Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Fine, I Guess? - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled “Fine, I Guess?” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

Listen to the episode here.


——————

I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.”

Today, we’re talking to Sam Irby, who is an author who I love and admire and who I was very, very nervous to speak to, and I do think you can tell in this episode, and I also think that’s okay.

A very typical arc for stories — in life and on this podcast — is that things are bad and then they aren’t anymore. Or they’re bad and then good and then bad again. We sometimes do that. And what I like so much about Sam’s work is that they’re just kind of all good and bad all at the same time. There are things to laugh about when life is awful and your body is turning on you. There are things to complain about when you’re deeply in love with a person who treats you like an angel. 

And that’s why I wanted to talk with Sam. Because so much of the work that got her to this okay place does come from a very traumatic past. She hasn’t turned her lemons into lemonade — a phrase I personally despise — she just let them be lemons, and then… wrote about how bad lemons taste. 

Sam is not Terrible right now, but she has been. Right now she’s, ya know, pretty okay. And I want to spend some time in that space with her, and with all of you.

So we’re going to talk about that — the good and bad and all of it — and we’re mostly going to laugh about it. And today, we’re going to start with where Sam lives.

Samantha: I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And the thing about it is I don't do much outside of my house in Kalamazoo, Michigan, even pre-pandemic. But Kalamazoo is a college town, like there's… Western Michigan is here and Kalamazoo College. So it's like a tiny blue oasis surrounded by a sea of deep, deep crimson. 

It's cute. Like, we live on a cobblestone street, which, like, come on, right? Like, driving home on the little cobblestones, I'm just like, “This is so quaint.” It makes me want to throw up. But, like, it's cute, but it's real. Like... it has a lot of people in poverty here, with which I'm very well acquainted, like, having grown up poor. And, like, houses are cheap, everything's cheap, which is why we live here. 

I'm not making Kalamazoo sound good. It's cute. It's progressive. But also it's, like, real. And you can get an apartment for, like, four hundred dollars a month. 

Before Sam was living in a quaint college town on a cobblestone street, she was the first veterinary receptionist to have a New York Times bestselling book... I’m pretty sure. There is... I find that a hard thing to fact check, but who else could it be? And if you are also a veterinary receptionist with a New York Times bestselling book, please get in my DMs and I will talk to you, too. 

Sam wrote this hilarious essay collection called Meaty — M-E-A-T-Y, Meaty — about things like homelessness, and Crohn's disease, and women who go on baby food diets, and family trauma. She’s really adept at weaving together humor and tragedy in a way that doesn’t discount her own suffering but more illuminates how ridiculous it is that anyone is even remotely okay in life ever. 

That book changed a lot of things for Sam. It didn’t change her Crohn’s — that’s forever — but it launched her into this stratosphere of Successful Author. She got to write TV — if you’ve watched “Shrill” on Hulu, which I recommend, that’s her! that’s her writing!  — she got some financial stability, and she got a house on a cobblestone street, which sounds really fancy!

Samantha: It's so funny, because people... like as soon as you're like, oh, yeah, we have a house, people are like, “Okay, moneybags.” And it's like... our house was, like, $80,000. And they're like, “Oh my God, I'm so sorry!” [laughter]

Nora: [laughter] Are you okay?”

Samantha: “What can we send you? Should your housewarming gift be a better house?”  [laughter]

Nora: Should that be more of a house burning gift?”

Samantha: [laughter]

Yes, having a house is a wonderful privilege, and it’s also a complete and utter sponge for your time and money. So I made Sam read me a part of her book that had made me laugh so hard, where she lists all the things about a house that she just DOESN’T UNDERSTAND!

Samantha: What is that thing attached to the back of our house? A deck or a patio? What do gutters do? How do you clean a fucking screen? How many smoke detectors do you have to have? Like, is it a law… or is it just up to your discretion? Can I just try to step around the squeaky stair when I'm coming down, or is that the kind of thing that eventually needs to get looked at? What do you mean “store the hose”? Sheesh. Do I have to become a goddamn electrician to put this stupid Home Depot ceiling fan up? The dishwasher stinks; is that a real problem? What is that damp looking shit on the ceiling? Are houses supposed to be washed on the outside? 

