The instant #1 New York Times and USA Today best seller by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the voices behind the hit podcast My Favorite Murder!
Sharing never-before-heard stories ranging from their struggles with depression, eating disorders, and addiction, Karen and Georgia irreverently recount their biggest mistakes and deepest fears, reflecting on the formative life events that shaped them into two of the most followed voices in the nation.
In Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, Karen and Georgia focus on the importance of self-advocating and valuing personal safety over being ‘nice’ or ‘helpful.’ They delve into their own pasts, true crime stories, and beyond to discuss meaningful cultural and societal issues with fierce empathy and unapologetic frankness.
“In many respects, Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered distills the My Favorite Murder podcast into its most essential elements: Georgia and Karen. They lay themselves bare on the page, in all of their neuroses, triumphs, failures, and struggles. From eating disorders to substance abuse and kleptomania to the wonders of therapy, Kilgariff and Hardstark recount their lives with honesty, humor, and compassion, offering their best unqualified life-advice along the way.” Entertainment Weekly
“Like the podcast, the book offers funny, feminist advice for survivalboth in the sense of not getting killed and just, like, getting a job and working through your personal shit so you can pay your bills and have friends.” Rolling Stone
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Known for her biting wit and musical prowess, Karen Kilgariff has been a staple in the comedy world for decades. As a performer, she has appeared on Mr. Show, The Book Group, and Conan. She then transitioned to scripted television, writing for shows like Other Space, Portlandia, and Baskets. Her musical comedy album Live at the Bootleg was included in Vulture's Best Standup Specials and Albums of 2014.
Georgia Hardstark has enjoyed a successful career as a food writer and Cooking Channel on-camera personality, which began with the invention of the farcical cocktail, The McNuggetini. She went on to co-host a travel/adventure/party show called Tripping Out with Alie & Georgia, and a regular gig on Cooking Channel’s #1 show, Unique Sweets. She capped that off as a repeat guest narrator on Comedy Central’s hit show Drunk History.
Read an Excerpt
GEORGIA: It's all about avoiding the Feeling. You're familiar with the Feeling. It's the regretful, upset, disappointed feeling you get after someone says or does something particularly shitty and you're so taken off guard that your politeness instincts take over so you just ignore it or go with it or kind of shut down. And then later you imagine all the awesome things you could have said or done — all the perfect angles that you could have kicked that person in the shin — and then you're awake at 3:00 A.M. totally mad at yourself for not having said/done/ kicked them. The epitome of fucking politeness is learning how to act in the moment, instead of wishing you had later.
But for women, it's so much more than that. The politeness that we're raised to prioritize, first and foremost, against our better judgment and whether we feel like being polite or not, is the perfect systematically ingrained personality trait for manipulative, controlling people to exploit. We ignore a catcall and seethe inside instead of telling the guy to fuck right off. We don't blow off the dude at the bar who's aggressively hitting on us. And we find ourselves in uncomfortable or straight-up dangerous situations that we absolutely do not want to be in and sometimes don't even know how we got into them. All because being rude is so much harder and scarier than being staunch.
Georgia's Take on Red Flags and Riot Grrrl Courage
Little girls are taught to be polite, to smile pretty and sit up straight, to be nice and accommodating. And then those little girls turn into grown-ass women who've spent years being polite to the detriment of their own wants, needs, and safety. Having been one of those little girls who was taught those rules myself, I'm fucking sick of it. So how's about we kick things off with some thoughts on one of our favorite Murderino battle cries: "Fuck politeness." Fuck the way we were socialized. Fuck the expectation that we always put other people's needs first. And while we're at it, fuck the patriarchy! Yeah, I said it.
But fucking politeness is so much easier said than done, and it's taken me years of practice to even start getting the hang of it after a lifetime of being nice.
In July 1998, about a month after my high school graduation, I escaped the confines of my cloyingly suburban hometown in Orange County, California. I graduated by the skin of my teeth. So much so that when the principal handed me my diploma onstage, he gave me a shit-eating grin and said, "Who'd have thunk it?" Through clenched teeth, I did what I was taught to do: I smiled politely as I accepted my hard-won diploma.
