. 

Should a blob of the tuna–it’s tuna fish salad. It’s a premade tuna fish salad. So not just tuna, okay. It’s not like a grilled tuna, or a baked tuna, it’s a tuna fish salad. It’s mayonnaise-y. And it comes with its own spoon actually, and at any moment, and the spoon–this is not an ad for the tuna. I’m not gonna mention the brand name, cause as we know I don’t advertise on the podcast. Although if 7/11 ever wants to hit me up, or Taco Bell, I’d be fine with that. But I like them. But other than that, I won’t–I’ll  sell out for Taco Bell and that’s it. 

But so I won’t say the brand, but it is a sandwich in seconds tuna salad, eight grams of protein, low fat. Step one is that you simply tear the notch to access the snap-open spoon, which I just did. I snapped it open. Step two is tear here to spoon out delicious tuna salad onto your favorite bread–I’m not doing bread–and enjoy. There’s other ways you can serve it in seconds. You can spread it on your favorite crackers. You can stuff it into half an avocado or seeded tomato. You can wrap it in a tortilla. Melt it with your favorite cheese and top it–okay. 

So there’s like, it’s convenient and versatile. And I just don’t want to miss anything in the canon of this tuna. Let’s see. Oh, do not use if pouch is punctured  or leaking. May contain bones, so this could be my last episode. And for inquiries concerning the products, I can call them or access them. Oh, they’re in San Diego. Okay. So not far. 

So anyway, I, you know, I feel to me, I spoke on the shod, I call it a shod. For those of you who don’t know, the reason why I don’t call it a podcast is because–let me spit out my Nicorette here. I’d like to be special. I’d like to feel unique. I think some people are like okay with not trying to like appear as unique or delude themselves into thinking they’re unique, you know, like, but for me, like I know that I’m no different than my fellow man, and yet I don’t want to be like everyone else who has a podcast.

Like, I just, you know, it’s like I want to differentiate myself somehow. I want to, I just want God to like me just like a little bit more, I think. You know, like I want a personal God. I just want–I want to feel cherished. I want to, I just, I don’t know. I just don’t think that God is going to forgive me for having a podcast.

And so…Or maybe God will be like, you’re fine. Like you’re not relying, like, I don’t know. It’s a willful thing. It’s a willful and stupid thing to have a podcast, I think. So, I don’t call it a podcast, I call it a show, in trying to differentiate myself, and make myself more unique than my fellow men who have podcasts. So then I end up calling it a shod. 

Anyway, so there was an episode, I talked about a very special moment in my life where I was at the airport, it was around 6:30 in the morning, and I went and got a tuna salad sandwich. I asked a woman at a counter for a tuna salad sandwich. And when I heard the, and I, fuck, I, oh yeah, that’s right, they’re FCCing, they’re beeping any curses out, so I can curse. 

When I did that–I love tuna salad, it really is my, it’s my heart food. I think part of that is because I’m a Jew, and sort of any sort of like fish like mixed with a mayonnaise in like a disgusting way like really speaks to my shtetl roots. So that’s definitely part of it. 

But in ordering, you know, that moment in the airport, I was on a book tour and I was alone. And I went to, and I asked this woman, I said, “hi, I’d like a tuna salad sandwich.” And in that moment, as the words “tuna salad sandwich” were leaving my mouth, it dawned on me that I exist. And that everything is real. And I felt at once a great solitude, but also a oneness with the universe. I felt exposed. I felt seen. I felt held. 

And so I wanted to try–I’m an addict, so I always, if anything kind of interesting or good happens, I try to replicate it over and over until I have to go into recovery for it. So I think I’m trying to bring a little of that magic here, with, and hence the decision to eat a little tuna salad on stage this evening.

Mmm.  Mmm. Mhm. It’s creamy. It’s got a celery and–yeah, no, I’m into this tuna salad. You know, I actually, I did pre-taste the tuna the other night. I was walking to the library in Los Angeles. I love the library. It’s my safe space. And I went to CVS and I saw that they had like tuna in a packet. So I bought some, and then I was on the street and it was dark out. So I was really getting like very ferocious about the way that I was eating the tuna. Like, I wasn’t using the plastic spoon. I was just like in the dark, on the street, kind of like that, you know, I like licked it out of the pack–. I just, it was as though I were alone.

And in that moment, about to like approach the library, sort of smelling like tuna, eating it in like sort of a disgusting–some would find disgusting, to me it felt beautiful–way, I really, I was like, this is it. Like, this is as good as it gets. This is the best I can arrive at. This is like, this is pure. So you know, so here I am. I want to share that experience  with you. Mmm. 

Now, here’s the thing. All right. So I’m like, I want to get naked in front of you. I want to, soul-wise, right? I want to bare my soul. There’s–Lenny Bruce, who’s one of my favorite comics, said that we never really reveal ourselves to anyone else. The only way that someone truly knows us is if we’re in the kitchen and we drop a can of peaches. Like you’re eating canned peaches, you know, with the syrup, and you drop a can of peaches on the floor, and you start eating the peaches and the syrup off the floor, and then someone comes in. That’s really like, that’s when you’re seen.

I don’t think–you know, I’d love to be able to get to peaches level tonight with you all. I think I’m getting close, but there’s still going to be sort of a performative element to this, right? Like I debated on the shoes, I was like, I was going to do boots, but then I was like, you know, I want to appear relaxed, and I felt that a Van would be sort of like, make me appear as like a chill person, you know? And that might help you relax, which then might help me relax. 

And so, you know, I, the outfit. You know, it’s like, it’s crafted, you know, like I tried on a couple of sweaters. Like if we were really going full Lenny Bruce, peaches, you know, I  don’t know. I don’t know what I’d be wearing. Probably my bathrobe, my white terrycloth bathrobe, with the stains. 

But so, you know, like I don’t know how truly and fully one can ever really reveal oneself to another human being. I also kind of get the feeling sometimes that I don’t know that I have a core self. So like, as I’m revealing, I’m also questioning like what it even is that is being revealed. And also I’ve sort of–I was in therapy for 18 years and then I stopped, and it’s been like, so nice to not be in therapy for two years, but I’ve sort of, I don’t recommend this, but I’ve sort of been using the podcast like, as–like, I’ve sort of been just like publicly airing my shit as like a way of having therapy without like having to go.

And I feel that the podcast is very similar to therapy. Because I would go to therapy and I’d want to be honest, and I’d be honest about like components of my life or parts of my life. I never got like, even tuna level honest though, I don’t think. But then I’d be like having a panic attack at therapy and it was like, I didn’t want to tell the therapist that I was having a panic attack, because I didn’t want them to be hurt.

