To Refund or Not to Refund, A Tumblr Message Exegesis

Tumblr user stephanieshift — O Stephanie, I don’t want to haunt your Google results forever and I’m sorry, hopefully this is not your real name though I suspect it is — sent Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay a little message in her Ask Box yesterday.

Fuck you for spoiling Gone Girl. I spent real dollars on your book only to get to page 94 and stop reading it, because I now hate you. Which is ironic because the chapter that contains the spoiler is discussing how likability of a character is unrelated to literary worth.

First of all: LOL. Secondly, I truly, truly hope we are all simply misreading her tone. And by misreading I mean reading it correctly but not as she intended. Like maybe she is saying “fuck you” the way some people, um, say fuck you to their friends? Do people do that? A nice, friendly fuck you? You know! Among friends! But then see, “I now hate you,” makes me think she’s kinda joking, like she thinks she is hilarious and brassy and her friends, the ones who she says fuck you to all the time, are always like, “Oh Stephanie? That’s just how she is.” Her tumblr bio says she is a “Louisiana girl” and I grew up in Louisiana and know a few Louisiana girls and I think maybe they do say stuff like, “I now hate you,” and think it’s funny. This is my genuine hope.

But then the last sentence. At first glance I thought she meant that it’s funny (the internet’s working definition of ironic) that she grew to “hate” Roxane Gay while reading an essay about likability. But maybe she is a little closer to irony than I give her credit for: maybe she means that she decided to stop reading the book, implying that the book had no “literary worth” for her, because she how hated Gay, or found her unlikeable, thanks to the spoiler. The irony being that in an essay about likeability and literary worth, Gay made herself unlikeable and…nope it doesn’t hold up. Sorry Steph, I tried.

After thinking about this for just over 40 minutes, I still don’t know if she is being sincere or jocular. I feel like how we answer this question says more about us that it does about stephanieshift. Are people ultimately good? Is Stephanie trying to be “cool” and hoping to strike up some sort of friendship with Roxane Gay, a writer she admires? Is she reacting to the uneven power dynamic between writer and reader, spoiler and the spoiled, and is she “acting out” for attention? Is she doing that thing where she means what she says but the joke is that she’s saying it? Or the joke is that she is a horrible person? Stephanie I’m sorry to say that I am very familiar with this type of humor, though I like to think I do it much more deftly, and GIRL, YOUR TONE IS OFF.

Anyway, moving on. Gay’s response:

Let me know your PayPal address and I will refund the purchase price of the book, but Gone Girl has been out for three years.

On the surface, you might think this reply is far too generous. A refund?! To this woman saying she hates you, whether it’s a joke or not? What?? But like I said, I’ve been thinking about this for the better part of 40 minutes and I like to think I know this situation better than anyone, and, well, does anything say IDGAF better than this? I will refund you, that’s how much better of a person I am than you. That’s how much more reasonable than you I am. You said fuck you to me and I offered you money, money I made from my bestselling book of essays, in which I included a spoiler.

“but Gone Girl has been out for three years,” she says. In other words, “You aren’t funny.” In other words, “I will not follow you,” or, “I will not be your friend.” I do not admire your chutzpah. Send me your Paypal address.

Would that we could all “but Gone Girl has been out for three years,” the stephanieshifts in our lives.

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