Look Around, Look Around, At How Lucky You Are To Have Dames Right Now

Dames Nation, Did You KNOW....

That in addition to being the most wonderful time of the year for your Dames, who love nothing more than to throw a cozy scarf on top of a power clashing cardigan and affix a snazzy brooch to top it all off, it’s also just about the 2nd birthday of this very newsletter?

We’re planning a Very Special Anniversary Issue for October 14. Remember last year when our beloved Kathryn VanArendonk interviewed us about our origin story? This year we’ll take questions directly from YOU.

We don’t have a theme in mind, and we’re happy to entertain all manner of questions, sooooo ask away!

Next Week: Glorious Guest Editors

The word for "pounding heart" in Japanese, and what we hope you will be left feeling for our September guest editors!

This month’s guest editors are Dame M’s kid's lit pal/imaginary big sister Katrina Goldsaito, whose first picture book, The Sound of Silence, is enjoying a ton of well-deserved rapturous praise, and her friend, hugely talented food writer Jessica Fechtor. We can’t wait to see what they cook up. And, bonus! For Dames Nationals in the Greater Boston area, if you like Katrina's stewardship of the newsletter, you can catch her at the Boston Book Festival on Saturday, October 15th!

Ask Two Bossy Dames Mini-Spectacular! 

We have been getting so many great questions over at ourAsk Two Bossy Dames formthat we’re answering a whole bunch this week. Need advice? Let us know! We answer a couple of questions monthly.


I need friendship advice. I've recently made the decision to end a toxic friendship in my life. This person has been in my life since we were very young, so it was hard and very hurtful to realize how one-sided our friendship has become--or maybe it's always been that way, and I just no longer have the space in my life to be a support for someone who is truly incapable of being supportive for me. I'm not a psychiatrist, but her self-absorbed behavior over the past few years smells strongly of a personality disorder to me, like narcissism. My question is, should I do the slow-fade, or should I give some kind of explanation? Part of me feels like I owe her one, but I'm not sure if that's something she can hear anyway, or if that's just more hurtful in the end. Have you ladies ever dealt with a situation like this? I feel like we don't talk enough about friendship breakups, and I'd love to hear your perspective. Thanks in advance for your help!

-- Broken Up

As Easy A so capably demonstrated, not all friendships are meant to last.

Dear Broken Up,

Your Dames agree wholeheartedly that we don’t talk enough about friendship breakups. We’ve both been through them, and they’re uniformly terrible. The end of a close friendship can be every bit as painful as the end of a romantic relationship, and depending on the duration of the friendship, can present even more long-lasting negative effects on one’s well-being.

First, the hard bit: we urge you to resist the impulse to armchair-diagnose this friend to her face. Have we experienced this impulse? Sure. Have we indulged in it once or twice, ourselves? Of course. What we’ve learned is to keep such thoughts in our diaries or in an anonymous Dear TBD letter, not in conversation with the person in question. In the end, whether or not she has an actual personality disorder is beside the point: she’s been a crummy friend to you, and you’re going to break up with her. A lot of advice to women focuses on how we shouldn’t “burden others” with our anger or sadness, a frame that’s hugely unhelpful. It can sometimes make unfiltered unburdening seem like a heroic choice. Instead, we try to think of it this way: when you’re hurt, and angry, you are often at your most vulnerable. And you should-- as best as you’re able-- save that vulnerable self for places that are truly safe. Do not give more of your heart away to someone you don’t trust, no matter how satisfying it may SEEM to lob a chunk of it right at their stupid, hateful head. You are not going to win the Battle of Who Could Care Less. You just have to save yourself, and walk away.

