Melissa Broder is God, Melissa Broder is the Internet, she is pop culture, the iCloud, and all your fave sad girl memes rolled up into one perfect human being. Like, if Melissa Broder were an actual fruit roll up, her flavor would be, “sweet feminist oracle of truth and divine wisdom.” She is a radical response to the myth that feminists can love themselves totally and fully and always. She speaks to the anxieties, pleasures, secrets, imperfections, and paradoxes that we all contain. Her writing reminds us that the things that make us unable to cope with this world are the places where we can derive our most authentic power. Basically, everything she writes is earth shattering, so on point and dimensional. Get ready to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid and vow your feminist allegiance to her FOREVER.
Broder is the author of a new collection of poetry called Last Sext. She is also the author of a book of essays called So Sad Today, writes a column for Vice, and does astrology for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter. Some people note her anonymous (and now famous ) twitter account @SoSadToday as her claim to fame. It gained 300k followers before she even attached her name to it; it was just that good.
I got the chance to meet up with Broder on a Sunday afternoon in Venice Beach, CA, where she lives with her husband and adorable dog, Pickle. We traveled from storefronts to patches of green grass, to stoops belonging to strangers. We talked about feels, love, Last Sext, and the meaning behind her writing and persona.
Q: Can you further explain what it means to be a “superficial woman of depth”?
A: It means I can obsess about death and my hair at the same time. It means being aware of my own mortality and still going to Sephora. It means investing in things that I know I ultimately can’t take with me. And, of course, it means containing multitudes.
Q: What is your favorite poem in Last Sext, and why?
A: “Lunar Shatters” is one of my faves, because I feel like only I could write it. I don’t think anyone else could have written that poem.
Q: You write a lot about sexuality/sex, and in general your writing is very visceral and bodily. Would you classify some of your work as erotica or having elements of erotica?
A: It’s hard for me to not write about sex—especially if I’m writing a long piece. The sex always finds its way in there. As for whether my work is erotica, well, that’s up to the reader and whether they find it erotic. A few people told me they’ve had to stop and masturbate while reading my stuff and I was thrilled! Highest compliment. I’ve also written private things that no one has seen, simply to turn myself on. I was on a redeye flight a few years ago and I wrote a story about two women engaging in one of my fetishes. It was such a great flight because no one else was in my row, and I got to masturbate under the travel blanket in the sky in the dark.
Q: You’re a person whose emotional self is just laid out for the world to see. You write about a spectrum of human emotions that you probably wouldn’t want to bring up during a meeting or a casual work lunch. How does it feel to live your professional life every day, considering how publicly vulnerable you have been?
A: On a good day, everything I’ve written might empower me; on a bad day, it’s maybe an obstacle between me and things I want. Like I always think that my backup job is to work at Sephora. But then I’m like, dude, what if Sephora Googled me?? Sephora would think I’m a freak. They’d be like, “She’s not stable,” or, “Why is she talking about a vomit fetish? WE CAN’T HIRE HER.” So in those moments, I’m like what the fuck, I’ve ruined my chances…And sometimes it’s like, is it necessary that I’m putting all this shit into the world? My writing comes from a place of, OK let me just see if I can be this honest. And maybe it’ll be OK. It’s almost like a desire to confess. It’s like if you walk into a room and you have a zit. If you’re like, “OK, everyone, I have a zit,” then no one sees it without you having said you’ve seen it first. It’s kind of owning your shit. It’s a way of controlling it I guess.
Q: You talk about having shame about writing as yourself; guilt that you should maybe be more political, radical, a better feminist, etc.
A: Well, sometimes I’m like, there are people with bigger problems. I’m already anticipating what the critique of me will be. I’ve already thought of all the angles upon which I can be disliked or criticized. And I just have a lot of feminist guilt in general. Like I talk about that in the pubic hair part of So Sad Today. Like, what the fuck, who the fuck waxes off all their pubes, and still claims to be an artist? You know what I’m saying? Like, no, artists don’t do that. I wonder, am I not a feminist because I wax off all of my pubes? I don’t really know. I do think everyone’s feminism is valid—everyone’s feminism is valid except for my own. You know what I’m saying, like everyone’s everything is valid except for my own. BUT, in a way, I do think my voice is valid, and I’m just like here it is—what if I just put this out there. There’s something about it being the truth that makes it valid.
Q: Your writing voice is so influenced by pop culture lingo and just steeped in the internet & meme culture. You really fluidly re-purpose this language in So Sad Today, can you talk about that?