Things I’d like to add to that list is that I did not know that the sewer pipe wasn’t covered by home insurance. First of all, what does home insurance cover, and why do we even have it? And why is it somehow more expensive for us to have a trampoline just because somebody will absolutely get hurt and lose a tooth and/or a limb on it?

Oh my gosh, you have to get a new roof repeatedly. And I lived in the Midwest. I was like, “Yeah, the roof is 30 years old. Great, sounds like a good roof.” Apparently not. Apparently that’s a red flag. You’re not supposed to have a 30-year-old roof. Lots I don’t understand about houses. 

And these are maybe things that you could call your parents about, but Sam’s parents are dead. They may be things you’d learn on YouTube, but who wants to mess up their algorithm by looking that up on YouTube? These are all reasons why you should be with (or live with) a person who knows these kinds of things. For me, that is my husband, Matthew. And for Sam, that person is her wife, Kirsten.

Nora: How did you end up in Kalamazoo? 

Samantha: So I'm from Evanston, Illinois, which is a suburb just north of Chicago. And I was, like, living on the north side of Chicago and working in Evanston. And I met this woman on Twitter, which I mean, I hate to tell people that we met on Twitter, because Twitter is such a toilet that, like, I don't want anyone to think that anything good can come from it. 

Nora: But it's like... that was a different time. Describe the Twitter era that you two met in. 

Samantha: So it was 2013. And, like, my book Meaty came out on a little, like, independent Chicago publisher in 2013 or 2012. 2013? Something like that. Like in the halcyon days of being online before it was, like, all bots and trolls. And she had read the book and she was tweeting at me how much she loved it. And because I am a raging egomaniac, I entertained these tweets. I'm like, “Oh, you want to send me compliments online? Yes.”

So we started tweeting at each other back and forth. But the one thing about Twitter, like… and it's going to sound weird coming from me, but I never want to be having a conversation in public. Like, I'm not a private person. Like, I put too much of my business out into the world to call myself private. But I don't want to have a public, like, maybe romance-y conversation. So I DMed her, and we talked there for a while. And it was, like, the kind of thing where I was like, is this romantic or... or what? What are we doing?

So we went back and forth for a while. And finally, I was just like, “Here is my phone number. Just talk to me like a normal person.” And then we just kind of had, like, friendship talks for a while. And then... I'm very blunt, and I was like, “Am I courting you? Or what am I doing? Is this romantic?” And she was like, “Yeah, I think so.” 

So then I started, you know, talking to her like I was interested in her sexually. Which is pretty much the same as I would, like, text my grandmother because I don't know how to be sexy in conversation. But at least I knew it was going somewhere. And so she was in Kalamazoo, which is like two and a half hours away from Chicago. But she had gone to school in Chicago, and her sister still lived in Chicago. So she was like, I'm going to come to town to visit my sister and we should… we should go out. 

Once you know an online flirtation has some sexual potential, you gotta go see where it leads. And you know they got married, so it did lead to love and commitment. And falling in love is magical… and it’s also… practical. 

Samantha: I went and got a haircut. And right after that, I met her at this little brunch place that was so cute. I mean, she's tall and, like, lean. She doesn't look like the kind of person who would eat a lot. And she ate more food than I've ever seen any human being eat. And I was like, “Ohhh yes.” [laughter] I was like… I mean, she almost, like, picked up the plate and licked it. I was like, “Oh, this, mmhmmm. This is my.. this my person.”

So then we did kind of the short, long-distance thing for a while. I would come here, she would come to Chicago. And then, like, a couple of things happened. It was going on long enough that it felt real. It felt like we should live together. She has two kids, and I mean, trying to find a place for four people to live in Chicago that won't bankrupt you is impossible. 

And so I was like, “OK, I will think about moving.” And also, I was at a point in my career where there were some things I wanted to do that I couldn't also do while having a full-time job, because I was working in an animal hospital like 10, 11 hours a day and the weekends. And it was, like, I needed to not have that job in order to do, like, some writing stuff I wanted to do. And so it just made sense for me to move. Our mortgage on this house is cheaper than my studio apartment was in Chicago. Like our mortgage is, like, 750 bucks. 