And so the revealing of oneself…It’s like, I’ll reveal pockets of myself, you know. On the podcast, like I’m sort of wearing a mask, right? I don’t call myself by my real name. I call myself so sad today.  I mean, people know my real name, but it’s, I can sort of put on that like mask of anonymity and then I can like take off some other masks that I feel like I have to wear every day.

But I feel like the tuna is like, I’m trying to use the tuna as sort of like a catalyst to sort of like demask myself. I think the closest I’ve come so far, just to give a report on what’s gone on so far. The closest I’ve come so far is when I sort of, a little piece of the tuna, like it sort of jumped out of my mouth and like landed on the floor, like that’s the closest to my essence that I’ve shared with you so far. 

But so before we go on, does anyone have any questions about the tuna or about my relationship with the tuna? I’m not going to reveal the brand, but afterwards you can, I’ll let you know, but just any canned fish related questions from the audience? Yes. 

Audience Member 1: Why tuna in public as opposed to–I have a family member who used to eat tuna in private?

Melissa Broder: You had a family member who used to eat tuna in private? 

Audience Member 1: Yes. We’d find remnants. But it was always–not in the kitchen. 

Melissa Broder: Listen. I mean, I kind of think that question answers itself. Tuna salad’s disgusting. I mean, it is a disgusting, it’s, I mean, it’s incredible. Like so many, the greatest things are the most disgusting. Like to me, the most disgusting things are like the most beautiful, you know, it’s like our blessings are our curses.

But so I feel as though the consumption of tuna. It’s something, it’s like when you really love something, but you feel as though you’re going to be judged by it, and you love it so much. That’s how I feel about this tuna. But it’s like others are gonna judge me and I’m really scared to reveal it. So it’s like, okay, I’m just gonna go for it. Like I’m just going to do the public eating of the tuna. 

And I don’t know if your relative, the closet tuna eating relative, is still alive, but what I wish for them, you know, I hope that at some point in their life they were able to come out, to step into the light a little bit. And if they weren’t, you know, if there is a heaven, perhaps sort of, you know, once we reach that place of non-duality where like, I am not separate from you, I’m not separate from you, you know, like, Nirvana or whatever you want to call it, like, it could be as simple as just like, we’re all just like eating–those who like tuna, some people are vegan or some people just don’t like it, but I mean, I don’t understand those people–but like, maybe like non-duality and like, you know, I see the God in you, you see the God in me, like the light in all of us. Like maybe it’s as simple as just like eating tuna with one another and like supporting each other in our tuna eating, you know?

Or metaphorically, like whatever your tuna equivalent is. Right? I think someone else had a question, before we move on. 

Audience Member 2: Hi. Are there any of the other sorts of, you know, quote unquote disgusting fishes that you have disliked, or is it across the board you really do enjoy that style of fish? 

Melissa Broder: Thank you. I think, it’s an important question. Love a white fish salad, which I feel is in the vein of tuna. I had a recent discovery, which was, I actually did a whole episode around it, cause it was very, it was both life altering and life affirming I feel. It was the canned salmon episode. I did an episode on canned salmon. It was dedicated to the father of a friend of mine. He’s a British Jew, which if there’s ever like a more British Jewish food than canned salmon, I don’t know if one exists. But he’s actually in the hospital right now with gout. But he’s okay. Like as we speak, he’s in the hospital with gout. 

But he–the canned salmon was a revelation, because I had always, I would walk past the canned salmon, and my whole life I was like, what is that? Like who does this? How is there still a salmon industry? Like it seemed so strange, you know, and it seemed like nothing that could really ever be within my orbit. But then I like went out on the limb and I tried the canned salmon. 

Unless it’s like a bagged tuna salad, I’m not going back. Like, if it’s just the plain, it’s salmon for me from here on out. Like that’s it, you know? It was incredible. It was like as though canned tuna really like started feeling itself. You know what I’m saying? Like really found itself. Like really wanted to sort of express itself in a new way. I almost felt like if, it’s like if a can of tuna were in like a marriage and they were sort of married to a repressive person, you know, or maybe a repressive husband. I don’t know. The tuna feels a bit like a beleaguered wife to me, especially with all like, the darkness, you know, around it. And the tuna finally got the courage to get a divorce. That to me is canned salmon. That to me is canned salmon. 

Okay, so. I was gonna now have a little in convo with the tuna. Mostly the tuna’s going to be asking me questions, but occasionally I might deflect back. So, and then also, I realized, I believe they were going to print out a short story that I had emailed. So, if you guys are able to do that, that would be amazing. Cause I’m also gonna do a little reading at the end, as well, before we go to questions.

But yeah, I just  wanted to do an in convo with the tuna. So, you know, since it is my soul food, really just get very intimate here and just go like soul to soul. And in sort of getting, in trying to expose myself like even more so and reveal the insides, you know, like the things that are the most, perhaps universal emotions, see if I can tap into that. Just, I thought that maybe my soul food could ask some questions. 

So, and like I said, I might respond. Okay. So, number one–this is the tuna asking me. On your recent episode of the show, “Ho-hos,” you took a look at some of your negative character traits in the context of ambition, achievement, and the hunger for potential success that you hope will make you feel whole, even though you know better and that no external thing can actually make you a whole person, because it’s unfortunately or fortunately an inside job. Could you talk about some of these negative characteristics in the context of this performance, and how they may be coming up like right at this moment, sort of in real time? 

All right. So, I think that one characteristic that I’ve been working on is selfishness. And I’ve recently, within the past year, sort of learned, like, discovered a new definition for selfishness, or new way of looking at it, which is really just to look at it through the perspective of perceiving, well perceiving everything is about me. Right? And usually negative things, like I tend to think like good things, probably not about me. Bad things definitely about me. 

So, you know, to some degree, because I’m here speaking about myself and eating tuna on stage, there is going to be some selfishness, right? Like, I am going to feel, well, this is about me. And I am going to judge myself based on your reactions. You know, like when there’s laughter, I’ll feel like everything is okay. When there’s inquiring looks of sort of like, what’s going on, like did I buy–like, I bought a ticket for this? Like, I don’t understand how this–or like, oh, my friend said this person was funny. Like, what am I doing? You know, I’m gonna like, feel as though–I’m going to see that, and I’m going to feel my life is over. 

