Do I love Melissa Broder’s So Sad Today because I wish I had written it, and she’s approximately half my age? She writes about some topics I am familiar with (sick husband, nonmonogamy). She writes about topics I’ve suffered from, but seem to have outgrown (anxiety attacks, depression). She also writes about topics I have no personal knowledge of (eating disorders, drug addiction). Throughout, she made me think about my own life and often prompted me to start writing myself.
Don’t be put off by the title. These essays grew out of Broder’s Twitter feed, @sosadtoday, which she started, anonymously. to deal with her depression and anxiety attacks. To her surprise, she gained many more followers than she’d ever had on her own Twitter account. The essays became a way to expand on the 140-character format, to deal more in depth with the feelings she grapples with daily. Everyone at some point faces emotional disturbances that may or may not be as extreme as Broder’s, and her dark humor and sometimes very savvy advice leaven what could be too much despair.
The best way to showcase Broder’s work is with samples. About her husband’s illness (an obscure neuroimmune disease): “I get jealous of people whose partners have brand-name illnesses.” Discussing her eating disorder: “I am an eater who is a horrible feminist.... I am an eater who is a good feminist.... I am an eater who is a hypocritical feminist.... I am an eater who is the worst feminist.... I am an eater who is scared to be so honest here.... I am a superficial woman of depth.” (Her reasons for each of her feminisms are so explanatory.) One essay consists almost entirely of scenarios that could be “a love story,” e.g., “I just saw two ants drown together in my bathtub, and it reminded me of us: a love story” and “I guess you aren’t going to rescue me from myself: a love story.” Her essay “I Took the Internet Addiction Quiz and I Won” is both cautionary (for those who are also addicted) and funny: “Do you prefer the excitement of the Internet to intimacy with your partner? Yes. Of course. Unless the partner is a virtual stranger upon whom I have projected a fantasy narrative and we are making out for the first time in a hotel room.”
I wish Broder had published this collection of personal essays before my husband died last winter. We could have had discussions about his alcoholism compared to hers, and his getting sober. (Broder writes: “Alcohol and drugs worked so perfectly until they didn’t work anymore.” That’s almost exactly what he said.) We might have read aloud to each other the sexting exchanges she reproduces in “Love Like You Are Trying to Fill an Insatiable Spritual Hole with Another Person Who Will Suffocate in There,” though he would have thought the title was pretentious.
So buy Broder’s book. Or check out her Twitter @sosadtoday first to see if she is to your taste. She certainly is to mine.