A lot of people haven’t heard of Sara Benincasa. I hadn’t heard of her until she was suggested to me as someone I would really dig. They were right. She reminds me of a young Kathy Griffin or an up and coming Margaret Cho. She’s really a cult star in the making. Of course you have to go cult before you go mainstream and she’s on her way.
She’s written a heartwrenchingly emotional yet hilarious memoir about her life and her affliction with Agoraphobia and panic attacks. I empathized with her as she told the tale of her inability to leave her bed, to even step outside of her apartment due to an irrational fear that had overcome her, and taken over her life. It’s difficult to understand unless you’ve suffered an anxiety-related disorder (social anxiety disorder in my own case). However, Benincasa manages to make the terrifying and debilitating experience of a panic attack almost endearing.
I was lucky enough to speak with Benincasa to discuss her upcoming memoir, Agorafabulous and her feelings on the right wing, gays and lesbians, and what it takes for her to go “bi”.
MOOT: I saw your “Getting Wet With Sara Benincasa” web series. One of which you were with Margaret Cho. What a great idea!
SARA: Yeah, it’s really fun. It’s so much fun. Interviewing people in bathtubs is the best way to really get to know someone.
MOOT: What about your Podcast show, “Sex and Other Human Activities”? With Ben Kissel, and Marcus Parks?
SARA: I do “Sex and Other Human Activities” is me and Marcus Parks, and it’s fun! Last month we had 14,000 downloads so its been growing and growing by leaps and bounds really. We started it about six months ago and it’s a lot of fun. We definitely talk about sex and one other human activity. The latest one that just went up, we talk about sex and we talk about how to deal with a wild hog attack. Marcus is from a 6,000 acre cattle ranch in Texas and they have wild hogs that roam on the property and they will fucking kill you. So he explains what its like when a wild hog “trees” you which is when you have to climb up a tree to get away from it. So yeah, Marcus is like my common law, brother/husband/shrink/best friend. So we do the show and talk about fucking.
MOOT: Yeah it’s a great show, I listen to it.
SARA: Well thank you for listening!
MOOT: So I wanted to ask you your commentary on a few issues. We’re a very political magazine and I wanted to get your thoughts on a few things. One of them being, Christianity and religion in general.
SARA: Well, I think fairy tales are fun! But I don’t think they should determine who I get to put in my pussy.
SARA: So….that’s pretty much how I feel about religion in general.
MOOT: Good answer! What about gays? I know you’re a big gay proponent or you know, gay friendly.
SARA: OOOOHHHH I HATE faggots I think they should just be wiped off the face of the planet.
MOOT: I know, disgusting yeah. I know, on your show, you say you yourself have dipped in the lady pond a couple of times, is that correct?
SARA: I do! I didn’t eat pussy because I was gay, I ate pussy because I never finished my final paper in my Women’s Study course in college. And, you tell me if eating pussy for 45 minutes, with no promise of a “thank you”, much less of an orgasm is equivalent to a 10 page research paper I didn’t write. I think it is. I think I win. And, eating pussy has made me a better feminist. I’m about as gay as Tiger Woods is Asian. It’s like only under certain circumstances and under certain conditions. In the process you know I have defined myself as bisexual and lately I’m sort of wondering if that doesn’t take away from real bisexuals because I think if you’re going to be bisexual, that’s pretty 50/50 and you’ve got that bifurcated sexual identity. I run more, when I’m with a man I’m 75/25, and when I’m single I’m probably running at 65/35 – 60/40 at the most. The bulk of it is always on the side of dick. So I don’t know if it’s right to call myself “bisexual” but I will do that because it explains why I have fingerbanged women.
MOOT: Yeah that helps explain things! (Laughing) And what are your thoughts on Michelle Bachman and right-winged Republicans, and that whole things, what do you feel about that?
SARA: I think Michelle Bachman is a goddess. I think she is the biggest fag hag and really committed. Because most hags will hang out with their fags. They will go to movies, they will go to a bar, they will wait the appropriate time so that their fag can get some dick. Umm, also there’s the bad king of fag hag which doesn’t get signals, but it’s rare that a hag will marry her fag and have 5 children and 23 foster children with him. So I think that she is the World Champion of fag hags, and not just because of her extremely prosaic expression and crazy makeup. She is just really committed to that role and I salute her.
