Samantha Irby approaches several ideas and realities in her essays. I would argue that there are two or maybe three topics which dominate her attitude and narrative. In your opinion, what are those topics, and in what THREE essays do you see them most? Please cite examples, and explain them.

Thanks….. -pm

18 Comments Add yours

  1. Rory Parsons says:

    The three main topics that Irby tackles in her essays are her methods on surviving adult life, her experiences while trying to find love and how she goes about existing in society. The chapter where she addresses the prompt of being an adult most is Do You Guys Pay Your Bills or What? The chapter includes a detailed explanation of how she goes about making financial decisions and mentions the kind of purchases she likes to make. Her struggle to keep a budget and her wasteful spending habits are also part of the essay. Intimate relationships plus her opinion on love is the most common topic and is found all over this book, though the chapter that describes her love life best is Thirteen questions to ask before getting married. This chapter addresses how her ideal relationship will go and how she will tackle certain challenges that come with having a partner. For example it speaks on children, each others parents, religion and how they will handle money together. It almost lays on the conditions that will create the perfect relationship for Irby. The final topic she speaks on is the society we live in and how she tackles functioning in it. A case for remaining indoors brings up all the challenges she faces while being out and about such as having to dress well, dealing with obnoxious people and even racism. It also addresses how she battles insecurities. This book is a essentially a breakdown of the rules and procedures Samantha Irby uses to tackle life and the main topics she focuses on are adult decisions, relationships and how to behave in todays society.


  2. Adriana Porter says:

    I believe the topics that highlight Irby’s writing are self-acceptance and healing. Irby dives into subjects that most people find difficult to talk about. She writes about body image, mental health, and racial stigma. With the essays “You Don’t Have to Be Grateful for Sex” and “A Total Attack of the Heart”, Irby conceptualizes the theme of self-acceptance. In “You Don’t Have to Be Grateful for Sex,” Irby gives explicit details about her past sexual encounters. Her self worth is constantly being questioned. She’s been with people who think she owes them for being with her, people who think her “image” isn’t fitting, people who think that because of her body type she is somehow less deserving of love. “I don’t have to be grateful for shit,” is Irby declaring that she knows none of that is true. She recognizes, and accepts, her self-worth. Irby is not immune to insecurities, but she accepts herself as who she is, not how anyone wants her to be. Irby’s self-acceptance also takes form in her “over sharing” or the way she airs out everything about herself. Irby talks about herself in a way most people would consider taboo, but this is how she protects herself from negative and hateful criticism from other people. What can anyone say that she hasn’t already said? In “A Total Attack of the Heart,” Irby is brutally honest about her mental health. All the complicated factors of dealing with mental health, especially as a black woman, is discussed in this essay. She writes about how her self-inflicted pressures and societal pressures affected how she dealt with her mental health. Irby admitted that she was embarrassed to talk about her mental health even though it affects her quality of life. Irby’s understanding of her thought process and her justifications convey the topics of self-acceptance and healing. People who deal with mental illnesses, like depression or anxiety, may have a similar internal monologue with themselves. It is never an easy thing to tackle, but she still makes an effort of being self aware of how she handles it. The essay “Happy Birthday” displays her topic of healing. She admits that she doesn’t like going to this place, “this is the place in my head that it hurts most to go to.” Despite all the hurt it causes her, she still revisits this part of her mind. Irby, amidst all the self-criticism and self-depreciation, is ultimately compassionate to herself. She allows herself to heal. Irby recognizes her emotional and mental tolerance and doesn’t push herself further than what she can handle. Irby’s self acceptance and healing makes her writing free a real representation of her life.