See? Practicality. Practicality is a part of romance. And my second marriage came with health insurance, which was a big turn on. I also love him.

Nora: Okay. So tell me what it's like being married. 

Samantha: Oh, my God. Well, it's a pain. I… it's not... my wife is very nice, but I am a goblin. And we've been married for like four years, and every day is, like, the first day I've lived with her, because I'm so unused to being watched, or... you know what I mean? Like, when we were dating, on the weekends she would come. So two weekends out of the month, I had to, like, look like a person who didn't, you know, just eat trail mix for every meal. And like, being married just means the potential for her to be judging me… it just is all the time. And the pandemic has heightened that, because now she's a social worker in the public schools here. So she would be gone for a good chunk of the day. And I could, like, be dirty or, like, eat cereal for all my meals or whatever. Or, like, order things online and hide the packaging before she got home. But now she's just here all the time. And I feel, I don't know, like a little bit like a goldfish in a bowl. If she was here, she would tell you that this is an extreme overreaction on my part. She's never said like, “Hey, saw you ordered that as-seen-on-TV foot massager. Why?” She's not even like that. But just like the fact that she could see all of my, you know, bad behavior, it's very stressful. So that part of being married, four years in and I'm still adjusting.

I mean, I don't even do this passive aggressively, but now I notice it, so now it’s a thing. I will put something somewhere and like she will move it to the place she likes it. And there are so many things like that, that I'm like... like, in my mind, I'm like, wait, is this actually a problem or is this, like, muscle memory? Is she secretly, like, like plotting my murder because I move the water jar over there and she likes it over here? 

Nora: It's like, I don't use a level when hanging pictures because, like... you can eyeball it.

Samantha: Yeah. Oh no. We're married to the same type of person. 

Nora: Yeah. I’m like, okay!

Samantha: I mean, she doesn't say it to me but I could see it in her brain is like, “Where's that gonna go?” You just see it every time I'm doing something or getting something or pulling something out from somewhere, I can just, like, see her across the room being like, “But where is that going to go?”

The reality of marriage is that you have a person to do life alongside you. A person to have and to hold until death parts you. And it also — and I can’t stress enough how much this part sucks — it means compromising. Or maybe not compromising right away but considering that the other person really wants to do basic life things in a way that you fundamentally do not understand. 

Samantha: A couple years ago, we went to, like, look at couches because she had this old couch that I hated. And so we just, like, were passing the couch store. And I was like, “Let's go in and like, look at couches.” And so we looked, and I'm not good at looking. If I see something I like, I'm just like, “OK, let's just get it.” I don't believe in, like, checking the Blue Book value or whatever. I don't want to do any research. Let's just get it. So I… we found this couch. I liked it, and I was like, “Let's get it.” And I could see she was, like, melting like a candle, right? But, like, trying to hold it together in front of the sales guy. And I was like, what's the problem?

So dude walks away, I'm like, “Here's my card.” Let's talk about what you can deliver it. So he walks away to go run the card and she's like, “You didn't measure!” And I'm like, “Yeah, but I eyeballed it.” She's like, “But you don't know what feet or inches or centimeters are. You can't just, like, buy a couch.” And I was like, it's too late. I gave my card. So luckily, the couch fits. But like, I'm a chaos agent, and she's a normal, thoughtful person. [laughter]. 

For a lot of people, being with a monster who wants the furniture to fit the space, or who cleans the kitchen, is a big departure from their previous dating history. If you are currently in your 20s… Jeyca, baby, I’m so sorry. You will eventually get older, and things will… be not better necessarily, but at least different, I promise. And if you don’t believe me, believe Sam, who is now married to Kirsten, who is this tall woodland sprite who cares about Sam’s health and emotional well-being and wants her to be hydrated and well-rested. But it wasn’t always like that for Sam.

Nora: How is your life now different from your relationships in your 20s, your life in your 20s? 

