Review: Megan Boyle’s “Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee”

“Some moments are not meaningful at all,” Megan Boyle writes on 4.03.2009 in Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee.

When I read this line, I felt like something or other had come “full circle.” Megan Boyle, mascot of a genre of “Bret Easton Ellis-Meets-Gchat” literature, was echoing a statement that ironically led to my own quitting of chat for about 7 years. I made this decision when it occurred to me that I had just wasted about 2 hours of my life playing “devil’s advocate” to my friend Hunter, who was off his meds and wanting to talk about how “every moment of your life is amazing.”

But Hunter is not your average BEEMGC reader. Last time I saw him at the grocery store, he explained that he avoids phones and the Internet these days to “get back to nature,” using a peach as a metaphor for intersubjective consciousness (or something).

Megan Boyle, whose native environment is text and chat, does not have these ambitions. It seems as if her main goal – at least right now – is to express what life is really like, no matter the consequences.

Influential women are supposed to tell younger girls not to diet, to be positive, to use condoms or else. Megan fights against this forced “productive sentiment” by directly stating that she’s had sex with 20+ guys, many sans condom, without getting an STD or getting pregnant. She’ll say that she picks her nose and barfs up vodka with blood, and that Xanax “feels sort of like being slowly fucked in oppressive heat.” But while many writers overshare in a way that says, “I’m so quirky but loveable because I’m a down-to-earth bro girl,” Megan will go even beyond that. She’ll talk about her negative body image, her attempts to diet and exercise, her desire to have a boyfriend for “2-5 years” despite pretending to not be into relationships. Reading her book is a type of honesty far more true and grim than Tina Fey-style witty self-deprecation.

Unlike comedy writers, Boyle is not interested in using humor to mask the pain. The sadness is there, and the humor is just a product of her being genuinely funny, mostly because she’s so relatable. It’s hard not to read many of her statements and think, “She is just like me. We are such fucking twins.”

“I think I drink because i’d rather not be in a social situation and drinking makes it easier and more fun,” she admits to her co-worker, while wondering if her co-worker has just lost all respect for her.

She cringes when a woman in her philosophy class has to report on her answer to “Is Megan living her life the fullest?” and she replies inaccurately, “Megan said she was 72% living her life to the fullest because she tries to make the best of every situation.” I related so hard that I giggled out loud in my bed.

I almost felt like I was reading my own diary when she rants about how she didn’t like a movie (“Away We Go”) for so long that has to apologize to her mom, who “looked at the wall and appeared lost in thought and said it was okay in a sad voice.”

In many ways, this book feels like a young adult novel that teenagers will use to gauge whether they are “normal” or not as they enter their 20s. Even the thin paper and small font remind me of scandalous confessionals about everything from desperately wanting to get your period to crack abuse.

But despite her negativity and insecurity, it’s clear that Megan Boyle is likeable because she’s thoughtful, witty and comfortable with herself. In the short poem/post “elevated self-esteem as a result of alcohol consumption,” she writes simply:

i want to go to the gym
and pretend the weight machines are drums
and play the longest drum solo on them

everyone will stop working out
to look at me
gradually, a crowd will gather
people will nod their heads
and whisper to each other
‘what is she doing?’
“i don’t know, but i like it’

My first thought was to picture my mom cracking up and thinking, “Well isn’t she so cute!?

Something for everyone? Not quite. But Selected Unpublished Blogposts is worth the less than 2 hours it takes to read. The only problem with it is that it seems so effortless that it’s bound to spawn copycats all over the world, many of them lacking the originality and talent that made Megan Boyle and her husband Tao Lin so blogger famous.

-Becky Lang