On Tuesday, news of the Awl's closure spread far and wide, and I thought to myself: But what about the Hairpin? The Awl's sister site is closing, too, and with it I feel my youth slipping away, because while I always had a crush on the Awl, the Hairpin was me, the first internet publication I read and thought: I am the target audience for this. I belong. And everyone on here is like a cool, funny witch.
I became a loyal lurker in 2011, shifting my blog loyalties from Jezebel to the Hairpin overnight. In Jezebel's early days, it had been funny and mildly weird. But it had developed a cool-girl vibe I didn't connect with, and a contrarian streak that tried my patience. But the Hairpin, then edited with humor and care by Edith Zimmerman, was expressly designed for weird, smart girls like me. I don't mean weird like "lol I'm so RANDOM," I mean weird like I don't know how to do makeup, I dress like a 12-year-old boy, I listened to Loreena McKennitt as a teen, and can we SERIOUSLY get some Jane Eyre jokes going?
I say "girls" because I really was a girl when I discovered the Hairpin. I was only 23. I'd graduated from college straight into a terrible economy. Most of my friends who were out of school worked retail and lived at home, and I was interning at our sister paper The Stranger, where I spent several days a week slogging through public records requests and police reports and hoofing it through the rain to the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle and loving every moment. I hardly ever got good scoops, and I didn't care. We didn't have analytics back then, just a chatty commentariat, and anyway, I was an intern, so my mission was to exceed low expectations every day, and I accepted it with a level of scrappy joy I hadn't known I could feel about work. You need me to cover an inquest into an officer-involved shooting? I'm on my way. New information in the Green River Killer case? Why not, I'm already a block from the King County Executive's Office. Also do you want me to go to the State Capitol at 4 a.m. to interview crazed anti-abortion activists tomorrow? Because I really would like to. Can I?
I worked part-time as a barista, but I already knew journalism was my vocation. After work, I'd take two buses home to my parents' mother-in-law apartment and read Jezebel and the Hairpin on the couch while eating a box of Wheat Thins for dinner. It was honestly one of the happiest times in my life.
That year, the Hairpin invaded my writing voice and made it better, and because I was writing for an alternative weekly, it was a good fit tonally. I felt free to sound as weird and sincere as I was—and recall, I was 23, so I was both of those things. During the years I spent reading the Hairpin, I found writers whose work I loved: Mallory Ortberg, Jia Tolentino, Nicole Cliffe, Jane Marie (whose beauty tutorials really helped with the Makeup Problem), Lola Pellegrino, Casey Johnston, Lindsay King-Miller, and whoever it was who wrote the wonderful Ask a Dude and Ask a Lady advice columns, which helped me through more than one mid-twenties meltdown.
Though I've written for surviving Awl offshoot the Billfold, and the Toast, the now-defunct site founded by Hairpinners that carried on the Hairpin's legacy during a gap in editorship, I never wrote for the Hairpin itself—by the time I was writing professionally again after a stint in grad school, Zimmerman had left, and while the site was still a good read, it wasn't quite as giddily delightful as it had been when I first discovered it.
But just yesterday, I took a look at the Hairpin again, and found a list entitled "If Every Clash Song Were About Wine." It's literally just a list of Clash songs with key phrases replaced with the word "wine"—"'Rudie Can’t Wine,' 'Spanish Wines,' 'The Wine Profile,' 'Lost In the Winestore.'" Objectively, this is not a very funny or good joke. But I read the list in its entirety and laughed out loud the whole way through, because I know all those songs and, sorry, imagining the sound of "To-o-o-o-mmy WINE" was just what I needed after a rough couple days for the internet. And so the Hairpin goes out the way it came in, by publishing a post I and probably three other people will find hilarious, as weird and smart as it ever was.
So thanks, the Hairpin. That year spent with you as a 23-year-old, getting heavy edits from better writers, and combing endless stacks of public records requests? That was my version of weirdo J-school. It gave me everything I needed. I remain, as ever, your grateful admirer.