As for the breakup itself, a slow fade is just fine. You don’t need to produce to a song and dance-style explanation, and Dame S. leans towards saying you probably shouldn’t send your soon-to-be-ex chum a Dear Jane letter unless she asks you directly where things went wrong. In the event that she does, be prepared to be speak specifically about things she has done to erode your trust in her, but don’t take it into “the problem with you is XYZ” territory. Keeping things in the realm of “when you did X, I felt Y. You did X repeatedly, and that feels very unsupportive and unhealthy to me” is better for you both, and may even lead to some small air-clearing between you. She may not get it, even if you lay it out this clearly-- in fact, she probably won’t, based on what you’ve related about her-- but you will at least rest easier in the knowledge that although she has been toxic to you, you are being compassionate towards her. And, if being kind to someone who's hurt you doesn't feel like a compelling goal, you’ll also be following one of our best rules of thumb: never fight with someone who won’t be able to recognize when they’ve lost.

We assume you’re also friends with/connected to her in spaces like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat & so on, and those connections can be weirdly difficult to divest yourself of. If you don’t feel ready to unfollow, unfriend or block, you can always mute (Twitter) and unfollow and/or place on a restricted list (FB). We wish you luck & emotional fortitude!

In friend breakup solidarity,
Your Dames

Dear Dames,  

Do you have advice for interacting with your favorite internet people without coming off like a creeper? I've heard a few of my personal heroes recently talk about how uncomfortable it is for them when strangers on Twitter are too familiar in their tone or approach. And for sure: I realize, in my heart of hearts, that I don't really KNOW my favorite podcasters, bloggers, or Twitter celebrities--but there's so much false intimacy fostered by all of this constant exposure to people's lives/voices/conversations that sometimes I just, like, forget? For a little while? We all know that feel where you're absolutely positive if you could just hang out with this person in real life, you'd totally be besties. I don't want to be that creepy person who lurks around faving other people's conversations or chiming in where I might not be wanted, but the lines between public and private feel so blurred in the world of social media. I figure you can answer this both as individuals who might have experienced internet strangers treating you this way AND as people who might share similar anxieties about your own internet faves. How do I balance intense enthusiasm, absolute respect, and a deep, deep need to be validated by people I think are awesome???

-- Hopefully-not-too-ardent Admirer

How you DON'T want your faves to feel...

Dear Admirer, 

As with so many small anxieties, I (Dame M.) think that the mere fact that you’re self-aware enough to worry about this means you probably aren’t guilty of it. (Strong agree - Dame S.) If you know that the intimacy you have with your internet faves is not a two-way street, you’ve already won half the battle. But! For more granular advice, I’ve got some bullet points for you:

  • First off, faving your faves’ conversations with other faves is totally fair game. It can even be helpful-- it’s one way that I learn where my internet social circles overlap with my audience’s interests, for example. In general, favoriting and retweeting are always acceptable-- the only time they can veer into mild creepiness is when you rain down a whole bunch at once, at an odd time of day. My friends reading this will laugh at me, because this is something I do to them ALL THE TIME. But while it’s okay to do to people who KNOW you (and know that your obsession with them, while real, is totally benign), when a stranger does it to me, it can make me a little anxious. And your goal is to keep all interactions with your faves completely anxiety-free for them.

  • Jumping into a conversation is okay-- Twitter, the Ultimate Eavesdropper’s Medium, is built to accommodate that. But, just as with jumping into a real life conversation, you have to hold yourself to an exacting standard. Only chime in if what you’ve got to say is a worthwhile contribution to the ongoing conversation. My own chime-ins have been most successful when I can contribute some real expertise or specific-to-me insight to the conversation that deepens or enlivens the chat. If it’s a joke, or an observation a lot of people might be able to make, take a peek at the other replies the chat has invited and make sure you’re not making the same joke or observation that five other people have made already. Being hungry for validation from your faves is totally normal, but you must aspire them being like“Yes, hi, I see that you exist.” You want to hold out until you’ve got a response that could receive the validation of “Huh, that’s a great point!” or “Ha, that’s a funny joke!”

  • Let their responses be your guide! If they don’t reply, let the conversation drift away. If they never reply, consider curtailing your direct responses to them altogether. If they ask a question, answer it-- but try to match your level of concision to their level of loquaciousness. Try not to assume an intimate tone, or call them your bestie, or gush incoherently at them, unless they’ve been very warm to you first. The more you can show that communicating with you does not have consequences-- like 8 million @ replies for each one acknowledgement-- the more likely they are to engage again.