Samantha: Well, I will say, as far as relationships are concerned, I read this thing that I can't quote, because I don't remember anything, but a million years ago I read this thing that was like, when you have butterflies while dating a person, that's like a fight-or-flight response. And somehow we've romanticized it into, like, the butterflies are, like, indicative that you're really into a person when really it just is like your body being scared. 

And I would say that relationship-wise, this is a no butterflies relationship. And it takes a minute to be like… this is how it's supposed to be with a person. You're supposed to be sure that they are going to be where they say they are and do what they say they're going to do and that they feel about you the way their words say they do. And this is maybe the first time in life I have been with a person and been certain that that person actually liked me and appreciated what I have and wasn't always running down a list of the things I'm not or the things I don't have. 

And that… it's hard to, like, recognize because, you know, we were all raised by the same rom-coms — and by that I mean “Sex and the City.” It's hard not to look for those kind of traditional cues. Like… Kirsten has never been withholding. She's never disappeared or not texted back or just all the stuff that are kind of part and parcel with what you're supposed to expect from a relationship. And like the kind of things that defined every relationship I had when I was young, like when you get… when you get to the point… like when you get to this place where someone does what they say they're going to do, it was — for a while, it was like, what's the catch? You know what I mean? Like, when is the other shoe going to drop? 

And I think in my 20s it, like, felt exciting because, you know, everything feels exciting, like, when you're young and, like, your knees have cartilage. But like... if someone was jerking me around right now, I would like, go become like a cave woman or something. I would just be in a shack in the woods, because I just have no patience for kind of the game-playing.

And so I think the difference in this relationship at 40 is one, that it's, like, honest and real, but two, that if it weren't, I wouldn't tolerate it. I just, like, thinking about, like, some of the shit I put up with when I was young, I just am like, oh, my God. Who is that person and why didn't she love herself? [laughing]

Nora: One time I went to bed with makeup on in case this boy texted, wanted to hang out and he did at 1 a.m.  And do you think I got on the fucking subway and went to Williamsburg. I did. Oh, I did. As if I were just out and about. I was not. I was sleeping in going-out clothes just in case. Why didn't I love myself? Why?

Samantha: It's true. It's true. And I've, I've done that. I mean, the hard thing, especially, like, with men, if you ask for more, a lot of them will just be like, “No not doing that.” So then you feel like you have to, because if you say, “Listen, this doesn't work for me,” then it's like, well, I'm never going to hear from him again. And when you're 22, that feels like the worst thing that could ever happen rather than his doing you an absolute favor.

But like, no, I... I once slept with this guy who while he was grinding on top of me, some other woman’s, like, long hair was hanging out of his beard, obviously because it had been in his bed. And I let him finish!

Nora: [laughter]

Samantha: It was the day before Thanksgiving and I... I let him finish and just sort of watched this hair, like, moving back and forth, like... tickling my face above me. And it's [laughter]... and it's, like, inconceivable to me now, like, current me, you know, because we didn't have an arrangement where, like, sleeping with people with long hair was a part of the bargain, you know? I shaved my hair off. So it was pretty, pretty...

Nora: Pretty obvious. 

Samantha: That it wasn't mine. And then there's so much pressure to be cool and breezy and, like, detached. And so in that instance, I didn't even, like, say that I was hurt. I just was trying to be, like, cool and breezy and detached. And I went like... I left his place and, like, went home to get ready to, like, go to my sister's for Thanksgiving. And that whole day I was just like, “What, what, what, what am I doing?” Like, why didn't I say, “Oh, excuse me, could you pull yourself out of my body and tell me why there's long hair hanging out of your beard?” I didn't do that. 

We’re going to take a quick break.

We’re back, talking with Sam Irby about a lot of stuff. About how even when you’re pretty fine, it doesn’t make things perfect. And one of the things I love most about Sam is the way she talks about her body, which is not with a sense of reverence or admiration, but a sense of reality and a sense of humor.

Bodies are so weird. Bodies are so weird and funny! They just are! Have you looked at your toes lately? Feet fingers, that’s what those are. Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. Men have nipples… why? Tell me why. It’s so stupid! Our bodies can also just turn on us, out of nowhere, even when we feed them kale juice and do yoga every day — like my friend Karen, who got breast cancer even though she shops at REI. It’s so dumb!

