The Pinocchio Syndrome

It’s a source of great pride for us that we have never once uttered the words “Have you checked out our blog?” or “You should listen to the podcast we did on that.” We may spend most days posting some variation on those sentiments to social media, but in the so-called real world, knowing how insufferable such sentiments can sound, we’ve always avoided making them. Blogging is one of those odd professions – like taxidermist – that people know about on some level but always react with surprise when faced with a person who actually does it for a living. “And you… make money off that?” is a question every doctor either of us has seen in the last decade has asked us. Now we just tell people we’re in web development. It’s easier and we won’t have the temptation to fall back on our usual bitchy response any time someone asks the astonishingly obnoxious “Have I ever read anything of yours?” (A slow and deliberate head-to-toe silent assessment of their person before wrinkling the nose and replying condescendingly, “Probably not.”)

No one could ever accuse us of being pioneers. We came to blogging in 2006, just as the wave was cresting. We launched our podcast in 2015, just as the phrase “Check out my podcast” became a cliché. Similarly, we can’t claim we’re coming to the newsletter game early. If anything, the moment may have already passed. But our entire career as writers/critics/publishers is defined by the two of us carving out a place in crowded spaces and stubbornly planting ourselves in the cracks until roots took hold.

Okay, that series of metaphors may have gotten away from us, but you know what we mean. If the question is “Why a newsletter, guys?” (and that is the default question here), then the answer is, because it’s here, because having multiple platforms and approaches is essential for independent media figures like us, and because it’s time for us to get over our Pinocchio syndrome and accept that we’re real live writers. A pop culture, celebrity or fashion blog post is written 1-2-3; published sometimes within minutes of its conception. Television and film reviews are often written on the fly, with or without access to screeners simply because the daily blogging schedule can be somewhat brutal at times and isn’t conducive to long-term planning or long-form posting. And we love every bit of it. It’s up to others to determine if we’re any good at it, but there’s no denying that when it comes to writing, we are prolific as fuck.

Even so, it took many years and career milestones for us to shake the persistent feeling that we’re self-published amateurs with a good enough hook to make a living out of it; like musicians with careers writing ad jingles. Self-published blogging always came with an assumption of dilettantism or amateurism, whether on the part of some readers or on the part of members of mainstream, institutionalized media. To this day, we still have to state our bona fides if we want screeners, interview access or fashion show seats, with reports on daily page impressions, podcast downloads, critical reviews and links to our books offered every time we make a request. And honestly, that’s fine. That’s part of the job, which is like almost all jobs in that it has its downsides and its benefits. Being independent means we get full control over our work and how we make our living, but it also means we never have the kind of institutional status that comes from being a blogger for, say New York Magazine or even Jezebel. We tried several dozen times to be admitted into certain professional critics associations and gave up when it became clear we were never going to be considered because we wrote for a self-named blog. Once you hang out your own shingle, you have to know that you will spend the rest of your career proving yourself over and over again and sometimes, you’re just going to hit a wall on acceptance. If you don’t write to maintain an audience big enough to support you, then you don’t eat. It’s primal and simple and it’s why independent blogging and vlogging initially attracted so many extreme sorts of personalities and otherwise unhireable misfits. Keep your critics associations. We didn’t want to join your smelly old group anyway. *kicks dirt*

It seems an act of ego to name a website after yourselves, but at the time, we felt we needed a sharp rebranding away from “The PR Gayboys” as we used to be known (causing a lot of early readers to assume we’re Puerto Rican). There are times (like when we tried applying to certain critical associations) when we wondered if it was a mistake to give the impression that ours was some sort of personal blog. But there’s also real value in having your name and your work irrevocably tied together when you don’t have that institutional sort of media backing. Every business and creative decision we’ve made since has, on some level, come from the understanding that there are people who want to hear what we have to say; an understanding that isn’t an ego-based assumption but one directly attributed to those very numbers we need to cite every time we ask to be treated like press. When you own every aspect of your writing or your podcast, including the not-inexpensive-to-maintain platforms upon which they are hosted, you learn to write according to the audience response and the whims of the market.

