The Writer Behind So Sad Today Is A Very Real Adult
Melissa Broder’s new book of essays might be even realer than her tweets.
I met Melissa Broder in 2011, in New York City. I knew her as a poet, an editor, a reading series host, and also a publicist at Penguin Books. She has long shiny blondish hair, good fashion sense, and smiles a lot. At first I mistook her for a very well-adjusted and sunny person—the kind of person I find intimidating. But once I read her poetry, and talked to her a little bit more, it became obvious that we had a lot more in common than I’d first thought.
A couple years later, I became aware of a Twitter account called So Sad Today—one that’s impossible to miss if you find yourself in a certain subsection of Twitter. Maybe I heard a mutual friend say that So Sad Today was actually Broder, but I’d like to think that I was able to figure it out myself. The Tweets were abstract, funny, relatable, and dark—a Twitterized version of Broder’s poetry. In the essay “I Want To Be a Whole Person But Really Thin,” Broder describes herself as “a superficial woman of depth,” which sums up the content of the book, and So Sad Today as a whole, nicely. Broder may be talking about things like sexts, Botox, and crushes, but these things are considered alongside contemplations about mortality, identity, and the difficulty of finding substance in a world where sometimes it’s so much easier to exist behind a screen.
what's the yoga pose where you don't have to be human anymore— so sad today (@sosadtoday) March 7, 2016
i want a burrito to say to me: rest, rest your head upon me weary child, fuck up my cheese, i know it has been a struggle, you're safe now— so sad today (@sosadtoday) February 4, 2016
The official history goes like this: In the fall of 2012, Broder began @SoSadToday as an anonymous channel for her anxiety and depression. The account quickly gained a massive following—it currently has over 300,000 followers—including celebrities like Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. In 2015, Broder came out in Rolling Stone as the person behind So Sad Today, and began writing a bi-monthly column for Vice, where she went further in depth about her experiences with addiction, romance as a form of distraction, porn, and psychiatric medication. This month, So Sad Today becomes an essay collection.
This interview was conducted over the course of several emails.
I'm curious about the history of So Sad Today. When did you know you had really stumbled onto something? When did you start getting followed by celebrities?
I didn't know Sky Ferreira or Katy or Miley were following and retweeting the account until some of the teens started tweeting me notes to give them and I was like um, what? Then I was at Whole Foods and Katy Perry started talking to the account on Twitter and I was sort of like "uhhh?" in the dairy aisle. But I felt that I had tapped a vein even before that, because the account started with zero followers in like a dark, quiet, rat-infested corner of Twitter—with me following, like, three weird tweeters—and within a few months my notifications felt like a dopamine circus. I would have killed for that kind of dopamine on my personal account, where I had been curating and crafting my tweets for years, and here I was just like shitting into the void on this account and people were like yesss.
How do you feel now that So Sad Today-esque tweets have become such 'a thing'? It seems that now one of the most popular ‘genres’ of Twitter is humorous, self-deprecating Tweets about anxiety and/or depression.
Live and let live. There have been a lot of accounts that tweet So Sad Today tweets verbatim, or hybrids of So Sad Today tweets, and some of my friends—bros of course—were like "yo dude that's your property you have to go after them." So I confronted a few of them on Twitter, but then I just felt like a douchebag. It's not my style. The best revenge is to tweet new shit that no one can really steal—like sensual period sex at Cheesecake Factory, and stuff.
“The best revenge [against imitators] is to tweet new shit that no one can really steal—like sensual period sex at Cheesecake Factory.”
What was it like when you decided to 'go public'? Was that weird for you?
I went public in three phases and the first was weirdest of all. The first was literally only me telling one person, but the difference between zero people knowing and one person knowing was a bigger deal to me than one person knowing and like 20 people knowing—or 20 people knowing and everyone knowing. I mean before I went public to everyone (phase 3), I definitely spent a few sessions on it in therapy. I always assume that everything I do is wrong, so I figured that when the people who followed me found out who I really was they would be like "no." But surprisingly, the only mean comment I got was one kid who said that I had "a gross knee." I call it kneegate.
I started chewing nicotine gum in November of 2012. I fell in love with it fast—you get most of the benefits of cigarettes (it perks me up, it curbs my hunger, it works as a little reward for my hamster brain) without the smell and the constant feeling that I might choke to death. How come more people aren't into nicotine gum? I feel like everybody should be chewing it.
Well, as I talk about in the book, nicotine gum is one of my last remaining vices and I've been chewing for well over 10 years. I sleep with the gum, I kiss with the gum, I have special gum dealers on eBay. Nicotine gum is very special, because you get to smoke anywhere and no one knows you are smoking. It's a dear friend and an easy reward for being alive. For many years it fell in the category of "things you can have an infinite amount of with no repercussions," which is my favorite category of all. I thought I had defeated nature. But now my dentist is trying to intervene, because I am, sadly, having repercussions: some tongue issues. So there may be some dark days ahead.
