Title: Little Weirds
Author: Jenny Slate
Read In: 2021
Description: A genre-defying, not-quite memoir that feels like stepping into the fever dream of how Jenny Slate sees the world.
Purchase: Bookshop.org (affiliate link)
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I was born as a breakfast pastry in the fancy part of France and hours after I was born I was still warm from the heat of the oven. I knew that my warmth and lovely shape were the result of thoughtful and gentle work. Oh please feel it: I am the croissant that felt its own heat and curves and wished to become a woman, and I am that woman from the wish. Let me be your morning treat with your coffee. Disregard the fear that I
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am too rich to be an ordinary meal. Allow my antique decadence into your morning into your mouth. Pair me with jam. Treasure me for my layers and layers of fragility and richness. Name me after a shape that the moon makes. Have me in a hotel while you are on vacation. Look at me and say, “Oh, I really shouldn’t,” just because you want to have me so very much.
Introduction/Explanation/Guidelines for Consumption
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What is this spirit in me saying “Up! Up! UP!”? Up for a better view, for a better location to be viewed. Get me to a better place so that I can see more and also be spotted by the kind of people who turn their faces up to the light. Put me in between them and the cosmos, let me be one final stop before the major everything.
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My vulnerability is natural and permissible and beautiful to me, and it should remind you of your responsibility to behave like a friend to me and the world.
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This book is a party—not a set of grievances.
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My father says, “After a while you understand that you can create and raise the child, but the spirit… the spirit comes from the universe.”
I Was Born: The List
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I was born bucking the idea that I should have to be anywhere that I don’t like or talk to people who make me feel dead or trapped.
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I was born as sweet as that and if I am too sweet for your tastes then just clamp your mouth shut and spin on your heels. I can’t add sourness to my sap anymore just to fit onto a menu in a restaurant for wimps.
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This is also one of the first ways that I perceived power in another person: Information about art and nature feels like the best stuff to have, and if you have it, it is powerful and excellent to pass it on. That is an act of power, showing what you know, giving it to another person, realizing that as you spread it, you get to keep it but watch it grow, and by watching others have it, you learn new things about the original thing.
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I held the fragile flower and made my footsteps the same level of noise as hers so that I could be with her like we were one entity.
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When I imagine my ingredients, I imagine that my muscles are made of plums, that my heart is a giant ruby with a light bulb in it, that my blood is goldenrod yellow, and the bones inside my body are made from lions’ bones and shells, and that my brain is made of steak and silk and Hawaiian Punch.
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I recycle the same daydreams over and over—
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He thinks of me as he puts on his clothes, as he buys coffee in the airport, thinking, “It doesn’t feel normal to buy coffee before something so huge! It feels like I should be buying a cloud or a star.
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He thinks in layers when he thinks about how he loves me.
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So now there is not even anyone to dream about, and what an odd feeling. I don’t have the strength to put together the features of a fantasy face. I am heartbroken over no one, over having nobody to wish for, nobody to hope for. I am heartbroken, usually, over someone. Now I am heartbroken over no one.
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But what am I supposed to do with all of the parts of my heart that are only there to be given? What am I supposed to do with all of this nothing that I see? Those parts of the heart, they really aren’t for me, they are not for my home or my body or my self-love. They are for you, and wherever you are, you are too unknown to be in my daydream. You are on the fringe of my wish for someone to wish for. You are in another country of the heart. You are on the very outskirts of the edge of where my waves hit. You are on a beach on the other side of another world. All I can do is believe in the tides, the big drawing in and drawing out that is a type of planet clock. All I can do is let the waves of this whole damn thing flood in and out. If I could remember anything, I would remember my belief that my extra love could just be used on myself. But when I stop feeling pleasure and stop imagining things I also forget my beliefs, the things that float my spirit on this sea. When my beliefs float my spirit on the sea, I imagine the depths beneath me and all of the options for life in there. I can feel, with relief, the wideness of the sea. I can remember that things from faraway locations wash up right on your private wedge of sand and present themselves as yours right away. But I have had my heart broken once again, and I am exhausted, and I have forgotten that I can still give to myself. And so I sit here with waves crashing and repeating, and all I can do is wait and hope that eventually my sea will cough up some shell with a shape like a swirl of sound and I will look anew and I will listen better.