  3. Itzel Hernandez says:

    The three main topics that Samantha Irby implements and her essays are the childhood problems that have affected her adult life, finding love, and where she fits in society. Happy birthday has to be the essay where it showcases her struggle in the past with not only her parents but financially. I’m in love and it’s boring in the chapter where she’s not only describing different experiences with men but comes to the realization that she is indeed in love with Mavis because she does not make Irby miserable, she overall understands her and accepts her for who she is. Lastly, A total attack of the heart Is it chapter where she comes out with her health problem feeling alone and grieving. Throughout the book, Samantha is always talking about her weight and wanting to die. She at times feels alone but in reality, she is still discovering who she is as a person going through all these life obstacles that are shaping her to become stronger. Overall, this book is a blueprint of how Samantha Irby slowly overcame her life obstacles along with living in the present moment which allowed her to be raw/ real with these three topics.


  4. cenamurphy says:

    The three most common themes in Irby’s essays are growth in the adult world, the acceptance of being normal, and her experiences in her own love life. The essay that stands out the most to me in her theme of growth in the adult world would be “Do You Guys Pay Your Bills Or What?” where she shares her frustration with finance and savings, something that every adult struggles through during one point in their lives, she also gives insight into what it’s like to have to budget and also explains how her past traumas have lead her to view money much valuebly than those who grew up well off. The theme of trying to get people to accept speaking about normal things such as their sexual lives comes through most in “You Don’t have To be grateful for sex” where she openly speaks about her sex life and the not so “perfect” things that no one else seems to want to talk about. She also opens up about some of the consequences to sharing such a vulnerable situation with others, and speaks about the struggles of feeling a lack of self worth or feeling “used” that many people go through with significant others. One thing I can absolutely admire about Irby is that she skips all of the bullshit, while many authors will write about the rose petals and perfectly scented candles lit in their room, she can openly speak about the “unspeakables” of sex and be brutally honest with it as well, never missing a detail, which could even seem a little too open to some. The final topic that often comes up is her journey in her love life, she speaks about the ups and downs, but mainly just gives realistic tips into dating and the possible outcomes. I would say this topic also connects with self love, along her dating journey she also starts to learn to love herself and realize what kind of people fit best with her, she is self aware of what she deserves and believes she deserves the best partner to suit her compatibility.


  5. Allison Haney says:

    The three most common themes I’ve observed in Samantha Irby’s “We’re Never Meeting in Real Life” include; finding love and truly believing that she deserves it, being comfortable in her own skin as a black woman and embracing who she is with her mental health issues. In Irby’s Mavis chapter, she falls in love with a woman who seems to accept Irby for the way she is- she is most comfortable with Mavis. “I always thought I would eventually end up with a woman. Men are too taxing, too mischievous, too restless, too naughty…” Secondly, Irby mentions being prone to having anxiety along with horrible anxiety attacks which are mentioned in A Total Attack Of the Heart chapter. “The first time I had the kind of anxiety attack that makes you feel like you’re going to die…” Irby describes these anxiety attacks as if she’s “having a he attack” and she can’t breathe. This one factor is a contributor to many of her mental illnesses. And lastly, Irby has shared her thoughts regarding racial inequity being a female black woman in today’s world, “Not being able to deal with your life is humiliating. It makes you feel weak. And if you’re African-American and female, not only are you expected to be resilient enough to just take the hits and keep going…” She’s referring to the fact that IF one DOES succeed at life in general, being a black individual, there is more pressure placed upon her to do better as she is feeling the prejudice undertone against her minority.


  6. Selah Earnshaw says:

    The three prominent topics Samantha Irby approaches that are dominant throughout the book so far have been seeking to obtain happiness within her lifestyle, finding a soul mate, and embracing herself. The chapter “A Blues for Fred” shows an affectionate side of Samantha, a side of her that is striving to have an unbreakable connection with another human being. She detailed all the emotions we feel when we are in the process of falling in love, the attraction and lust we feel, and the devastation of heartbreak. I feel this is one of her most relatable and heart-warming chapters. Everyone on some level wants a strong bond with another individual, whether that be a friendship or a romantic relationship. In the chapter “A Christmas Carol”, Samantha discussed her college experience, and in my opinion that gave us more details on the lifestyle she had compared to her peers. She expressed her need to prioritize her own lifestyle and succeeded in not comparing herself to other college student’s lifestyles. In a very influential age we are currently at, I found this viewpoint refreshing. In the chapter “A Total Attack of the Heart”, I feel we got an inside look at how her childhood has affected and shaped who she is today. She does have repercussions from her traumatic childhood, but instead of hiding it, she is learning to embrace it. The struggles she has had to overcome made her a stronger individual, not weaker.


