By Jennifer / Everett Public Library staff
When you’re a kid, making friends is effortless. You’d eyeball one another on the playground for exactly three seconds and then say, “Hey, I like that you can spin 12 times on the tire swing without hurling,” and they would say back, “I like your side ponytail even though Melissa said it looked stupid.”
“Melissa smells like onions.”
“Yeah, I heard her mom tried to give her up for adoption like five times, but there were no takers.”
“Explains a lot.”
Sigh. It was so much easier back then. I bet Melissa still smells like onions. She just seemed the type.
But when you get older it’s harder to make friends. It’s like something happens between the ages of 10 and 25. Some kind of guard goes up. I’ve been at the library almost 20 years and I work with my best friend, Kathy. We actually never formally met. Seventeen years ago she would see me writing at a table before I started my shift and we’d do that “I want to talk to you but we’re at that point where we only know each other’s first name and have spent three months vaguely smiling at one another when we passed each other.” And then she saw me reading a book, or I saw her reading a book, and the rest is history. Now I can text her without any self-doubt (or evidently self-control): “Hey, is it normal that I want to throat-punch the kid in that book you recommended to me?”
I want to be best friends with Jenny Lawson. I probably said that when I wrote a post about her first book, but it bears repeating. It goes double now that I’ve read her second memoir, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things.
This is Jenny’s disclaimer on her own book:
“This is a funny book about living with mental illness. It sounds like a terrible combination, but personally I’m mentally ill and some of the most hysterical people I know are as well. So if you didn’t like the book then maybe you’re just not crazy enough to enjoy it. Either way, you win.”
How could I not fall a little in love with her and want to go to her house and raid her kitchen and watch stupid TV shows or just spend hours texting back and forth because we both have this thing where we don’t like to leave the house and even if we like people we’d rather not be around them sometimes?
In Furiously Happy, she divulges things people like me want to know (because I’m going through them too.) Here are some of my favorite chapter titles:
“I Found a Kindred Soul and He Has a Very Healthy Coat”
Jenny goes to pick up a prescription through a drug store drive-through. While waiting for the pharmacist to ring up her prescription, she notices a box of dog biscuits sitting next to the register. This sends her on a mental quest to find out what the hell that box of dog biscuits is doing there, opened. Maybe someone returned them because they were stale? And then she realizes dogs wouldn’t really care if they were stale biscuits. Spoiler alert: She watches as the pharmacist reaches into the box and eats a handful. While she questions whether she’s high right that moment and seeing things, she debates whether or not to say anything. “But I didn’t, because I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to accuse the man giving you drugs of eating dog food.”
“How Many Carbs Are in a Foot?”
Jenny thinks she must be one of the last people on Earth who hasn’t tried kale or quinoa, but she’s still gun-shy from the time Victor made what she thought was rice that had gone bad. Victor explains to her that it’s risotto and Jenny says, “The stuff Gordon Ramsay is always yelling about? This is very disappointing.” She argues that she would eat a human foot if it was smothered in enough cheese and butter, but Victor argues she wouldn’t because she can’t even finish the damn risotto. She can’t tell if that was a dare from him but she’s lactose-intolerant anyway. “Everyone else at the dinner party would be tucking into their cheesy-butter foot, and I’d have to eat my foot parboiled and plain. That’s my struggle. And it’s very real.”
Jenny can make just about anything funny (see cheesy foot) and still get a serious thought out there. She’s no stranger to self-harm and even prefaces this chapter with a trigger warning for those who might read it and have their own dark thoughts start flooding in. Jenny has engaged in self-harm for years, from picking at her cuticles until they bleed freely to pulling her hair out by the roots. She writes about being labeled as broken when she is diagnosed with a “personality disorder.” She tells her psychiatrist that she isn’t broken. “I just … I just hurt … inside. And when I tear at the outside it makes me feel less torn up on the inside. I don’t want to die. Really, I don’t. It’s not a lie. I’m not suicidal. I just feel like sometimes I can’t keep myself from hurting me. It’s like there’s someone else inside of me who needs to physically peel those bad thoughts out of my head and there’s no other way to get in there. The physical pain distracts me from the mental pain.” I want to give Jenny Lawson an award for this, the biggest YES! SOMEBODY GETS IT award for saying all of this out loud and at the same time acknowledging self-harm (in any form) is not a teenager’s domain.
“It’s Like Your Pants Are Bragging at Me”
I don’t know why, but a lot of women’s clothing does not have pockets. This might explain why I buy my jeans in the men’s section. Either that or there’s a whole underlying issue I should talk to someone about. But I need pockets. Jenny’s husband, Victor, says women don’t need pockets because they have purses. Jenny has to explain to him, “No. We are forced into purses because we don’t have pockets. Imagine if I ripped all of your pockets off of your sweet pocket-pants right now and you had to carry them around with you everywhere. You have like … seven pockets in those pants. Imagine carrying seven pockets with you at the carnival. You can’t. You’d need a purse. Then you’d get on the Zipper and it’d be fine for a minute until your purse popped open and all your stuff was being poltergeisted around the cage at you like you were a kitten in a dryer full of batteries, and then your phone gave you a black eye. This is all based on real life, by the way.” All I can say is I started slow clapping when she used poltergeisted as a verb. Victor, as usual, is flabbergasted and says, “Pocket-pants don’t exist. They’re called cargo pants.” Potato tomato, dude.
What book wouldn’t be complete without a vagina in there somewhere? Jenny’s friend Kim mailed her a home-made, educational (well, thank God it was educational) felted vagina. Kim makes them with babies inside them (felted ones, not real ones, although that would be fascinating to see) to teach her children about where babies come from. Jenny studies the felted vagina and starts to wonder if the pubic hair on it is real and if it is, she needs to scour her hands immediately. She starts to think yeah, this is how voodoo dolls are made, adding human hair makes it become a voodoo doll. So technically the felt vagina with the seemingly real pubic hair is a voodoo vagina. Jenny left the vagina on her desk to go get her camera to take a picture and when she returned the vagina was gone. The cat was happily ripping it to pieces. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t real pubic hair but doll hair you can buy from a hobby shop.
What a time to be alive.
So, Jenny Lawson calls herself crazy repeatedly through the book and I’ve taken up the call as well. She explains that calling yourself crazy isn’t a demeaning mental illness or making fun of other people with mental illness. We are mentally ill and technically we are crazy. Just take a look at my therapist’s notes. She probably wrote CRAY CRAY with a bunch of arrows pointing at it the first time I talked to her. So embrace mental illness. Don’t let anyone make you feel less because you know your brain is sometimes like a test pattern at 3 in the morning on that one TV channel that comes in clear for 45 minutes a day. And if anyone throws you the side eye for calling yourself crazy, just tell them it’s OK. Jenny Lawson said you could.