I Want to Look Out a Window
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I want to look out a window at something bright and wide, and at that point accept my nature and understand my intended use and have a clean shirt and clean hands and feel similar to a small planet.
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Each time I fall in love I feel fear that the world won’t let me be in the world with it, that I either have to pick the world or the love.
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Version 1: Jenny Slate Human Woman, Los Angeles, USA, Earth About Me: Hi! I know where the confusion starts, because I am a woman and I do look like one but the real truth is that I am a Color-Spirit. And it says on many documents that I come from here but actually I am a citizen of The World of Shapes. That is where I’m from and The World of Shapes is the place where they speak my mother tongue. All day I do my loving, and all of my feelings are colors and they are shapes and they are shapes of colors, when you get really deep into my experience. I am a creature who is classified in the universal records as a Color-Spirit. I watch the light make tones. I feel a thing and tell myself what shape it is.
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My physical heart feels so exposed, so shallowly planted. It feels like it is in my mouth. I can’t tell if I’m spitting it out or swallowing it. I can’t tell if I’m going to chomp it to bits just by trying to be here. My physical heart seems to be blasting light out of
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my mouth but also down into my body. I fear that when the light is shining directly out of my face that nobody will want to or even be able to look at me.
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There cannot, there certainly may not, be one more man, not even one more man for a night, not one more who comes in and doesn’t feel in himself what I am about, there cannot be one more person who absentmindedly swats at my little triangles and squares as they swim and bob in the air. There may not be one more man who turns his own face away in fear and ignorance from the colors that make him angry because I can see them and he cannot.
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Who will meet me at once in all of my worlds and pump with all of my hearts? To have to kill even one of my hearts to match up with you is simply not worth it to me, after all that has happened. Hit me up if you feel me!
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Who is the sun who will return every day just to make sure I open up, and who will give me my own dark evening to close and just be within?
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I am supposed to be touched. I can’t wait to find the person who will come into the kitchen just to smell my neck and get behind me and hug me and breathe me in and make me turn around and make me kiss his face and put my hands in his hair even with my soapy dishwater drips. I am a lovely woman. Who will come into my kitchen and be hungry for me?
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Personality types not preferred: Know-it-alls, meanies, grumps, vultures, spoileds, piggies, and especially bullies. Preferred: Lovebugs, creatures, boo-boos, rigorous thinkers, wild-hearts, gentle-minds, pets.
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All I want to do is disappear deeply into my own thing and you can decide whether or not to join but I’m pretty much going to enter my own vortex.
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For a while I would have trench-times when everything felt like blank paper and I couldn’t feel anyone’s heart pointed even in my direction, let alone anyone loving me or wanting me to be around. Very boring, very lonely, very tired, again. It was hard to feel anything, except I am not one of the creatures who will experience anything precious. Trench-times were shallow, heavy, and mean. I couldn’t get into the actual morning because I was stuck underneath the weight of my days.
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God dammit, this is a gift from your fucking soul! Self-generate, don’t you see? Break the trap break the trap break the trap leave the trench! Activate the bomb in yourself and bust out, trick yourself out of that trench in any way you can!
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I spoke to myself in the voice of the giant dog from the dream. Open a window up for yourself. I found a window that opened. There you are, do you know what you are doing? You are finding the new air for yourself. What a useful, good action to take. You are a person who got up and found the air. Take at least ten breaths. It’s a fact that this is the main thing that you need to do to stay alive, breathing, and now it is a treat. Look at you! You have done what the earliest geniuses have done: You have taken the most basic thing and elevated it. If you are sweet inside of yourself for the most part, this
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is the truth you will know. I started to spend my extra time caring for myself in little ways that reminded me of the generosity of my dream-dog who shared his seatbelt. The big pet. My dream-dog. I think he was training me in my dreams so that I could eventually play well in my days.
