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Today In ‘What Now’: Talking Shit With Brandy Jensen

Katherine and Brandy talk COVID shaming, Marjorie Taylor Greene, online misery, and more!

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[YouTube voice] Happy Monday and an unhappy President’s Day, a holiday that shouldn’t exist but I will only acknowledge if it gets me the day off work. In today’s What Now, I interviewed internet woman-about-town Brandy Jensen about compassion in a crisis, moving, and staying sane during a winter lockdown.

Brandy is a deeply generous person whom I first met on the internet. She’s one of those very rare people who’s very funny online but actually funnier in person. She edits and writes a regular advice column at Jezebel that manages to plainly tell it like it is without being cloying or overly mean. She’s also formerly of the Outline and Brooklyn, and now lives in New Orleans. We talked about the line between laughing at bad politicians and luxuriating in human misery online, COVID-19 shaming, and the “social amnesty” we’re all going to need when things get back to “normal.”

Here’s a sneak peek of the interview with Brandy. Our Steward tier members are the only ones who get the full edition of What Now sent to them. To read the whole interview, subscribe to our Steward tier. You’ll get the latest edition of What Now in your inbox about an hour after signing up.

Let’s start with an incredible feat that you’ve pulled off: You managed to leave New York without writing about it. How?

I just realized that nobody gives a shit and why would they? I’m not the most humble person in the world but the idea that me leaving a city that I’d only lived in for five years was going to mean anything other than I couldn’t afford to live there anymore—that it had any sort of ties to larger cultural or political questions is just on the face of it kind of fucking absurd, so why would I write about it?

We go way back to a very cursed NYC happy hour. Isn’t that how we first met?

It is, it absolutely is. 

It also feels like, in a pandemic New York, maybe killing off bad happy hours will be a single silver lining—

That’s a great question—if a genie came to you tomorrow and said you can have one normal, pre-pandemic night out but it had to be that happy hour, would you take it?

Would you take it?

I would, of course I would. It would be horrible but I wouldn’t care. I would drink with the most annoying pedants on the planet and I’d be happy to right now. That’s how low I’ve been brought.

Same! The things I miss the most are just like, beer and shot specials in a grimy dive bar. You can technically do that in your house, but it’s simply not the same.

Oh God, it’s not the same, and hangovers are so much worse when you get drunk at home alone, I feel like you’re waking up at the scene of the crime. It’s horrible and so I haven’t really been drinking much at all—well, a little bit—but I’ve just replaced a physical hangover with this diffuse existential hangover that I wake up with every morning. Just like, ah, shit, this again? 

I really feel that. And I’ve thought about you a lot in general but also during this pandemic, I think about my friends who live alone, how’s it been?

It’s been fucking terrible!

How do you navigate that? How do you keep from going totally insane?

I don’t know that I have avoided going totally insane! I’m doing OK, the dogs help enormously, just because that adds a bit of structure, gets me out on regular walks and reminds me that I do exist, that I am perceived by others, even if they’re non-human others. [Ed. note: Brandy has two extremely good dogs.]

That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to move to someplace warm. The idea of a lockdown winter of living alone and not even being able to go outside and have a drink with friends or go for a walk or do whatever, I had pretty serious concerns about my ability to survive that. So, yeah, being someplace where I’ve still been able to see the friends I have down here outside has been really key for me.

Read the full interview with Brandy Jensen in today’s What Now. Subscribe to our Steward tier to get it in your inbox.