Samantha Irby’s new essay collection, Wow, No Thank You (Vintage Books), is an irreverent, hilarious, and vulnerable dive into the author’s brain. Irby skewers herself and her daily life, whether it is her work-from-home malaise, the dangling of luxuries she can’t afford, the difficulties of making friends as an adult, or her comfortable but often unsexy marriage.
The book is filled with the follies of turning 40, hauntings by dead pet cats, lunch meetings with Abbi Jacobson, going clubbing with bowel issues, and the trials and tribulations of being married to another woman in the rural Midwest. For all of Irby’s wit, depression over debts, and social awkwardness, there is a deep resounding warmth in her essays, too. A hard-won empathy, a stubborn acceptance of self that invites us to join her and revel in the chaos.
We spoke with Irby about various topics, random and not-so-random, from smelling good in tax jail to Love Is Blind.
“I got a D.S. & Durga candle, and you wanna talk about smelling rich? It was like $65, but it smells incredible. I think it’s called Big Sur After the Rain. It’s the kind of thing I get and think, I’m a stupid fucking person. They’re sending actual rich people this shit for free. But it makes me feel very luxurious. This year, I’m pivoting to sweatshirts. The one I’m currently wearing is from Rachel Antonoff, but even my raggedy sweatshirts, I will spray some Jo Malone on them and think, this is luxury. It makes me feel like I’m actually a person worthy of things. I’m like, put me in Coming to America, because I am a queen. Don’t tell the IRS I’m on a payment plan. When they finally take me to tax jail, they’re gonna be like, ‘You know what bitch? You smell amazing.’”
“I came of age in the super sweet spot where you could still be homely at the club. You could not wear heels but also get in. Now, if you try to get in the club with New Balance, which is what I like to do, they are like, no bitch, get out. I spent so much of my twenties in nightclubs—I wouldn’t take it back. But now, I’m just like, where are the chairs? Take me to the cordoned off senior section where I can just watch other people. After like five drinks, I can feel my body dying. It’s a race to get home, like Cinderella. At midnight, my body goes from keeping me alive to shutting down all my organs unless I get somewhere with a bed and air conditioning. I wanna go out, but I also want to not die in a club. One of my worst nightmares is an ambulance coming to get me at the club. The lights come on and everyone looks like shit. I don’t want that to be the last thing I see.”
“Truly the greatest invention of all time. People who are anti-phone, I don’t get it. I refuse to believe there is a person who is so fulfilled by their life that they don’t need any of the distractions or joys of phones.”
“I crossed the threshold. Facebook creates a false intimacy between yourself and people you only know on the internet, which is extremely seductive. But it’s not real and Facebook was the place where I felt I had to be careful. Then I created a book group and every day there was a new issue monitoring the group. I would rather walk into a lake and never stop walking or die from whatever Chlamydia is in the lake over and over like Groundhog Day, than to keep moderating a group where everyone is fighting about Young Adult fiction.”
“I had no other way to tell people I had crushes on them. I couldn’t use my words and be rejected. It only takes one time of watching someone’s face crumple in horror as you reveal your crush on them. Ever since the seventh grade, I was like, okay I’m never doing that again. I will only prove my slavish devotion to them by spending hours recording CDs to tapes for them. The feeling when someone made you a tape? Launch a thousand love boats right into my heart. And when you’re young, it was also so cool to see what your friends were into. I would always pull out my most obscure, cool sounding songs even if I didn’t like them that much. I’d really be crying to Ani DiFranco, but I’d be like, let me put this punk song on here.”
SURE SEX IS FUN, BUT HAVE YOU EVER…?
“I wanted to write an actual twenty-two-minute porn teleplay called ‘Two Old Nuns Having Amazing Sex.’ But I just didn’t have time, so I made fun of the trope that old broads don’t have sex, but then wrote about the stuff we do. Like, I don’t have to have an orgasm if I get to cancel on a lot of parties. It truly is the same rush. I want to get over this cultural myth. Everyone thinks everyone else is having more and better sex than they are. I just want to be like, no, none of us are, and it’s fine. Like, maybe there are people somewhere fucking all day and that’s great, but over here, we read books and don’t talk to each other.”
“You can’t have gone to as much church as I had to go to as a kid and not have some residual belief. I did aura readings twice and I had an orb that the photographer said was a spirit. I am not smart enough to deny the existence of anything. I want there to be a little mystery, a little inexplicable crop circle. I feel like that makes life better and more fun.”
LOVE IS BLIND
“I haven’t watched it because I cannot watch attractive people falling in love. I don’t believe in it. Wake me up when love is ugly, or fat, or fucked up. It’s very easy to be in a pod, get out of it and fall in love with someone who is conventionally beautiful. I want someone to talk to me for seven months, be ready to give me a kidney, then come out the pod and be like, oh look how swollen her ankles are, I’m done, get me off this show.”
“I love to see a regular looking lady. I love Bernard. Regular people 2020.”
“I’m drinking a little sip can right now. Diet Coke is the best when it’s crackling cold and those tiny cans stay cold for the whole can. My wife started getting them because she is for real an everyday doomsday prepper. I was like honey, you can keep getting these.”
“I don’t ever have any on hand. It’s tragic it’s now sold out. I am truly a hand washer. Nobody wants my sensitive doughy, writer’s hands to get cracked and bloody from sanitizer. It smells like a hospital that I don’t mind in the hospital, but in my real life I want everything to smell like butter and Jo Malone. Put that on my tombstone when I die from Corona: ‘I don’t use hand sanitizer, I’m a washer.’”
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