Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Interview: Sascha Rothchild.

It is sort of like Mortified Week around here at Austin Eavesdropper.

Not only is TONIGHT the first of two performances for Mortified: Austin that I will partcipate in, both at the Alamo Drafthouse - Nervous! Excited! Back to nervous! - but today, Sascha Rothchild, my fellow Mortified alum, joins the bloggy to discuss her brand new memoir, How to Get Divorced by 30: My Misguided Attempt at a Starter Marriage (Plume / Penguin Books).

Back when GARY! posted on Mortified and Sascha specifically a few months ago, we were both so pumped when she left a comment. Since then, Sascha and I have traded emails, and she is quite lovely. Sascha is based in LA, where she is a television producer, freelance writer, and now author, in the middle of a big fancy book publicity campaign.

Now I'll be honest. Friends, as a young, nubile wife myself with high hopes for my marriage, I had a little bit of trepidation opening up Sascha's memoir. But I was pleasantly surprised to find How to Get Divorced by 30 as kind, funny and insightful as it was. Not bitter. Not even a little. Sascha's story focuses on the dissolution of her marriage, it's true, but it also uncovers a fraught relationship with her body, an episode where she was (literally) dragged underneath a train, and a lovable, quirky set of parents. These were story elements I was not expecting, and I enjoyed the time I spent with How to Get Divorced by 30.

Without further blahbitty-blah from me then, here is Sascha talking to Austin Eavesdropper about her new book!:

First of all, tell us a bit about yourself Sascha. In addition to being an author, you are also a television producer and a (fellow!) Mortified performer, yes?

I was raised in Miami Beach in the eighties which meant lots of drugs, drag queens and neon. I began writing in a dairy when I was very young and never stopped, which has proven to be very helpful throughout my life. After high school I went to Boston College, where I concentrated in play writing and tried my best to offend the uber-conservative white baseball cap wearing students. A week after graduation I moved to Los Angeles to begin my writing career. A year later I met a brilliant guy, Dave Nadelberg, who found an old letter he had written to a girl in high school. Thankfully he never gave said girl the letter and still had it locked away in a drawer. When he read it aloud to hysterically laughing friends, he realized he had discovered the bad writing of our youth could be turned into great entertainment. He started the show MORTIFIED and I was lucky to be a performer in that very first show and have been performing ever since. Because I have hundreds of diaries I have a lot of material from which to cull. My 13-year old "coke whore" piece is in the Mortified's first book and was featured on "This American Life." Once I moved to LA I began working in television, mostly writing game show questions and creating illustrious reality shows. I recently sold a teen drama to ABC Family but sadly it will not be seeing the light of day this season. I am currently a producer on VH1's show Tough Love.

One of the chapters in How to Get Divorced opens with: "From day one Jeff and I clearly saw each other's differences, but we reveled in our opposites." It was eventually these differences, though, that unraveled your union. Why do you think that is?

Opposites might attract but if they are needed to even the other person out, eventually both people will resent constantly being forced up or down, which is what happened with us. In my twenties I loved Jeff's super laid-back attitude since I was so hyper. But as I matured and chilled out a bit on my own, his laid-back-ness just seemed lame. And to him my chronic type-A personality got extremely annoying. Also, once we felt secure in the marriage (which is a good thing) we gave up on trying to even be a part of each other's very different lives (which is a bad thing.) I no longer pretended to care about the Cubs and would not watch games with him. He no longer pretended to like my friends and would not go to parties with me. So we lived opposite lives under one roof while being constantly frustrated with one another.

You talk about your marriage, its problems, and the divorce in this book - but one slightly tangential thing I found equally compelling was "Sausage," the nickname for your heavier self. Tell us how your self-image played into this story, and also, how it seeped its way into your marriage.

