David Sedaris Is As Awesome As Everybody Hoped

Illustration by Minna

David Sedaris is one of the funniest human beings on the planet, one of the greatest writers of all time, and the neatest member of my Sims family of favorite writers that I once made (WHILE SURROUNDED BY MY MANY FRIENDS AND BOYFRIENDS.) I mean, have you heard him on This American Life? Have you read any of his books? Holidays on Ice? Me Talk Pretty One Day? Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (original title: Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls)? Because if not, please do. But first, read this interview. He talks about growing up and writing and all that “life” stuff, but also about his favorite Japanese clothing designers and giving condoms to teenagers. He also mentions&#8212multiple times&#8212that he doesn’t know how to drive a car. I think it’s a plea of some kind. In the future, people will look back on this interview and say, “If only we’d gotten him that car, his would’ve been the BEST Sims family ever.”

Do you ever find yourself playing up a certain side of your personality to get a better story later on?

I was just thinking about this the other day. I never learned how to drive a car. And so I never really developed aggression skills. And so I’m not very good at saying no. I think that saying yes, or being afraid to say no, leads to a lot more stories than playing up a side of myself. Most people, something starts to happen and they’re able to say, “No, I don’t want this to happen,” and, “No, you’re going too far,” and, “No, I don’t like the way you’re talking to me.” But I’m afraid to say that.

You write a lot about your family, and your childhood sounds unpleasant at times. But you and your sister Amy obviously turned out great. How did that happen?

Amy and I are not exceptional. I think the only reason that things worked out for us the way they did was because we were ambitious, whereas some other people in my family weren’t. I just spent some time with my sister Gretchen and I thought, How could I have ever forgotten how funny she is? And I saw my sister Lisa earlier this month and thought the same thing. Lisa writes as well [as us], but she’s never been interested in showing it to other people. The only difference with me and Amy is that Raleigh [North Carolina] was too small for us, and we wanted to get out of there as soon as we could. Whereas my brother’s content to just be a funny guy at a party.

What compelled you to share your writing, unlike the other members of your family?

I don’t know, I’ve always wanted everyone to pay attention to me! When you come from a big family, you’re always competing for attention. In our case, we were always competing for our mother’s attention&#8212our dad’s attention was negative. Nobody really wanted it. In high school, I was in the drama club, but I have all these nervous tics and so, when I got a part, all my nervous tics went into overdrive. It was just horrible. And I realized, OK, that’s out. So then I tried visual art. That was OK, but that wasn’t right either. And then I started writing, and it seemed right. When I’m writing, I’m just alone in a room, and then going on tour is my reward for spending all that time alone in a room.

Have you gone back to Raleigh? Is it as bad as you remember?

Yeah! [Laughs] I never learned to drive a car, so my world there was very small. And I still don’t know how to drive, so when I go back, my dad picks me up and gives me rides. I’m still 14 in that regard. And so I still have a 14 year-old’s view of it. And Raleigh has grown a lot, but it hasn’t grown in a way that interests me. It’s another Target, another T.J. Maxx, another P.F.Chang’s. And I could never live with that kind of heat again. So I think I made a right decision.

Are you ever surprised by the kinds of people who come to see you on your tour?

Yeah, I am. I went to 42 cities in 43 days on a lecture tour and, in that case, people are buying tickets, so you’re getting people who can afford a 50-dollar ticket. Now, I’m on a book tour because I think people should be able to come for free, so that introduces me to a completely different kind of person. A truck driver came to one of the readings, and that made me feel really good. Last night I met a nurse and she had just that day had a patient who defecated a button. [Laughs]

Oh my god!

Yeah! A button came out! And I said, “But did he eat it off his clothes?” And she said, “Yeah, I think that’s what he did.” Every now and then, someone comes down the line and I think, God, I’m so grateful to have you as a reader.

Are you ever perplexed when certain people like your stuff?

Well, I imagine it’d be the same for you. Whether you have a book or a blog, the audience is kind of invisible, for the most part. I’d like to think that I could stand in front of these people, and talk to each one of them, and know how to make them happy. But I would have no idea how to make them happy. The crazy part is realizing that being yourself is the key. For some insane reason, people like you.

I just realized my question was basically, “Are you surprised that people even like you?”