Touch vs. Smack
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I don’t want to smack anything on the ass and say LET’S GO. I want to touch something on the side of the face and say WILL YOU PLEASE TAKE ME?
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The women were new friends but I loved them in a massive way. The love was like a large trove of devotion that could only be amassed over time, but it had arrived all at once. The way I loved them felt like it was from long ago.
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The planet itself saw us. I saw it see us, I think. I think it saw us while we were doing exactly what we wanted, and then it was happy.
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In the night, we slept restlessly but it wasn’t a problem because most of what we were doing in the day was draping ourselves over everything in the world and then
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Instead of asking the old questions that sounded like “What is wrong with me?” I would start asking important questions like “What if I only dreamed gardens, what if I ate carrots because what if I were a pleasant rabbit? What if I got a crown for doing nothing but being who I am, what if even just one
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plant said hi to me or a tree bashfully bowed as I walked by, what if my dog knew what I meant when I wave to him? What if I could always be a little bit on this island in my mind? What if I could always be a little bit naked, a little bit kissing everything, an unplundered trove of my own love?”
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As the image of myself becomes sharper in my brain and more precious, I feel less afraid that someone else will erase me by denying me love.
I Was Born: About to Bust
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I was born at exactly the time when anything alive is saying, “LET. ME. BURST! Let me get to the most beautiful and ornamental and essential version of what I can be. Give me space to bloom and present the blossoms to an ecosystem that will drink from my nectar, celebrate my petals, sniff me, pick me, take me home, make your body smell like my lovely scent.” I was born during the moment in the cycle when almost every single live thing is inclined to mate, to grow, to point a snout skyward and sniff the air, to create.
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The pretty things gathered to live just as I arrived.
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Bring that wildness into the house!
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I was born and the wildness from outside put itself inside of me. That wildness was my first baby spirit food. I sipped it right down before I drank milk from my mother.
I Died: The Sad Songs of My Vagina
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Write a letter to someone. Tell them that this is not a tragedy. The rest of me went home to the universe.
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When I wake up my body reacts so immediately to a new day that you can hear one high, bright note. I am so tuned to being alive that if you touch me it makes music.
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it is very pleasing to me to adorn myself with descriptions that I wear like clothes.
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The night before, the man in the room next to me snored loudly, but I wasn’t cross at all. And yes, the word to use is cross, but again, I wasn’t at all. It is so nice to be a little bit
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closer to other humans. No soundproofing or blocking when a hotel is just a big old mansion from three hundred years ago. It is nice to be with strangers, and everyone is trying to sleep, and we are all in nothing but a big old house. The facts are enough.
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I tried to write down how I felt. I recently found the note I wrote to myself, and all it said was “I’m too overwhelmed to say any more and I’m too scared to say any more and I feel too foolish, but I must not forget this, so I’m writing this down and this is the best that I can do.”
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In the forest, everything that is inclined to thrive really does, and has a job, and some jobs are to grow things up and some jobs are to take things apart and everything is accepted because there is no notion—among bacteria and moss and busy mice—there is no notion of who deserves to do something or be in a place. There are only lives to be lived, and they are everywhere.
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I didn’t tell her that she was making me more than one garden. One outer, one inner. I was woozy as I watched a space open up inside of my inner me-garden, space that would be private just for me, in which I could observe myself and be private as I gazed
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In the last light of a long day, I sit on a chair on my porch and watch the sky drain colors down and out and I realize I want to hear my voice and only mine. Not the voice of my voice within a cacophony of old pains. Just mine, now. And then, at the end of this day, in the start of another night, at the first lip-lick of this appetite for hearing myself clearly, it really hits me: I never really want to argue with anyone ever again, nor am I under any sort of obligation to do so.
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A mistake has been made about wildness.
