When I was hired at Jezebel in late 2014, life instantly and dramatically improved.
After spending two years working as a disorganized and barely tolerated editorial assistant at a women’s magazine, I met with Emma Carmichael, immediately feared and worshipped her, met with Erin Ryan, immediately decided to start wearing bold lipstick, spent a day blogging on the website under the extremely good alias “Bunny Cunningham,” and then I was here, welcomed into a beautiful circle of intimidatingly smart and hilarious people who have inspired and nurtured me and repeatedly cry-yelled at me to believe in myself (thanks Julianne) and let me write paragraph-long sentences and made me feel, really for the first time, like I belonged somewhere. I continue to feel bewildered that the place I belong has been this place, the most magical place.
At Jezebel, my editors have pushed me to write about whatever I wanted, however I wanted, which was very stupid of them, as this setup allowed me to write 6,000 words about vegan YouTubers, sneak into a Young Republicans dinner where Joanna and I pretended to be employees at a right-wing babysitting start-up called “UBaby,” fly to Tennessee on the basis of a vague pitch about fireflies and the end of the world, publish very disrespectful opinions about Ansel Elgort, sweat in a dark hotel room with teenage nazi stans, spearhead an important column/historical record tracking who the Jezebel staff Would and Would Not fuck, and physically stalk Lincoln Chafee.
I’ve always wanted to say “It has been an honor” in some kind of solemn way, and today I can finally, truthfully say: it has been an honor to write for you, and it has been an honor to work with a group of geniuses who feel like family. As Eli Wallach’s character once proclaimed near the end of the classic 2006 film The Holiday, “I’m absolutely overHWElmed.” I procrastinated writing this post for too long to craft the perfect sentences my colleagues each deserve, but I will list their character traits, which are excellent and generally apply across the board—buoyant, patient, selfless, talented, empathetic, bright-eyed, thoughtful, funny, brave, resilient, loyal, frustratingly humble, so smart that it’s kind of fucked up, consistently principled in a way that inspires me to be a better person, inexhaustibly passionate, strong arms and lats, good at carving brutal insults out of mild southern expressions, good at eyeshadow, good at caftans, good at everything, literally clairvoyant.
But enough about them. Who cares? Definitely not me. It’s time to move on to my real friend: The Dame Jo.
If I had to list The Dame Jo’s character traits, they would be: mean, angry, wrong, misogynistic, bigoted, tribal, fascist tendencies, for sure watches Fox News a lot, prolific, and a huge fan of me.
The Dame Jo, Jezebel’s most dedicated troll, has been with me—and everyone else who writes for this website, and apparently a lot of people at a lot of other websites—through so many ups and downs. Mostly downs. She has been a rare, if objectively negative, constant in a time of overwhelming change. (It has occurred to the Jezebel staff that The Dame Jo could actually be the secret alter ego of Jezebel senior editor Joanna Rothkopf. She has refuted this claim, but you really never know.)
When you write on the internet, particularly as a woman at a feminist website while Donald Trump is president, you get used to a certain level of general awful-ness, and your brain sort of dies a little bit, and over time, you start to laugh at—even enjoy—certain things that nice, reasonable people would not. I don’t know how The Dame Jo decides which one of us to write to on any given day; I just know that when she picks me, I feel a little jolt of excitement, as if I have won a small and horrible prize.
An email from The Dame Jo has a few special characteristics. A great headline, first of all:
Personal details such as “just when I think you have FUCKING gone underground, you poke your fucking red head out of the ground with ALL THE SHIT WE ARE TIRED OF!!!!” also add a certain something.
Nicknames are another big component of the Dame Jo brand. She’ll often share her perspective on “HILLBILLARY,” “BILLY BOY CLINTON,” and occasionally “OBUTTHOLE.” Sometimes, for added excitement, the word “uranium” is thrown into the mix. When The Dame Jo tells me to “GET OVER IT SHERLOCK” or “GET OVER IT CUPCAKE” or “HUG A BUNNY” or “GO FIND A LITTLE CRYING ROOM,” or says “SUG, YOU REALLY MUST GROW THE HELL UP AND FACE FACTS,” I do not follow her instructions, but I do love how she keeps coming up with new things for me to do.
History is also a passion of hers:
Once, I tried to interview The Dame Jo, because I was genuinely curious to learn who she was and why she spent so much of her time calling writers “BITCH” and “TOOTS.” Surprisingly, despite her clear and urgent interest in attention and engagement, she was not interested, because she felt strongly that I would force her into a debate on the merits of abortion rights. She did note, however, that she is “a 71 year old grandmother with a license to carry” who is “the best friend you will EVER have” but “will take you down to knee caps if you piss me off”:
This was good to know.
Over the past year or so, it’s become apparent to me that it’s probably time to make a change, something I’ve talked about to varying degrees on this website. It’s a bizarre and numbing thing to be a writer on the internet right now, and I’ve wanted, for a while, to take a step back and figure out what kind of writer—and what kind of person—I want to be at this particular moment in history. Naturally, I’ve discussed this decision endlessly with family, friends, coworkers, and The Dame Jo, who doesn’t agree with my plan to take some time off but did have suggestions about protecting my financial assets.
“Let me know where your wings take you and how you are doing,” she instructed.
Startled by this twist in our correspondence, I suggested to The Dame Jo that it might be nice if she could be so polite all the time. She disagreed, because “YOU ALL MUST MOVE PAST THE FACT THAT HILLBILLARY LOST...GAME OVER!” But, she added: “THAT BEING SAID....I DO WISH YOU THE VERY BEST IN WHATEVER AND WHERE EVER YOUR CAREER TAKES YOU.”
This job has been incredibly weird. I’ve loved it, I’ll miss it, and I’m excited for what’s next. In the meantime, please DM me on Twitter if you see Lincoln Chafee.