No, but I am! I actually am! I wanted to give something away to the audience, so I thought I’d print up a joke book and give it to people as a little souvenir. It was gonna cost me $20,000. Instead, I decided to print up these postcards. One was a photograph of the skull of a Pekingese. One was a book cover that I’d hired a designer to make when I was going to title my last book Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. And then the other just said, “Abortion, $3.” I got to this theater in Memphis and they said, “You can’t put this card on your table. The people who come to this theater are very conservative.” And I said, “But it’s a really good price for an abortion!” And they said, “No, you don’t understand.” And I said, “I would be ashamed to look a child of mine in the eye and tell him or her that I passed up a deal like this.” My whole schtick was that it was just a really good price so I said, “I really need those cards on the table.” And not one person complained. A couple of years ago, I offered priority signing to smokers because smokers never get anything. Everyone’s down on them all the time. And a man filed papers to initiate a lawsuit saying that I was discriminating against nonsmokers on California state property. To me, that’s like, What are you doing in my audience? I don’t want you.

Do you see a lot of teenagers at your shows?

Yeah, I do, and I always have gifts for them because I’m always so honored that they come. If I run out of gifts, I give them money. A couple of years ago, I gave condoms to teenagers because I wanted something that was light and easy to pack. Perfect, right? And then I got a letter from a woman in Chicago who said, “I came with my daughter to see your show and she’s 15 and you gave her a condom and told her you didn’t want to be responsible for her losing her virginity so she could only use it for anal sex.” Yeah, that’s exactly what I said! I don’t know how she could’ve been offended by it. I mean, I was nice to her daughter. And then I wrote about it and people would come up and say, “Where’s my condom?” And then that kind of ruined it. So now I take like the shampoos and conditioners from my hotel. And I have these little cards that I got at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the gift shop there, which I think is fantastic. They’re these little cards and they’re really beautifully printed on nice paper and they say, “STOP TALKING.” They don’t say, “Shut up,” so they’re still polite, but they have a trillion uses.

What’s so special about when teenagers come see you?

Everybody says that they have better things to do, but teenagers are the only ones who really do have better things to do. When I meet a teenager, I think, They could be getting high in a car. And instead they came to hear a middle-aged man read about going to China. I’m just so honored. And I always write teenagers back. But I don’t like it when they put their school address as the return address. Like, if they give me their home address I’m gonna stalk them or something. Or when they say, “Thank you in advance for answering this.” I still write them back, but I scold them for saying that because that sounds like something a teacher told them to do. That’s a dumb person’s idea of how to get somebody to write them back. Or how like a really, kind of fluffy, uninteresting…like a state worker’s idea of how to get someone to write you back.

Were there any people like that that you wrote to or admired as a teenager?

There was an author I started writing to — I wasn’t a teenager, but I was in my early 20s — but I would just write him anonymously, and when I look back on it, it must have been…he just must have taken those and thrown them straight into the trash can. [Laughs] And he’s somebody who I always admired and who I still admire and when I was in California a few weeks ago he introduced me. And I’ve never told him that I used to write him anonymously.

Hibernation Supplies

Holidays on Ice
David Sedaris
1997, Little, Brown and Company

This is the David Sedaris book you’d have to be a troll not to like. Seriously, you’d have to be dead. If you’ve never read him, start with the chapter called “SantaLand Diaries,” which is his true account of working as an elf at Macy’s department store on Christmas. (Spoiler alert: Santa’s not real. OK, glad we got that out of the way.) Sedaris was not a professional writer when he wrote this story (he cleaned apartments when he wasn’t working as an elf), and it’s such a perfect story—so funny, so soulful, and actually built from his actual real-life diaries—that it makes the whole idea of becoming a writer seem like something anyone could do and something desperately worth doing. Everyone knows Sedaris is one of the funniest writers alive, but what is noted less often is the strain of melancholy, this achy yearning, that threads through all his writing, and that mix of funny-with-a-twinge-of-sad is the secret sauce that makes him so satisfying to read. Is it OK here to put in a plug that we’re running “SantaLand Diaries” this weekend on my radio show and that it’s awesome to hear Sedaris read the story out loud over the radio or for free online? Hope so. Another fun fact about this book: it’s the perfect last-minute gift for any interesting adult or teen, though occasionally (e.g., a story called “Dinah the Christmas Whore”) not for the uptight. —Ira Glass

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Alison Bechdel
2006, Houghton Mifflin

