From her home in rural Texas, Jenny Lawson runs a PR firm and writes parenting advice and satirical articles about sex. But she is best known as The Bloggess, author of a screamingly funny, surprisingly inspiring blog that chronicles her daily adventures and wacky discussions with her husband, and showcases her growing collection of unusually posed and dressed taxidermied animals.
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The Bloggess counts Neil Gaiman, Penn Jillette, Wil Wheaton, and Matthew Broderick among her many fans—she has more than 220,000 followers on Twitter. Her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) offers a glimpse at past episodes and influences that have shaped her quirky take on life.
Why “The Bloggess?” What does that title confer upon you?
A lot of people assume it’s short for “Blog-Goddess,” but it’s really just the feminine form of “blogger.” You know…actor/actress, mister/mistress, blogger/bloggess, jogger/joggess. Those last two never quite caught on. I once wrote that all female bloggers should embrace the term, but no one else really liked it so I took it for myself.
What can we find in the book that isn’t in the blog? Were there any stories that you had to leave out?
I started writing the book before I started blogging, so I already knew to save my favorite stories for the book. My guess is that the first half, about my strange and rather bloody childhood, will probably come as a bit of a shock and a rather telling explanation to the readers of my blog. After they find out that my father was a professional taxidermist and that I once wore a dead deer, the rest of my personality seems to fall into place.
There were a few stories that I left out because they weren’t mine to tell. I made sure that my friends and family were OK with the stories I shared, but some of the shared stories of our family aren’t ready to be told. It’s not that we have skeletons in our closets, ours are welcomed right into the living room, but there are some lines that I didn’t cross, and that I won’t cross until the people involved are comfortable with my doing so.
Your love for a rural environment despite its challenges comes through strongly. Have you ever found any redeeming aspects of city life, and if so, what are they?
I lived in Houston for many years and I do miss it. I miss not having to worry about wild boars eating my laundry, and I desperately miss being able to call for takeout. I miss being able to get Thai food in the middle of the night. The most exotic place we have to eat where we live now is the taco shack that also sells live bait and rents U-hauls. They do make a mighty fine taco there though.
How does your husband, Victor, feel about playing such a major role in your stories?
He’s pretty ambivalent about the whole thing and just happy I’m doing something I love. He doesn’t blog or tweet, so he’s not overly involved one way or the other. He sometimes reads the stories that he’s in and will occasionally point out that I sometimes stop recording our conversations just before he proves me entirely wrong on whatever it was we were bickering about. I call that “literary license.” He calls it something else I can’t discuss in polite company. We’ve agreed to disagree on the wording.
In contrast to your detailed portrayal of Victor, your mentions of your daughter, Hailey, tend to be brief and discreet, even when you’re mommy blogging. What boundaries do you draw when writing about your child?
Hailey’s only 7, but I want to make sure that I never write anything that might one day be used against her by bullies. Kids can be cruel, and they have access to online tools that we never dreamt of. I think it’s different for every mom, but personally I’d rather undershare than overshare, at least until Hailey’s old enough to decide for herself how much she wants to be involved.
Like many funny people, you’ve struggled with anxiety and depression. Do you think there’s a link between mental illness and comedy?
Without a doubt, laughter is one of the best ways to survive depression. I’d like to think that a side effect of feeling such deep sadness from depression is that it increases your ability to feel incredibly deep joy as well. I prefer to think that people with depression sometimes just feel a bit too strongly, and most people deal with those emotions in a creative way…art, music, poetry. For me it’s writing bizarre comedy. We all find our own way to survive.
What’s your favorite taxidermied animal in your collection?
That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child. Except harder, because technically I have only one child, so she already knows she’s my favorite. I suppose that James Garfield (the giant, joyous boar head) is my favorite, since he was my first and also because he inadvertently started a movement that’s raised more than $50,000 to help children in need. The first year it was to help kids who wouldn’t have had a Christmas otherwise, and then last year the James Garfield Miracle helped donate 750 care packages to homeless children. Not many dead boar heads can say they have that sort of effect on the world.
According to you, a 15th wedding anniversary is traditionally celebrated with the gift of a giant metal rooster named Beyoncé. Any other suggestions of appropriate presents for important milestones?
I think your fifth anniversary should be celebrated with a reenactment of your wedding but with all the vows changed to the ones that you now know really matter. Stuff like vowing to not put the toilet paper roll on the wrong way, or reassigning who has to clean up the dog vomit.
Then on your 10th anniversary you realize that all the stuff on the fifth anniversary was really nothing and so you go back to your original vows and also vow to just have separate bathrooms so that you can each put the toilet paper on the roll however you like. So I suppose that means that separate bathrooms are the new traditional gift for the 10th anniversary.
We haven’t gotten to our 20th anniversary yet, but personally I’m voting for hover car as the new traditional gift. Victor has his heart set on “Robot Tigers.” The man is a damn dreamer.
Is there anything else that it’s important for people to know about you?
I am highly lactose intolerant, and I don’t like ice cream. People always seem shocked at the bizarre life I lead, but strangely the hating-ice-cream thing is usually what pushes them right over the edge. Yes, I do realize I’m not normal. I realized that a long time ago. And the ice cream has nothing to do with it.
Amy Goldschlager is an editor, writer and reviewer who lives in New York City. Visit her website at amygoldschlager.com.