But in the last several years, we’ve ticked off a few professional milestones, not least of which was our last book, which not only stretched muscles we didn’t know we had (historical non-fiction being an entirely new arena for us), but tingled the pleasure centers of our brains in a way that blogging, despite its many charms and bonuses, never did. We’ve also had the opportunity to write some more personal essays for mainstream publications and newspapers, tentatively dipping our toe into a pool we’d long felt we didn’t have a right to swim in. After over a decade of fighting the impression that we’re just a couple of jingle-writers who lucked into a long-term gig, we proved to ourselves that we can write longer pieces on a broader range of topics; that we can take time to put together actual essays instead of posts.  

Not that there’s anything wrong with posts! Or blogging, for that matter. It will probably always be our first love and our primary platform. If we can’t get up on a weekday and address our darlings or our kittens and chat about fashion or celebrities like the chatty gays we are, we’d be lost. But we crave a little broadening of our career parameters and a chance to write in a voice that’s hopefully just as approachable as our blogging selves, but a bit more considered and thoughtful because we can publish what we want, when we want, on whatever topic we feel like writing about. We’ve proudly called ourselves “Fabulous & Opinionated” in the tagline to our blog, but that’s really not the vibe we’re going for here. It sounds more than a little precious to claim that we’re shooting for humility in this project, but there’s a reason we chose the title we did. “Twirling Through It.” We want this to be a place where we literally work our way through whatever thoughts or issues we feel like discussing; not a personal journal or blog; we’ve never considered ourselves interesting enough to talk about our daily life. A place to sit, look out at the world, and contextualize it a little, if we can.

Our blog has always been conceived as a sort of online equivalent of sitting in the breakroom and flipping through celebrity and fashion mags with the two chattiest gays in the office. In the wake of the pandemic and the civil unrest of the last few years, it’s become a place where people can go to escape whatever it is they’re trying to get away from in their day; schoolwork, bill-paying, child-rearing, relationship troubles, social anxiety – whatever’s got you stressed. And we love that. We consider it a privilege and an honor to be the tumbling little jesters spewing nonsense to help you get through the next five minutes of your day. But this endeavor, we hope, will become the place where you can maybe explore or dive a little into the issues of the day, in a way that isn’t didactic or stressful. We wanted to make the tagline for this newsletter “When we figure it out, we’ll let you know,” but we don’t think we need to be so goal-oriented here. The point isn’t to figure things out here. The point is to lightly twirl your way through them.

We’ve attributed our longevity in this self-published game to one thing above all others: We keep our mouths shut if we don’t have a decent grasp of the topic. It may seem like blogging is nothing but spouting off, but trust us on this, if that was all there was to it, everyone would be a successful blogger. The good ones stay in their lanes. Well, the road crew just left (sorry you missed them they were all hot) and it looks like our lane just got a little wider. We can tell you that partisan politics is not likely to be a major focus, but we will check in on political and social movements, whether it’s issues facing the LGBTQ+ community or the Black Lives Matter movement, #TimesUp or other issues of national interest that connect to larger issues of culture and society. But we’ll also probably have cat pictures, recipes, deals on fashion and home decor, book discussions, interviews and responses to the stories of the day or the social media blowups of the week. Like everything else we’ve done since we first hung out our shingle, your response is going to indicate the direction of this newsletter. And we’re so, so, so excited to explore a platform that can be both more intimate and more formal than blogging.

Subscribing is free for now and will give us some feedback on direction and content, so we’d really appreciate it if you’d mash that button. We will send out a new newsletter a minimum of twice a week, but we’re hoping to shoot for every other day. Come with us on our adventures as real, live boys.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with a name for our new mascot, that beautiful twirling, dot-eyed lady in our banner.