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I got in trouble for not paying attention to things that seemed boring to me but now are gorgeous to me, like clocks and compasses and calendars. I had, always, a wild call that I wanted to ring out to the whole world. I knew it always. I wanted to be an actress. I often felt like a bird in a house and I felt that people reacted to me that way so I started to try to find ways to do my wild work in inside spaces. I started to find spaces where I could bring wildness inside. I started to find a way to still be myself but be with the group.
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I am a wild thing but I wanted a home. I am wild and I want to be that and to belong to the greater group and have everyone know that my wildness is nothing but a bit of my colors and has nothing to do with whether or not I can be trusted.
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I believe that wildness belongs in people. I believe that wildness belongs in the home. I believe this and so I belong in myself and in my home. My gods are inside of me
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first and foremost, and the mother of all of them is the wild one. There has been a misunderstanding about wildness. Bring it in, bring it in, bring wildness in, and care for it. Place a shell in your shower. Get a whole plant in there. Put a geranium in your kitchen. Stand in your space and howl out. Bring it in or go out and see it. Wildness is the mother, the first thing, not a lurking predator. Wildness is holy. I am a geranium that is hardy and wild, but I want to sleep in a neat little pot. I belong in a castle that was built with the determination and ingenuity of a person who was deeply in love.
Night Treats for Her
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In the bright light of the day, I select the jar of jam. “It’s for her,” I say to myself as I shiver with anticipation. I imagine the moon rising, the loss of control against the deeper desires, a naked still dreaming darling darting through the rooms, an appetite finally met, the top twisting off the jar that is waiting in the dark.
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When I am in my morning, I brush my teeth with no shirt on and look at my torso and touch that area on myself where the fur was in the dream, and I ask out loud, Who will let me be the real animal of myself? I am asking it out loud into the air but of course the only person that I see is me in the mirror and so I become the first one to say yes to my bare self, which is proper and right.
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I would never be this whirling wheel of colors if we had not changed the shape of who we are together.
Clothes Flying On/Day Flying Open
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I am connected to eternity and I am part of everything and although I am with all of it, I am still different from anything and everything.
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I am an example of a specific way of spending time and feeling existence in this world.
I Died: Bronze Tree
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I died but it was so small compared to how I had lived so much and for so long with you, alive. One death was so small compared to all the things that we did in our life, things that
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we did all the way through, right to our ends.
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I would travel long distances in my mind, and it would make my face go blank. That was the compromise for living in the inner world, that my face in the outer world sort of paused.
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You always thought that breaking the rule was not just an act of defiance but of instruction, saying, “This rule is not life-affirming and so I will show you that it is just fine to live life without the rule.”
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your back every night, the belt. One, two, three cosmic smooches from me to you until you died and then I died, but sometimes in the time before I died and after you died I kissed three stars into the air of where your body
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used to be in the bed, thinking thoughts like, “If I can’t have him then I will bring the sky down into the bed, one kiss at a time, and then it will be like I am in the cosmos with him.”
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I died after I lived my life with you, because that was the story, that was the story that happened and it was the only one and so it is what I knew when I died. Closed loop. I died and I have to move on soon, but I will always be so glad for the life I had with you. The fact is that it is incredibly hard to RIP and I’m just not sure I can get it done. Because what will I be now? I know that we will have new life with new forms and that we won’t be able to love each other like we did the last time. Maybe I am going to be a banana and you will be a car. It just won’t work. I know that. And I’m not one to beg for the impossible, especially as a banana, but I can’t seem to stop reacting to the enormity of the final end of us, sweetheart. A death. A bunch of them.
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You walk forward. You keep your head angled up so that you see over the fray. You protect yourself and all the little weirds that make up who you are.”
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It was not necessarily a choice at the outset, but now it is certainly a point of pride
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that I functionally dwell in realms that I was once afraid of. The darks and the in-betweens. They all fortify me. I am a citizen of many dimensions, and now I slip between them easily. I never slip away from myself by simplifying myself. I can’t become smaller to fit into a crouching love in somebody else’s meager world.
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I don’t have to wait to be here anymore. An animal like me lives all the time, everywhere.