You know, like, I’m going to relegate sort of my worthiness, like my existence, my deservingness to live on the planet really, and I’m gonna isolate it to this room, and I’m gonna base it on, not even the real opinions of strangers, but on my perception of the opinion of strangers. And I will use that to sort of decide whether I deserve to live on the planet, you know, like that’ll be sort of my litmus. 

So I think in that sense, like selfishness is definitely gonna come into play tonight, you know, I’m going to….And also one thing that I love too, is like when I meet someone and they don’t smile, and I’m like, “Oh my God, they hate me.” Or you know, like it’s immediately–and then I find out that there’s been a death in their family. Not that I’m glad that there’s a death, but it’s like, so nice to be wrong. 

Like, I love being wrong. Like I find it such a relief. And it’s like, it’s just, it’s really a relief to be like, wow, like not everything–like really truly, like I am a speck of dust. Like I love being a–well, I love and hate being a speck of dust in an infinite cosmos. I think I fight against being a speck of dust.

Like, I think, like partly, you know, like why I won’t call the podcast, why I won’t call the shodcast a podcast. Like, I think part of that has to do with like a fear of being a speck of dust, right? It’s like sort of this, like, if I can be special, then like I’ll be immortal on some level. You know, like it’s a dichotomy, but at the same time it’s such a relief to be reminded of one’s speck of dustness. 

It’s like, what’s preferable–that like someone’s thinking negative things about you, or that like you’re not being thought about at all? And to me, ultimately, I’d say B is preferable, that I’m not being thought about at all. But I think I’m afraid of that, you know, I’m afraid of that, like existential aloneness, so I sort of pepper it in like a, they’re thinking bad things. You know, like, I’ll use that to sort of defend against a feeling of disconnection and particle of dustness. 

Okay. So. All right, so another thing that I do is, I have a tendency, I’ve noticed in the past year, I’m working on this, doing the work on this one. Even though I’m not in therapy, doing it on my own. I’m a status seeker. I’m a status seeker. And here’s the thing, when I say status seeker, it’s not really… 

When I was growing up, I’ve talked about this on the shod, my grandfather was in the pinball business in Philadelphia, and so he had like, he would have pinball routes around the city. And there was a pinball machine that was like–you know, pinball machines are themed. They’ll have like the Western pinball machine that’s like a cowboy themed pinball machine. They had one that was like the like 80s rich person pinball machine. It was like kind of like a Trumpian version of like a rich person, right? Like it was like, yacht. Like in the pinball machine, like it was decorated. It was like yacht. Diamonds. Like, you know, like all the things one might think about when it’s like status. Like a woman in furs who sort of looks like Cruella de Vil, like a Rolls. And like when I think when I hear the word status, like that’s the first thing I think of, and that’s like not really the status that I’m striving for.

But I find that like in every context there is sort of this drive for being like the most something. So for example, like even in something antithetical to that. So like, I’ve used the example before that, like within, you know, like if I were in sort of an anarchist squat. Right? I don’t see  myself as being in an anarchist squat.

Like I’m just, first of all, I’m just not that good at like being with others all the time. Like I need a wall and like, I feel like with like anarchist commune, it’s like not wall based. Like I do need, I do like walls, but let’s just say I found my, like I deluded myself into believing like I am a person who could like live happily in an anarchist squat. 

I know that if I were to live in the anarchist squat that I would probably immediately want to be like top of the heap for like the person who’s consuming the least. Like I would want to be the most anarchist. Do you know what I’m saying? Like, I would want to be getting everything out of the dumpster. And if I purchased anything, I would probably then berate like, you know, I wouldn’t be good enough. Right, it would be like an achievement oriented–it would be like an achievement oriented sort of like wanting to be sort of like queen of the squat, you know, like queen… 

And so, and I can kind of do this in like any situation, you know. And I think it comes from just an inherent feeling of like not enoughness. Like a feeling that there is that like something is missing, or that like, it’s a fear that I’ll be perceived as something is missing. You know, that there’s that like something is wrong. You know, and like, I, something is wrong and I’m not going to fit in here, and my wrongness is going to be seen. 

And it’s not that I–I think in my status seeking, it’s not that I want to be better than anyone, but it’s sort of that because I feel like less than, I’m trying to be equal to. Like, I’m using being better than as a way to be sort of equal to. Which like never ends up working, you know? Like even if I was like queen of the squat, like I would just graduate to like, you know, like it would be like big anarchist, small pond. Like I would just move on then to like an even like rawer squat, and they’d be like, “you lived in that squat? Like that is a capitalist consumerist hell. Like that squat is the equivalent of like Neiman Marcus.” And so, you know, like there’s always–you’re never going to be the most anything.

 But so I’ve just been trying to watch that in myself, you know, like when does that, that desire to be, for status seeking come up? Oh, and also I was like really nervous that no one would come to this. So that’s definitely status seeking, you know, because if like no one comes, then like, it’s not like, I would feel like not statusy, you know? But then like if people come, then I can pretend I don’t care if anyone comes. 

Like I like that. I like when like things go well and then I can pretend that I don’t care. I love that. It’s like the same reason why I wore the sneakers. It’s sort of like an affected nonchalance, but like really deep down, like terrified of everything. 

Okay. So, another character trait. Don’t worry, there’s, I think there’s only two more of these. Okay. Oh, I forgot the tuna. Well, I’m now answering, it’s a long answer. Okay. So I’m black and white thinking. Again, I think that’s about sort of like the way that one can enter a situation, or I can enter a situation, and like reduce my entire self worth to sort of like the way that this hour goes.

Like a complete failure to remember, like perspective. And that can happen, I think, like with a mind, especially if you have depresh, if you have the disease known as depresh. That, I think–that’s one of the symptoms of depression that I always forget is a symptom of depression. Like this black and white thinking, where it’s like I’m in the rabbit hole and like, I don’t even know I’m in the rabbit hole. You know? Like it, to me, it just feels like truth. I’m like, well, this is how, like I don’t even know that it’s a narrative. 

And then sometimes like if a friend or if like, you know, if like one of the myriad things that I do to like keep myself from dying at my own hand, like if one of those things that I’ve put in place like sort of reminds me that actually like, it, no, that’s a thought…Cognitive behavioral therapy was very good for that. But I couldn’t afford it anymore cause like, it’s hard–finding a good therapist who takes your insurance is like truly the American dream. But so, and I think I was like the closest to honest with my cognitive behavioral therapist. Yeah. I think like, she was, but so CBT though was really great, but, what was I talking about?

