Sex Sells, Love Don't: The Ophira Eisenberg Interview
I’ve always known comedian, NPR and Moth Storyslam host, Ophira Eisenberg to be a lady. Well-dressed, smart and congenial, Eisenberg is aces when it comes to being a classy broad. When I heard she had a book coming out called, Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy, I could not get enough. To me, she’d always been with her husband Jonathan and I never thought of her past sex life. I mean, that would be creepy, “I wonder how many lov-ah’s that Eisenberg chick took on before the ring?” Now, I had to know and so should you.
Throughout the pages of her memoir, Ophira fesses up to having a healthy sexual appetite that unfortunately is only acceptable for men in our society. It’s 2013. Twenty years ago we thought we’d be holograms riding space scooters by now. Meanwhile, all we got is DVR and technology that gives a 40-year-old man, who lives with his parents, the ability to ‘internet persona’ his way into making you jealous that he even exists. Come. On. Let’s evolve our thinking a teeny bit. If you’re safe and feel sexual experimentation makes your evenings better, then do it girl!
Screw Everyone is one of the funniest, bravest works of non-fiction my eyes have come upon. I’m proud to know Ophira and that she took the time to share her humor, love and lust with us. We met up on New York City’s Lower East Side and chatted about raucous romps, women’s rights and how to know when someone is worth your time.
LS: You left your boyfriend back home in Calgary and spent a year traveling Australia in the early nineties. You wrote about calling him collect from payphones.
LS: What the wha? Now we can cyberstalk. When I was in high school we stalked the good old fashioned way. We called it “the psycho drive.” The stalker had someone speed by your crush’s house as you ducked down in the passenger’s seat to see if he/she was home. After our conclusion- the stalker would buy his/her accomplice a slurpie at the Quickie Mart and we’d go home. Now we have Instagram and you can say, “Well, Brent is snowboarding in Utah this weekend.”
Eisenberg: In what set of circumstances should people be subjected to seeing who their exes are dating and then seeing photos of them at parties?
LS: I heard that a lot of twenty-something’s didn’t understand the lack of texting in your relationships. What was that like?
Eisenberg: There were so many miscommunications before the internet that would drive you crazy. The waiting. The waiting. We were all 18th Century women, pining for a letter to arrive. There was nothing instantaneous. While I was traveling Australia, I would tell the hostel workers what city I was traveling to next, and they would send me letters and packages to the “postmaster general” of that location. The funny thing is that in each city that I went to there was a package or letter waiting for me. As far as I know, I didn’t miss one. It seems insane, but it worked. I wrote that guy everyday. I mean… I did spend half my trip at a post office.
LS: You know why the U.S. Post Office announced that there’s no longer mail delivery on Saturday? Because there’s not enough mail anymore!
Eisenberg: They at the post office think, ah that girl with the love letter, she’ll be fine. She’s got a phone now that she can type it up and send it from. I have to say that calling someone and having them not call you back is not as bad as now when you text someone, and they don’t text you back. Just based on the instantaneous nature, it’s way harsher to me.
LS: Now you can see when someone’s writing you back.
Eisenberg: I know, the little bubble… you’re sitting there thinking, what is he saying? I’m thinking about it now, and I feel like Michael, who I wrote about in the book and I would have figured things out quicker if we had smartphones to play out our romance.
Eisenberg: We communicate now on Facebook.
LS: Does he know he’s a character in the book?
Eisenberg: That’s a good question. He knows there is a book. We actually got together five years after we’d ended things and I told him my version of the story. And he told me his side just based on what he was going through. He did not see my desperation. He did not see my love. He saw someone who was unraveling. He was confused if I wanted to connect with him at all.
LS: How do you feel about putting your personal self out there?
Eisenberg: Before the book came out a few people asked, “What do you think about how on page two you come out and say you’re a slut?”
LS: I didn’t even notice that.
Eisenberg: Exactly. And you shouldn’t because I didn’t notice that it was a big deal. What they’re saying is the whole debate about how guys are considered players, but girls are labeled as sluts. Look, I picked these people. I wasn’t standing on a street corner. I went into a bar, saw someone and thought, you. Yes, it was a lot of people, but it was my choice.
LS: I don’t even feel like there were that many guys in the book.
Eisenberg: Haha. Well, not everyone made it. I was warned by an author who wrote a memoir about being part of a harem. She said, “Get ready, people have a very hard time with women owning their sexuality.” She told me to be prepared for some people to pin me up against a wall and call me things like, ‘slut’. We are still a bit backwards on this topic. I don’t usually quote Lord of The Rings, but here we go, “Not everyone who wandars is lost.” Just because I slept around didn’t mean I was a mess. I wasn’t a drug addict, I got good grades, I held down jobs. I felt to some degree that I knew what I was doing. I was making choices and I was very cognizant of them.
LS: I loved in the book when you go to a voodoo doctor in Montreal and tell her your story about a guy. She has two spells, the ‘make him fall in love with you’ spell, and the ‘get over him’ spell. You want the former, but she pushes you to the latter, telling you that spell is half off. She may have been a fraud, but she gave good advice passive-aggressively.
Eisenberg: I’d like to think of myself as an intelligent person, but the stuff that we do for love.
LS: Was it love?
Eisenberg: Unfortunately one of the worst lessons of life is that if you are super crazy in love with someone, it’s not going to work out. It’s not sustainable. It doesn’t work like that. It will bubble over. You’ll look at it and realize that it’s not enough. It sucks because who doesn’t want to be just head over heels? Sooner or later you have to realize that one of you has to do the dishes.
LS: And eventually you’re going to catch your Ryan Gosling in bed eating a pizza from Papa John’s. What about meeting your husband was so different from all the other guys?
Eisenberg: He seemed authentically nice and moral. There were some guys who I dated when they expressed their problems to me, I didn’t understand it. They were a level of complicated that I think requires some intense help on some level. When I met Jonathan, I felt like he meant what he said. If we had plans at 4 PM- there he was. He had character. One of the first things I thought was, “This guy will not f–k me over.”The thing is, I was ready for that. It’s all about timing. If I had met him when I first moved to NYC, I would have thrown him away.
LS: What do you think of the devoid in character in humans in general?
Eisenberg: With my husband, and this sounds terrible, he was bullied very badly when he was a kid. There is no upside of what he went through. But I feel like he took all that horrible stuff and it made him a better person. He volunteers with the Make a Wish Foundation. His goal is to make other kids’ lives better who were in worse situations than he was. I think when you feel like an outsider it forces you to gain character and perspective.