Book Review: Meaty by Samantha Irby
Is this healthy? Absolutely not. Let me have this one thing.
About a year ago I read Samantha Irby’s second collection of essays, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, and instantly placed her at the top of my bookshelf. Quite literally, she’s on the top shelf where all of my favorites go.
She has a way of saying all the things most of us only think about. The things we can’t put words to.
"I want to be one of those people who feels satisfied when I pay my bills rather than cheated out of whatever frivolity was sacrificed in their place."
And, more than anything, she just really gets my sense of overdramatic humor when she says things like, "I can't go to the library. I mean, first of all, what if someone else checked out the book I wanted to read? I'm not the only one reading the book reviews in the Times, so now I gotta put my name on a list after your aunt Karen and my elementary school principal, then just, like, wait for them to be finished? I would rather be dead."
I mean, how can you not fall in love with her when she writes like this? As though you’re her best friend. But you can’t be because she hates everyone, including me and you (*sob*).
I read We Are Never Meeting in Real Life before ever reading Meaty, which, by the way, I’ve been reading since February of this year (it has been a rough reading year, OK?!). I’ve taken it with me from our first apartment to our first house. It was there by my bed when I finished working my last day in publishing. It’s been here with me as I’ve learned how to navigate the shit out of my new job in advertising. It’s been here with me all of this time because Sam has a way of telling you the story you need to hear when you need to hear it the most.
And though you’d never believe it, she has written two of my most favorite love quotes of all damn time. One from her second collection and one from Meaty.
“You know what makes me happy? Unexpected phone calls in the middle of the day. Remembering what I liked at that one restaurant we went to that one time. Half-dead grocery store flowers just because they were on sale. A good morning text that says, “have a good day and try not to burn anything to the ground in a furious rage.”
I have a feeling she doesn’t realize how much this one packs a punch, but it really does. Sam writes about love and relationships and work in a way that I wish I could write about love and relationships and work. She has this talent for telling you her deepest secrets in this explosive, casual way. Her voice is so strong that it feels like you’re on the phone with her.
In her essays, she never allows her femininity to be overpowered by her masculinity; she never allows her masculinity to be downplayed by her femininity.
“Forest Whitaker’s Neck” is one of her best in this collection. It is hilarious. I’m talking laugh-out-loud-almost-peed-my-pants hilarious. So funny my fiancé called me from downstairs to make sure I was OK.
'Spending the night is the worst because: Why does this dude only have bars of dial soap? Can I use that shit without my face cracking into a million pieces? Why doesn’t he have Vaseline? Or Listerine?! If I could just find a bottle of mouthwash under the sink maybe I could swish with that and use a Q-tip to scrape some of the plaque off my teeth before I have to breathe on him again. That is the worst part of the walk of shame, the tasting of last night’s dinner while standing awkwardly in the line at Starbucks, tongue fiddling with the grime on my teeth. And my hair needs a little water and leave-in, otherwise it looks like scattered tumbleweeds atop my head, and all that glancing around the bus trying to assess whether anyone has noticed is downright exhausting. This is the kind of stupid worry that keeps me awake at night. I am an idiot.”
And, as I mentioned before, Sam writes honestly about her humiliation while still spitting fire at anyone who talks about her and her body.
“Has [he] ever met a woman before?! Has no one told him the ladybody rules? Here is what you can say about a woman’s body when she has clothes on: ‘You look great in that!’ Or: ‘Wow, that fits perfectly!” Or: ‘Damn, I can’t wait to undress you!’ Or: ‘No one can tell you bought that on sale!” And here is what you can say about a woman’s body when she has her clothes off: Absolutely Nothing. Listen, homie, that thing you secretly hate about my body? Don’t worry - I hate it, too. With every fiber in my weird, fibrous breasts. And I’m the one who has to deal with its daily mockery! Every mark, every scratch, every flaw: I’ve seen it, document it, cried over it, and tried to hide it.”
And though I don’t know what it’s like to live with Crohn’s disease, I get a good idea from Sam’s details of living with it. But I do know what it’s like to try to budget and fail. I do know what it’s like to want to sit on my couch and binge watch Netflix all day to avoid the work I have waiting in my office. I do know what it’s like to feel like you’ll do anything to be needed, and I do know what it’s like to find someone who doesn’t make you feel needy for more.
It is these things that keep me coming back to Irby. She is one of the few people who has the ability to make me to scream on one page and have me scrambling across the bed for a tissue on the next.
Read this one. Read her next one. She’ll never forgive you if you don’t.