I Went And Saw My Favorite Writer On Tuesday Night, And It Was Pretty Great

There are several things I could write about – the 2014 World Series Champions San Francisco Giants (and how baseball has left us for the winter, again); my ongoing horror and confusion at the complex, strange, and honestly embarrassing Internet catastrophe that is #GamerGate; near-fight I got into yesterday with a bunch of people in Guy Fawkes masks, who were very intent on explaining to me how all elections were rigged and “sheeple” like me needed to “wake up”; my annual disappointment at the incredibly low turnout in Tuesday’s elections…

But we’re moving into the nasty months of the year. It’s my second winter in the East, and I’m trying to relearn how to keep myself warm, both literally and figuratively, as the days shrink down; the pavement is dark with rain, the wind is scratching nails down the backs of our necks, and I haven’t seen the sun since October. This isn’t, I think, a good time to talk about what makes me angry, or what makes me sad, or what breaks my heart.

So I went and saw my favorite writer at the bookshop HousingWorks on Tuesday, and it was awesome.

I skipped class for it, which is something I do very rarely. (Don’t give me that look! I do skip class very rarely. I’m no good at learning outside of a classroom – and besides, I don’t have any lecture classes this semester. All of ’em take attendance. I couldn’t even if I wanted to.)

(And besides, when I say I “skipped” – honestly, I emailed my professor and said “I have a conflict, can I leave early”; at the beginning of class, she said, “Hannah, don’t you have to leave early for a… job thing?” and I made a vague and noncommittal gesture; when I was leaving, she said, “Good luck with your interview!” and, unfortunately, I did not have time to turn around and correct her. Which was, you know. Such a shame.)

So: the author’s name was Mallory Ortberg! She writes for a site called The Toast, which is a blog devoted to almost everything under the sun – its headers are “Feminism”, “Humor”, “Texts From”, and “Books”, and the posts currently on its front page are about 1) living with depression, 2) making fun of Western art history, 3) the history of the ancient Celtic rebel queen Boudica (with added profanity), 4) making fun of Sophia Loren, 5) basketball star Brittney Griner, and 6) making fun of people who write blog posts about “doing something they wouldn’t normally do for a period of time”.

As you can see, it’s more or less impossible to nail down the Toast to any one topic or genre, aside from “usually extremely funny”, “sometimes pretty thought-provoking”, and “totally my favorite”. It’s the kind of off-beat, very dry, very weird and difficult humor that I’m absolutely sure I inherited from my dad’s side of the family – sorry, Dad – and that I latch onto automatically whenever I see it in the wild.

So I got to see Mallory Ortberg!

And apart from everything else, god, it’s always wonderful to see your heroes. Especially when you’re a college student, and especially when you’re a girl, who are two demographics that are really strongly encouraged to see everyone else as potential competition for The Most Important Things In Life (low-paying jobs and the attention of men, respectively).

It’s always wonderful to get to spend some time around people that you just wholeheartedly respect, with no jealousy or anxiety complicating your feelings. Admiration is just one of the most pleasant feelings in the world, especially when it’s admiration for someone who you genuinely see yourself in (queer female writers from Oakland who compulsively make jokes about Communism and feminism tend to appeal to me, shockingly enough).

I didn’t even end up buying Mallory Ortberg’s book (lost wallet, living off leftover cash, alas) and so did not get to stand in the book-signing line, but I still walked away feeling like I’d just been in a pool of sunshine for hours and hours. Mallory Ortberg is someone with a very infectious sense of self-confidence, and an even more infectious sense of delight; I adore her, I adored seeing her, and as winter stalks up behind us, it’s good to give ourselves a little more sunshine in our days than we had the day before.

Which isn’t to say I’m not still disappointed about voter turnout, or bittersweet about baseball, or weirded out by the conspiracy theorists, or continually secondhand-embarrassed by Gamergate. (Most recent development: Gamergaters have created a “mascot” for themselves, named Vivian James, whose purpose is to prove that since there is a woman (fictional, and created by them) who agrees with their points, they cannot possibly be sexist. They have subsequently begun drawing porn of her. I am not joking.)

But I went to see an author I love on Tuesday night, and it was pretty great. So there’s also that.


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