Oh, yeah. So black and white thinking. Yeah. You know, like with depression, it’s just, I’ll forget that that’s even a symptom. Like I’ll forget that I’m even having a thought, you know, like, I won’t even, like to me, it just completely seems like that is the truth of the world. And I think I spiral, like after all the sort of stuff–like the things I do to stay alive mostly are like, just like quick, like top 10 things I do to stay alive are, like just in case anyone else’s like trying to stay alive, are like, well definitely like antidepressants as prescribed by a psychiatrist who like, you know, like takes more than five minutes to like listen to me, but no more than 15.

Cognitive behavioral therapy I found really helpful. My sobriety and my practices around my sobriety, just cause I feel like I would never have a chance with mental illness or food or sex or anything if I wasn’t sober. But that’s just me cause I’m an alcoholic. But like if you’re not an alcoholic, then like, no need to be sober. I encourage, and actually I encourage drug use. I think it’s great. I can’t personally, cause I’m an addict, but if you’re not, like via con dios. I have no judgment about like alcohol use and drug use, like in others, you know? But if you like, think you might be an addict or an alcoholic, like, you know, it might be helpful you know, to your journey with mental health to come into sobriety.

So yeah, so like sobriety, prescribed medication, therapy. I’ve had a meditation practice for like 10 years, but that didn’t really do anything for my panic attacks. And then a couple of years ago, I started a new modality of meditation, which I’m not even gonna say which one it is cause it doesn’t matter. But now I meditate like 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night, which is so much meditation. Like I’m always like, I cannot believe it’s time to meditate again. Like it feels like I’m always meditating now. Like just so much meditation. It’s a lot. But, it has done amazing–like it has moved shit on my panic attacks. Like it has physically changed me. Just that amount, I mean, cause it’s a lot of meditation, you know. 

And then I think finding like a place to just be able to be honest. Like even if it’s not full, like the peaches, honest, even if it’s just like sort of mild tuna honesty, I think has been like super helpful. And then like creative practices, if like, that’s what you’re into. Cause like, you know, for me writing. So yeah. All right. 

Envy is like another one. Today I was on the plane and I like read an announcement about–like, usually if I read about something good happening to someone in my field, I’ll just like pretend that it’s not happening. Like, I’ll just like, close the link like really quickly. Occasionally I’ll feel really happy for a person and I love that. Cause it’s just like, it’s so nice to be able to feel joy for another human being’s successes. But I also don’t put pressure on myself to feel that way cause it’s usually like one out of every like nine other people’s successes that I feel joy. And like you and then, you know, don’t see it as sort of like, in some way a reflection of like doom for my own future or like a lack of something.

And it’s okay. I think that’s all right. Like, I think it’s okay to admit that, like, you know…Like, that’s why I find Instagram very confusing. Because Twitter, at least, it’s like everyone’s kind of miserable. And it’s like when you like someone’s miserable tweet, it’s like, I can believe that you are…Like, it’s like, you know, there’s a, it feels like soul talk. Whereas like on Instagram, like the things that get liked the most are like a hot selfie. And I’m like, never once do I actually feel like a heart in my heart when someone posts like a gorgeous picture of themselves. Like to me it just all feels like lies. 

I was talking to my hairdresser about that the other day and he was like, “well, I actually do really like when someone looks good on Instagram.” And I was like, well, Chris, you’re like a special breed, you know, and that’s like your, and also like, you’ve usually made them look that way. But in general, like, I don’t know, I just, I’m mistrustful of that sort of performative, like, love, lovingness. Although maybe, you know what, maybe like everyone’s just a kinder, more gracious person than I am, but I just don’t think so. You know, like, I just don’t think so. 

So let’s see.  All right. So aside from death, or is this…Aside from death, is there an antidote or cure for these traits? Is there a characteristic you can nurture in yourself as a way to counteract these traits? 

So thanks for asking that because I do think there is a characteristic that, I’ll speak for myself, that I, and I think it’s a characteristic of like, of humility, which like, humility was like never, like until I like really like looked into that word, it was never really anything that I actually wanted. Like I never understood why like, I thought that humiliation–or humility was like humiliation, you know? Like it’s, to me it was like, it was making one self less than, or like supplicating oneself to like a God with a beard.

When I was really young, I thought that God looked like Tony Danza. I used to pray to Tony Danza. But you know, like, to me it, I imagined it as being like this very almost like vertical experience of spirituality, or a vertical experience of relating to other human beings. Like, you know, being like, kind of top down or below.

And then like, as I started to sort of think about that word more and like research the word humility, I don’t know why I started researching the word, but, it sort of dawned on me that like humility has like human as its root. And like being a human being has been my greatest challenge for sure in this lifetime. I found it–it was never my first choice. It was never my first choice. And so to think about though, like, you know–they always talk about like spiritual being of a human experience, or whatever, that thing–but like to think about sort of like spirituality as like, I’m actually trying to like learn how to like deal with living in a body. You know, like if that’s like, that’s kind of an interesting way to think of humility. 

And then also to think of it as like, kind of like another way to maybe like, feel a little more like tuna-y oneness with my fellow human being, you know? And then it also like really takes the pressure off, because it’s like, oh, wait, like I don’t have to be better in order to feel equal to. Like, we can all just be, equal. 

And so I do think that like equality and humility are definitely, like if someone were like, like if the tuna was like, what would you say your like guiding spiritual principle is? Well, like I mean, my original guiding spiritual principle used to, well, like probably on some level still is, like to feel high. You know, like when I used to hear the word spirituality, like, I would definitely think like, okay, like everyone’s over here and I’m over here, like on heroin, on a lotus. And like, that is like a great spiritual experience. But like over the years, I’ve sort of come to think more about that word as like learning to live in a body. 

And the experience of being a human, which is really scary for me cause I’m really, I’m scared of feelings. Like I just like, I still like, I don’t like trust them. It’s part of the reason why I still tweet, cause it’s kind of like if there’s a choice between like sitting with a difficult feeling and like feeling a feeling, or like sharing it quickly on the internet and like getting a quick hit of dopamine, like, I’m going to go with like the second option, you know? 

And I still sometimes do feel like a feeling is going to kill me. Like I sometimes do, like, it feels like very like, “hello 911, I felt a feeling.” But maybe that is, you know, like for me, maybe that’s like kind of what the whole like thing is, is like learning like how to be a human kind of, or like that it’s like, fine. And like also that, like the thing that I’ve been like most running from, like feeling, and like being a human and like, being flawed and like being disgusting and like, not enough for oneself, like maybe that’s the whole, maybe that’s it. Like maybe that is it. So that’s interesting. 