I'd been dreaming of being done with public education and escaping all its bullshit rules since I got detention for yawning too loud when I was in kindergarten, so the dream of college was one I was happy to have neither the academic nor the financial resources to obtain. Instead I moved forty-five minutes away to the sprawling, gritty, insane world that is Los Angeles.
LA had always felt like my real hometown. And not just because I was born there, but I have real roots there. When you live in a transient city like Los Angeles, you tend to meet a lot of people at comedy parties who moved here from wholesome Midwest towns to pursue improv classes, and they can't even fathom that someone would not only be born in Los Angeles but actually raised there as well; you get asked where you're from a lot. My answer is never simple, mostly because saying I grew up in Orange County feels off, like the feeling of sitting in the back seat of your own car. My heart is from Los Angeles and I sprang from my mom's womb in Los Angeles (ew), but I didn't grow up here.
My great-grandparents had emigrated from Eastern Europe to the still-farmland-studded neighboring outskirts of Los Angeles called Boyle Heights, along with a ton of other Jewish immigrants in the 1920s. Later, my grandparents on both sides owned businesses in the equally Jewish-laden Fairfax district, a butcher shop and a barbershop, and my parents went to high school together at Fairfax High on Melrose Avenue. (My once favorite street for vintage shopping.) (More on that later.) But back to the summer of 1998 when I moved into my sweet grandma's midcentury duplex in mid-city where my mother had grown up and I signed up for beauty school.
After eighteen years, I was finally free! I was a grown-up, goddamn it! And I was confident my chutzpah and tenacity would get me through anything. Eighteen-year-olds are stupid that way.
To pay for beauty school classes, I got a job waiting tables at a cute little breakfast spot in Santa Monica that specialized in various pancake situations. Being a waitress always felt like such an "adult" job, and I loved it immediately despite the country theme that made wearing overalls an employment requirement. Nobody looks good in overalls. Except maybe Chrissy Teigen, and even then she'd be like, "Fuck this shit."
I worked the breakfast shift, which meant early morning beach weather, so warm, but overcast and cloudy. It gave the restaurant a cozy, homey vibe, until the marine layer burned off midafternoon and was replaced by that glorious Southern California sunshine that burns brightly despite the smog and exhaust that're slowly killing us all, a fair trade-off for 360 days of sunshine.
I'd drink cup after cup of burned black coffee, and I became friendly with the cook who took pity on my overcaffeinated and underfed body so he'd always sneak me a huge blueberry waffle with a side of extra-crispy bacon to take home at the end of my shift.
And when I say underfed, I mean it was the '90s in LA and I wasn't eating. But truthfully, it wasn't due to the '90s or LA, although I wish I could just blame the time and place. Blaming inanimate stuff is so much easier than taking responsibility for your actions! My eating disorder has been a lifelong affliction, even though I didn't know starving yourself to be prettier was a problem or abnormal until I was much older. I grew up with the typical suburban WASP ethos of: a woman's job is to make men love her or else she's worthless, and men only love women who are beautiful and thin and don't complain a lot. Suburban WASPs don't spell it out like that, but if you've watched one episode of The Real Housewives of Wherever the Fuck, you know it's basically their motto. So at eight years old, I was alarmingly skinny. The kids at school called me "the Ethiopian." Hurtful and culturally insensitive at the same time! Kids are so clever!
In my tiny still-forming mind, there was nothing worse than gaining weight. Where did little kid Georgia learn such bullshit? Cut to my mother's room: She's standing naked in front of the mirror and grabbing a handful of her soft belly. I'm right there, and she calls herself "fat" with absolute disgust dripping from her voice. I watched her hate her body, and it's impossible for an eight-year-old not to pick up on that type of behavior. And society was fucking brutal to her because not only did she DARE to have a body with curves, but she was ... (looks left, looks right, lowers voice) ... a single mother. The nerve! And her socially unacceptable single mother–ness resulted in isolated loneliness that she was told, like all women, to blame on her body.
Consider yourself lucky if you never joined the club of kids from broken homes who had the unsettling experience of being privy to our parents' dating lives. For most of us card-carrying members, it was our first glimpse of how human our parents actually are, an earth-shattering realization at any age.