As a child my nickname was Sausage and it has haunted me, to quote the book, "like a phantom double chin." Jeff was a bigger guy so when I was in his arms I felt tiny, which made me feel pretty, which made me feel good. My previous boyfriend took ever opportunity to let me know I was getting fat (the usual prods to do more cardio, the comments about me eating froyo from the container in the freezer, the disdainful stares when I was in a bikini) so when I met Jeff, and found he was not judgmental about my body at all, I reveled in being with someone who didn't think I was a sausage. But with major post divorce therapy I have come to realize I shouldn't rely on any guy to make me feel good or bad about my weight. I can do that all on my own!

There's a line in your book that goes, "While I was dating Jeff I would vehemently denied all this timetable stuff because I despised girls who wanted to get married just for the sake of marriage. But, as with all the other established goals in my life, I was pursuing this one as well." Why?

I was always the girl who never thought about wedding dresses, cared about carat size, or my future kid's names, but I secretly still wanted to be married. I wanted someone to love me so much they would commit to me for life. I wanted to feel secure and done. Like I got the marriage out of the way and would therefore feel happy and settled. I bought into the Prince Charming myth even though I never expected my Prince to be rich, or handsome, or have a white horse, or even be all that charming. So I wanted the myth to come true, but then made fun of the trappings of the myth, thinking it protected me from falling prey to the myth in the first place. It wasn't until I was married and divorced and really dissected the whole thing I realized my plan had failed. I was as indoctrinated as all the girls I hated, the only difference being I didn't even demand a nice ring.

My favorite part in your book is the episode in 1996, when you jump too soon for a closing train door, are dragged underneath the train, and are very nearly killed. I liked how you tied that episode in again at the end of the book, saying something like, "had I not jumped so impulsively, I would have made the next train, but would also have never felt the calm and nirvana that comes with almost dying. Had I not married Jeff so impulsively, I may not have gotten divorced, but I would also have never learned to look at myself so closely, or figure out how to build a healthy marriage." --It goes something like that. After your experience, why do you still believe in the institution of marriage?

I believe in marriage because I have seen it work first hand. My parents are happily married, totally in love, and have been together for 36 years. But they are both each other's second spouse. So I also believe some people need to make a wrong choice to get to the right choice.

I always wonder how relations are between the author and their subject when a book like this comes out. So, uh, how's Jeff? 

HAAAA! I don't know how Jeff is at this very moment but last I saw him, which was a few months before the book came out, he was doing well living exactly where he wants to live and exactly the way he wants to live, with no nagging wife in sight.

Thank you for swinging by Austin Eavesdropper, Sascha!


Breanna said...

Nice interview! I haven't read the book but I already love it. I definitely share some of Sascha's sentiments about marriage.

See you tonight, T!

Hipstercrite said...

Wow! Terrific interview! I'm really interested in reading the book now.

That Chelsea Girl™ said...

Great interview! I'll keep my eyes opened for the book. Can't wait to hear about how Mortified went...take care!

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Breanna - I know, Sascha is great because she is very forthright about her complex feelings about marriage. It's not an easy subject, you know? (Real world example: MONIQUE is in an open marriage!)

@Hipstercrite - Thanks Lauren, you and Sascha would like each other. Same wry, sharp humor.

@Chelsea - Thanks woman! This book / Mortified were both delightful!! All the performers last night were so cute and funny; we were (pleasantly) surprised by how much everyone laughed. A very supportive crowd. (Which you need when reading your OLD DIARIES)

courtney said...

Tolly- I brought my bf out to Mortified last night for date night, and we both loved it! GREAT job! Now he has been inspired to dig out some old diaries and audition. Sadly, I never had the attention span to keep a diary...I think I might have one that holds about 5 entries spanning 10 years! Ha! Anyway, way to go last night...we enjoyed laughing at your expense :)

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@courtney - I cannot access your blog or else I would come shower digital love on you!!! Anyway, dude, that's awesome that you guys came out. Your BF should totally audition. When I auditioned, I came home and announced to my husband that I bombed, plain and simple. I was not funny, AT ALL. But the producers work with you to make your piece funny, and doing this kind of thing makes you realize how *lame* and *awkward* we all were! And in that, there is great comfort. :)

Anyway, thank you thank you again for coming!