So anyway. Okay. So this is, I think, my last question from the tuna. Oh, great, and you have my story. Cool. Okay, so. How much of a role does your perfectionism play in these traits that you’ve mentioned, and how would you describe the word perfection?

So, I think that like perfectionism definitely plays a role in all these traits, right? Like the fear of not being enough. The feeling that one needs to accomplish or achieve in order to just feel like worthy of being on the planet, or like be, you know, that one needs to like, accomplish or achieve just to like be equal to, you know, or that, if you don’t get a certain number of like–and it can be anything, right? Like for me it might be like likes and dopamine, but like for a mother it might be like what people say about their child. You know, like it really can be anything for us, but sort of that external validation, right, that we sort of use it as like a litmus to define us. Which every day I wake up and I’m like, “I want it.” 

You know, like I forget every day that I actually even like humility–like that humility is something that I want. Like that to be just like that, just to exist, is even something that I want. Like I wake up and it’s like, it is time to like prove like, I don’t even know what I’m like, really, I don’t even know like who I’m pro–like it’s really just like the chorus that lives in my head of like, like exes, and like my mom, and like maybe some like weird biochemistry that like, you know, like science that created me like, or whatever, didn’t get quite right. Like, I don’t know, but it’s like this wake up, and it’s like it’s on, you know what I’m saying?

Like there is like much to be like, much like nothingness to be proved right now, and like, you better make this–like, you better make this nothingness happen. And like nobody better get in the way of my nothingness. You know? Like, it’s like the infinite miraculous universe, like better not like step in the way of my like tiny, puny little dumb plans and designs. Like stay back, because I’ve got nothing to prove to a lot of nobody, you know. Like, and it is important.

So I think like that’s how perfectionism plays a role. But my view of perfection is like totally warped. Like my view, if left to my own devices, like my view of perfection is like kind of like I’m dead. I mean, you know, like basically, like that is where I’ll end up. Like that is sort of where like my view of perfectionism leads.

And so I was like, doing some more research on the word perfection, cause I’m like a writer, and so like, you know, we like look up words. And, sometimes, and I found this definition of perfection, which I shared about on the shod, but I’m just going to share about again, is, it said–there were like a bunch of things about perfection. And then it said “lacking nothing”–it said, “perfection: lacking nothing essential to the whole.”

And I like wrote that down in like a million places. Like I’m one of those people, like I always wanna like tattoo something. But then I also know that like, I’m old enough to know now, like whatever you tattoo, like it’s not going to like mean what it does to you in the moment, you know. Like, and that in and of itself is a way, like the tattooing is a way of like, trying to sort of, it’s still feeling like I lack something essential to the whole, you know. 

But my view of perfectionism is like, that I’m not whole and that, I’m not whole–see this very, this is like therapy–that I’m not whole, I’m not whole, and I need to like acquire, obtain, achieve, look a certain, do all this stuff in order to like become perfect, which is actually, when it’s like the opposite. Like the perfection is actually in the like wait, like in being fragmented, like I’m already lacking, I’m lacking nothing. Like that is the perfection. Like that’s the perfection. 

Like the broken, but it’s not even broken. It’s just like I’m lacking nothing essential to the whole. Like I don’t even know what the whole is supposed to look like. Like my idea of what the whole is supposed to look like is like so stupid. Like it just–like I get obsessed with lip balm. You know what I’m saying? Like I don’t know what the whole is supposed to look like. 

Like I just don’t think that, like if there is like a God or whatever, I just don’t think that, like my conception of like what the whole is, like with like my little lip balm or like whatever I think I need to like do to myself, you know, or like injecting stuff into my, well I don’t inject stuff into my face, but like going and like getting stuff injected into my face to like try to stop time, which is fine. I’m glad–I mean, I’m not glad I do it, but it’s like fine. But like, and I know I do it from a place of lack and fear, whatever. I live in Southern California, I know it’s like different. But, I’m like, there’s a lot of pressure. There’s a lot of pressure down there.

But you know, like those are my best ideas. So like, it’s best that I just like, try not like when I can like, not aspire for like my ideas, my like toxic ideas of perfection, it’s like better, you know? So anyway. 

So I guess I’m going to read just a little short story. I’ve been writing short stories lately. Oh, thank you so much. I wrote this recently for–and then we’ll just do like questions. Not from the tuna, although you can ask, feel free if you have like followups, if you want to go deeper into it.

But anyway, I wrote this for–this writer, Maggie Nelson, has a literary magazine online and out of Cal Arts. And they asked me to write something that’s sort of a little bit about Los Angeles. So I just like, wrote like three sentences about Los Angeles and then just like wrote what I wanted to write.

So,  this is something, I don’t even know if it’s a story, it’s just like a thing. It’s not that–it’s only like four pages, which is good for you. And it starts out about Los Angeles, and then it’s just like about other stuff. Okay. It’s called “Baby at the Mall.”  And I think it just kinda ties in. 

“Baby at the Mall.”

Obviously there is no Los Angeles. There are mountains, canyons, lizards, woodlands, cypress trees, coastal sage, granitic rocks, coves, coyotes, and humans who give these atomic clusters names. But Los Angeles, as entity, is in the mind. Obviously, then, there are infinite Los Angeles. Mine is parking garage, mall, self-doubt. 

I assume a natural disaster is coming for me tomorrow. I assume I am one earthquake, fire, or mud slide away from the end. But today is parking garage, mall, self-doubt. 

As long as my death is instantaneous, I feel good about dying in a natural disaster. Kill me on impact, and I’ll take whichever disaster is given. No preference. But if my death is not quick and painless, I don’t want it. It seems unfair that some people get to die in their sleep while others suffer for years. Of all of nature’s injustices, this may be the one with which I am most concerned. I am also concerned with beauty and time. 

At the mall no one looks at me with desire. I work tirelessly to be what I imagine others will perceive as desirable. I pedal machines to nowhere, shoot toxins into my head. I don’t drink any water, because that feels superfluous, but my blood and hair are full of miraculous chemicals. Sometimes I awaken in the middle of the night, turn to the darkened mirror by my bed, and say, “baby.” 

When I can’t see myself, I am shining. But at the mall, my shine is decimated by sun, halogen lights, a decline in external acknowledgement. At the mall I know that everything is already over. 