My parents divorced when I was five, so I had front-row seats to my mother's dating life. I'd best describe her style as "I Need to Find a Husband or I'm Going to Turn into a Witch and Be Burned at the Stake." My mother was (still is) a timeless beauty — she's also smart and funny — but when she was dating someone, I'd watch her turn werewolf-style from a competent, determined authority figure into this entirely not-her version of herself: a desperate, overly flirtatious, subservient ding-dong for shitty men who'd inevitably dump her and leave her in tears. And yes, this is harsh, but this type of personality-corrupting toxic masculinity bullshit didn't spring up from within her out of nowhere. She was taught to do this, taught that acting sweet, deferential, and noncombative was her best chance at securing a man, aka happiness.
I watched her cycle through emotionally unavailable single fathers with mustaches and Volvos. They all promised her the world and charmed the crap out of her by being nice to her weird kids: Asher, Leah, and the angelic youngest ... me. But eventually all those dads realized we were a hot- mess family of hyperactive neediness that presented itself as a bottomless abyss full of red wine (Mom) and daddy issues (us) (and maybe Mom, but let's not go there).
And hey, just so you don't feel bad for her, one of those emotionally unavailable single fathers with a Volvo became emotionally available and stuck around. She's been with John for fifteen years, and all us hyperactive kids adore him.
When dudes started paying attention to me around junior high, I mimicked the behavior that was modeled to me: egregious availability and an open willingness to do anything for affection. I used to be so embarrassed about how I lost my virginity that I lied about it to everyone who asked, even guys I dated, through my twenties. I always wished I had a sweet, romantic "losing my virginity" story, but that's just not how things go sometimes.
The decisions I made back then about sex and drugs (see "Georgia Gets Her Nipple Pierced for All the Right Reasons") didn't come from a place of self-care and growth. Those were foreign concepts.
It was a dark time. Most of my decisions came from a place of believing the garbage that found its way into my head that, despite ample evidence otherwise, insisted I was ugly, stupid, and worthless. And that narrative told me I didn't have the right to take things slow, or insist we use a condom, or even to just say, "Stop."
That self-advocacy stuff wasn't for girls like me, girls who were taught that their worthiness was determined by who was in love with them.
Quick break from the super dark shit to say: don't worry! Loving myself and deciding my own worth were concepts I finally learned after many mistakes, and billions of hours of therapy (see "Georgia's Top 10 'Holy Shit!' Moments in Therapy"). I'm like 99 percent healed now.
By the time I turned sixteen, I'd started to find confidence by embracing my inherent weirdness. The angry, in-your-face defiance of my local punk movement helped. I wore Doc Martens and torn-up tights, and one morning before school, I pierced my eyebrow with a safety pin because fuck you, that's why. I found other misfits from broken homes who were sick of trying to fit into our cookie-cutter suburb town where everything was painted different shades of beige and eggshell, and together we all reveled in being outcasts.
This one Saturday afternoon, I went with my lifelong next-door neighbor Sanaz, a dreadlocked hippie who wore patchouli oil in lieu of deodorant, to a fund-raising event for Food Not Bombs. It was at my favorite local music venue, Koo's Café (RIP). Koo's was essentially just a dilapidated two-bedroom craftsman house in a bad part of Orange County. Looking back, I really should have died there. Such a fire hazard. But at sixteen, it was a mecca ... a mold-infested, decaying mecca.
Touring and local bands would play in the bare living room where you'd sweat and shout-sing along, then head out to the front yard to smoke bad weed and talk shit. On the day of the charity, there was a spoken word show, and I wandered in while a girl from the Seattle punk scene spoke to a small crowd sitting cross-legged in front of her, like a classroom of children. She wore the mid-'90s grunge uniform, an oversized flannel over a cute baby-doll dress and ripped tights, kid barrettes in her ratty hair and too much eyeliner, an old tin superhero lunch box as a purse.
She talked about female empowerment. That women were capable and deserving of so much more than the subservient mind-set we were taught to adopt. That if wanting and striving for more made you a "bitch," then so be it. That feminism wasn't a bad word; it was a vital pursuit and would be until girls were raised to believe in themselves and the importance of their contribution to the world the same way boys were.