One of my favorite chapters in Sam’s new book — Wow, No Thank You — is called “Body Negativity.” The very last line is: 

“Loving yourself is a full-time job with shitty benefits. I’m calling in sick.” And this is a controversial take in the era of self-care and self-love.

Samantha: Someone asked me if I thought that writing that was body shaming. And I was like, I think it's the exact opposite. Like, I am embracing your right to, like, hate all of the stuff that you have to do to keep your body going. I am a supporter of body hatred. I think that it is perfectly okay for you to or for you to do whatever with your body, but, like, this idea that like you have to love your body is so bonkers to me, because no one really tells you how. And I think it will require a complete restructuring of society. 

Nora: Yeah, fair. They're like love it. Now slide on these Spankx. 

Samantha: I'm just… I am like... it takes so much work to maintain. You wouldn't love a house you had to do this much stuff to. I mean, for real. You wouldn't love, like, a kid who took — that's not true. But you wouldn't love a boyfriend who —

Nora: You would not. 

Samantha: — required this much maintenance and upkeep. I think it's perfectly OK to be like, “You know, I resent having to do all this goddamn shit to keep this vessel sentient. Too keep the blood flowing through it.” And like, I think it's okay to acknowledge that for some of us, it's hard. And like, it isn't… we aren't geared toward, like, passionate… you know how people are, like, passionately like, “I love getting my beans and greens.” I don't think everyone has to be like that. 

Nora: It's true. [laughter]

Samantha: I'm here for the people who are like, “Oh, it's all I can do to get up, pour coffee in it, and get it to the toilet.” That's my day. [laughter] Like, for some of us, like, that's the reality. And I'm here to rep that. But also, I mean, speaking of, like, 20s, I wish I had, like, my 20-year-old knees with my 40-year-old brain and experience. 

Nora: I also think, like... that the point you made, which is that you wouldn't love a house that you had to put this much... this much work into you. Love is not just, like, a relentless positivity. It is like also an acknowledgment of all of the realities of a situation, of a person. The people that we love, we are not, like... I don't wake up every day and look at even, like, the children that I love and say, like, “Yes, god I love it when you fucking whine for two more hours of Roblox. I love it.” Like there's... it's just… that's… that's not it's so unproductive. It's almost like… It is requesting of people, like, a sort of blind appreciation for... I don't. It's, it is. It's like this. It's… I think body positivity and toxic positivity have a very, very big overlap to it. 

Samantha: Toxic positivity. This is the first time I'm hearing the term, but I know exactly what it means. I was just going to say, and I'm not even like a person who knows how to properly use the word erasure, but it feels like erasure of those of us with… because like I love… oh I don't know I'm not really an enthusiastic person. I was going to say, I'd enthusiastically love my body if, like, it didn't have, like, Crohn's disease and arthritis. But, like, it sort of ignores those of us who struggle with bodies that are complicated, and like... if I saw, like, people in, like, the kind of body positivity space, this sort of like effervescent like the yee-ha kind of body positivity who acknowledge that, like, yeah, your body may hurt, or this may not work or your that may not work. If there was anyone who would acknowledge that, I'd maybe be on board. But like, if you're just trying to sell me, like, yoga pants, well, I can't get into any yoga poses. [laughter] So don't talk to me about loving this thing that won't bend, okay? Unless you're acknowledging that it doesn't bend. It's so hard to, like, discern a positive message from a sales pitch. And it really bugs me.

Nora: And it's... so much of the time it's like paired with, you know... like, something like basically being 10 to 15 pounds over your perceived ideal weight. You know, like “I’m gonna love myself, even though my legs touch.” It's like ehhhhhh, most legs touch. 