In the dressing room at Nordstrom, I see my naked self for the 60,000th time. There’s my face, old. Perioral dermatitis, new. Breasts, old. Brachiortal pruritis, new. Abdomen, swollen with unnecessary organs, old. Feet, old. Pubic hair grown into a knotty, “I surrender” thicket, new style, but old.

There should be a black balloon drop to commemorate the occasion of this 60,000th viewing. There should be a grim reaper piñata. Instead of festivities, I’m surrounded by sweatpants, piles in every iteration. Vintage stripe, slim modo, loungy, leopard, soft camo, cropped fleece, distressed cotton, tapered waffle, lace-up tie dye.

It is my hope that if I find the perfect pair of sweatpants, I’ll achieve a neverending state of existential fulfillment. I seek a terminal completion and I want a pair of sweatpants to do this for me. What’s more likely is that the purchase of the perfect sweatpants will provide momentary ecstasy, a flash of the infinite, followed by an even greater comedown.

This new low will send me running back to the mall tomorrow in pursuit of a second fleeting high, the kind achieved by returning non transcendent sweatpants and getting your money back. It is my plan to return the sweatpants before I die in the natural disaster, but if my death is quick and painless, then I may get my existential fulfillment after all.

I’m standing in the dressing room wearing only my vagina, overwhelmed by freewill and American bounty, when there’s a knock at the door. 

“Sorry,” I call out to whoever is knocking, though there’s no reason to apologize. Then another knock. “Sorry, I’m using this one.” But the door opens anyway. “Hey,” I say, “I’m in here.”

Something enters the dressing room, then quickly shuts the door. I’ve never seen a thing like this before. But I know it immediately. “Baby,” I say. It’s Baby. The Baby I call out to my pitch black mirror when I awaken in the night, the Baby I say to myself when I am no self. 

In daylight here at Nordstrom, Baby has somehow manifested from a word, a feeling, into an actual creature. She’s disarmingly cute, round and wet, a lustrous little piglet wearing a ring of coastal sage around her head like a crown. She has four little human feet, no nail polish, and from the looks of it has recently been playing in sand. She is totally translucent, but she doesn’t flicker in or out. Rather, she’s strong, somehow, in her lack of opacity. She uses liquid the color of maple syrup, as though she’s a swamp made of all the water I’ve never drank. When she sneezes twice a few small drops of moisture hit the dressing room mirror. 

“Bless you,” I say. She nods at me. It is only then, when our eyes meet, that I get nervous. Who is this Baby and what does she want? Is Baby with me or against me? 

“With you,” says Baby. Unlike other soul archetypes who make appearances at malls, Baby’s expression is neither impish nor debauchery. Rather, she smiles at me sweetly. Still I do not trust this Baby. I feel like she has come to issue judgment on me, to tell me what’s what by way of parable, or even worse, to make us walk around the mall together, go to Eataly and the Apple store and Sephora and Lulu Lemon, give me a litany of what’s wrong with my disgusting lifestyle of consumption, even if I buy nothing in every location. 

“You’ve come to tell me I’m bad,” I say. 

“Bad?” asks Baby. She looks confused, as though she’s never heard the word before. Doesn’t know what it means. 

“Bad,” I say, “mall bad.” 

“Mall bad?” 

“Selfish bad, greedy bad,” I say, “generator of unrecompensed labor and unsafe working conditions across the globe bad. Using sweatpants made of other people’s suffering to try and stop the passage of time bad. Seeking to be physically desirable as an illusory antidote to the shame I feel about causing suffering bad. Only causing further suffering in my efforts to be physically desirable bad.”

“Oh,” says Baby, “no, not bad.” 

I want to believe Baby, but when she says not bad, I can’t help but think she is really talking about herself. I already know that Baby is not bad. That’s the point of Baby. Baby is good, effortless good. She’s the messiah of this mall, archangel of this dressing room. She’s the transformational power of radical self acceptance, TM.

But if Baby is Baby, then who am I? 

“You’re Baby,” says Baby. 

I feel like I should cover up my vagina. I put my underpants back on, then rifle crazily through the piles of sweatpants. What I’m really doing is trying to get rid of Baby. I doubt that Baby can withstand the intensity of my sweatpants obsession. If I want to ward off Baby, what I need to do is compulsively try on sweatpants. 

“I like these ones with skulls,” I say, shaking a black pair printed with silver craniums at Baby’s snout. “I love clothing with skulls on it. Also, anything pleather. It makes me feel tough, like I’m method acting.” I slip my foot into one leg. Baby stares at me.

“Am I trying to fool people?” I ask. Maybe, but on a deeper level, I’m trying to fool myself. I consider it an aesthetic experiment in alchemy. I pull up the pants. I think I’m doing a really good job annoying her. 

“Here’s my theory,” I tell her, “when I wear skulls or pleather, I’m beckoning some inner toughness to surface from inside me. I’d call that conjuring, rather than lying, wouldn’t you?” I examine my ass in the mirror. Baby just continues to stare. “Sometimes,” I say, “a lie is so visionary that it becomes its own sort of conjuring. Honest in it’s dishonesty, if you will. This is precisely what I want for myself with the skulls.” I snap the elastic at my waist.

“Bottom line,” I say, “I want to appear both tough and desirable without looking like I care about being either. Do you think the skulls accomplish that? Does loungey leopard say tough and desirable in a more effortless way?” 

Baby squints her eyes. It appears she’s really considering my question. She opens her cute pink pig mouth as though to speak. Then closes it. Then she opens it again. 

“It doesn’t matter,” says Baby. Then we’re both silent. 

“I really hate that it doesn’t,” I say. 

“I know,” she says. 

Tomorrow, when I die in the natural disaster, Baby’s going to go with me. Baby will go and I will go. The toxins in my head, the chemicals in my hair, and all the water I never drank willl go together. I hope for both of our sakes it’s quick and painless. I hope it’s instantaneous.

Okay. So, after that does anyone have any questions? Or comments.

Audience Member 3: You mentioned that you used the Los Angeles prompt to just kind of have that as an initial hook, but then write what you wanted to write. Was that something that you had already really thought of, or did any portion of that build off of the Los Angeles prompt? 

Melissa Broder: I think about natural disasters a lot. Like, but only–well, like, so last year I masturbated through a fire. Basically, my husband doesn’t often leave the house–those who listen to the show know that he’s partially disabled. He often is housebound because of his health. And so, but he had left the house with his friend to go to In-N-Out Burger, it was like the one time. 