MOOT: I have to agree with you. I have to agree.
MOOT: So tell me about the book, Agorafabulous that you wrote. Tell me how you came to write the book.
SARA: I wrote Agorafabulous because there was a time in my life, in my early 20’s when I was really afraid to leave my house. That was a very interesting period. You get to know a lot about yourself, when you’re afraid to leave your house. You get to know a lot about your house, and various marks on the wall and places where dust tends to collect. But it was also a deeply disturbing time and my bout with agoraphobia represented really the most extreme version of my battle with anxiety, which has been almost a lifelong battle for me. And this has been characterized by panic attacks and generalized anxiety disorder as well as you know the sort of acute sort of dramatic agoraphobia. So I thought, you know, this many years I had been dealing with this through medication and I’ve been dealing with it through therapy and different things and I’m a comedienne and I travel all over the place now to perform and talk about this stuff. I thought I’d like to write a book about so that people that are dealing with it, whether they’re at that extreme end, with agoraphobia or post traumatic stress disorder or something that’s really kind of “showy” like that. Or dealing with something more prosaic, like panic attacks, which are terrifying and a lot more common place than the extreme stuff. I thought I would really like it if I could produce something that could help people because when I was dealing with it, the tough stuff, I found that books were so soothing to me, books about people who had been through depression and anxiety and have come out on the other side.
SARA: The books were almost like teddy bears, I would sleep with them in my bed, I would say that paper cuts were problematic, especially, in the lady region. But they were such a comfort to me and they helped me feel less alone and so I wanted to create something that would help people feel that way. And I also wanted money. So it all worked really well.
MOOT: (Laughing). And so about the anxiety, do you feel like you’re still dealing with that to the same extent? Or, how is that now for you?
SARA: I would say that I am managing it reasonably well. The panic attacks and the depression, I think I am managing reasonably well. I still have problems. I mean while I was finishing my book, I got really depressed again. That was the most stressed I’d gotten since the time period that the book covers. I think that was because, in large part, reliving the incidents that I had recounted in the book. Living it over again was really stressing in and of itself. But I think it’s like, you know addicts use the terms “maintain” once they’ve achieved sobriety then it’s about maintaining it and I think for me a lot of the past ten years has been about maintaining. Generally I have maintained reasonably well. I would say that I’m probably closer to my family because of this and to people my age and in some ways more dependant on them and more dependant on friends perhaps. I would say I’m mostly OK. I would say I’m mostly OK.
MOOT: Well good! Good. Do you think you’ll ever really get rid of it or do you think it’s something, like from my own experience, you just manage like you just said?
SARA: I don’t think you ever…I mean, some people will talk about being cured and I think that’s awesome and I used to be envious and now I just accept it because I know that they may feel cured right now, but that it can pop up at any point in the future.
SARA: I think it is folly to claim that one has been cured of something that can’t be eliminated like a virus and in many ways has to do with how you were raised and how you were wired and all these other things. So, when people say to me, “Oh, you should just do more yoga!” Or, “You should just get to the acupuncturist.” I mean, I love yoga, I love acupuncture, those are awesome, awesome things but, um, you know for me, they don’t take away the crazy.
MOOT: (Laughing) Right. Well where can we pick up your book?
SARA: Well yes! You can go to sarabenincasa.com/thebook which has links to buy it or you can get it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, IndieBound, your local independent retailer! Wherever books are sold! But I’d prefer if people go to sarabenincasa.com/thebook so you can get links to all those places and you can buy corporate, you can buy indie, you can buy whatever the fuck you want. And you can preorder it now and it will be out for real on Valentine’s Day.
MOOT: Great! Can’t wait!
Find out more about Sara Benincasa at sarabenincasa.com.
Photos: Courtesy of sarabenincasa.com.
Photography: Lauren Goldberg & Mindy Tucker.
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