  7. Elise Pierce says:

    Samantha Irby focuses largely on three topics; self perception, romantic interactions, and mental health. Self Perception is a constant string of details in this book, including; “Feelings Are A Mistake”. Irby writes simple things like what she wanted to be– a sage-burning-tapestry-having-plant-guru when in reality she is unorganized and hyperfixated on reading. She speaks about romance a lot, in a way I appreciate a little more then normal considering she’s gay– but my personal favorite is “Thirty Questions to Ask Before Getting Married”. The introduction alone sums up the dream romance in my mind, at least. My favorite aspect about this chapter is how involved childhood trauma is in a relationship. Even the first question involves it, it goes from– “joking with my fiance to at home abuse when I was a kid” and there’s definitely a moral there to pick up on. Heal your inner child. In “A Total Attack of the Heart”, she delves into the experiences of anxiety and a severe panic attack. Even in believing she was about to die, she was considering many rather unimportant things in relation; her sandwich order, how she looked, dying in an unclean hallway, dying before the next Game of Thrones is released– almost all of which reflect how she would be valued. She ordered too much, a fear of judgement, whether what she was wearing was cute enough, a fear of judgement, living in a place with hallways that don’t get cleaned often enough, self judgement. At least the last one was about passion. She details with a certain lack of seriousness how often she considers death. Not a mentally well person’s favorite pass time, I would assume.


  8. Tommy Koreen says:

    Irby has 2 main topics in her writing. She wants to find love and she wants to be normal. One essay that I think focuses on one of the topics is “Mavis.” In “Mavis” Irby finds a woman named Mavis and she learns that she does not have to be perfect to be loved. Irby says “I Love People Who Love Easting” Which shows that Irby is happy with Mavis. Irby realizes the kind of love she wants and deserves. In “Do You Guys Pay Your F**** Bills or What?” Irby tries to set up financial things like a 401k but she struggles with it. Irby says ” I didn’t open up a savings account or learn about making investments. That kind of stuff was for adults.” Irby thinks that since she has a hard time with her finances she isn’t normal, but really it is perfectly normal to struggle with finances. In “A Total Attack of the Heart” Irby shares her troubles with anxiety attacks. She goes into detail with her anxiety attack and it makes her feel less than. Irby says ” I just freaked out and tried to breathe and get my shoes on, but every breathe felt like an ice pick to the center of my chest and I couldn’t lace them up.” Once again having anxiety is completely normal. Irby is improving and is learning that she is normal and that she can find love.


  9. Miranda Rivas says:

    Irby’s two main topics that she explores in her writing are self-discovery and finding real true love. An essay that touches on both topics of self-discovery and finding true love is “Mavis”. This essay depicts Irby falling in love with a woman for the first time. Mavis (the woman Irby has fallen in love with) appreciates Irby for who she is, nothing less nor nothing more. This is a crucial experience in Irby’s life because she is going through this process of discovery and has come to terms with her sexuality. In addition to this Irby is exploring a new type of love that almost seems more real than her previous relationships. She begins to realize she deserves to be loved and begins to not question herself since Mavis highlights to her that she loves her for who she is. I compare this evolution of self-growth and self-discovery to Irby’s behavior in “A Blues For Fred”. In “A Blues for Fred” Irby is heartbroken and devastated that Fred (whom she thought was her soulmate) has left her because she is not able to have children. Irby demonstrates that she feels as if she is not enough nor deserving of love since she can not satisfy a man’s basic desire to have children. Irby’s attitude completely takes a 180 when she is introduced to Mavis; a new exciting lover who shows her she is enough and worth loving. Irby has found true love and realized her worth and if that is not self-discovery and self-growth in itself, I am not sure what is.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Davide Migotto says:

    Samantha Irby’s main two ideas that stood out in her writing were adapting and surviving adult life and self confidence. One essay that really showed the reader her self confidence was the very first one. “My Bachelorette Application” dove straight into exactly who she is, she wrote with pride even on uncomfortable topics. She writes about her large ankles, her drinking, time alone on the toilet and more, like eating as one of her hobbies. She writes all that with acceptance knowing she is Samantha Irby and she can’t change that, nor does she want to. She’s open about her experiences good or bad. In the chapter “You Don’t Have To Be Grateful For Sex” there are three guys, each was a story about problems dating as an adult. Dealing with a liar, “H also had a for-show girlfriend and a for-after-the-show girlfriend, and I’ll let you guess (A) which one I was, and (B) how humiliated I felt when I found out”. Dealing with a boyfriend who wanted her to join weight watchers, and wanted to change who she was. She stood strong though it it all and remained self confident. The essay which showed her navigating and surviving adult life is “Do You Guys Even Pay Your Own Bills Or What?”. Throughout the chapter she deals with money problems and talks about savings. She writes about growing up poor and now having money. Money she now wastes on useless junk. She talks about wishing she learned about credit, but now she has to look up ways to save money. Like saving coins but she hates the dirty metal feeling of coins so that won’t work. Coupons would work if she wasn’t lazy and didn’t use online shopping. She’s tried buying items in bulk but ultimately failed because all the food went bad. The whole essay is a rant about money problems when you get older. She rants about not having it, wasting it, and not wanting to save it. An experience you only get when older and living on your own.


  11. Foxine Sutton says:

    In my opinion, the three topics that Samantha Irby cover most in her book, “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life”, are her dysfunctional upringing, her struggles with anxiety and depression, and her search for self love and acceptance. In her essay “Happy Birthday”, she describes her relationship with her estranged father S.B. Samantha reflects on events in her childhood that are by no means part of a normal families relationship. She tells of situations with her alcoholic father that are manipulative,abusive and violent. Despite her tumultuous years spent in the care of such a toxic parent, I think Irby has shown tremendous resilience. Irby covers the topic of anxiety and depression in laymen terms in her essay “Total Attack of the Heart”. Her ability to describe how it actually feels to struggle with mental illness is easily relatable. In many cultures you are taught to just suck it up and told nothing is wrong with you if you aren’t bleeding or haven’t gone through some traumatic event. While the truth is ongoing childhood emotional neglect is a huge risk factor in developing these illnesses. Her reluctance to admit she needs help is ultimately a product of her upringing. I applaud her finally being able to accept that she has anxiety and depression and in turn learning how to live with it. “Fuck it Bitch, Stay Fat” is where I believe Irby most covers the topic of self love and acceptance. She has many attempts and changing her diet and starting an excercise program but doesn’t really commit to any of them in the long run. Eventually she resigns herslef to the fact that she loves to eat and hates to excercise. Learning how to love yourself without being perfect on the outside isn’t easy, especially when you have tried to for so long. In this essay Samantha comes to a point where she realizes this is who she is so she better start loving it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mikemadigan says:

      Great reaction here… I agree with your analysis of her character and attitude.


