On the one hand, it’s very much a work of fiction. It is not a thinly veiled retelling of relationships and experiences I have had personally. And yet I also began thinking very seriously about my gender identity and the possibility of transition about halfway through writing it. And the title, the idea of a merry spinster — the idea of jolly, self-sufficient female solitude — that’s very dear to me. And in some very real ways, that’s no longer mine.
There’s a line in one of the stories in the book, Cast Your Bread Upon The Waters, where the main character – whose gender is never clarified – refers to their son, against whom they’ve been plotting murder, like this: “My son Johnnie was very beautiful, and I loved him.” It’s one of the first unmitigated statements they make about a person they very clearly loved but are trying to build a case against. Only after they’ve done the deed can they honestly say, I loved him. I don’t want to cheapen the story by saying, “Ah, yes, I too have released someone I love into the sea, it is a point-by-point allegory for transition.” But man. That merry spinster, that Toastified Mallory Ortberg — she was beautiful, and I loved her. And she is! And I do! And she is not gone, there has been no death, no act of violence, no act of disavowal or abnegation or dismissal. And yet she’s not herein the way that she was. Anyhow, it’s a good book, I think, and I’m glad we wrote it.
And still the same writer. It looks good!