DMO: As I read through some of the interviews you’ve done, one of the things I noticed was this perception — and I don’t know if you feel this way or not — that there are fewer jokes per square inch in this book. There is this narrative that as you become a more mature writer, you don’t get to be as funny. I’m curious: does that feel true, or is that the kind of thing you just have to say when you’re on a fourth book? Do you feel that fewer jokes means more maturity?
SC: No. The other night I made this horrible joke and everyone laughed at it, and I was like, I can’t believe you guys just laughed at that. What’s wrong with you? And this man came up to me afterwards and said, “We’re in the age of Trump, we’re living under this fascist regime where everything is so extreme, and now you can make that joke, but before you probably couldn’t.” And I was like, Oh, no, I could before. There are certain things that are untouched by this, and my irreverence and my desire to grab every joke I can find has not changed. I think it’s not about maturity so much, but just having a better sense of when jokes are blocking what the piece is about. Hopefully there’s some sort of heart and some tentacle of actual narrative sticking out from them. Too many jokes would be distracting.
DMO: I was thinking of the chapter about your neighbor Jared, who, by the way, I could write a book about now. I have so many feelings about Jared. I think about him most of the time now.
SC: I do too. It was the only name that I’ve ever had difficulty changing for legal reasons. Everything else is really easy, if not fun. Like, you seem like an X, I get to rename you. But his name, from his parents and his friends calling his name, is so seared into my brain, that I actually fought with the lawyer about keeping it.
DMO: The whole thing is a catalogue of all the things Jared has ever said that you’ve ever overheard, and all of the ways that he simultaneously baffles and infuriates and inspires envy. There’s that moment you see him with his friends and you’ve been debating whether you want to yell at them. They go inside, and he dips a friend of his, while they’re grabbing ice, and you have this moment of, oh my god, I’m so in love with these people! And that’s so real. That chapter isn’t just a list of all the ways your shitty neighbor is frustrating. It’s like, I don’t know what to do with this person who lives so close to me, and I know so many things about, and who drives me absolutely insane. I feel like that guy is why I transitioned. Does that make any sense?
SC: That makes no sense!
DMO: The description of this person who is near me and so far and I love them and I hate them and they won’t shut up and I keep hearing their name. But within myself. I am the Jared within.
SC: That essay is . . . I’m sort of waiting for him to grow up, and hopefully that makes it more than just complaining about my neighbor, though it’s plenty of that. It’s really about aging, coming to terms with your own youth. I had this ridiculous idea that if I waited long enough, he would just go to college. But what happens while I’m waiting? Four years pass, and I become older. He can’t catch up with me. And he has a younger sibling that he trained. I take extreme measures to get this kid to shut up that are a little bit beyond calling 3-1-1 and knocking on the door.
DMO: You make some purchases.
SC: I buy a crossbow. Just kidding.
DMO: We were talking about this a little bit earlier. There were some interesting moments of a shared experience. We have both injected hormones into our bodies. What was it like for you?
SC: The last chapter is a big essay about fertility and the pressure to be a mom and all that stuff, and I was hesitant to jump in on that just because I felt like I’d read so many articles — or avoided reading so many articles — on this topic, and I was like, what do I have to say about this stuff? But then it’s like, whatever, people still write books about Lincoln. The point is that part of the humor is the detail of the medical stuff, of injecting the shots. At one point I describe the different needles you use for various things, and you have to get over your squeamishness around needles very quickly. I don’t know about you, but this happened to me. There was a needle to put drugs in, and a needle to take drugs out, and those are two different needles. Once, with a long one that you use to take drugs out, I sliced my finger open, and it was such a clean cut that it took a while to get used to itself before it started bleeding.
DMO: Like when you get your head cut off in a movie?
SC: Exactly. Like the many times I’ve had my head chopped off. Sometimes I would somehow miss a few injections and I would have the wrong amount of drugs left over afterwards, and it felt like putting together an Ikea dresser and having extra screws, like, is this gonna hold up? Why do I have these extra lugnuts here? But it’s like injecting this dresser into your body, so it’s a little different. I don’t know if you’ve had accidents.
DMO: I’ve definitely had accidents. The first time I injected at home, I was given a different size barrel than I was used to, and I was like, this seems like the same amount as before. The same numbers I was used to, but with the decimal points in different places. So basically I tried to inject roughly 400% the amount in the vial. So it exploded a little bit, and did not work out. So I just cried a little bit and tried again.
SC: There’s a lot of crying that goes on. When I cut myself like that, I cried, which is kind of normal when you slice your finger open. What’s not normal is that it took me an hour to stop. Even when I was very much over it personally, I still could not stop crying. I was laughing like a psychotic clown in the mirror.