I started Jenny Slate’s collection of essays on the morning of New Year’s Day on my way to meet my friend for one of those polarizing NYC boutique fitness classes. The nature of the book makes it easy to fly through vignettes and I was not having a great feeling about it as I got off the subway. I couldn’t believe I was going to start out the new year with a DNF. I was already trying to justify it in my head, “Perhaps 2020 is the year where I don’t spend time on things that just aren’t for me.” Speaking of which, halfway through the class I gestured to my friend that I was done and we left to get coffee instead. We ultimately had one of those lived-in, meandering conversations and it was with this sensation of warmth and being known that I went back to Little Weirds and allowed Jenny Slate to rip my heart open and refill it with optimistic red geraniums.
Little Weirds lives up to its title and to its beautiful cover. It is Slate working through her divorce, her heartache, her loneliness, and her fears for the future. I think that there is an unspoken pressure for stories about personal pain to feel universal, that their profundity springs from being so. In this case at least, I would challenge that. A lifelong curmudgeon, I didn’t see a speck of myself in this book, which is clearly a very energetic and joyful person going through a time of desolation. I loved it. It made me reexamine my expectations of what someone who is “going through it” should look like, and how we expect these kinds of stories to play out. I was reading this after absorbing so many year-end Twitter threads of all the wisdom people had acquired through the year (and, god help me, decade). Given the nature of that medium, I had seen so many people sharing the antiseptic conclusions of their adversity and growth, not the awkward and painful in-between. To see a public figure be this openhearted, this weird–it felt like a revelation. Slate wants to be loved and married again. She approaches this without hesitation or shame.
I am supposed to be touched. I can’t wait to find the person who will come into the kitchen just to smell my neck and get behind me and hug me and breathe me in and make me turn around and make me kiss his face and put my hands in his hair even with my soapy dishwater drips. I am a lovely woman. Who will come into my kitchen and be hungry for me?
This is not for everyone, though bits and pieces might speak to you more than the whole. It is at times very abstract and there are several different chapters wherein Slate takes you down a rabbit hole of how she died. They left me sort of confused until the final one took my breath away and I cried through the acknowledgements. I have been in Slate’s corner since Obvious Child and I recommend this to anyone who enjoyed her Netflix comedy special (Stage Fright) and is okay with things getting a little weird.