Because of the Comic Book Guy level of pretention that I admittedly exhibit from time to time, I often find myself turning away from comics and graphic novels that are lauded by academics and critics from hoity-toity magazines. What do they know about this stuff, right? But Fun Home deserves all of the acclaim that it’s gotten since its 2006 release. This graphic memoir details Bechdel’s complicated relationship with her cold, aloof father, a closeted gay man, and her struggle to understand her own sexual identity. The artwork is meticulously detailed—some of the images are reproductions of actual letters, adolescent diary entries, and family photographs—and it’s without a doubt the most literary comic that I’ve ever read: there are allusions to Sisyphus, Ulysses, and The Picture of Dorian Gray; there’s even a quick Christopher Robin name check. If you’ve never read a comic before, this absorbing autobiography is a great place to start; and if you’re a comic-book-convention-attending nerd like me, then Fun Home will reaffirm your faith in the art form. —Amber

The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger
1951, Little, Brown and Company

Listen: it’s OK not to like The Catcher in the Rye. But it is also OK to love it. I do! Or else I wouldn’t be recommending it to you. What’s great about this book is that it always provokes a strong reaction, pos or neg, in readers. The main character, a teenage boy named Holden Caulfield, goes home for Christmas in New York City after being expelled from yet another boarding school. Frustrated with the world, with no place to direct his anger beyond the legions of “phonies” who surround him, Holden has become an icon for teenage rebellion and a certain kind of angry young dude. You’re never really sure if you want to hug him or grab him by the shoulders and give him a shake. You really need to read this book to figure out for yourself if you love or hate him (don’t worry, it’s short)—but do it soon, because it will never affect you more than it will when you’re in high school. —Anna

House of Leaves
Mark Z. Danielewski
2000, Pantheon

Everyone has that one life-changing book that consumes their soul. For me, it’s House of Leaves, which was presented to me as an innocuous Christmas gift when I was 16 and helped shape my personal aesthetic and love of highfalutin’ art. I was immediately engrossed in the story, and I spent years obsessively studying its multitude of layers. This book is filled with MYSTERIES and SECRETS! There are codes scattered throughout the book, colored text, symbols that mean nothing something?, and the deliberately haphazard layout of the text resembles the labyrinth of the house in the story. On some pages, the text is printed backwards and/or upside down. On others entire paragraphs are jumbled together, and in one section only a few words are printed on each page. I KNOW this sounds really gimmicky and pretentious, but I promise, it doesn’t detract from the story at all! The book is essentially about a house that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, but there are a couple storylines taking place more or less simultaneously. This isn’t quite a Choose Your Own Adventure novel because there is a definitive plotline, but the ways in which you decipher the book are completely up to you. Does this sound a little ridiculous? Good, it’s supposed to! But do yourself a favor: get the full-color edition and listen to the companion CD, Haunted, by Danielewski’s sister, Poe, for the ultimate immersive experience. And if a 5 ½-Minute Hallway mysteriously appears in your house, DON’T GO INSIDE. —Meagan Fredette

Inside House of Leaves.

Rat Girl: A Memoir
Kristin Hersh
2010, Penguin

It’s easy to forget this book is nonfiction. It’s got all the makings of a great YA novel: the right cast of characters (a blue-haired teen protagonist who plays in a band, eclectic hippie parents, a best friend who’s an aging ex-Hollywood star); a cool setting (the mid-’80s alt-rock scene—Hersh was the front woman of the band Throwing Muses); and a dramatic narrative arc (it follows Hersh from her practically simultaneous diagnosis with bipolar disorder and unexpected pregnancy at 18, to her signing a record deal and becoming a single mom). It also follows the artist through her creative process, which is abstract and fascinating: as a result of a car accident she went through as a child, Hersh began to “see” chords as colors, which inspired her songwriting. This memoir is totally honest and never feels contrived, and if you’ve never listened to Throwing Muses, it’s an excellent introduction. —Anna

Cat’s Eye
Margaret Atwood
1988, McClelland and Stewart

I. Know. This. Story. Atwood has captured the quiet terror of a dysfunctional friendship within a group of young girls. She shines flashlights (a laser show, really) on the demented psychological and emotional abuse that comes with being best friends with a bully (a pretty girl named Cordelia). Our heroine is Elaine. Her story is told in flashbacks, starting with an unusual childhood traveling with an entomologist father and independent mother and bringing us to present day (1988), on the eve of her retrospective gallery show. The story also marks the makings of a feminist artist, for this is what Elaine becomes. There are many passages in Cat’s Eye that blew my mind because they were the exact, exact description/account of what I had gone through in my grossest, loneliest of alone times. It’s a beautifully written book by a brilliant writer and provides real carthasis—you know…the important kind. (Also great by Margaret Atwood is The Handmaid’s Tale, which was made into a totally important movie!) —Sonja

