Ask Jeannie: Advice from Jean Grae for February/March 2020

A Bimonthly Column

Ask Jeannie: Advice from Jean Grae for February/March 2020

Jean Grae
Facebook icon Share via Facebook Twitter icon Share via Twitter


I’m close friends with a writer. We’ve been tight since we were both in middle school. She writes fiction, but in the last few years she’s been writing and publishing personal essays. More and more, I’ve noticed, her family and friends are making their way into her writing, and I’m worried I’ll be next. Since I know you are a person who draws from her life experiences to make art, what’s your advice for someone who’s nervous a friend will write about them?


Auburn, NY

Jeannie responds:

Hi Blair!

Aw, man. As a writer who has written every single person I’ve ever had any kind of relationship with into whatever work I have ever made… yeah. You just gon’ have to be nervous until it happens, and… yeah. There’s not any good advice for this shit. I will also say that if this is your close friend, this subject’s totally reasonable to bring up in conversation. I would also think that if you guys are close, she’d send you whatever she was going to publish that included anything about you. I’ve done that with songs, etc. Just a heads up.

Mmm. Yep, though. Bottom line is—writers gon’ write. Playas gonna play. Accordionists gonna—accordion? Stuff gonna be stuff it is.




I’m really freaked-out about climate change, so recently I’ve tried to go zero-waste. I have not found a solution for toilet paper. Do you know of anything sanitary? Am I becoming too obsessed?


Wilmington, NC

Jeannie responds:

Hi Liza!

Who doesn’t like a clean bum? Some people, I’m sure. Some people enjoy a dirty bum hole, and hey, not gonna knock anyone’s bum-hole preferences. Personally, I enjoy a pristine bum hole. I wonder if this is the first time bum hole has been printed this many times in this publication. I know you’re concerned about zero-waste, but let’s couple that with “clean bum.”

The world deals with bum holes—and pee holes—in different ways. I would like to usher you toward a bidet attachment. Bidet attachments are great because you don’t have to take out an entire toilet to get a new fancy one, or figure out how you’re going to make space in a bathroom for a hole cleanser next to the poop throne.

Amazon. Bidet attachments. Thank me later.

Seriously, tell me thank you at some point in time, or I will never forgive you.




I’m in a relationship but I have crushes on lots of other people: coworkers, medical billing professionals at my doctor’s office, the mailman, the local crossing guard. Is that normal? I haven’t acted on any of them, and I don’t even want to. But I find myself daydreaming about these people, and many of these daydreams are sexual and romantic in nature. Although I’m not acting on my desires, I wonder if it’s inappropriate to think them anyway, since I have to interact with many of these folks on a daily basis. Any help? (I know my pseudonym says “So Help!” in a way that sounds demanding, but I don’t mean it that way at all. I couldn’t think of a way to complete the acronym, so that’s how it ended. I respect you and appreciate you taking the time to answer this. Much love.)

Concerned Righteously Understandably So Help!

The Midwest

Jeannie responds:

Hello Concerned Righteously Understandably So Help,

What an interesting name! I bet that’s pretty hard to fit on a nameplate necklace. Or find in those stores where they sell faux vanity license plates with preselected names on them. As a kid, I always got really sad because my given name was never on a nameplate kiosk. Or on Romper Room. The Romper Room host never called out my na— Ha ha… oh boy! These are my issues! Sorry! Kudos for the acronym.

All right. Let’s get down to the business of NORMAL. There is none. No normal, I mean. That’s what I know to be true. Everyone has their things, their feelings, their kinks—you get what I’m saying. However, this is a tough one for me to answer. I think this deserves some delving into, in a professional talk space with a professional you feel comfortable with. Don’t take that as “Hey, man, that’s weird and you should talk to someone about it.” Nope.

I’m one of those people that really enjoys getting to the root of things. I think that’s important in understanding why we all do the things we do. “Understanding Why” is probably my choice of nameplate names. Perhaps that step will put you in a more comfortable place with these sexy thoughts.

Uh-oh. I just thought of something. What if the thing is that you live in a town full of vampires/witches? [Clutches pearls, eyes widen] What if all these feelings are a result of you being charmed? Glamoured? Spell-upon-ed? “Spelluponed” sounds like a new big pharma product. I mean, look. It could be. Could be a county full of supernatural creatures. Anything is possible. I have been binge-watching all the seasons of American Horror Story.