A: Its a fun language to inhabit in the tweets and essays. For my poetry, I never want to do any pop-culture stuff. I want only primal, timeless language if such a thing exists. But for the book So Sad Today it was really fun to inhabit some internet jargon because I love that lexicon and there’s something so important and heightened about it. When you’re a teen, the lexicon of the day IS the pop culture internet language. When you’re a teen you feel a lot, everything is always heightened, they’re just so in it. And that’s kind of the way the world always feel to me. But now I have the ability to reflect or maybe voice it in a way that I couldn’t have when I was 16. So I have the heart of a 16-year old but the voice of someone a little older.ing, and that’s how I wrote most of So Sad Today.
Q: I know that for some time your anonymous Twitter account @SoSadToday was an outlet for your emotions/perceptions/art while you existed in a professional environment where it wasn’t kosher to express those things. What about Last Sext, what inspired you to write that?
A: My poetry is different than the writing I do with my Twitter account and the book So Sad Today. With my poetry, I’m creating this other world to inhabit, and So Sad Today is maybe explaining why a person might feel the need to create another world to inhabit. You know, like maybe they’re not that comfortable on this planet and why. I have just never felt that comfortable in reality, or in my own skin. And one form of escapism is poetry. When I lived in NY I would write poetry on the subway on my iPhone, but now that I live in California I drive so I dictate my writing.
As for Last Sext, I wrote it the way I did all of my other poetry books, which is to say that I can never not be writing, so I am always writing a poem and then another and then another. Pretty soon I have a book, or at least–a pile of poems the size of a book. Then I look at all of them as a sequence and work with an editor to cut the chaff.
Q: What do you want your writing to do? What Is the purpose of your writing and why do you write:
A: Really I write to stay alive. Ever since I was a little kid, I found that writing was a place I could go—where all of my worldly terror and all of my discomfort with living on the planet could go. It made me feel like there was a point to me existing, that I had control. And everything I write now is the same—I started the twitter account @SoSadToday to save my life—to be able to stay at my job/not loose it basically. With poetry it’s always been like, you know the world just itches me, I’m like an oyster and I have sand in my shell and poetry is just a way of like coding that sand. It’s just what I do. And I don’t know what the oyster fucking knows, it’s just doing it—but now with my writing, I do know that it’s going somewhere. I have an awareness that it’s going to be seen. But still, it’s basically just me alchemizing the shit of life into something else, it’s like doing your own magic. It’s like saying I WAS HERE. You know I didn’t ask to be born, and sometimes it’s annoying that I’m here, and there’s a paralysis in that. To be able to write is sort of a fuck you to that. And it is a way that I can be grateful for being on this planet- like I have this talent- I was given this way to deal with being here.
Q: How do you feel about Media attention and the responses you get to your work?
A: The truth is, it doesn’t matter how much external validation you get, I know for myself it really is an inside job. No amount of media attention is going to do that. I remember the first time my poetry was reviewed—it was my first book—in Publisher’s Weekly. I remember reading it and then going to the gym after. I got on the elliptical and I was like I HAVE FUCKING ARRIVED, I DON’T NEED ANYTHING ELSE TO HAPPEN TO ME, I CAN DIE NOW. And in a way, I think it would have been better if I had—because then I just would have died and been done. But that spiritual hole that exists in me, which is the reason why I write, why I’ve abused alcohol and drugs, the reason why I’ve written fantasy narratives about hot people, shopping, food, whatever—the validation I get is just bumping against that spiritual hole and it just makes it bigger—it doesn’t fill it for very long.
Q: I love that the mission of your writing isn’t that you’re seeking to be a hero or a martyr. The fact that helping people is a sort of accidental result makes it feel more pure or genuine.
A: Exactly. It’s like look I suffer, I’m doing this because I suffer and I need an out, I need to create something out of this suffering to give me meaning basically, but it’s not to save any of your lives. But I do think there is something very important in like the, “me too” And I’ve found that the people who’ve helped me the most, are the people where I’ve realized, “Oh shit, you too?” And I think sometimes when people try to help, they start giving advice. And a lot of people have asked me, “What do you think about the state of mental health care in America?” and I’m like I don’t know anything about America like I’m just thinking about myself!! BUT, sometimes when I get emails from people like women write me their stories; tales of longing and rejection and feeling uncomfortable in the world, that’s when I’m like there are SO many of us, and I’m just so charmed and so moved. That’s when I’m like ok this is cool- my book is getting to the right people. Even though I’m not writing to save anyone else’s life, I like being of service, I like sharing with people about what’s helped me- it gives me a feeling of meaning. But, the actual act of writing- it never starts out with that intent. And the SoSadToday twitter certainly never started out with that intent. The intent was to save my own ass but I kind of think when you go to a length to save your own ass, sometimes you end up helping others- maybe.
Bee Gray is a creative writer and essayist living in Oakland, California. She loves studying contemporary culture, media, and human behavior. She thinks life is art, she thinks women are art, she surrounds herself in goddesses, she can’t stop talking. Follow her on Instagram.
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