The ability to write 240 witty characters on social media does not necessarily translate to being someone whose books you want to read. But that’s what happened with Samantha Irby, whom I first knew as the person consistently killing it on Twitter, making me laugh out loud with her tweets on “Judge Mathis” and “Succession.” (She’s obsessed with both.)
It was later that I realized she also writes stunningly astute, hilarious essays about topics both serious (becoming a stepmother) and less so (her slightly lazy beauty rituals). But like all the best essayists, Irby brings deeper insights to even her most lighthearted work.
In “Girls Gone Mild,” Irby reflects on her extreme reluctance to go out, now that she’s rounding the corner to 40: “Remember when you could be roused from a night being spent on the couch in your pajamas, curled around a pint of Chubby Hubby, and goaded into joining your friends at the bar even though you’d already taken off your bra? Yeah, I can’t either, but I know those days existed. I have the liver damage to prove it.” By the end of the essay, Irby has made peace with her new slower pace of life. It’s simultaneously funny and poignant, as are all the entries in this unflinching collection.
Perhaps the most powerful is “Body Negativity,” in which Irby catalogs the many ways women are expected to perform upkeep on our appearances so we have glowing skin, flowing eyelashes, smooth foreheads and snow-white teeth. But guess what? Irby has discovered that, unless it makes you feel good, none of that really matters: “I have threaded, I have microbladed, I have trimmed, I have tinted, I have filled in, I have styled, I have contoured, and I have microfeathered my stupid eyebrows, and none of those things has ever had a discernible impact on my life. Now I do nothing, and it’s fine!”
Frankly, Irby’s radically honest writing in Wow, No Thank You. makes me feel better—or at least less bad—about myself. She gives a welcome voice to what so many women in 2020 are feeling: overleveraged, underappreciated, exhausted, bloated—but hopeful.