I have not once in my life laughed harder than the time Abbi on Broad City got injected with Epinephrine at her fancy birthday dinner trying to save Ilana from a shellfish allergy and she went all holy sumo wrestler in a tight bodycon dress on top of a five-star dinner table with Amy Poehler as the chef. NEVER. I would like that scene played at my funeral. I have rewatched Broad City no less than 17 times. Some of my best experiences in college involved being hungover out-of-my-mind laughing hysterically with my college roommates, ogling my $20 TV from Walmart that you need binoculars to watch in my twin-sized bed to the funniest show that has ever aired on television. So imagine my sweet, sweet satisfaction when I found out Abbi Jacobson was coming out with a memoir that follows her driving cross country from New York to LA—I Might Regret This (Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff).
The book is warm and funny and real and relatable and inspiring and calming and funny. Did I already say funny? Is it a life changing book? No. Is it going to win a Pulitzer? No. But, does it make you happy? Absolutely. Does it make you feel like you know Abbi a little better and make you want to be BEST FRIENDS with her? You bet. You learn about her discovery of her interest in dating women and the first time she fell in love. It goes from love to loss and we get a front-row seat to the recovery she created for herself behind the wheel and a dirty dashboard. You are gifted a playlist of songs that got her through her heartbreak and you should probably have your Spotify handy because you are going to want to add them all to your “SAD AF” playlist*. Or, if you’re anything like me, you’ll create a literal compact disc of these songs for car cruising because I drive a 2004 Pontiac Vibe. You will get podcasts to add to your never ending queue (wow, I did NOT know how to spell this word and I'm embarrassed how long it took me to get autocorrect to know what I was saying???). The book really is set up like a long conversation. A stranger listening to the beautiful story of someone you believe to be your friend. Some people on Goodreads were waiting for a bigger picture or life altering event to take place. But that's not what this book is, and not every book needs to be that. This is a woman who has had a wildly successful ten years and is going through a large transitional phase in her life who needed to drive across the country to wrap her brain around it. That is enough in itself.
The heart of the book Abbi wrote is the ups and downs of falling in love. She fell in love for the first time in her entire life with a woman, something she never thought she would do but was eternally grateful for.
"And then, all the good parts happened. All the mornings, and the light. All the waiting for the coffee to finish, the learning about the coffee. All the late nights and the laughter. All the tucking of hair behind ears, the singing along to terrible songs in the car. The stupid dancing. And more laughter. All the times she smiled. All the times she smiled when looking at me. All the best things. There were other things in there, of course, the trickier things. The confusion, the disagreements, the lack of. the need for space and yearning for togetherness. The distance. The feeling like I wasn't good enough, the fear. All of those things and all of the others I can't try to write about. All of the things that make love impossible to explain. All the things I didn't understand before. It's all in there, the bad inside the good. And then, it was abruptly over."
She spent parts of her essays delving into list-style writing. She had a list of her late night thoughts. Things you need to bring on your road trip. Rules of conduct—my favorite being "Do not listen to Bonnie Raitt's 'I Can't Make You Love Me.' Ever. Don't even think about this song." This is REAL. This break in deep writing, for lighter, breezier reading, is good. I liked this style.
She grappled the entire trip as to whether her trip was sad and pathetic or whether it was empowering and groundbreaking. I get that. There are often times I am on a solo adventure, even just across town grabbing dinner, and sometimes people look at you with pity or with dismay. Why are you alone? She must be getting stood up. She must be so lonely. Wow, she must not have any friends. But this isn't true. I am just powerful and comfortable and capable of enjoying my own company. I love people, don't get me wrong. But, I have no problem getting lost in my own thoughts at a bar counter or a coffee shop or a bed-and-breakfast, because I enjoy my thoughts. I'm not masking anything. I am out in the open and vulnerable and alone. People can think whatever they want, but I think I am cool.
"This fantasy, this projection I was throwing into the dining room was part of the social narrative I had seen forever, one I try to stop reciting. A young-ish single woman alone in a bed-and-breakfast is seen as inherently pathetic—instead of incredibly empowering. A man on my same road trip would be viewed as a cool loner, figuring himself out as he explored the vast roads of our beautiful country. There are no projections about the men, no questions, no pity. as insecure as I can get about this narrative, about what people might be thinking of me, it is drastically overpowered by a sounding alarm I've installed that blares: DO NOT GIVE A FUCK!"
I am about to head on a solo adventure to a bed & breakfast in Asheville, North Carolina (an EXACT pit stop Abbi made on her road trip) for my 26th birthday and I already know the looks I will receive from strangers as they check my ID, see me alone at a bar with my nose in a book, or spy me enjoying a scone by myself in the sunshine on a cafe patio. They will feel bad and that’s okay. People’s perception of a woman alone is so irreversibly skewed and it is a personal problem of their own. It happened when I went to New York City alone and had a slice of pizza under the Brooklyn Bridge. It happened when I went to Chicago alone and had tequila shots with two Russian women in fur coats. It happened when I went to Lollapalooza alone and was front row at Matt Maeson with a bunch of braces-wielding teenagers with a bratwurst in my right hand and two Bud Light Limes in the other. It happened when I went to Denver alone and ate enough edibles to kill a small child. It will happen again a hundred more times because I will never stop taking solo trips to ease the discomfort of strangers I will never, ever see again.