And then there was a canyon fire right near our street. And I heard a lot of sirens, but I didn’t, I just thought they were going like somewhere. And I was taking the opportunity of being alone in my home to watch some pornography and enjoy myself. And when I finished, which takes a while cause I’m easily distracted, I went outside, and all my neighbors were evacuating. 

So I do think–and so ever since then, cause it’s really pretty and leafy up in the canyon, but now when I see the beauty, like I just think like death trap. But it did get me thinking about like natural disasters and if I have a preference and how insane it is that we all, that–I always used to think of people who lived in like the path of hurricanes, like I have some family who lives in Florida and I’m like, why would you live there? And then, but now I live like in a fire trap and I’m just like, why would I live here? And then just continue to.

So I think I’ve been wanting to explore natural disasters and also sort of, the ways that we maybe feel that we can control death or… Like that it annoys me that I can’t like choose–well, I guess I can technically choose my own death, but that, like, if I don’t take matters into my own hands–that like it is, it does seem so arbitrary and it does to me seem kind of unfair. I mean, I know that’s like, most people are just like, okay, so you know, it is unfair. But that some deaths, like it’s like some people just get to go in their sleep, that’s so nice. And then others are like really bad. So, yeah. Just wanted to explore that. Just, you know, do a little exploring of the death. Yes. In a Los Angeles context. 

Audience Member 4: So that feeling of not enoughness that you were talking a lot about–how is it, if you do, that you manage to feel enough and like really believe it? 

Melissa Broder: Hmm. Well, so I have a lot of like short term ways that I’ve tried throughout my life to feel enough and like, you know, I definitely think like I can try to use like external achievement, like, I’m published in this thing, you know? And like, my dad’s friend knows what the magazine is, you know? And so like, that means like something has happened, you know. Or, like somebody from high school like sees I post a thing on Facebook that I like published this book. So like, that means I exist, you know. Like I do, I play those games like all the time. But there’s never enough of that external validation.

Like I remember when I published my first book of poetry–and when I say that it was published, it was literally published by like a dude in a basement in Tampa. Very nice man. But you know what I’m saying, it wasn’t like, Knopf. 

And I remember it was reviewed in Publishers Weekly, and I had worked as a book publicist for a long time, getting other authors’ books into Publishers Weekly. And I remember the day that it was in there and I was just like I can, I was like, this is it. I have arrived. Like, I am going to float through the–like, I exist, right? Like something has happened. And then like, probably within like six hours, I was already like, what’s the next thing? 

And so inevitably I think there are these little doggy treats of validation that like I will use, even though I know that, like from experience, that there’s no amount of anything, you know, that’s going to be enough. Like, so I think the only time, I think just like when I’m able to like really connect and help another person, like that’s kind of the only time–when I’m hearing about someone else’s shit, you know, and I like really relate, or just like the women I mentor, I think like, because I’m not thinking about myself, which is very rare. 

So I think, but it’s like, I’ll probably keep forgetting that for the rest of my life that like there’s nothing outside, like there’s nothing we can like buy or like achieve, or like there’s no amount of like love, like there’s no amount… Like I have, you know, like I have friends who are like, “if I just like get married, then.” And then they get married and they’re like, “if I just like, get divorced, then,” you know. Like, there’s no…

And like yeah, there just isn’t. There’s no there, and I guess that’s scary for us, and that’s why we make all these future theres. In my experience, there’s no there. I’m sure there are for some people, like I’m sure some people, maybe there is a there. But for me, there continues to prove to be an illusion. So I guess the only time I’m there is when I’m like not thinking about the getting there. Not to be too like, woo woo.

Audience Member 5: I’m curious about your choice to live in Los Angeles, which I could imagine is professionally very helpful, and, but it also, you know, you kind of joked, but  it seems very true, like the pressures of being there, like a lot of the, you know, struggles we all have, I feel like could be in your face and exaggerated, and, you know, it could just be really challenging. So I wonder if you like that challenge or if you see it as a challenge and how you feel about being there. 

Melissa Broder: Sure. Well, so living in LA was not part of the life plan. Like I never imagined that I would live there. What happened was, my husband and I needed to move somewhere warm because of his health. He, we had, I had lived in New York for 10 years, and he had lived in New York his whole life, and because of his health, he needed to be somewhere warmer, and I really didn’t want to move to Florida. And so I was like, well, Los Angeles has culture. And so, and it’s actually like, okay, it is warm, but it’s like also not that warm.

But it’s warm enough and it’s definitely warmer than like struggling to get on a subway in the snow. Like New York’s just not a very easy place to be a sick person, you know? So we moved there sort of, I guess it was, I wouldn’t say it was an accident, I mean, it was intentional, but it was sort of like for the weather mostly. And like somewhere that I could see living where there was sun, that I could imagine living where there was sun. And I didn’t want to go, I felt that my life, I, for some, I think like living in New York, I sort of just felt that there might not be a world, like I started to believe there wasn’t a world outside of New York, which I… 

But then like I left New York and then I was like, “Oh, there’s a world.” But so I really didn’t want to move there, and so I actually have been so pleasantly surprised. Cause when you go into something expecting to hate it, which is how I approach a lot of things, you’re often like, “Oh, this is kind of nice.”

You know? Like, that’s how I feel like a lot about a lot of social situations for me, or just like, like being with others and stuff, or just like, I’m always–like I love when things get canceled. You know, not me, I don’t like, I don’t want to get canceled. But like, you know what I’m saying? I love when things get canceled, cause it’s such a relief. But then sometimes when things don’t get canceled and I actually like do the thing, it’s like, “Oh wait, I do like being with other humans.” And that’s kind of how I feel about LA. 

So, and I think everyone’s LA is kind of different. I probably don’t leave my house as much as a lot of people, some people in LA. And I’m really glad that I moved there, if only to meet the love of my life, Pickle. Who many of you know from the podcast, if you listen. Pickle’s my street rat. 

But I think that, you know, you take yourself wherever you go, and it’s like, I’d probably be neurotic and body dysmorphic no matter where I lived. So, but I do think it’s just kind of like some things that are the norm. Like I would have never injected stuff into my face while–like, I never even thought to do it when I was living in New York. And then like I went to a dermatologist in LA just to get a checkup, and he’s like, “so you’re going to take care of those?” And I was like, “what are the what those?” And then I, and then for the next six months when I looked in the mirror, all I saw were those, you know? And I was like, well, I guess I have to take care of those, you know? But I don’t know that I would have ever noticed the those, if it hadn’t been pointed out to me by a Los Angeles dermatologist, you know, like maybe in another city they would have just like, you know, given me like the, like told me, like, you need to like, why aren’t you using sunscreen? And I would’ve like lied and said I am, and then that would be it, you know. Like the usual. 