My sister is an air guitarist. I love her and in general I find air-musicianship entertaining to watch. I try to support her when I can. But recently she asked my partner and me to save the date so we could fly to Finland and support her for next year’s Air Guitar World Championships. There are a few issues with this. First, she doesn’t know that she will make the finals. (I guess she wants me to “air schedule” this, huh?) Second, I really want to support her, but flying all the way from the West Coast of the US to Finland feels like a waste of a lot of money. But if I don’t go, I’d feel guilty for not being a supportive sibling. What should I do: Balance my budget or support my baby sister with her dream?

[Name withheld]

[City and state withheld too]

Jeannie responds:

Hello, NW,

My husband has been to a few air guitar events. I would like to enjoy them as well. I used to have a very elaborate karaoke prop setup at home with an inflatable guitar, a real guitar, and an empty rack for an air guitar. Also available: fog machine and various lights. Wigs. Costumes. People enjoyed it. Really enjoyed it. So did I. Just wanted to let you know all of those things before I answered.

Now, about this trip. You are super correct that international flights require some planning and budgeting. Even just entering “air guitar trip budget” into a spreadsheet might seem like a ridiculous thing to do. But I would do it. That’s an awesome memory to build. A supportive memory. A sweet gesture. It’s fucking adorable that she asked you both to go. It’s fucking adorable that you’re considering it. I say—try. Get some Google Alerts set on flight prices and see if you can make it work. Maybe you can’t, and everyone will understand because adult life and shit.

See if you can make it work without damaging your general finances. Hell yeah. That’s a kick-ass trip. Who cares if she doesn’t win! You all win by spending the time together. Group air hug.




I’ve been borrowing a lot of self-help books lately; I’ve had my share of awkward checkouts at the library. But I keep picking up books because I’d like to be less anxious, be a better partner, have a clutter-free apartment, and so on. It feels like I’m taking the first step toward achieving all of these things by picking up a book. However, a lot of the time I don’t make it past the first couple chapters. Any recommendations on finishing self-help books? I feel like I’m stuck in a loop.


Bensalem, PA

Jeannie responds:

Hey Nick!

First off, never have any shame at the checkout counter for ANYTHING. A-NY-THING!

I am clapping in those hyphenated spaces to relay my enthusiasm.

I enjoy purchasing a book, lending a book, borrowing a book—BOOKS! Anything with books in general. All my books are arranged by color, because pretty and also OCD, but who cares. That’s what makes me fucking happy.

I’m not huge on self-help books, but I have definitely picked some up and then been all, Eh. That’s enough. Got it! They were probably just not the right fucking books for me. Or you. Not everything is for everyone. If it don’t grab ya, it just don’t grab ya, ya know?

I actually DO have a self-help-book recommendation, the only self-help book I read completely and then revisited. Guess what the fuck it’s called? Don’t guess. I’m gonna tell you just below.

Stuck: Why We Can’t (or Won’t) Move On by Anneli Rufus

Listen, I’m not even sure if there was anything in the book that helped me let go of things. I believe it was the acknowledgment of knowing I was STUCK in some loops that needed breaking. Just the act of literally trying to unstick myself was incredibly gratifying and effective. It’s all very meta. Check it out. Give it a try.

Good luck getting unstuck!



In the October/November issue of The Believer, Jean fielded a question from a letter writer named Denise, who, captivated by the cult-like enthusiasm many notable artists have shown for the New Radicals’ 1998 hit “You Get What You Give,” asked whether there are “any other unlikely songs that are secretly influential among other musicians” or, if not, a song that’s a likely candidate for “low-key appreciation.” Here’s Jean’s follow-up response:


I’m still thinking, because it’s such a lovely question and I want to answer it with the best possible selections. I’ve also been asking a bunch of friends what their songs might be. You just wait until the next issue, though. It’s gonna be so good [does the Prince arms around entirety of body for ten awkward minutes. You know the Prince arms].

So. Fucking. Good.

More Reads

Notes in the Margin

Peter Orner

Side Quest

Bijan Stephen

Ask Jeannie: Advice from Jean Grae for December 2020/January 2021

Jean Grae