Editorials — March 11, 2013 12:16 — 2 Comments

The Monarch Drinks With Lindy West

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“I just got a stomachache.”

Lindy West and I are tucked into a booth at the Lynnwood Red Lobster. She just took her first sip of Sunset Passion Colada, an extremely tall glass of cloyingly sweet, Woooo! Spring Break! Oh Muh Gawd, I’m sooooo Bad! AmIRightLadies? disguised as a cocktail. A frozen storm of reds and pinks and oranges twist and swirl up the glass like a tie-dyed T-shirt. I get a hangover just looking at it.

“What’s floating at the top?” I ask, sipping my safe, decidedly untropical Mac & Jack’s.

“Oh, some strawberry jam,” she says, matter of fact, and takes another slurp through her straw.

Lindy’s never been to the Red Lobster. I haven’t been since my 10th birthday. The famous Cheddar Bay Biscuits hit the table quickly, warm and fluffy in their paper napkin-lined basket, everything the suburban Internet reviews promised.

“Oh my god, that’s stupid,” Lindy happily breathes after her first bite.

“I think we’re going to become converts.”

As we peruse the menu, excuse me, as we peruse ALL THREE MENUS, one of which has enough content to get someone nominated for a Pulitzer, we try and remember how we ended up here.

Lindy and I met briefly, a month before, on my 33rd birthday, at The Moth, a storytelling event where audience members are given a few minutes to recount real life events based on the night’s theme. Lindy is the host. I introduced myself after the show, and told her dinner was on The Monarch’s dime so we should probably choose the world’s-slash-Seattle’s most expensive restaurant.

“We should eat lobster,” Lindy quipped.

“We should go to Red Lobster!” I quipped back. Ha ha hee hee! The Red Lobster! How ironic! I mean, we live in the CITY! I’m wearing skinny jeans! You’re wearing trendy glasses! Wouldn’t that be HILARIOUS?

But Lindy seriously accepted my quip, wholeheartedly excited and seemingly void of irony. I agreed to locate the closest Red Lobster. Turned out, it’s in Lynnwood, WA.

Next to the front door of the Lynnwood Red Lobster is a large bronze colored plaque with the words, “Michael Brown, Manager” etched into it. I’m kind of impressed, and confused, and excited for this honor bestowed upon Michael Brown. I commit his name to my memory. Lindy’s already sitting at a booth when I arrive, amongst families and couples on dates, who also find no irony in eating at the chain seafood restaurant.

“The woman that seated me said, ‘Everyone comes in for 30 shrimp for $11.99,’ but that’s not what I want. I just want a lobster,” Lindy says. “I want the Ultimate Feast. Then I get a lobster, some crabs and some shrimps. But that costs $30.”

“We have $100 to spend!”

“That’s a lot of dollars!”

It’s decided, we are both getting Ultimate Feasts.

Lindy wrote for The Stranger for seven years, but in 2012 she took a writing job with Jezebel, a feminist-meets-celebrity-gossip themed blog under the Gawker banner, that I read and chortle at daily. She says it’s pretty much her dream job except:

“I don’t like people being mean to me all the time.”

Jezebel requires it’s writers to engage with the blog’s commenters, and Lindy attracts a fair amount of evil Internet trolls.

“I’m totally just a human being trying to make a thing that might be funny, interesting or hopeful and then people are like, ‘YOU’RE THE WORST!’ and they try and kill me and it’s horrible. I’m almost getting used to it. You know, I’ll wake up to 100 comments telling me I’m fat. Last week I won an award for being the #1 Ugliest Feminist in America. Some dumb ass with a blog. This dude has been harassing me on and off for a while. His whole thing is that he moved to the Ukraine to bang chicks because American women are garbage because we’ve all let ourselves go because of feminism. So he made a list of the nine ugliest American feminists.”

Like stand up comedians who’ve made careers telling jokes about their biggest insecurities, Lindy channels their hatred into her writing.

“I don’t respond to them directly, I blog about it. Basically what I did with that contest thing was I posted it on my Twitter and was like, “Ha ha, sorry ladies, maybe next year. I’m #1!” So [the trolls] know that I saw it and then they just pee their pants about it all day. They’re like, ‘The feminists are going crazy because of what we said! They’re all reading it and they’re so mad!’ No, we’re all making fun of you because you’re a worthless human being! They’re like, ‘See? Feminists say they don’t care about looks but as soon as you call them ugly, they go crazy!’ and its like, no, that’s because that is a bizarre thing to do and human beings don’t speak to each other like that. It’s hilariously terrible.”

