In about a month, my life might change. A year after I signed with United Talent Agency, I am a few short weeks away from sitting in a room with some big wigs from some major networks in a nice dress and explaining to them, with the help of my production company and showrunner, why my life would make a great show. And, hopefully one better than Girls.
If you asked me three years ago when I started a little blog called Chasing the Jersey if this is where I thought I would end up, I'd tell you I didn't even know what a showrunner was.
I've come a long way. And I barely remember the nerves I had when I posted my first sordid story about hooking up with an athlete. However, I do remember the phone call from a CNN producer shortly after my blog went up in 2010 asking if I’d be willing to do a segment with Tucker Max on women, sex, and blogging.
I freaked the fucked out, to be honest. The blog had been anonymous and I wasn’t sure how I felt about suddenly putting my face to a bunch of stories about bad sex, cleat chasing and past relationships. What if I could never get a job again after this? What if people hated me?
I sent an e-mail to Tucker Max. Why? I have no fucking idea. I think because I convinced myself that my writing was in some realm of the same self-deprecating shameless genre as his, so maybe he could give me some advice. I asked him for help. I asked how he got over the fear that his book could have thrown his Duke law degree in the garbage. I asked him how to do it. From one writer to another. I even mentioned that we might be on CNN together.
I don’t really remember the entire e-mail response I got for him. Possibly because I didn’t read it all, possibly because by the end of it my hands were shaking so badly I had to take Xanax at work to calm my ass down. I vaguely remember him starting it with “Shut the fuck up, I don’t feel sorry for you at all because you tried to cheat the system by being anonymous” and ending with “Get a fucking therapist and shut the fuck up.”
If I had the balls then that I have now, I’d have probably told him to go fuck himself and that his stories are probably 75% made up.
Unfortunately, I didn’t. The CNN segment never panned out, and I never spoke to Max again. Thank fucking God.
What I did do was immediately out myself on the blog. I was not going to cheat the system as he said. I kept up the blog despite some pushback, including a lovely note left on my mom’s car at the parking lot of the Long Island Rail Road train station which said, “You must be proud of the slut you raised."
For a few months after that—particularly while trying to get a publishing house interested in a book to go with the blog—I compared myself to Max. It just seemed to fit. “The female Tucker Max”. It encompassed most of the shit I wrote about while giving it an air of credibility. Sex, humor, shamelessness. People got it.
Then I heard a story about a young intern who happened to see Max at the bar. As it was told, she went up to him simply to say "Hello" and to tell him she really enjoyed his book, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. Max allegedly cut her off and said something along the lines of, “Do you really think I came here to get hit on by fat chicks?” For no fucking reason.
The girl reportedly went to the bathroom in hysterics. Two other people told Max if he couldn’t keep his dickhead persona in check, they were going to ask him to leave.
Then came Karen Owen, the author of the infamous "Duke Fuck List." A girl who had no problem with admitting she had a healthy and at times humorous sex life. I read Max’ response to her and at first was surprised. He actually seemed to be sticking up for her.
Then three paragraphs down, he called her an ugly sorority slut who was "a cum dumpster," "nothing more than life support for a vagina." He said she wasn't empowering to women and that she was a sad little girl who needed a hug. He has no idea who Karen is. Doesn’t know she goes to Yale now, doesn’t know she’s a great person. Doesn’t know shit about her sex life or her level of confidence. She was simply a mediocre-looking girl with no active opinions or participation in the sex she had, other than to be a semen bank for the guys SHE chose to have sex with. And then mock.
Apparently, Max is the only one who can enjoy sex and write about it. Everyone else who does it—'specially us women folk—have no relevant opinions. Perhaps my favorite Tucker Maxism was his assertion that there are no double standards when it comes to women talking about sex and men talking about sex, because apparently, Sarah Silverman can make abortion and rape jokes and not get people angry. Yeah, thanks dude, what a fucking trade off.
It wasn’t until an editor at Deadspin, who I had pitched a story to, gave me the best advice someone has ever given me.
“Stop comparing yourself to Tucker Max. You are a better writer than Tucker Max and it’s not going to help you to associate yourself with someone like him.”
I didn’t have the book sales or notoriety. Or the money. But one editor telling me that suddenly made me realize it was more important to be good at what you do than to have a jarring way of getting people to read your shit. And that’s what Max does. Like Lady Gaga, he puts on a fucking dress made of meat, and he performs. And you know what, no one talks about the great writing. They just talk about the outrageousness of the escapades (...that I still totally think are partially made up). That doesn’t make him a good writer, nor does it make him talented. It makes him a sideshow fuck.
In a Forbes profile last year, Max brags about being a good guy, dating a nurse now or something, and yet, in his late-thirties, still talks about how popular and good-looking he was during undergrad and how much tail he pulled. I don’t know how because dudes who looked like him at Maryland did not fuck at any rapid rate he claims to have fucked. Let me remind you, he went to The University of Chicago. I know two things about the University of Chicago: 1. It’s hard to get into and 2. it is known to have one of the least attractive student bodies of any university. I once went on a date with an alum, when he started talking about how he didn’t slum it with public school girls like me. I mentioned the reputation, and threw out that “it’s pretty obvious as Tucker Max went there”.