So  I guess in that sense, you know, there are certain–everyone’s a little extra, you know, puffy in the lip. And although, but I mean, now that’s everywhere. I feel like it’s really starting to, like, you go online and like, everyone looks like, they’re like a cartoon kind of, you know. Like it’s sort of getting, like the world’s getting–like, it would be hard, I think to be a teenager right now. I mean, it was always hard to be a teenager, but like I’m like, oh my gosh, like you’re like, the illusion of perfection is just like that much more pervasive. And the definition of perfection is that much more weird. So.

Audience Member 6: Hi. Sorry this is kind of the classic cheesy question. And I’m sorry I can’t remember the exact wording you used, but you mentioned something about writing making you feeling a little bit closer to your core self. And I guess I’m wondering what would you tell your 21 year old self, or what advice would you give to a 21 year old writer who’s having a hard time feeling at home in this world and is feeling a little bit like they’re just being hurled towards death? 

Melissa Broder: Umm. I mean, at 21, I was living in San Francisco, drunk. Like if it were right now, I was living right down the street. Hayes Valley was very different then.  I was just living at Gough. It was the early two thousands, and I was living at Gough and Hayes and Market. And probably stumbling home in a blackout. In a couple hours, I’d be coming home in a blackout. And I’m really glad, like for all of–I’m really glad for everything, cause it’s just like what it is.

And so I don’t know if I would have said anything to my 21 year old self, other than like, just like don’t wear, like I wore a lot of like heels. Like I would wear like these fishnet gloves and like heels, and like I did not need to be stumbling around on the heels. Like you can’t be stumbling around and like wear shoes you can’t run in. Like, you either have to be like a blackout drunk and wear sneakers or like, you know, be able to walk. 

So, but in terms of another 21 year old, I think just that everything feels like, so, like everything has so much gravitas, you know, in your early twenties, like, everything feels like really–and I mean, also when you’re a teen, even more so, maybe to some extent. And like, everything feels so important. And like, actually, like you’re like, you can be a thousand other things, you know, like you’re like, there are so many, like, there is no like one thing that like you are now that you’re just gonna like be, you know. Like there’s no, there’s no one. And like, you don’t have to, and what you’re doing right now for your job or like to make money or to eat, like that’s not gonna define you. 

You know, like I was, I don’t even think they still have it, but I was a peachy puff in San Francisco, which is like an old fashioned cigarette girl. We’d go around from bar to bar. Like I went door to door for Sierra Club for a few months like collecting money. I worked as an assistant for a tantric sex nonprofit in Marin. That was  fucking weird. I worked as a grill cook. The only thing I did related to writing was I had an internship at the San Francisco Bay Guardian for a couple months, which is now, I don’t think that paper exists anymore. But, I really wasn’t doing anything else related to writing at all. I had like, just, so. And also just like, but keep writing, you know. Because, writers write.

I guess we can probably, I think we’re gonna, if no one else has any more questions. I think that’s. 

City Arts & Lectures: We have one in the back. 

Melissa Broder: Oh one more. 

Audience Member 7: Hi, I have another kind of writing related question as well. First, thank you so much for your work. I’m a huge fan, so just wanted to say that. But, so, for writing related question, I’ve been, what would your advice be for somebody who has been working on a novel manuscript for a really long time, you feel like you’ve been working on it, pouring in the years, pouring the hours, and it’s still not quite where you want it to be, but you know it’s going to be, you still believe in it, and then you kind of see like other people getting published in your circle, and you’re trying not to be jealous, but you kind of are a little bit and then your friends–.

Melissa Broder: It’s so annoying.

Audience Member 7: And then your friends are like kind of like, “Oh, she’s probably never going to get this book out.” What is your advice to somebody in that place? 

Melissa Broder: Well, is the book not where you want it to be yet, but you think it’ll get there? 

Audience Member 7: I think it’ll get there, yeah. Like I’m like, it’s getting closer with each revision, but it’s just, it’s still like, damn it, why am I still not there? 

Melissa Broder: I think like it’s actually better if a book is not where you want it to be, but you have vision for it, then if you think that if a book is like exactly where you want it to be and like the world is like, no. You know, like, you’re incubating. You know, and it is–I think it’s hard for everybody to watch you know, people in their field have successes on any level, no matter what level you’re on, you know. And it’s challenging. You know, that’s a challenging thing about the arts. 

And I think that it’s hard to not, it’s hard to not like, I think it, I don’t hear a lot of honesty around this, but it is sometimes hard not to take other people’s successes personally, you know, and be like, well, that means that like that, and to feel like there are limited sizes of the pie, when over time that is just not true. You know? 

Another great thing that I love about being a writer is that we don’t have an expiration date. Like we actually, like the older we get, it’s like good. Like we’re like stinky cheese, you know what I’m saying? Like, a musician–musicians don’t have expiration dates, but like, if you want to be like a rock god, you kind of have a timer, you know what I’m saying? Like, you’re not going to, you’re probably not going to have your breakthrough when you’re like 50. Whereas a writer can have their breakthrough at 70. You know, we don’t have to be young and hot, which is so nice. So, in that sense, like there isn’t a timeline. 

Also, another, Oh, I love this too. And I’ll wrap up. So, when a good friend of mine, she was seeing all, she really wanted to get married. I don’t know why, but, she really wanted to. No, I do know why, cause she wasn’t married. You know, like all, like I’m like, “Oh my God, just enjoy.” I’m like, “enjoy your freedom.” But she really wanted to be married and she’s like, she was younger than me. And she was like, “I just like, I see all my friends getting married,” and I was like, “they’re going to be divorced, like some of them, like they’re not all gonna make it.” 

And with the people who are getting book deals now, they’re not all gonna make it. They might be, that might be the last, the last of the book deals. You know what I’m saying? Whereas like, who the hell knows what’s going to happen to you in five years? You know, like, and so it’s, so not to say like, take heart in other people’s potential failures, but like, when you’re feeling really low, just know that like, the future is unwritten for them too. You know, like, and one book deal is too many and a thousand are never enough. You know, it’s like, it’s more–the story’s not over yet, you know? Yeah. 

City Arts & Lectures: Melissa’s going to be signing books over at this table now. Thanks so much.