The Year of Magical Thinking
Joan Didion
2005, Knopf

Oh gosh, this book is gut wrenching. Didion writes about the year following the sudden death of her husband, itself an event that overlapped with the hospitalization of their only daughter (that daughter’s subsequent death became the subject of this year’s Blue Nights). Didion chronicles her grief, avoiding self-help-y remedies and writing instead about psychological studies, and her own memories. She lets you into her most intimate thoughts, which are both heartbreaking and comforting. Didion has said that writing is how she makes sense of her experiences, and even though there’s no happy ending to this story, and it will make you cry so much, you’ll be glad you read it. —Anna

Don’t Breathe a Word
Holly Cupala
2012, HarperTeen

This is the story of Joy, a 17-year-old girl who is being suffocated—sometimes literally, by debilitating asthma attacks, and sometimes figuratively, because of overprotective parents and a controlling boyfriend named Asher. It opens with Joy cutting her freshly bleached hair, hoping to disappear among the many homeless teens on the streets of Seattle. She moves into a squat with some other kids, and the story of their survival on the streets wraps itself around each character’s history and their reasons for being homeless. You can physically feel the air being wrung out of your lungs as Joy’s relationship with Asher is shown through flashbacks. His abuse is of the subtlest kind, all cruel words and emotional threats. It’s something I actually went through as a 15-year-old, so I found myself crying a lot both because Cupala nailed the reality of emotional abuse and because I was so relieved that somebody finally wrote the kind of book I’d been so desperate to read back then. I’m not telling you to read this book because the subject matter of homelessness and abuse makes it “important.” Don’t Breathe a Word is not some melodramatic Lifetime movie. It’s a gorgeously written, unflinching story of finding strength and home. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. It doesn’t come out until January 3, but do yourself a favor and either preorder it or circle that date on the calendar as a reminder to go out and buy/borrow it. —Stephanie

Lost at Sea
Bryan Lee O’Malley
2003, Oni

This graphic novel by the author of the equally amazing Scott Pilgrim series, is about an 18-year-old girl without a soul. She believes she lost it when she was 14 and that it now belongs to a stray cat, which she sets out to capture. This is a book for anybody who’s felt totally alone even when they’re around other people—and for those who’ve eventually enjoyed other people’s company in spite of themselves. —Anna

Soup & Bread
Martha Bayne
2011, Agate

I like my food served with a story. Jewish apple cake and my grandma’s childhood. An icy cup of horchata and the time my friend’s parents moved here from Mexico. Food just tastes better when it comes with a background. Martha Bayne apparently feels the same way. Her book, which is loaded with recipes for (yes) soup and bread, tells a story about community bonding, generosity, and social justice through the lens of a popular Chicago event she runs, also called Soup & Bread, which brings people from all over the city together to eat hot food and raise money for various hunger-relief agencies. As the recipes, submitted mostly by professional chefs, take you from hungry to full, the narrative of Soup & Bread takes you across the city of Chicago, covering soup-centered stories in such far-flung places as a home for torture survivors, the kitchens of Chicago’s fanciest restaurants, and the social gospel movement of the early 1900s. —Jamie

Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy
1877, The Russian Messenger; published today by Simon & Brown, Crw, Penguin Classics, and others

I have this rule where I like to read Russian novels only in the winter. Something about their atmosphere feels just right, turning a dreary snowy day into the best time to snuggle up with a cup of tea and read about a royal ball. Of course, this gets tricky when the book in question is 900 pages long and you start reading it at the end of February—it took me almost a year to finish Anna Karenina because I refused to touch it when it was warm out. But please, don’t let its size intimidate you. Tolstoy was famous for his realism but also wove together dramas more intense than anything on the CW. —Anna

Anything and EVERYTHING by Alice Munro

Munro writes my favorite kind of story, the short story (let’s get to the point), about my favorite topic, the human condition. She’s now in her 80s and writing her best work ever. I think my mouth goes slightly agape when I read her books. I would recommend ANYTHING by her. Start with Runaway (2004, Knopf) and go from there. Or maybe you want to try Lives of Girls and Women (1971, McGraw-Hill Ryerson) first. You really can’t go wrong. —Sonja
P.S. Munro is a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize and I want her to win it once and for all.

