No, It Did Not Look Good on Paper
Why I've already changed the name of my NYC-centric newsletter vertical.
One of the many things I like about the newsletter medium is how forgiving readers are when it comes to typos and other errors. There’s something casual about the format, even when I’m billing two of my three publications as “magazines.” The conceit is that you’re receiving a personal letter from me, rather than some formal piece of journalism with a capital J from some big, impersonal media entity. And so it’s not too big a deal if I mess up here and there—especially since I try as often as possible to correct my mistakes.
Sunday night I made kind of a big one: I launched my New York City-focused vertical1 of Memoir Land under a brand name that, on second thought, made it sound like I was publishing porn: “Filthy but Fine.”
I’d taken the name from a lyric in LCD Soundsystem’s “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” a song that perfectly captures the many contradictions of living in wonderful-but-also-terrible New York City.
New York, you're safer
And you're wasting my time
Our records all show
You are filthy but fine
I was probably in too much of a rush to think my choice through. I had an itch to launch the vertical on Sunday, the 19th anniversary of my elopement with Brian to the old, dingy Manhattan Marriage Bureau, followed by a walk to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. I had a perfectly New York-y piece about that all ready to go—one originally published a long time ago in the New York Times, then updated a little for my memoir. Buzzed on happy anniversary vibes, I was raring to go; there was no stopping me.
Early in the day I mentioned “Filthy but Fine” to Brian. I thought I was being so clever. He made a weird face, but didn’t say anything, which was strange. I should have asked him, Why the face?, because Brian has great instincts, and he and I have always been great sounding boards for one another. Creative co-conspirators, we run everything by each other, and trade supportive feedback all the time.
In the evening, just before we went out for a celebratory dinner at Eliza2, I posted the piece, proudly announcing at the top that it was the first installment of “Filthy but Fine.” When we returned home, I saw that I had some notifications about comments on the piece, so I took a look. The comments were all complimentary. No one said a thing about “Filthy but Fine.” But suddenly, looking at it, it just struck me differently.
Shit, I thought, what have I done? Then I said something out loud, to similar effect, and Brian responded, “That’s what I was trying to tell you.”
At first I resigned myself to trying to live with the name for a bit, to see if it caught on. Maybe people would consider it an edgy choice, in a good way? Maybe misinterpretations of it would create the kind of controversy that’s ironically good for growing publications? Then a friend emailed asking how my new vertical was going.
“Well,” I replied, “I unintentionally (absent-mindedly?) gave it a name that makes it sound like I'm publishing smut.”
This is the same generous friend who talked me through the idea of an NYC newsletter a couple of weeks before. We jumped on the phone again, and he confessed that “Filthy” did have, well, dirty connotations. He suggested I instead go with the title of the bestselling book of mine that had inspired the vertical in the first place: Goodbye to All That.
I mean, duh.
So, that’s the new name. I'm not sure a vertical was the right choice. But probably I am too overloaded for "the right choice" whatever that might be. And even just as a vertical, I’m excited about it.
Busy, busy, busy. But happy, too.
Inspired by the popular Oldster Magazine Questionnaire.
In other news…
Upstaters: This Wednesday, February 7th at 7pm, I’ll be in conversation with Jennifer Keishin Armstrong about her great new book, So Fetch: The Making of Mean Girls (And Why We’re Still So Obsessed With It) at Tinker Street Cinema in Woodstock, where we’ll also screen key clips from the original 2004 film and discuss them, along with the “Mean Girls” chapter of my memoir, And You May Find Yourself…Confessions of a Late-Blooming Gen-X Weirdo.
AWPers: This Friday, February 9th from 12:10pm - 1:25pm CST, I’ll Zoom into an AWP panel moderated by Susan Ito, also featuring Sejal Shah, Susan Pari, and Terry Tierney. We’ll talk about how damn long it took us to write and publish our books after overcoming an assortment of internal and external obstacles.
Martha Frankel pulled together one hell of a lineup for this year’s Woodstock Bookfest. On the morning of Sunday, 3/24, I’ll be moderating a panel called “The New Old,” featuring authors, author of How to Be Old: Lessons in Living Boldly from the Accidental Icon, and , author of Late Bloomer: Finding My Authentic Self at Midlife.