Early during shelter-in-place orders in Los Angeles, the author of DC Trip and Agorafabulous, public speaker on mental health awareness, and host of the podcast Well, This Isn’t Normal, Sara Benincasa, began crafting hilarious tweets about her travails with her first-ever, cat Polly.
In May, she joined Inside With the Advocate for a candid talk about the challenges of creative work at this time, her bisexual identity, early queer influences, and the rewards of adopting Polly as part of a strategy to cope with isolation during the pandemic.
“I was just going to foster Polly, but after 29 hours I adopted her. It was really a foregone conclusion,” she says.
In her memoir Agorafabulous, Benincasa chronicled her journey with agoraphobia. She also travels the country speaking at colleges and universities about mental health. When it became clear in early March that there were challenging times ahead, she was proactive.
“Going into this [sheltering in place], I knew that I was going to have to add some new aspects to my mental health toolkit because I have medication that works for me, I have meditation and prayer, my sobriety community. And I know what works for me in terms of rest, in terms of not going wild with sugar or caffeine,” Benincasa says.
“I’m going to be alone. I don’t have a partner. My family is in New Jersey. I’m not going to schlep there and quarantine with them, even though that’s what they want,” she says, adding that she considered adopting a dog but ultimately decided on trying to foster a cat.
“Cats are way more independent. They want their own space and solitude, which I relate to personally. And yet they also want companionship and love sometimes,” she says.
In addition to having a day job — she is the author of Real Artists Have Day Jobs (And Other Awesome Things They Don't Tell You in School)—Benincasa launched the podcast Well, This Isn’t Normal on March 16. The series, which aired every weekday for several weeks before going weekly, features interviews with fellow creatives about life in quarantine.
The official description reads:
"Feeling stressed? Author, comedian and recovering agoraphobe Sara Benincasa is here to soothe your soul and maybe make you laugh during a really weird time. Great guests, helpful relaxation techniques, funny little stories, and shout outs to great nonprofits helping folks in need."
With Pride Month around the corner during the May interview, Benincasa also touches on her bisexual identity and early queer images that resonated with her.
"I had no consciousness of what bisexuality was or that you could be bisexual, much less pansexual," she says. "When I was a kid — I was born in 1980, so I’m 39 — I wasn’t allowed to watch Basic Instinct [the 1992 Sharon Stone/Michael Douglas thriller], but I think a predatory bisexual murderer lady would have been who I saw."
“The Kids in the Hall, with all of the gender-bending they did, with Scott Thompson in particular … and to an extent, the other kids in the hall as well, showed me a lot about what comedy could be and different flavors of sexuality," Benincasa says. "The Kids in the Hall showed me another way, also another way to use your vowels as Canadians."
She goes on to discuss some internalized homophobia she had when she was young.
"I was raised Catholic and really internalized a lot of the homophobia and misogyny I was taught in church, even though I wasn’t taught that at home. … My way of rebelling was to lean really hard into church in a way that my parents did not encourage. My dad worked at a birth control company."
"My dad was afraid I was going to join a cult. I think it’s because I was so stoked on church and then just got really into witchcraft. But it turns out I’m just an alcoholic. I just really go whole hog for things," she jokes.
“[The Venn diagram of] where witches and Catholics meet in the middle —it’s just drunkenness."
Watch other episodes of Inside With the Advocate, which features an array of virtual stories with LGBTQ+ artists, trailblazers, and allies including Rosie O'Donnell, Emily Hampshire, Harvey Guillén, Ross Mathews, Kalen Allen, Sherry Cola, Fortune Feimster, Brandy Norwood, Bruce Richman, Tonatiuh, Josh Thomas, Ser Anzoategui, the Indigo Girls, Jojo T. Gibbs, Lena Hall, Mary Lambert, and Dustin Lance Black.