Why the 21st Century Isn’t All That Bad

The 1960s were totally exactly like this. Illustration by Tavi.

I know I’m not alone in imagining that being alive in the 1960s meant I would walk down a naturally yellow-tinted street, wave to my friends John, Paul, Ringo, and George, hop into a van of friendly strangers, and drive across America till we found ourselves (and ourselves) in California, Joni Mitchell waiting for us at some canyon next to a lady who sells magical beads on a rug. Or that in the ’80s, I would’ve gone to school with Molly Ringwald during the day, and gone to clubs with Debbie Harry and Stephen Sprouse at night. Tumblr is full of teenagers moping about being born in the wrong decade and YouTube is full of people complaining that the Little Monsters of today will never know music like it once was. Most of the time I feel convinced that the whole internet is devoted to trying to preserve, remember, and figure out what life was like without the internet.

But you know something? It’s not all that bad, this here 21st century. At least, I hope not. Here is a list of things that will either make you more OK with being a youth nowadays, or convince you I am in total denial about this whole thing.

First, a few good things that did not exist before.

1. Harry Potter

It’s about time that I tell you that I have never read or seen Harry Potter. I don’t know why! I just never got into it? Got around to it? Please don’t hate me. I’m not trying to be one of those people who pride themselves on having different taste—I’m actually quite ashamed. But I have never really regretted this lack of a relationship with HP so extremely until this past summer, when the last movie came out. Picture a cluster of people I’ve been in school with for years huddled together, crying, and me jaunting over to fake-sob and pat everyone on the back and scream IT’LL BE OK, WE’LL ALL BE OK! while they close me out of the circle and speak to one another in spell names.

It’s not that I felt uncool or abnormal. (One thing that’s so great about Harry Potter is that it transcends both the “mainstream” and “indie” categories.) It’s that I missed this great cultural bonding moment! Years from now, when you are a person on the social prowl at your new friend’s housewarming party, a Harry Potter mention will spark enthusiasm in everyone there. Meanwhile, I will hide under a table and nibble on cheese.

2. Mean Girls

Again, cultural bonding. I am 99% sure that 99% of the people who are currently teenagers know 100% of Mean Girls by heart. It is a fact. I surveyed every teenager alive and then put a percent symbol next to it so you know it’s real. If you ever find yourself in an awkward situation with a bunch of peers you don’t know, a Mean Girls reference is sure to break the ice. If no one knows what you’re talking about, you have obviously been tricked into joining some kind of cult for stupid people and you need to get some new friends, goddamn.

3. The Disney Channel of the early 2000s

I’m just going to keep talking about generational bonding until you all realize I just really want a friend :((((((((((((

4. Awkward humor

While shows like The Office, Community, Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, and Curb Your Enthusiasm are only possible because of shows like Seinfeld before them, there’s no way they could’ve been made before nowadays. This shit is hilarious. If you are a smart dork who has always talked like you belong at the Parks department of Pawnee, IN, you are about to have the social world in your hands, you little butterfly, you.

5. Miranda July

An embarrassing amount of my time is spent searching my brain for some kind of reference that will make my current setting feel somehow aesthetically pleasing. I can tolerate school because I feel like I’m in my favorite John Hughes movie, I don’t mind suburbia because there’s something kinda cool and creepy about it in a the-neighborhood-in-Edward Scissorhands kinda way. This can be difficult, however, since things no longer look like this. Cars today are just ugly. Clothes are kind of ugly. CAN’T EVERYONE JUST CHANGE THEIR LIFESTYLE SO THE OUTSIDE WORLD IS EASIER ON MY EYES????

Sure, lots of pretty movies have been made nowadays, but so few of them actually take place now. Or if they do, they’re stylized beyond recognition. Like, what do Wes Anderson’s characters do about food? Vintage Hot Pockets? Get real, man.

Miranda July’s movies, especially Me and You and Everyone We Know, which is more visually intense than The Future, will make you happier about where you live and ugly cars and boring blinds.

Hailee, Chloe, and Elle with Natalia Vodianova in Vogue.

6. Talented people

Moping about the latest Disney Channel offerings aside, our generation has some really good representatives. You just know that Chloe Moretz, Hailee Steinfeld, Elle and Dakota Fanning, Gabourey Sidibe, Jennifer Lawrence, and Saoirse Ronan will be like, those classic stars who will still be going to the Oscars when they’re 80 and making speeches reminiscing about that time they all rode a golf cart together on the set of The Powerpuff Girls, while a short red-haired blogger ran along the side telling them how pretty they all are.

