Tuesday night, existentialists, poets, trend followers, and a few misc characters gathered on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles for the launch of Melissa Broder’s So Sad Today, a compilation of essays named for the Twitter handle that catapulted her to Internet fame.
DJ sets from Baths, Blue Hawaii, Rivers Cuomo, MS MR, and Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles) helped set the mood for the night: celebratory, yet mysterious.
With @sosadtoday, Broder achieved the unthinkable. In just three years the anonymous Twitter account amassed hundreds of thousands of followers with unremitting tweets on issues ranging from sex, to body image, to existential musings, to the omnipresent force of depression.
It was a crowded night at the Ace Hotel, and based on the sheer number of Millennials adorned in black; I gathered most were there for the reading. Twentysomething girls in Wednesday Adams dresses laughed and clinked artisan cocktails held by frail hands, necks craned towards the microphone in anticipation of Melissa Broder’s arrival. Others kept their heads bowed over glowing smart phones—not an unusual observation—but especially appropriate for a reading given by a woman known for her numerous depressive tweets.
When the music didn’t die down, but came to a literal halt, people clapped in excitement. The face behind @sosadtoday would soon be more than mere media fodder. Sure, Broder had “come out” last year in a Rolling Stone interview, in tandem with the announcement of the upcoming publication of So Sad Today, but nothing beats hearing a writer read her work. Let alone work derived from 140 character ruminations.
Mira Gonzalez and Ryan O’Connell (both writer friends of Broder’s), began the event by reading excerpts they’d selected from So Sad Today; O’Connell opted to read in a high pitched voice in an odd but amusing homage to his friend. I heard chuckles emanate around me. No obvious sadness, really. What’s interesting about Broder’s work, is how it extends far beyond @sosadtoday tweets or even her latest book of essays. Though famous because of her Twitter handle, Broder has been writing for years; she has several collections of poetry and an MFA under her belt.
She’s a writer who isn’t afraid of really “going there.” Or, at least, she has no qualms in displaying her neuroses full throttle. So, it only made sense for Broder, herself to read an essay on the eroticism of vomit. The details of this piece, entitled, “My Vomit Fetish, Myself,” could best be described as, well, guttural. People gasped, cooed, and laughed as Broder detailed her experiences with vomit: the smell, the sound, even what she expressed as the sexual allure of burping mid vomit.
Broder has explored vomit figuratively and literally since the inception of @sosadtoday. In fact, one of @sosadtoday’s most famous tweets involved the “vomiting of sadness.” Constantly purging thoughts, and grappling with a group of inner-critics she’s deemed “The Committee,” when she writes, she vomits—vomiting in essence, is a cleansing.
“[I had] all of these feelings and didn’t know where to put them,” Broder told me in explanation of @sosadtoday’s creation, smiling thoughtfully, her face illuminated by the downtown Los Angeles skyline. She had just finished signing the last of the So Sad Today books, and a few copies of Scarecrone, and now perused the hotel menu, honing in on the avocado toast. Earlier, when I passed her a copy of Scarecrone to sign, she exclaimed, “Oh! You got Scarecrone!” Scarecrone is an anthology of dark poems Unfortunately many don’t read poetry with the same gusto they may have when reading a Twitter feed or book of essays.
Because much of Broder’s work is in exploration of self-abuse, including periods of anorexia and addiction, I had to know her thoughts on self-preservation through self-destruction, a seeming inescapable human paradox. While most Twitter users tweeted in hopes of garnering the highest following, @sosadtoday offered Broder comfort during dark times. “[It’s to] stay and feel alive through this existential hold. Certain things felt like self-preservation—drugs, alcohol—they were not.”
She described her use of Twitter as a sort of “primal tool” for words. Words, of course, are innately primal. Language is one of the most primal manifestations of human existence. Today, our existence appears generated only though external validation; however, this does not negate from the realities of our inward lives. But honestly? Sometimes a little purging is necessary for self-validation. Maybe even a bit of stream of conscious banter with ourselves (or sometimes a committee). There’s proof of this phenomenon in the mind and writing of Melissa Broder.