One of my favorite chapters was on Abbi starting to tuck in her shirts. I FEEL THIS ON A PERSONAL LEVEL. As a chubby woman who is almost always freaking out about how other people are perceiving me and am constantly fidgeting with my outfit, this was personal to me. It seems like something small, tucking in your shirt. But, when you have a body like mine or Abbi's, it is a very big thing. And the way she connected it to her first love was wonderful. I find myself doing this sometimes—we notice small, but big, things in our lives that changed as soon as this special person entered. It's lovely to remember and gut-wrenching at the same time.
She also dives into her experience of acquiring Broad City broadcasting through Amy Poehler and her start on the improv comedy scene. These are always fun to read because you realize that these people you see and admire on TV started just where you are. They are human beings who struggled to get where they currently are. It's not a straight line, success. It's a lot of ups and downs and doubts and fuck ups and crying and Abbi proved that she deserves every ounce of success she currently has. When she talked openly about her experience as a woman on the comedy scene, it opens your eyes to yet another industry that prioritizes white men over everybody else. Abbi and Ilana in Broad City are excellent at casting diverse actors/actresses and nailing down important topics, even through humor. They are sex-positive, pro-woman, pro-queer, and hired more POC than any other comedy show I've ever seen.
The essays and parts of the book that I really think I enjoyed the most were her tidbits about her and Ilana. I have been watching them online since they did their original webseries on YouTube. They give me so much joy and their relationship and friendship is one that is so open and so raw and you know they love each other deeply. To be completely honest, watching their show in college was the first time I had seen female friendship portrayed accurately. They are my two favorite people in the world. They make me achingly grateful for all the female friends I have in my life. Women fart. Women poop. Women have crazy good sex. And sex so bad that you couldn’t make up the stories if you tried. Women smoke weed. Do mushrooms. Break up with people. Get broken up with. Women wear the same dress more than once. More than a dozen times (shoutout to Abbi’s amazing blue dress). Women are not monoliths. Women are not characters that should only be written by men. Abbi gave a voice and told the stories of a lot of women I know, myself included, and it’s heartening to know that her storytelling is not over, not even close.
The best part of the book? The ending—her essay titled "All The Incredible Things I Did Not Do." Because, let's face it, we go on trips and when we don't do things we think we are supposed to do, we have regrets. We want to do the touristy things because they are touristy things for a reason. We want to do the local things so as not to seem like a tourist. We have to Instagram the important parts—the sunsets we saw, the skylines of a new city, the hot people we hung out with, the brunch we ate next to that cool mural, the dogs we pet, make people jealous, make ourselves seem cool, take a picture of everything because if people don’t see it on Instagram, did it even happen at all? While I am a huge fan of social media and the friendships, opportunities, and creative outlet it has given me, each person that follows you is a droplet of pressure with the insecurity of whether or not we are impressing them with our very real lives.
While I love reading, and watching TV shows and movies, sometimes I feel like they have given me a false sense of direction. Every moment feels like it must be planned, and perfect, and capable of being written into a hypothetical, fictional scene in my life’s movie. But, that’s not real. Our lives are not performative and oftentimes there is no audience. Each moment we craft is created by us, and us only. And we are allowed to experience these moments any way we’d fucking like to. She left me with a potent reminder and a huge, goofy smile on my face at the end:
"It's okay to not see all the art and not meet all the locals and not walk all the famous walks or hear all the indie bands in the coolest venues in town. It's okay to go to sleep early and spend too long finding the good coffee spot but not seeing the historical sites. It's okay. It's okay to not figure it all out. It's okay to feel broken and alone and scared sometimes. It's okay to not eat where everyone tells you to, or not take a selfie in front of everything you've seen or done and post on the internet for friends and strangers to see. It's okay to go away and come back. It's okay. It's okay if it's not all amazing or incredible or spectacular. It's okay. It's okay to leave earlier than you expected, to drink too much or not drink at all. It's okay to replay stupid moments you regret in your mind and it's okay to not have moved on completely. It's okay to be fucking pissed. Everyone is on their own timeline when it comes to love, so it's okay. It's okay to think it's not okay. It's okay to go off the grid and not be in touch. It's okay to take a second and to breath and to cry. It's okay to be tender. It's okay to fail. It's okay to change, to grow, to be confused. It's okay to fight for something and to want to give up. It's okay to want someone. It's okay to learn to get better and to know you're still not quite there yet. It's okay to suck at drawing hands. It's okay to be nervous and excited at the same time, to be unsure of what's ahead. It's okay to just go and try and to feel whatever you have to feel and to follow your gut. It's okay, because that's all you really have. This went exactly how it needed to. I guess it usually does. Love revealed how covered up I was, but heartache broke me open. I made it to Los Angeles and it is going to be okay."
We are all okay, you guys. We are all okay.
I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff
320 pages. 2018.
Buy it here
*Spotify Playlist curated from the songs, albums, and podcasts Abbi took on her roadtrip: