Whether or not you follow Samantha Irby’s hilarious blog ‘Bitches Gotta Eat’, it’s very easy to assume that a collection of twenty essays from the author will more or less be an extension of the same kind of writing. What Irby instead offers the readers is a heartfelt and humorous book, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.: Essays that convinces you by the last page that you’re both close enough to be best friends now.
Beginning with a fake application for the reality show The Bachelorette, Irby actually goes on to tackle what would otherwise be considered heart breaking issues like being there for the euthanization of too many pets and losing both parents at a young age. In Irby’s hands, however, these moments are stringed together with a series of poop jokes and honest reflections that make you laugh, relate, and feel the warmth of recognition in your chest.
Do not be fooled though- Irby’s magic is not a result of her sugarcoating her words. Her perspective of the world as a black, queer, plus-sized woman who grew up in poverty is what makes the narrative honest and raw. She dedicates an entire piece to her inability to save money because she never had any to begin with while growing up. Her magic, instead, is actually in her ability to write in such a conversational and funny tone that it feels like your friend is sitting on the sofa next to you with a glass of wine in her hand and ranting. There are set-ups and punchlines for sure- but more importantly, there is an intimacy that Irby builds with the reader.
What you learn really quickly though, is that the character that Irby builds for herself in the essays is that of a complainer. With essay titles like ‘I’m in Love and It’s Boring’ and ‘Feelings are a Mistake’, it becomes really easy to wonder if she’s a cynic. It only takes a moment of actually seeing the content under those titles to realize that all her complaints are surface-level running commentaries of the first thought that comes to people’s minds when being mildly inconvenienced, and not rants or complaints about the actual huge struggles that she has had to overcome. It is this bridge between Irby the Author and Irby the Character that makes the book more than a comedy monologue as it is reading between the lines that tells you the whole story.
It seems like no topic is off-limits, including the first time Irby had sex with her wife. She lets you follow her stream of consciousness as she tries to not only remember all the erogenous zones on her own body, but also tips and tricks from glossy magazines. The mixture of novelty and overwhelming dopamine makes that essay one of the best ones in the book, because it is also technically the first time Irby has had sex with any woman. Before that, the reader has been on the journey of heartbreaks and man-children that Irby has had to deal with, and one almost cheers out loud to see her happy.
Another thing that stands out is Irby’s relationship with her cat, who she claims to merely tolerate because she wasn’t given a choice but to bring her home. Any reader with or without a cat will surely love and understand the underlying affection in their dynamic. Cats are obviously important enough to the author for one to feature on the cover. And with good reason, because throughout the essays, we get to follow her pet’s life from before adoption to the moment they had to say goodbye.
Most importantly though, it’s a book about a woman that absolutely hates going out and loves staying alone, inside, on purpose so that she can watch trashy reality shows and eat the snacks she loves. This is what makes it the perfect lockdown read. Even though in today’s case we’re all stuck inside out of necessity, Irby’s essays are an excellent reminder of how those of us that have roofs, internet connections, and warm food, are actually the privileged ones.