Last week, while explaining my book, blog, and show to someone, they dropped the TM bomb. “So, like a girl version of Tucker Max?”
Three years ago I’d have said "yes" and maybe even been happy that someone saw what I was doing with this level of credibility a guy who sold upward of two million copies of his book. Today? I shook my head and said “No. I am nothing like Tucker Max.”
I don't envy Max because he made money off of a shtick that if he doesn’t stick to it anymore, he loses the credibility he has left. Like Lady Gaga, he has to do and say outrageous shit in order to maintain the persona that made him famous. Lady Gaga dresses in raw meat and wears makeup to bed and never uses her actually name, Stephanie, because her entire empire is built on an idea that no one is really made of. So is Tucker Max. Do you think anyone would give a shit about this average guy with a law degree if he didn’t treat everyone he came in contact to like he was God?
I used to want to be the female Tucker Max. And then I realized that guy from Deadspin was right. I have my shtick—my show will be about the things I blogged about. But I write about other things, other projects. My entire literary existence doesn’t revolve around making girls cry or embarrassing other girls by name. It doesn’t include calling people "fags" and it certainly doesn’t include acting like a dickfuck frat guy when I’m closer to 40 than I am to 20.
Tucker Max is a dick. And I don’t mean that in the “Du Stef, look what he writes” way. I mean that I've never felt so bad for someone with such a shitty reputation that probably isn’t even true, simply because it makes him money. It’s like gay dudes who are ministers and preach against being gay because it makes them cash. Is the money worth it? I don’t think so. At the end of the day, whatever money he has, I have to wonder, is it worth all the shitty things people say about him? Interns? Waiters? Girls? Professionals? A lot of people don’t even want to work with him. People used to refer to him as "the ultimate Bro," which is an embarassment to the genuine, sincere bros of the world who just want to be stand-up guys. What the fuck is "bro" about this guy? There is no one redeeming quality about him that has ever been witnessed in the public eye. He claims he’s a great boyfriend and people like him and his friends know him, but when you’re someone like Tucker Max, wouldn’t you want one glimmer of goodness on your resume?
If he reads this, and cares enough to respond, it’ll be scathing. He’ll talk about how he doesn’t find me attractive and how I’m a cum dumpster and go for some other low blows—all shit I’ve heard and couldn’t give a shit about. This is a guy so worried about people really seeing him for what he is—a nerdy, less than mediocre-looking guy pushing forty still living in his glory days of college which, for all anyone knows, could be a greater work of fiction than Harry Potter. Who knows? Is he a successful author? Sure. But if you listen to him speak about himself, you’d swear he was the Steven Speilberg of books. His second book sucked so bad I stopped reading halfway through because all I kept thinking was “This is such a crock of made up shit." The movie? I barely caught a bit of it on Showtime (... did it ever even make it in theaters?) and all I could laugh about was that he strategically picked to play him a good-looking actor whose claim to fame was Gilmore Girls. That’s like me getting Miranda Kerr to play myself in a biopic. The movie was panned and since then, I don’t know what Max is doing. He recently popped up talking about theater "fags" because off-Broadway is producing I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. Let me just ask, in this day and age, what normal, adult dude with a basic learning level above ninth grade thinks it’s cool or appropriate to refer to anyone as a "fag?" I’m pretty sure that word stopped being relevant (...unless you’re a member of the Westboro Baptists Church) when Can’t Hardly Wait came out in 1998.
People might mock what I write, but I don’t think I will ever want my reputation to be formed around the idea that I am a shitty person people need to be wary of. An unapproachable asshole who thinks so highly of herself that she constantly just needs to be a rude fuck. College guys put this guy on a pedestal for a long time, and I get why. But honestly, who at 37 wants to be the same selfish asshole they were at 20? And better yet, who at 37 wants to be known not for the good shit you accomplished as you grew up and grew a set of balls (which taught you that a little humility goes a long way), but for the fact that you took a dump in a kitty litter box? Congrats kid, you didn’t plateau in high school, but it’s safe to say you plateaued in college. What an accomplishment.
I am not the female Tucker Max. I write stories about the sex and relationships I’ve had. I’ve never used names, I’ve never ridden coattails, and I’ve never made an intern cry at a bar.
I think I speak for a lot of people—including a lot of guys who are so burnt out on the idea that this kind of immature bullshit is what keeps Max’s name in the press—when I say "Fuck Tucker Max." He might think he owns the sex and crass humor writing market, but even if it's not me, someone will take his place with a sense of humility and self-awareness that ugly fuck so desperately lacks. His book will eventually be used in a low-level sociology class, teaching the shitty parts of college culture in the mid-nineties.
Follow Stef Williams on Twitter here.