Compared to what was going on in the rest of the world in 2010, my problems were essentially trivial. But, in my world, everything was falling apart, and no amount of drunk dialing my ex could solve the major issue, which is that my life lacked meaning and purpose. But, then, with the sighting of a single hashtag (#whitegirlproblems) on my friend Tanner Cohen's Twitter account, everything changed. Upon seeing that magical phrase, I reacted pretty much on par with how our (now) million-plus followers/fans on social media react every day.
That's. My. Life.
At the time, I didn’t consider the phrase “White Girl Problems” to be incendiary or groundbreaking. It just made me laugh. And, at that point in my jobless, boyfriend-less, allowance-less life, laughter was exactly what I needed. Smash cut to a month or so later: Tanner, his brother David, and I had started the Twitter account @whitegrlproblem. It hit a nerve on the Internet — and suddenly, people were losing their shit over it. In one fell swoop, the hashtag #whitegirlproblems summed up and trivialized our lives and our friends’ life experiences in a brilliantly succinct way, and clearly people could relate.
Laughter is the best way to reclaim power from any situation that is bringing you down. White Girl Problems, and the eventual creation of Babe Walker and her books, gave me an outlet to channel my energy and funnel my frustrations through. As the Twitter account evolved into Babe Walker (our joint pseudonym and protagonist) and her world began to come into focus, I was given the gift of a character I not only love to write, but also someone through whom I could live vicariously. Babe’s fictional life allowed me to escape into a fantasy world where I could say and do anything I wanted — with no consequences. And, that’s the beauty of what David, Tanner, and I have done: We invented a character and a world where anything is possible.
The creation and evolution of White Girl Problems is due largely in part to a perfect storm of timing and Internet culture. The fact that David, Tanner, and I are now able to make a living writing as Babe is crazy! Not only did we invent a fictional character and find success online, but we’ve also written two books together while living on opposite sides of the country. Can you imagine trying to do that five years ago? It would have been impossible. We literally owe everything to the Internet. It’s been the perfect arena to test out Babe’s voice and learn what works and what doesn’t work — and, it's the only place where Babe Walker could have been born. So thanks, Internet! You’re the best. Seriously.
Being lucky enough to have people respond to our ideas in a positive way has been amazing, but I can say with certainty that the most rewarding element of this entire process has been learning how to laugh at my own problems. I’ve had family trauma, I’ve lost friends to suicide and drugs, and I’ve had moments where I’ve acted like an insane person and disrespected myself, but I’ve developed the ability to find the humor in everything I’ve been through, no matter how meaningful (or meaningless) it may have seemed. In The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck wrote, “It was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials.” And, for the sake of closing this piece in a thoughtful manner, I’m going to go ahead pretend he was talking about me.
Lara Marie Schoenhals is the author of White Girl Problems and the recently published Psychos. You can find both books on Amazon or on physical bookshelves, wherever those may remain. And, of course, you can find her Twitter.