  • Be VERY careful about contradictions or corrections, even if your intent is to parody ones that you see others sending as an act of support. The reality of internet commentary will always be SO BAD that nothing you say in jest to a stranger can be known, immediately, by that stranger to be a joke. So I would say, don’t antagonize anyone, even in a way that feels playful, until you’ve reached the point where you mutually follow one another. Any earlier and you risk having someone you think of as a friend mistaking you for a particularly tiresome enemy.

  • If you must correct them, make sure no one else has done so first, and be gentle, and direct. “Love the piece-- but noticed a typo in the 3rd sentence. Wanted to let you know!” The less concrete the correction is, the less I recommend issuing it. 

  • If you’re anxious that a message you’re considering crosses the line, or is too personal, but you really feel like you have to send it, be transparent about your lack of ease. Just throw in a comment like “No need to reply if this is too invasive.” I always feel safer when I can tell someone has thought about how I might feel on receiving a message, and acknowledged that they can’t guess. Leaving space for me to have a negative response makes me feel more considered, and more capable of engaging.

  • Feel free to say nice things about them as well as to them. When something they make has really struck you, let people know. In addition, be specific about what you like. Being internet famous is a lot lonelier than most people realize-- a lot of the time, it can feel like you have a superhero alter-ego that no one has ever heard of-- people in the know expect Great Things from you, but most people don’t care, and think it’s weird that anyone else would. Your detractors are, by and large, a lot more likely to be vocal, persistent, and exact than your supporters. So if you take the time to consume the things your faves make, and give them intelligent, supportive feedback, you have a chance to make a real impact on them.  

  • Double bonus: Take the time to praise your faves’ friends and collaborators, too. Like, for in the case of this newsletter, some people will talk about the thing we do together as though one of us, alone, is responsible for it. Without really thinking, people often default to congratulating their Gateway Dame regardless of whose work the item actually was. It’s harmless, and something Sophie and I laugh off, but it’s also something we have to persistently-but-affably correct (because we are librarians--i.e. exacting about citations-- and because we’re Shine Theorists-- i.e. exacting about everyone knowing how great the other is). So the people who take the time to see where a link came from, and compliment the right Dame? The people who dance NOT JUST with the one what brought ‘em but also the people that person admires and works with? Those are always my favorite fans, and I know this is true of many of my faves as well. We are always thristier on our friends’ behalves than we are on our own.

With these principles as your guide, you are sure to swiftly become your Faves’ Fave. You’re probably well on your way to it already.

XOXO (but not in an overly familiar way!!),
Dame M.

Hi Margaret and Sophie!

Over the past few years, I've kind of just focused on getting through the day to day struggles of being new to adulthood. In some ways, this was necessary, but now I've noticed that my attitude has shifted and I just can't wait until every week and month is over, and then it starts over again. But weeks turn to months turn to years and I'm afraid that I'm going to wake up in five years and realize how discontent I was and how I did nothing about it. So what do I do? How do I get back to a place where I enjoy my day to day life more? Thanks for your help.

-- Anonymous

Everyone needs an outlet, be it Renn Faire or other. 

Dear Anon,

This sounds like a very classic mid-early adulthood conundrum. You’ve mastered getting through the day-to-day struggles you faced a few years ago, and have settled into some unspecified ennui that makes you want to just get things over with, already. In the absence of any particular stressors or misery-generators mentioned in your letter, it sounds to me like your first step is to figure out exactly what’s bothering you about your present life, and your second is to identify some things you’d like to be doing instead.

If this sounds like a tall order, it is, and it’s coming along that just the right time. Look at all you’ve accomplished already! You’re perfectly primed to figure out how to change everything, one tiny thing at a time. The key is one tiny thing at a time. Trying to change everything all at once is a fool’s errand and will likely make you miserable while setting you up for failure.