  12. Kaia Stites says:

    I feel that the two topics Samantha Irby covers the most throughout her book are finding love that will last and surviving life. These two topics can be found in the chapters “A Blues for Fred”, “Happy Birthday”, and “I’m in love and it’s boring”. When it comes to finding love, we follow Irby on a journey as she explains her past relationships and what she is looking for. The book starts with her filling out a bachelorette application and talking about what she is looking for in a partner. We then hear about relationships that didn’t work out. In the chapter titled “I’m in love and it’s boring”, Irby talks about how she has had a lot of experiences where she had potential suitors but they never panned out. She explained how she got stuck in the same cycle with these guys. This cycle is a familiar concept because Irby discussed the less than ideal “relationships” she made with some men earlier in the book. We also read about serious relationships that end in a somewhat sad way. In “A Blues for Fred” we learn about Fred, the man who Irby thought was her soulmate, leaving her because she can’t have a baby. Another relationship we learn about is her relationship with Zachary that ended with her being ghosted in “I’m in love and it’s boring”. As the reader we follow Irby on her journey to finding Mavis. Also in the chapter “I’m in love and it’s boring”, Irby explains how Mavis does what she has been needing in a partner by stating Mavis has “never disappeared for a month and then popped back up all nonchalant. She has never, not even once, made me miserable”(Irby, 192). It feels as though every essay up to this point has always tied back to what Irby needs in a partner for the love to last. So as a reader it is fulfilling to hear that she found someone who accepts her and doesn’t periodically stop loving her. Another topic Irby covers in her essays is surviving life. Irby has survived life by learning acceptance of the things she cannot change. In “Happy Birthday” Irby is forced to accept her new life with her mom and dad because no matter her attempts at stopping her father’s plan, she will not be listened to. Irby describes her tentative feelings for the situation to her mother, “‘This is not a good idea.’ I whispered into her ear as my father laid out his plan,” (Irby, 78) but was ultimately ignored. By the end of the chapter Irby has come to accept that she can’t change her situation and will have to learn how to live with it.


  13. Jocelyn Lozano says:

    I believe that Samantha Irby’s three main topics are finding love, accepting herself, the affect of her childhood. When trying to find love it is mentioned mainly throughout the first chapter where she is filling out a application for the bachelorette. Irby explains her past relationships not only her serious ones but all her flings. She describes how after all the hookups she has had and relationships she wants some one that can vibe with her and accept her for who she is. For example her last relationship affected her the most because not only had she been with him for a long time but she imagined herself spending the rest of her life with him but he had other plans. He wanted to start a family which is why he left her knowing that she was not able to have children. After that was when she realized that all she needs is someone to accept her just the way she is. The second one is when he learned to accept herself. Irby explains how in her college life she tried fitting in with the group of people that would get together and talk about their college life. She would lie and try and say that her life was almost just as similar as theirs. After going on dates and trying to be compatible with the guy and it not working out. Irby realized that she was her own person, that no matter how much she tried to fit in she would never. She had a whole different childhood that converted her into the person she is and has fully accepted that. Lastly it is on how her childhood affected her as an adult. Irby is a very strong person emotionally. Growing up she experienced things such as having an alcoholic dad and him sending her mom to a retirement home. Meaning that she basically raised herself throughout the years. Doing things on her own such as working to pay for bills etc. She was never able to buy herself anything she wanted since she had to worry about making money for other things. So now when Irby has the money she try’s and buys herself that certain thing she wants since she always mentions that she never had money when she was young. Overall Irby has had a crazy life growing up due to the fact of everything that she has been through. Now she is an amazing strong person.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mikemadigan says:

      Wow… this is great! Thank you for posting!


  14. Alize Marsh says:

    I believe that Samantha irby’s three main topics are finding the comfort to be confident in herself/ self love, comparing her adult life to her childhood. She explains in one of her chapters how she doesn’t have the perfect body but that doesn’t stop her from doing or wearing certain things and she’s always been a bigger girl since she was a child. Being confident in yourself is what not many people have and she has the I don’t care tule of attitude because she already knows that she’s not a skinny girl. She had also explained that in her childhood she never really had much then she does in her adult hood because of her job that she has she is able to go out and buy things that she’s never had.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Brianna Steel says:

    Samantha Irby has many topics that she discusses but the main three that she talks about are her childhood, acceptance, and how to make it through adult life. In “Happy Birthday”, she gets into some more personal stories and tells us more about what she went through as a child. Her dad was abusive and an alcoholic, but she still cried. He was family and even though he made her miserable as a child she’s been able to grow from it. In the first chapter, “My Bachelorette Application” she is brutally honest about herself. On page 13, she knows she’s someone who gets drunk and eats McDonalds. She knows who she is at this point and what she wants. In the chapter titled “Do You Guys Pay Your Fucking Bills or What” she talks about her family being low income. As she grows up though she ends up making enough money to buy what she wants. She also discusses saving up for what she really wants

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Grisha Driscoll says:

    Irby is a realist, she does not pretend to be perfect nor does she hide the truth from her audience. This series of essays, “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life”, is a deep dive into the personal life of a frustrated, scared, human woman doing her best to live her life as she rolls with the punches life throws. Even in literally the first few pages, she talked about her sense of self within the context of being in relationships, her time with Fred described in “A Blues for Fred” allowed her to find a feeling of peace as well as having an idea of what a soulmate could be. Though deeply connected through their love of the arts they cordially, and not to mention quite maturely, split ways due to different goals and needs in life. Irby does a beautiful job in explaining that heartbreak in a way like that is alright, that if you know what you want you should go forward and not let anyone get in the way of bringing you true happiness. With that in mind though, you should remember that you need to respect the will of others even if they disagree with you. Be aware in situations that the world does revolve around you and that people will have their own visions of happiness and self-fulfillment.

    Samantha Irby goes on about what she wants and how she often seems lazy compared to others but while also never exactly stating why. She does however tells you exactly why she acts and thinks the way she does. If the first third of the book discusses love then the second discusses sadness. Deep heart-wrenching sadness brought by an unsteady home life while also struggling with self-confidence. Her father was a scoundrel who abused the kindness of her mother, and her mother was practically bed-ridden by the time Irby was fourteen. In the section “A Total Attack of the Heart” and the other chapters surrounding it, she brings up how the suppression of the trauma in her youth lead to panic attacks in her later years. It is easier for us to just push down our thoughts and feelings, letting them boil and fester inside us as we continue on with our lives. It is easier to turn a blind eye to the poison in our minds than to address them, an amount of courage only gained through life experience and hard-earned wisdom. She brings up the point, however, that it is alright to be sad sometimes. Often there are things to be sad about but we must not let that anguish corrupt us, not allow it to take over. There is a difference between bottling up emotions and living with them, recognizing that it’s ok to not be ok. Even as corny as it sounds.

    All in all, looking into the heart of your problems and finding solutions, as I’ve stated before in previous writings, takes ages of wisdom and self-reflection that almost none have the patience for. But for the unlucky few who have learned the hard way through pain or frustration or simply just having reality crashing into our hopes and dreams, bringing us back down to Earth, they can understand and accept. That is the final point in this collection, acceptance. Acceptance of self, others, emotions, one’s past, accepting that life simply just is and that we must keep moving in whatever way we can. For Irby, she has accepted the fact that she is an unhealthy eater and is somewhat lazy and that she has somewhat severe medical problems. In the chapter “Fuck It Bitch, Stay Fat”, she pretty much sums up her message by simply saying, “And I don’t need sympathy or special consideration because, ultimately, who even cares? […] I guess what I am trying to say is that maybe we can all mind our own fucking business for once, and that when you can actually see a person’s scars, maybe be a pal and don’t pick at them” (pg 168-169). This is what she wants her readers to understand, that each person is unique and has their own life.

    The world would be a much easier place if just a shred of decency was shown to our neighbors when they are low and in need of help, guess it all just goes to the timeless and ancient concept of “Treating others the way you want to be treated”. Everyone has flaws, if we accept our own and the flaws of others then society would be a better place for it. Finding hope and little victories in our day-to-day drudge makes things bearable, it isn’t too much to ask to help folks along the way.


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