While she talks, Lindy is fastidiously cracking open all of her crab legs, pulling out chunks of perfectly-in-tact crabmeat, like nice big strips of peeled wallpaper, and piling them on the side of her plate.

“So, basically, everyone yells at me all the time and it’s horrible but it’s also part of my job. I’m obsessed with it and think about it constantly. It’s so weird to go to work and have millions of strangers tell you you’re a fat bitch everyday and all you’re trying to do is entertain them. It’s just super weird and I’m trying to figure out how to reconcile it. It’s not great for my mental heath. Or anyone else I work with. I feel like we’re going to have this whole generation of bloggers who are all going to go crazy.”

And then her real work is done.

“I DID ALL MY CRAB! Now I get to eat it!”

Meanwhile, on my side of the table, two and a half minutes of fastidious crab cracking reveals a completely empty crab leg.

“Mine’s empty!” I cry. “How did that happen? I didn’t think that the leg could be empty. If you’re a crab and you’re walking around, don’t you need that for your life? Maybe someone ate that part out?”

“Well, I don’t think it’s a great sign,” Lindy says. “Whatever it was. This lobster must have been frozen, I assume.”

“But there’s a tank full of lobsters when you walk in the door!”

“They weirdly do have a tank, but I think they’re display lobsters. I think they’re prop…”

“Probsters!” I shriek.

“Yes! [Red Lobster] might actually be the safest place for a lobster.”

I can relate. Not to the lobsters, but to Lindy. As a Seattle radio personality I get my fair share of hate mail, thoughtless personal attacks and irrational blog comments from trolls who cowardly hide behind their avatars and screen names. The difference is, it doesn’t bother me anywhere near as much as it bothers Lindy. Maybe because I am often slammed by Republicans for being a liberal who supports gay marriage (all true), and Lindy is often attacked based solely on her appearance.

Lindy writes a lot about being fat. Her word, not mine.

“I feel like, for me, it’s really valuable. The more vulnerable I make myself the less vulnerable I am. You guys called me fat on the Internet? Well, I already did! Like, a million billion times. You missed your window. I try and write about fat stuff as much as I can stand it. Even though I certainly never plan to be, like, ‘fat writer.’ I just want to be, like, a writer. It’s not a fashionable segment of identity politics, you know, it’s not cool. I feel like I sort of snuck in and achieved this level of, like, coolness. Now I can be like, ‘You also have to be nice to fat people now because I said so and I tricked you.'”

I ask Lindy the question I like to ask everyone: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

“Such a good question. I feel like I… all the usual stuff. Ballerina. That wasn’t going to happen. I had to give up on that one. I probably took it until I was seven or eight but then it was like, ‘Oh, I’m tall and, like, big. I mean, I wasn’t, like, a giant kid. But there’s, like, tiny little teeny tiny girls who get to do ballet and there was me. Kind of gallumphy and, like, Norwegian. I’m sure I wanted to be a vet until I learned there’s a lot of, like, poop and putting animals to sleep.”

“You didn’t want to be a writer?” I ask.

“You know, I DID write all the time as a kid! I wrote stories all the time. I probably wanted to be a writer and then I was like, ‘Oh, writing is hard.’ and I forgot about it. I feel like I wrote stories all the time up until middle school and then I think I decided I wasn’t good enough at it. So I was like, this probably isn’t my thing. So I went to college and still didn’t know. Then I graduated and was like, well, I have no skills except I have an English degree and I know how to make sentences…”

“And origami!” I add.

“Yeah. No, I can’t do origami at all. Origami’s hard!”

“It IS fucking hard!”

“Those pictures don’t make any sense!” Lindy says, referring to the folding guides that come with the origami paper.

“None! And sometimes, when it comes out, it STILL doesn’t look like the thing and it’s like, was it worth it to spend two hours making a frog?”

“No! It was not! It’s a scam.” Lindy concludes.

Lindy went to college in Los Angeles, where she unknowingly launched her writing career.

“I had an internship at a fake magazine called LA Family Magazine that was like a coupon book with fake articles at the beginning. So I worked there, which was actually kind of great because I learned how to write a bunch of bullshit. They’d be like, ‘Write about breast feeding,’ and I’d be like, ‘I’m 19. I don’t know, but okay.’ And then I’d just make stuff up and they’d print it in the magazine. And presumably mothers would read it and be like, ‘Oh, advice!’ That’s troubling.”

After college, she promptly moved back to Seattle, her hometown, and snagged an internship at The Stranger.