I don't understand why everyone isn't chewing it either, but I also don't understand how people who aren't alcoholics can just casually leave half their glass of wine sitting and not finish it (or not finish everyone else's wine too). Or how people can have good sex and then not obsess about the person the next day. So I suppose there are human differences.
“I sleep with the gum, I kiss with the gum, I have special gum dealers on eBay. Nicotine gum is very special…It’s a dear friend and an easy reward for being alive.”
I really loved the essay “I Told You Not to Get the Knish,” which is about your relationship with your husband. I knew you were married, and in an open relationship, and I knew that your husband was chronically ill—and the whole thing seemed really complicated and therefore interesting to me, so I was glad to read more about it. How does your husband feel about being married to So Sad Today? Has he read the book?
The feeling of longing is something that is so core to my being and something that I get to express publicly on So Sad Today. It has been really cathartic for me and a way to own those feelings. Of course, even if you are in a monogamous marriage it doesn't mean you don't feel that longing or multiple desires at once, or that the heart doesn't have room for all different kinds of love. But I felt that it would be difficult to tweet about the tangible experiences I was having in navigating the waters of younger men—the not getting texted back, the confusing lust with love—and also tweet 'oops, accidentally downloaded some other bro's dick pic onto my husband's computer' or 'husband is out trying to fuck a woman who looks like the penguin, shld i go 2 urban outfitters?' Like, then it would become about open marriage and not about that feeling of longing.
Also, my husband thinks social media is dumb because of its disposability. I have carte blanche to write about him when it comes to art, and I guess we both agreed that an essay counted as art. He did read the book, and made the first round of edits, but asked not to read the parts where I was having sex with other people. But when it comes to disposable things like Twitter, he is like 'let's keep my shit out the street, thanks.' Like even this article is sus.
It's funny though, because a major catalyst of the period of depression and anxiety in Fall 2012 that led me to create So Sad Today was, of course, his illness. That's when we finally came to terms with just how progressive it was—that it was not going to be going anywhere. It's also when we realized we were going to have to leave our lives in New York and move somewhere warmer, because of his health. When you live with a person who is ill all the time it puts you in touch with mortality in a way that most people my age I don't think have had to deal with. That of course continues to be a theme of So Sad Today.
“When you live with a person who is ill all the time it puts you in touch with mortality in a way that most people my age I don’t think have had to deal with.”
So do you not think of So Sad Today as art? (Because I do. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but it is something you've consciously crafted as an extension of yourself and your thoughts and emotions and experiences, and it affects people on an emotional level, and is something that has required both diligence and talent, etc.) Do you see your poetry as something completely different than your work as So Sad Today, or are they two separate things that feed into and influence each other?
I remember when one of my favorite Internet people, @preteengallery, was like 'the art world is obsessed with SST' and I was like really? He wasn't talking about like Marina Abramovic or like a curator at the Whitney or some shit, but like I guess this online art world or clique or something. And it was kind of funny to me, and intoxicating, because I've just never been beloved in the eye of the tastemaker or the hip. Like, I'm a poet. And I don't have the cool aesthetics of the 100 people The FADER wants you to watch, or whatever. So I was like ooh this is cool! But also, I kind of like still love to fuck with people's labels. Like, because I never really felt like I fit in anywhere, I've always kind of rejected labels before they rejected me. So when some of those people started calling me post-Internet art I was like get the fuck out of here I'm just feelings.
But is So Sad Today art? Sure! You can call it that.
I think So Sad Today and my poetry contend with a lot of the same themes: longing, the reality of death, the desire to escape into fantasy, the world not feeling like enough. But with So Sad Today I get to approach themes through a more colloquial or contemporary jargon, whereas with the poems I like to keep the language very primal and pure—void of pop culture.
I was wondering how being so publicly open about your daily struggles with anxiety and depression and feelings of insecurity etc. has affected your everyday interactions. I would imagine it is probably more beneficial than detrimental, and that it's a little bit of both.
You would think that it would make me feel more at ease with people who know I'm So Sad Today, because if I have a panic attack it's kind of expected. But I still feel the strange need to pretend that everything is OK on the outside even when I'm dissolving inside. I'm a perfectionist and very hard on myself, which are two things that definitely contribute to my anxiety disorder. I still feel like I have to take care of other people's needs by not having a panic attack around them, because I don't want to hurt their feelings. No one wants to feel like they're making someone else uncomfortable. People ask me sometimes, like, did you have a panic attack around me? And in my head I'm like honey you will never know.
Who do you currently have a crush on?
My neighbor. I've never seen him without some kind of board: skate or surf. He's always off to some eternal electronic music festival in some eternal desert. He wears a golden halo made of Tinder swipes. If California were a person it would be him. He sometimes gives me a quick hello. It's very painful.