After six years of Internet friendship, I finally got to meet Roxane Gay last night at her excellent reading of Bad Feminist at a packed Mrs. Dalloway’s Books in Berkeley. She was everything I thought she would be, and more.
I’ve admired and respected Roxane’s work for years and felt excited to meet her at last. I didn’t expect to feel quite so awed or nervous, though. As I approached Roxane, I started to shake and that damned jaw of mine locked. In those moments before I spoke her name and introduced myself, I realized just how much I was struggling with feelings of unworthiness.
It’s almost surreal now, but five years ago I was in an online writing group with Roxane and exchanging emails about our lives and various concerns and highs, and now here she is, an acclaimed cultural commentator and a revered New York Times bestselling author. I felt wholly inadequate and worried I no longer had any right to lay claims to friendship.
My angst fell away, however, as soon as Roxane and I made eye contact. For all her height and stature, Roxane has these soft, lovely eyes that mirror an equally soft, lovely, and captivating voice. She and I both value our personal space and neither of us is big on hugs (although I’ve gotten much better in recent years), but we did hug and the connection felt warm and wonderful. I was at last meeting in the flesh a cherished friend, brilliant mind, and phenomenal spirit.
I loved sitting in that audience listening to Roxane speak and read, all of us rapt. She mesmerized me. I believe she mesmerized everyone there. She was funny, eloquent, honest, vulnerable, smart, and utterly seductive. She read about Mr. Rogers, female friendship, her ‘being’ Miss America, and her first year as a college professor. Even after an insane schedule of teaching, touring, writing, and interviewing, Roxane Gay delivered a stellar reading and Q &A with impressive generosity, grace, and gumption. Throughout, I nodded, laughed, nodded, shook my head, nodded, and uttered silent Amens. Yep, I fell star struck.
Roxane reads tonight in San Francisco at City Lights Books at 7 pm. I honestly don’t know how that small reading space will contain her and the crowd she’s going to attract. Get there early, friends, to avoid disappointment, and prepare for an extraordinary evening.
When I returned home last night, I read Roxane’s inscription and I tell you my eyes and throat filled. After, I went to bed and slept the best sleep I’ve enjoyed in a very long time. Thank you, Roxane. Shine on.