“I was the theater intern, so I did data entry, I organized press releases and I updated the theater calendar. I was super shy and I didn’t talk to anyone the whole time and no one cared who I was. At The Stranger, if you don’t step up and make an impression, no one cares. They’re not gonna be like, ‘Hello, little one.’ So, literally, the last day of my internship, or maybe the last week, my editor clearly felt bad that I’d been there doing data entry. So she was like, ‘Ok, Intern. You can go to this play and you can write 50 words for the calendar.’ And I was like, ‘Okay!’ But even then I was like, ‘Does she know I’m not a writer?’ I had already started down this path, but it was, like, for lack of a better thing to do. And the people at The Stranger seemed like they’d be cool and maybe like me. So anyway, I went to this play and I wrote a really good thing, apparently. Then she gave me another little assignment and another little assignment and all of a sudden I was, like, a theater critic.”

“Were you into theater?”

“Noooo! I was a terrible theater critic! But I wrote things that were entertaining.”

Time Check: We have now been at the Lynnwood Red Lobster for one hour.

“Oh my God, I feel so gross,” Lindy slumps down into the booth. “I DID eat my entire thing of butter. The crab really soaks it right up. I didn’t MEAN to. I wonder what it is. It stays liquid…”

“It never solidifies! It’s probably just yellow chemicals,” I suggest.

“It IS yellow chemicals!”

“…and it smells weird.”

A Red lobster employee walks past our table.

“Excuse me!” I call her over. “Can I ask you a question? Just curious. How come the butter never gets solid?”

“Well, it’s in this machine that keeps it hot and sanitary, like, all day. I thinks it’s just kind of tempered to get hot for a long time.”

“Is it real butter?” I ask, trying hard to hide my overflowing suspicion.

“Yeah! It’s obviously not the same butter we get in the bins for scooping. But it’s the same type. It’s just in blocks. We melt it, initially in the steamer, and then we put it in the butter machine. It just churns super hot. It’s so hot, when I’m pouring the butter and some of it spills on my hand, it’s serious. It hurts.”

Lindy makes some consoling noises about the butter injuries and the Red Lobster lady leaves.

“I don’t think that’s real butter,” I say.

“I think there’s a cover up,” Lindy offers.

“I know what real butter tastes like.”

“Maybe we’re being snobs though.” Finally. Somebody had to say it. We laugh.

Despite cleaning our Ultimate Feast plates (that, by the way, come with your choice of salad and your choice of baked potato or rice pilaf or, like, a million other things. Take THAT, Seattle! Where nothing comes with a side of anything! Where you now have to BUY bread and butter! I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Red Lobster!) and complaining about how full we are, Lindy orders us a warm, apple crostada for dessert.

“Would you rather get the cookie thing?” she asks, as the server is turning to leave.

“No, I don’t care.”

“I don’t really care either,” Lindy laughs. The server walks away. We are so, so full.

“We’ve lost our will to order. I’m disappointed they don’t have a seafood dessert, you know? Like a lobster chocolate pie.”

“They could have at least made something in the shape of a shrimp,” she suggests.

“A chocolate clam!” I offer.

“That would have been good!”

“It’s not so hard!”

“No, that would have been great,” she says, encouragingly. “That would have been so cute. You should write a letter to Michael Brown!”

It seems Lindy also committed Michael Brown, Manager’s name to memory as well.

“Seriously, I want to take my pants off,” I say, now slumped down on my side of the booth.

“I cannot wait to go home and watch TV,” Lindy West says.

 

Bio:

Lindy West is a staff writer for Jezebel.com and co-author of the book How to Be a Person, The Stranger's Guide to College. Her work has also been published in the Daily TelegraphGQ, the New York Daily News, and The Guardian. 

Rachel Belle is a radio personality, talk show host and features reporter on 97.3 KIRO FM in Seattle. Her segment, Ring My Belle, airs weekdays at 4:35p and 6:35p on The Ron & Don Show. She also hosts Ring My Belle Weekends, mixing Northwest music, art and food with the week's news and human interest stories. Rachel graced the cover of Seattle Weekly's 2012 Best-Of issue, and was voted Seattle's Best FM Radio Personality. She eats sour cream straight out of the tub and would appreciate it if you didn't give her any guff about it. For more info, visit www.mynorthwest.com/rachelbelle.

2 Comments

  1. Julia Massey says:

    This article made me smile a lot. Lindy, Rachel, you are some of my modern heroes.

  2. steve says:

    beautiful woman. Love her writing.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney