comedy

Comic Blythe Roberson on Her Book About Dating Men, Hating Men

Blythe Roberson. Photo: Mindy Tucker

Here’s a funny way to start the year: read comedian and debut author Blythe Roberson’s How to Date Men When You Hate Men, out next Tuesday from Flatiron Books. You may know Roberson from “KILL ME NOW,”  her web series about two millennial roommates, or from her many satirical pieces published in The New Yorker. Her new book is a natural extension of her comic work — not only hilarious but also surprisingly thought-provoking and invitingly introspective. Tapping into the feminist ambivalence and righteous anger of our age, Roberson parses the conflicting emotions of being attracted to the very people who oppress her. Her witty, engaging essays draw on her personal life as an outspoken woman, a good date, and an unabashedly big fan of One Direction. Vulture spoke with her recently about her new book.

Hi Blythe! How are you feeling about the book?
My main feeling is that everyone at work keeps apologizing for not having read my book yet, and I have to keep on saying that it’s not out yet so it’s fine.

Well, I’ve read it! You begin by describing it as “a comedy philosophy book about what dating and loving is like now, in an era that we thought was the end of patriarchy (but we now know is at least five hundred years away from that) and at the beginning of an age where robots do all our dating for us.” So we’ll start with an easy question: How do we dismantle the patriarchy?
[Laughs] Oh my God. I mean, much smarter people than I have written much longer books on this issue. I think a good starting point is addressing the wage gap, which disproportionately affects women of color. So, like, raising the minimum wage. Providing universal childcare. Abortion on demand. Although, I am one of those who thinks there can be no true feminism under capitalism. Is this good book marketing strategy?

Yeah I’m sold. You worry in the book about the stereotype of women writing only about “dating and their anxiety disorders.” Did you get over that fear? Do you feel newly empowered?
After thinking really hard about dating and romance for nine months, I did come out on the other end feeling like it isn’t a frivolous thing to write about at all. I don’t know if I would say I feel “empowered,” because that’s become something I feel like we’re supposed to think comes from, like, getting laser facials or some shit. But writing this book made me really aware of how dating is informed by how women are socialized, how society expects women and men to act, how capitalism is served by women fixating on finding a partner. I feel like I haven’t misused my time or let myself down. I’ve had women telling me that the book was really personally meaningful for them. I’m never going to be president and legally force all men to give all women they know $20,000, so writing this book feels like, hopefully, a worthwhile thing I can do for the world.

Did the book clarify anything about dating for you personally?
Oh, everything! One of the pleasures of writing it was figuring out my views — nebulous concepts or patterns I had observed, but never thought about until forced to sit alone, staring at my computer, crying while trying to get my thoughts in a straight line. I’ve now become a horrible nightmare person who is constantly having conversations where I’m like, “Oh! I … actually … wrote about this in my book.”

I know this isn’t a self-help guide, but is there any handy advice for the dating reader?
Hmm … being mean isn’t flirting. Be honest and communicative with your partners. Try to find joy in dating if possible.

I hate when people are mean when they flirt! I can’t be horny when my feelings are hurt!
Obviously I didn’t invent any of this and in fact barely ever practice it. Honestly the moral of my book is that I should be in therapy, and that is probably the best dating advice any of us could ever get.

Speaking of which, can you give us a peek into your own dating life? 
Recently I did acid and was like “I need to put into the universe two things: I want to know more about volcanoes and I should be dating Nick Kroll.”

Do you think your dating life will change after this book gets published? One person in my life read my book and, noticing that I had a joke about wishing men would break up with me if they have giant gross beards, trimmed his beard. While I wasn’t at all intending to roast him with that joke, it was very appreciated! So that’s already change enough.

Was there anything you wanted to include that you sadly had to delete?
There were some things I said about Woody Allen that we had to take out for legal reasons.

Do all the men you mention in the book know about it, or are they in for a surprise?
I don’t mention any men by name and I’m pretty vague on identifying details. So, most men know and the others, I assume, will either not read it or not realize I’m talking about them.

The man mentioned most often and by name is the young love your life, Timothée Chalamet. What would be your dream meet cute?
When we are casting the role of Timothée Chalamet in the How to Date Men When You Hate Men TV show. Although in that scenario it would not be cool to hit on him! I will keep our relationship very professional. Wishing all the best to Timo and Lily-Rose Depp, love is beautiful!

Who’s your target audience for the book?
It is my understanding that only women read books, because men, presumably, are illiterate. But I hope anybody and everybody reads this book.

What if you had to pick one specific person?
Emma Thompson, who is my idol and everything I want to be in this life: a brilliant, funny, generous, middle-aged British woman.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Blythe Roberson on Her New Book About Dating Men, Hating Men