I love this book. I have listened to the audio version of We Are Never Meeting In Real Life and Irby’s previous memoir, Meaty, at least three times each. Like Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (which I also re-read this year), I have large chunks memorized but I keep returning to it. Irby’s sense of humor and her voice (it’s this weird combination of rasp and Valley Girl and I could listen to it all day) are a perfect combination.
“You know, what I really need is someone who remembers to rotate this meaty pre-corpse toward the sun every couple of days and tries to get me to stop spending my money like a goddamn NBA lottery pick.”
I’m cheating and reviewing these two together because I can’t quite remember which essays go to which memoir. But here are a few of my favorite subjects that she covers.
Love — the fantastic thing about Irby’s writing is that while it’s super funny and caustic, it’s also really deep and painful. She talks about a lot of different types of love in her memoirs. One relationship, in which she became deeply involved with a wonderful guy, ended because she can’t have children and he desperately wanted them. She talks about how that feels — being so compatible and in love but unable to physically do the one thing he wanted. Other men have treated her like shit — cheating on her, hiding her from their friends, disappearing for weeks at a time.
“But no, I came by these feelings honestly. And I don’t accept bitter. Wounded, yes. Traumatized, sure. Grieving, okay. Anything other than bitter. I put too much work in to be callously tossed aside as bitter. Bitter is for someone who hasn’t earned it.”
And then she talks at length about her relationship with her girlfriend, a woman she met on twitter and ended up falling in love with, despite their VERY different lifestyles.
Irby suffers from a lot of physical ailments, including Crohn’s and arthritis. She applies her dark humor here, talking about her unpredictable GI system and her trouble doing some physical tasks. The story about what Nutrisystem does to her gastrointestinal system had me laughing out loud. These physical limitations also interfere in her sex life, which definitely contributes to that hilarity.
Oh, and then there’s her family. Irby was raised by much older parents — an abusive father and a very, very ill mother. Her essays about her mother, one in which she refers to her as “my baby” and talks about all the care she gave her, are heart-wrenching. Her father is horrible, stepping in and out of her life, looking for money and leaving destruction in his wake. It’s amazing she survived her childhood, and she speaks candidly about the many ways in which her upbringing (or lack thereof) has affected her.
“Fuck a budget. I grew up poor and now I have money, so I’m going to spend it on Chanel nail polishes. I don’t know how you can possibly have joy in your life when you do shit like “balance your checkbook” or “pay your minimum balance on time,” and if doing those awful-sounding things means I can’t see four movies in one weekend, then I don’t ever want to do them.”
One of my favorite things about her writing, however, is she and I actually had the same job for a VERY long time. I worked as a receptionist in an animal hospital for over 10 years, and Irby held the same position for the majority of the time she was writing. I know that’s kind of a niche role, but the insanity that job sometimes brings is unbelievable and I love that it appears to be the same everywhere. She also writes a lot about her horrible cat, Helen Keller, and anthropomorphizes her as an evil demon (which most cats are, tbh). It’s funny and wicked and then the cat dies and that part is very sad.