Women terrified me until I was twenty-two.
Without hyperbole I had a full, blown-out phobia of the fairer sex. Also bees. I can remember in first grade there was a girl who I wanted to date, or whatever we called it back then. I knew that I wasn’t good looking enough, however. That horrible self-image lasted until (in college) my first girlfriend told me that I was handsome. And she was beautiful. With her validation I realized that all those years I had been lying to myself. It’s not like after that moment I walked around campus believing I was chiseled from stone. But I no longer thought of myself as ugly. All it took was one person’s compliment and my lifetime of thinking I was gross-looking went away. I’d love to tell you that I came to an acceptance of my attractiveness through intense self-exploration and maturity. Nope. It just took the prettiest girl I knew to tell me I was hot. Sometimes that’s all you need.
The best part about being comfortable about one’s looks is that I simply stopped thinking about it. I don’t consider myself good looking or ugly. If I saw a beautiful woman sizing up the tangerines at the grocery, I’d approach. I’d get rejected, most likely, but it wouldn’t be confirmation that I was ugly. It would be confirmation that she has horrible taste. She’d continue on with her shopping, but make a near-fatal error reaching for the buttered pie tins in the baking aisle. She’d slip due to a not-yet-cleaned-up-but-still-invisible layer of coconut oil on the linoleum that a previous patron had knocked over. The cart and weight of its contents would press against her neck cutting off her ability to breathe. The irony of being killed by food which brings us life would not be lost on me! Despite my humiliation moments before, I’d spring to action. Using brawn, I’d remove the cart from her neck restoring her carotid artery to its working function. She’d kiss me deeply and whisper that she was sorry and had misjudged me over by the Mexican bananas. And then I’d laugh and say, “Don’t worry about it, kid.” I’d turn my back and leave the store a hero. Stock boys would toast me every December at the employee holiday party.
The point is that women don’t freak me out anymore. I found that after the phobia lifted, I enjoyed their company. I don’t understand them, of course. They’re nuts. Everyone knows that. But, I get along with women. I dig hanging with them.
When this blog began someone told me to go BlogHer, an all-women’s conference. Since I do what people tell me, I went. At the time I was writing for a humor website (the now defunct AimingLow) which was staffed by women. If I remember correctly I was the only male staff writer. That brings me to InThePowderRoom.
I met Leslie Marinelli at the Aiming Low Non-Conference, which actually was a conference, but we’re cool and irreverent and make fun of things like conferences. I also knew Leslie because she contributed to AimingLow and I was a fan of her work.
Every year I’d see Leslie at a conference or two and we’d chat it up about something. Once I was walking with Kate Hall and Stephanie Sprenger, both bonafide successes in the blogging world, and Leslie messaged me that I better get my ass down to the hotel lobby stat. Kate and Stephanie looked at me and said, “You know Leslie Marinelli?” I said I did and they both squealed with delight and asked if they could tag along. Everyone adores Leslie and she has true celebrity status in the blogging community. I just have a that’s-the-weird-guy-who-goes-to-women’s-blogging-conferences status.
At some point a few years ago Leslie took full control of InThePowderRoom and became its sole owner. Since it’s clear from the site’s title that the focus is on women, it never occurred to me to ask to write something for them. But, 99% of my blogging friends were women, most of my readers were women, and I feel like I can crank out toxic shock jokes like a broad. So, earlier this year I reached out to Sarah, the deputy editor, and pitched an idea. My thought was that it could be an interesting concept if a guy reviewed women’s products. If you watch television commercials you’ll see that men are often portrayed as morons. I would adopt a persona of a bumbling guy who would take a product specifically designed for a woman and write about how it confused him. Since their readers are largely married women with husbands, I felt this idea hit their demographic perfectly. I’d represent their idiot husbands. Sarah pitched to Leslie and they agreed to give it a test.
Since I’m not privy to their stats I have no idea if their audience actually liked my column. But Sarah and Leslie liked it. And we worked out an arrangement where I would give them exclusive, fresh content every month. This was a big deal to me. It was an honor to write for them on the regular and I worked like crazy on each sentence to make it perfect. Leslie’s the kind of person that, if I tweeted out a link to their site and it generated big traffic, she’d email to thank me directly. That’s thoughtful.
Sadly, Leslie and Sarah announced recently that the site has stopped publishing. It may be temporary, but nobody knows. While it never would have occurred to me to ask, Leslie reminded me that the contract I signed allowed me to republish the content I created for them on my own blog after a certain amount of time has passed. So, over the next few months I’ll start dripping in those pieces, because they are pretty damned funny. Because Sarah and Leslie are damned funny and they knew how to edit my stuff to make it better.
I hope they reopen the store at some point and I can’t wait to get back to work reviewing women’s products. There’s something called a Hermes Burkin bag which is like 20k and I have a lot to say about it. Just kidding. I have nothing to say about it. But I’ll make some shit up and send it over to Leslie and hope that she publishes it. Because that’s what you do with your friends. You build things together.
I’m honored to have been part of InThePowderRoom’s history and glad to have met Leslie. I doubt she’s written me into her will, but if she croaks and leaves the site to me, I’ll reopen it immediately. I even have a new tagline – “We Don’t Poop Because Women Don’t Do That.” Also, we’re going to have a lot more nudity. Playboy folded and that created a hole that needs filling. Unintentional pun there, but I’m leaving it in.
Thank you to Leslie and InThePowderRoom for creating amazing content for many years.
I’m going to write a part II to this celebration of InthePowderRoom discussing Leslie’s right-hand-woman, Sarah del Rio. She gets her own article.