I think your best bet is to take some time to ponder & answer some questions about yourself & your life:

  • What in your day-to-day life right now makes you long for the end of each week, month and year? Are you bored, anxious, angry? Some combination of these or other shitty feelings? Name them in as much detail as you can muster. Just scribble them down in a notebook or even just on a post-it that you tuck away somewhere you can find it later.

  • What would getting back to enjoying your day-to-day life look like? Describe for yourself a lovely day. Then, make a list of things currently getting in the way of you having a lovely day. Can you stop doing some of them?

  • Does enjoying your day-to-day life include having a job you’re passionate about? Or do you prefer to pursue your passions as hobbies? What do you need to do to get these things more in balance?

  • Look around at your setting: how do you feel about where you live (at both the micro & macro levels)? If you’re happy enough where you are, great! If not, is making a change something you can do in the long or short term? If it’s a long-term goal to move somewhere you believe you’ll be happier, write down some of the steps you think you’ll need to take to pull that off.

If you think these things through and are still coming up empty-handed as to what’s making you miserable and what you can do about it, it may be time to find yourself a great therapist. Our beloved chums Christina & Kamille of the Unfriendly Black Hotties wrote anexcellent guest columnabout this a few months back for you to refer to.

Best of luck & please do check in with us in a few months!

Dame S.  

Hiya Dames!

I'm 29, perpetually single with a small but loving circle of married friends, and working full time but living paycheck to paycheck. All of that is fine, just background. I recently realized that I don't really have any...hobbies. I don't do much with my time that isn't reading books and fanfic, or watching tv and makeup tutorials. And I don't really interact with any of those things beyond passively consuming...I'm not in fandoms, i don't write, I don't really discuss my books or shows with people, etc. So I feel like I'm not a particularly interesting person. How do I go about cultivating myself, I guess? On a budget, of course.

-- Jill, a Dull Girl? 

You can be like Addison, a critic and commentator only, and still be essential in a way different than that of an ant to a picnic, OR you can take on a more active life...

Dear Jill,

It is always interesting to read a letter where the figures (small but loving circle of friends, long list of activities that bring you joy) add up to one sum for Your Dames (great life, being lived well!) and another thing for our advice-seeker (I’M BORING). So the first step that we would recommend for cultivating yourself on a budget, is that you take a look at your life and ascertain that it is leaving YOU unhappy, rather than looking at yourself through a stranger’s eyes and thinking “Ugh, I am BORING.” Working, having a few good friends, finding art you like, and consuming it with enthusiasm-- that is as much as most people do, and there is nothing about that life that’s definitionally boring, if it’s satisfying for YOU. Now, if you’ve gone through this exercise, and you still feel this itch for more, here are a few things you can do that won’t cost much, and won’t take you too much further from the activities you already enjoy.

First off, you mention reading fanfic, but say that you are not really “in” fandom. If that is a place where you’d like to grow, that is almost certainly the easiest place. What we would recommend is reaching out to some of your favorite writers and (if you feel comfortable with this) asking if they need any beta-readers. Typically, a good beta-reader is prized above rubies, and it’s a great way to change passive consumption into active community support.

If that holds no appeal, you might consider leaning into structured consumption. Instead of reading haphazardly, you can set yourself projects-- reading only women, reading more works in translation, reading more books by people of color, or even just reading every book one of your more prolific favorites has written, or every other or book a less prolific favorite cites as influential. This is very similar to the activity you already enjoy, but it gives your passive activity a driving motivation beyond mere pleasure. THAT IS NOT NECESSARY-- simply enjoying what you do in your free time is a perfectly valid choice, and one Your Dames make often. But if pleasure has begun to ring a bit hollow, adding a challenge into the mix can make it lively again. One of the best summers I ever spent was the summer when my beloved former roommate Bruce decided, on a whim, to track down all the movies featuring our favorite actor (George Sanders) that he could find in our local libraries’ catalogs, and we watched them all together. It was delightful and it made me more interesting-- I went from being someone who could speak with authority on Sanders’ perfect line delivery in All About Eve to being someone who had a sense of the arc of his career, and a sense of the Hollywood he came up in. Being a Mindful Consumer is a great way to become an Interesting Consumer.