Samantha: [laughter] Yeah. Talk to me when your legs, like, overlap each other in a chair and then... like then, we can really get into it. And it's a very specific kind of like... because, like, fat liberation and positivity, I'm into, but that's rarely what people are talking about. It's usually, like, like what you're saying, like, “Oh, I'm a size six instead of a size two. Let's talk about, like, what a struggle it is for me to love myself. Yet somehow I persevere.” Like, that's the kind of thing that I'm like, “Listen, I'd be willing to hear that if you would also talk to me about your psoriasis and, like, the boil you got on your butt cheeks or whatever. You know what I mean? If there was any sort of acknowledgement that like, yes, there are problems. This is how I deal with them. But like, it's rarely, rarely that. 

I wanna talk about toxic positivity for a moment. We will get into it in another episode, probably several episodes. But toxic positivity is, I think, what this entire show is trying NOT to do, and it’s what Sam’s work is a necessary antidote for. 

Toxic positivity is... you know it when you see it, honestly. It’s the denial of natural struggle and negative feelings. You see it online a lot. You see it a lot in self-help — I use that term very loosely. Wherever you hear “mind over matter” or “hustle harder” or anything that just feels like it’s completely disregarding the real systemic and physical and psychological issues that prevent us all from being a non-stop joy rave.

Anywhere that you have that sort of messaging or energy where people are like, “just get over it, get through it, get around it,” you have toxic positivity. There have been many studies about how this affects us, how the denial or the suppression of negative feelings doesn’t actually help us. It just puts more stress on us, emotionally and also physically. It is healthier in every way for us to acknowledge the good AND bad in our lives — in our creaky houses and on our cobblestone streets. In our marriages and our personal habits. In our bodies. 

Nora: What is and is not working in your body these days?

Samantha: The first thing that's not working properly — it works, but it's not working well — is my brain. I just got my Lexapro bumped up—

Nora: Woo! 

Samantha: — to help deal with my depression. And it... I don't know if it's the meds or just the general state of things, but I have a Swiss cheese brain like you would not believe. I cannot… well you would believe it, because I had to email you 40 times, being like, “Listen, I forgot. Can we reschedule? Listen, I'm so sorry, I dropped the ball. Can we reschedule?” [laughter] Um so... That's not working. But we're getting there

A thing that is working. You know what? I'm going to give a shout out to my guts, which usually don't work as well as I'd like them to. But lately, all my food has been processing with zero pain and coming out formed. [laughter] It's true. Like, that's my wish for people, like I sign people's books and I'm like, “I hope you have a formed stool today.” So that has been, knock on wood, pretty good!

Nora: I literally should not have jinxed you with this question. 

Samantha: I'm gonna have explosive diarrhea the rest of the day. But right now it's pretty good. 

Time for a quick break. I hope none of you have explosive diarrhea.


We’re back. And we’re talking about bodies, and self-image, and self-care, and the very real way that typically-abled individuals use the phrase “body positivity” in a way that erases the very real struggles of people with serious health issues. In some ways — and this is coming from an able, average, average weight, tall, white woman with fake blonde hair — I think maybe the healthiest attitude we can have about our bodies is just… neutrality. Nobody needs to see a skinny influencer slouching and calling the natural folds of a human abdomen her “stomach rolls.” I could name names. Nobody needs to be told their body is a wonderland when maybe their body just pooped itself in the Mall of America, which happens more often than you think! For more on this topic, I refer you to Sam’s “Body Negativity” chapter and to the many links in our show notes.

Because now, we’re moving the conversation to a lighter topic: buying skincare products you don’t need that probably won’t work.

Samantha: So the one good thing about me is I at least put a limit on, like, the price of the thing I will buy. That said, I buy most things that are advertised to me in a beautiful way and will claim to redo my whole face. They never really work, but I'm always hopeful with every purchase. So, like, I will not buy a 200 dollar neck cream. Like, that's insane. I don't even think I'd buy a 100 dollar neck cream. But anything short of that, I will buy it and I will use 12 to 18 percent of it and then forget about it when I get the next miracle product that inevitably will not work. 

Nora: I just like the promise that exists in the purchase phase and the arrival phase. 

Samantha: There is no better feeling than when your new skin care arrives and you're like... my face is going to be beautiful. It's going to be radiant and soft and supple, but not greasy, all because of this, you know, 30 dollar bottle of chemicals. And it never works. But the hope feels good.