7. Pixar

Thank you, Pixar, for The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Up, Cars, and Ratatouille. But especially for The Incredibles, and Jack-Jack, who only supports Hazel’s fear of babysitting.

8. Good nostalgia

Our nostalgia might not be cute or heartwarming, but it is hilarious and sweet in its own way. Here, there’s even a Tumblr for it already.

9. And more.

Like, a lot more! To me, this includes things and people like Adele, Nicki Minaj, Girls, Janelle Monae, Hunx and his Punx, Arcade Fire. And that’s just music-wise! I’m sure I’m missing a trillion things.

OK, now that the laundry list of redeemers is done, these are more general.

10. Whatever idea we have of the past is romanticized, greatly.

The internet is a big, talkative, bottomless pit. Way back in ye olde 1960s, tweets were delivered not by obnoxious smart phones, but by birds resembling the doves on the Woodstock poster, reaching people staying in communes on different ends of California. Right? RIGHT?

Probably not. I don’t want to upset any adult readers who maintain that the ’60s or ’70s or what have you actually were that magical (hi Dad), but they sure weren’t the version I’ve scrapped together from movies and old photographs. In reality, things back then were still kinda trashy—there was already a tabloid culture, for example. And when things weren’t trashy, it was often because conformity was much more a rule of Being a Person than it is now. Of course, that means rebellion was more fun back then, but ultimately, it’s a positive thing that no one would ever make this video today, no?

People complain about how ladies used to be so classy, and how nowadays they are such goddamn hoes, but the expectation to dress like that was about showing you had money, and being conventionally attractive, and finding a man. I guess things are still like that in a lot of ways, but at least there are more options now if those goals aren’t in your interest, more people creating spaces where those aspirations aren’t relevant. Plus, it’s easier to be of color or a girl or queer nowadays, and that’s, you know, nice.

11. If a song, a book, anything is really good, it will transcend time.

I get really depressed thinking about how much more special my favorite band would have been if I’d discovered it in a record store in the middle of nowhere, and it was unlike any kind of culture I’d previously been exposed to, and I had to get to the store and bring home this big fat circle and put it on this box and put the needle on the circle and even then only get a crackly sound to hear it at all. But, if not for the internet, I wouldn’t ever have found a lot of the music and movies I love at all, or at least for a while. Most of the time it’s harder to appreciate a song or video online since there’s so much of that stuff, but the very best will always stick out. A powerful song is a powerful song, and while certain songs might’ve come out at just the right time for culture’s sake, they can still get to you on a personal level as much as they might’ve if you’d been alive back then.

12. The internet, OK?

Look, I’m not going to get into an argument with anyone over whether the internet is, ultimately, a good or a bad thing. It’s here and it’s not going away, so we better make the best of it. We had a good decade there where 99% of the online world was stupid YouTube videos and celebrity gossip, but I think creative communities are growing now, and only like 90% of the internet is that annoying and stupid. Every month we talk about some of the 10% that can be funny and smart and beautiful, and I’d hope you’d think that Rookie fits in there, too. And now I must be off to go make us a membership card for the Internet Elite! Seriously though, the combination of creativity with community is inspiring. Also, finding people who like the same stuff as you is way more convenient now and for most people pretty comforting.

13. Options.

Though I would love to stroll down my yellow-tinted ’60s street with my buddies from Liverpool, I’m also really glad I get to enjoy Hole, and David Sedaris, and other things that came later on. Part of being a teenager is figuring out what stuff you like, and those who are teenagers now have a whole all-you-can-eat buffet of things to enjoy.

Use the internet to discover shit you like, and use the beauty of tangibility which so many believe no longer exists to absorb yourself in it. If you hear an album you love on Bandcamp, buy it on vinyl so you can watch those golden sounds get churned out. Watch videos of your favorite bands performing live on YouTube, then form your own. Listen to a great mix on 8tracks, then make mixtapes to decorate and give to your friends. Find zines on Tumblr or Etsy and then make your own.

I was talking about this with Anaheed and she remembered some Winona Ryder interview where Winona was like, “I wish people still baked bread!” You can still bake bread, Noni! And people can still play records and read magazines and listen to the Who. It’s just that, well, most people don’t. And you know? Maybe that even makes it more special. ♦