Last, and most obvious, of all, is there anything you’re curious about in a passive way, but have never really put yourself to the task of pursuing seriously? Have you always passively wished you knew more about birds, or that you were the kind of person who watched documentaries, or the Gilded Age of America? Put another way-- put in the way I, Dame M., often express these urges to myself-- if you DID have a partner, what would you wish THEY were into, so that you could passively consume it, too, and become an expert without all the HARD WORK of building a habit from the ground up? WELL, if you can think of any particular thing, I have bad news for you: it’s time to step up and be your own boyfriend. Cut out the middleman and BECOME the person you wish you were dating. You have the time, and either your library or the internet has all the material you need to achieve it. All you lack is the will and, once you have to confront the silliness of wishing someone else would come along to provide motivation for changes you yourself could make, my bet is you’ll find the will real easily.

So, in short: if you aren’t bored by you, we see no reason that you should be, and no reason that you must change. But if you ARE bored by you, these are a couple ways you could enjoy your own company more.

Your interesting and interested friend,
Dame M.     

Dame Sophie’s This Year In Hamilton

Same, Pinkie Pie. SAAAAAME.

I’ll level with you, Dames Nation, I’m mired in an absolute bear of a reading slump. This is deeply unsettling for me. It’s taking me forever to finish and then select books to read, and my usual longform Internet favorites are just…

I mean, at least I’m not doing unspakably violent things & betraying my crooked best friend with a heart of gold while working undercover to take down the mafia. I can be grateful for small things.

So! What’s a Dame to do? I’m going to save all my beautiful current links in Pocket and will have a bit of a clear-out here later. MEANWHILE, I will indulge myself with a little throwback fun reminiscing about this time last year, when Dame M & I (and so many of you!) were first falling in love with Lin-Manuel Miranda & his masterpiece, Hamilton.

In our first newsletter about the show, we wrote Lin an open letter & did a round-up of links - sort of a Seth Cohen Starter Pack - and little did we know it would become such A Thing! Eventually, it became A Thing We Didn’t Want or Need To Do Anymore, so we stopped. But because I am not a completely heartless monster (in fact, I am a marshmallow. A Twinkie, even), here’s a handful of favorites from last year, with some new tidbits from the last couple of weeks.

  • Lin’s interview with our undying fave, Rembert Browne, is so delightful and perfect and we would just love for them to sit down together for another conversation, a full year out.

  • Now more than ever, please remember Kendra James’ wisdom on Race, Immigration & Hamilton: “Every time you listen to the cast recording straight through, one of Trump’s Horcruxes is destroyed.” You have your orders, now go, man, go!

  • The BET Cypher: in which Lin-Manuel Miranda, Renee Elise Goldsberry & Daveed Diggs rap with Black Thought (while Questlove mans the decks), thrilling Hamilfans worldwide. Lyrics & annotations here!

  • Service journalism from Slate, who sifted through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s YouTube Channel to bring us such priceless gems as his 3rd grade video book report on The Pushcart Wars (that sound you just heard was all the children’s librarians’ hearts not simply melting but being raptured instantly to their Heaven) and the raps he created for The Electric Company (in which he seems to channel David Schwimmer and Busta Rhymes simultaneously for hisHard G persona, and obviously shot the Silent E segment in one shambolic take, possibly with no permits). Send help.

  • “Well, I’m throwing MY gun in a bucket of water!” Dame M. was on the verge of expiring due to the cuteness of this young Broadway fan’s rewrite of the conclusion of Hamiltonbut then Dame S., Self-Trained Cute Doctor, told her to watch it three more times because the poison is the cure, and lo, Dame M. was SAVED.

After all this time? Always.

Just a Quick One-Two For This Actual Week in Hamilton:

Dame Margaret was going to have links...

....but then she looked at this picture too long and her brain straight-up melted, and drizzled right out her ear. HER LINKS WILL KEEP. You'd have done the same thing with this picture of Lin, too, we bet. 

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