Nora: The ingredients that I could not identify, but I know are key. These are key ingredients. These are... really, truly key ingredients. 

Samantha: I am such a fucking, like, a dumb bitch because I will see the thing and be, like, “That's the one. I bought all the other ones, but this one is the one.” And then it comes and it's like, you dumb bitch. It's nothing. That's not it. 

Nora: The first ingredient is water. Water! Okay. Water. We have that. We have already. 

Samantha: If it wasn't so pretty... you know, what I have to do is not follow those people who do, like, flat lays of their beautiful products. 

Nora: Yes, yes. Yes. Oh my God. I've gotten really into YouTube in this pandemic, so I just watch a lot of beauty YouTube and I'm like, yeah, like, I'm a 20-year-old boy. Of course, this would work for me. It's not just that he is a 20-year-old boy, so of course, his eyes are not puffy or saggy. That couldn't be the reason. It's got to be the quartz roller.

Samantha: I mean, you could truly be like, “Sam, just go in the kitchen and drink some water and that'll help your skin.” I would, like, murder you for telling me that. But if you were like, “Here's a bottle of cream. There's point two ounces. It costs 68 dollars. Put this on four times a day.” I would do that rather than go drink one glass of free water. 

Nora: Rather than, like, sleep for eight hours at a regular time. I would... just like, what is the work around? Because I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to go to bed at a regular time. So...

Samantha: It's like, “Oh, put my phone down before bed or buy 6 exfoliators?” I'll tell you which one I'm gonna try. 

Sam Irby is not Terrible right now, but she knows that she could be. There is a certain kind of uncertainty to all of Sam’s work, this recognition that nothing is final, nothing is forever. Not even this phase, where she’s the toast of the town — the town being the New York Times bestseller list, where two of her books were on at once. She holds it all very loosely, like I think we all probably should. 

Samantha: I'm starting to think about, like, what I would put in a new collection and I'm like, “Oh, you know what, I'm going to write about, like, perimenopause.” And then I'm like, oh… once I start writing about that, like we are over the hill, and there are... there are fewer and fewer people who are going to tune in. But like, I'm going to get what I can get while I can get it, because I understand it's not sustainable. And I also accept that. Like, the minute I can't sell another book, like if we get to the point where it's not by my choice, where I'm, like, trying to sell a book and they're like, we'll give you 30 bucks, I'm going to, like, quit and go work at the gas station or like find another cat doctor to work at.

Nora: I'll dust off that resume. 

Samantha: Yeah, I know how to take a hint. I'll be done when it's time to be done. But until then, I'm not going to apologize. Like, you know, I grew up, like, literally eating, like, garbage and at food banks and grocery shopping at the dollar store. I'm going to get what I can while I can. And if somebody is mad about it then... I'm so sorry they have never heard of anyone who's actually bad to be mad at. [laughter]


I’m Nora McInerny, and this has been “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.”

We have linked to Sam Irby’s books in the show description and also to her daily newsletter, which typically includes a recap of the day’s episode of “Judge Joe Mathis” and routinely just makes me laugh out loud in a literal sense. 

We also have a newsletter. We send it out twice a month. They’re good! I get them. I like it — TTFA.org/newsletter.

And we have a shop on Bookshop.org, so if you purchase a physical or an ebook from that affiliate shop, you support the author, independent bookstores and our show! That’s also linked in the show notes.

Now for the credits. I’m Nora McInerny. Our producer is Marcel Malekebu. Phyllis Fletcher is our editor. Holy crap, are we lucky to have her? Hannah Meacock Ross, Jordan Turgeon, Jeyca Maldonado-Medina… all parts of the team. All help make episodes. We are grateful for them. Our theme music is by Geoffrey Lamar Wilson. We are a production of American Public Media.

And I record this in my closet, and so sometimes episodes are, like, really whispery, and it’s because the children are asleep in my bed. But today’s episode was a little heartier because the children are in their rooms, going to school. P.S. Wake me up when September ends, that is all. [laughs] Marcel wrote that. Okay, bye!