Amanda Fucking Palmer,
I’m Mary Fucking Kate, but my friends call me MFK (really though). I just finished your book.
Two weeks ago, I had planned to bring a book I had been reading on and off for months on a business trip and make the time to finish it. I forgot it. So upon my arrival to the airport I rushed to the bookstore looking for any book to read. I saw the cover for yours on the bestseller shelf of the airport bookstore, and was captivated by the title “The Art of Asking, Or ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.” I’m a worrier and was open to any wisdom I could get. I had never heard of you before. You address readers like me at the very end of the book, where you ask us to look at your website and listen to your music because it’s the art that started everything. I’ve been listening to the playlist. It’s weird and awesome.
I wanted to write a short essay about what I learned from reading your book. I had such a rollercoaster of thoughts and opinions throughout the experience. But now that I’m finished, everything you say about your relationship with your fans makes sense and I feel like I want to tell you about my experience reading your book. Because that is The Gift, right?
From the very beginning, I was like Woah, homegirl sees the world in a very different way than I do. The way you talked about The Bride was unlike anything I had ever read. I am not the kind of person who would ever try to be a living statue, let alone realize quit my job after realizing I could make good money doing it. I’m the kind of person who reads the story and immediately thinks IS SHE OUT OF HER MIND? But I quickly realized that it was nothing short of brave. It was brave to try to be a living statue. It was brave to perform on the street as a job. It was brave to let yourself be emotionally vulnerable with strangers. You made me want to try it, or at least carry flowers with me to give to strangers.
I relate to you in a lot of ways. Specifically in some of the insecurities you outline in conversations with Neil and Anthony, and even more so in the way that these are insecurities that people who aren’t close to you would never know you had them. You talk so much about being scared people will think you’re a self-centered phony. I’ll admit, there were quite a few times throughout the book that I thought you may be a phony. But the thing is, that’s a fear I have all the time about myself too. In fact, I know a lot of people think I’m a phony. I’m the kill-em with kindness type; the bubbly-happy-unicorn-princess type. But the people who matter in my life don’t think I’m a phony, and that’s what counts.
With this project, Obvi, I am scared people will think I’m underqualified and naïve for thinking I can make this into something that could change the world. But I believe I can do it with all my heart. When I let myself reflect on these things, I realize that we have similar conversations with the people we love. I don’t think you’re a phony, I think we’re connected.
I love how you reference writing music and you say things like “we wrote really good songs,” or “I wrote a poem,” with such matter-of-factness. You don’t doubt the truth of those things anymore. You just write poems and sing your songs because it’s who you are, no matter how different they are from anything else. I would give a few fingers and toes for that type of confidence in my own ability to create art, let alone in the importance of the art I create.
When you talk about your fans, and “seeing people,” you say you are in love. I feel like this about my Obvi team. I have known some of them since childhood, some of them virtually for a year or so and some of them for only a few months. But I see them and I love them. I am so hungry for that love to multiply exponentially as you describe yours has over time.
Someday, in a book I write or speech I give, I want to have a list of people to thank as extensive and eclectic as yours. It represents a life full of love. I have this kind of recurring and morbid thought about why it’s important to meet people, and that’s so that I know there are people in other parts of the world who know I exist. I want to have friends scattered across the globe, so there is a memory of me anywhere outside of Chicago. I imagine it feels good to have such a tight net spread so wide.
I had never heard your name before reading your book. I had never heard Neil’s name either. I admittedly read through both of your Wikipedia pages after starting the book and was so happy to hear that Neil wrote Stardust, which I consider to be one of the most underrated movies ever. I started with a blank slate and was reading about and building a relationship with you. I have recently been testing out online dating (another topic I’m excited to write an essay about) and have your book listed as my “currently reading” on my OKCupid profile. It’s ridiculous the number of people who have sent me “How do you like Amanda Palmer’s book? She’s not really my cup of tea, but Neil Gaiman married her so she must be alright” messages. It really makes me sad because 1.) the patriarchy and 2.) they are missing OUT!
Amanda, I know this essay is confusing and weird and all over the place. But honestly, so was my experience with your book. In thinking a lot about you and what you were saying, I thought a lot about myself. I learned a lot about myself and I regained a strong motivation to make my dreams work. I am not going to be afraid to ask when it can help me. I am going to take the fucking donuts.
Thank you for being brave and vulnerable and sharing your life with me. It had an effect on me that I really want you to know about. If you ever need a couch in Chicago, hmu, my roommate and I have the best sleep couch in town
If you haven’t read this book, and if I piqued your interest at all, I highly recommend picking-up a copy. It was an experience for me, and I’m grateful for it.