It was feminism, which I'd been led to believe was a bad word at the time, but delivered in a punk rock package. They called it Riot Grrrl. Fun fact: one of the origins of the name of the movement was based on the fact that if men were treated for one second the way women have been treated throughout history, there would be a riot. I was on fucking board.
After a childhood of low self-esteem and kowtowing to exclusionary popular girls with starter credit cards and a strict preppy dress code, I gratefully adopted the punk rock female empowerment message I so desperately needed. I read third-wave feminist zines and binge-listened to "girls to the front" bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney.
The confident version of myself buried deep down shook her fist in triumph and I finally started to like myself, which was a brand-new sensation. I embraced all the things I had once hated about myself — my hyperactive weirdness, my flat chest — and stopped needing to be liked by other people to the detriment of my own power.
Eventually I graduated high school, moved to LA, and I felt un-fuckwithable. I'd made some new friends in beauty school and started waiting tables at the breakfast spot in Santa Monica. Soon enough I was part of a work family, which included a few regular customers I eventually knew by name and, more intimately, by their regular order.
Lawrence was one of those regulars. We'd joke around a lot during those slow, overcast weekday mornings. He was an older guy, maybe fiftyish, and heavyset with a deep voice. He was like three times my size but had a gentle demeanor. He just came off as this genuinely sweet guy that lived with and took care of his elderly mother. His regular order: over-easy eggs and bacon with a short stack of blueberry pancakes, fortified with tons of coffee. He'd grown up in the neighborhood, and the other waitresses seemed to adore him. He told me he was a professional photographer, so on a particularly slow morning, I asked him if I could take a look at the large portfolio he always carried under his arm. He gestured for me to sit next to him at his usual counter seat. I wiped up a spill of coffee and syrup from the counter-top and he opened the large black leather book to show me his photographs.
They were gorgeous. A mix of the touristy yet seedy neighborhoods that made up the beach town he'd always called home. The shots were framed and lit in a way that evoked the dreariness of an overcast ocean-side morning, but with a focus on the humanity of his subjects. Through Lawrence's lens, the rude old asshole always standing outside his gaudy jewelry store on the promenade, who'd only take the wet cigar out of his mouth long enough to catcall, became a contemplative representation of hope and community.
So you can imagine how honored I felt when he closed his portfolio and asked if he could photograph me sometime.
Look. I know what you're thinking, and you don't have to say it because I'm already yelling it at nineteen-year-old Georgia, the girl who thought she'd outgrown naïveté. I've been yelling it for years: "A dude you barely know asking to photograph you is a HUGE. RED. FLAG."
Look. Listen. The Riot Grrrl in me was screaming in protest at the obvious creepiness of it all, but the little girl in me who's my mother's daughter was flattered and said OK.
On the day of the shoot, I showed up, not because it would have been rude to decline; yeah, it was a little creepy, but I was excited to have my picture taken! The idea of fucking politeness hadn't occurred to me because I wasn't being polite, I was looking forward to it. And in an effort to make sure that Lawrence wouldn't have second thoughts once he got a good look at me outside the café walls (a.k.a. in something other than overalls), I'd dressed up for the occasion. I put on a tight, ruffly top with a cherry blossom pattern, capri pants, and way too much makeup. To fake some height, I wore my very '90s platform sandals, which were super in at the time despite the fact that they regularly made your ankle twist out from under you and toppled you to the ground. I threw on a choker and doused myself in glittery apple-scented body spray. I was basically a Gwen Stefani / Spice Girl hybrid and I was Feeling. My. Self.
Lawrence and I planned to meet at the café. I figured we'd walk around the neighborhood using the storefronts and graffitied walls as a backdrop, but when I got there, he was waiting out front in his car. He motioned for me to hop in. Into his car. Alone with him.
Hello, red flag number two, thank you for joining us!(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered"
Copyright © 2019 Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Let's Sit Crooked & Talk Straight: Karen's Introduction 17
1 Fuck Politeness 27
Georgia's Take on Red Flags and Riot Grrrl Courage Karen's Guide to Prioritizing Your Own Agenda
2 Sweet Baby Angel 65
Karen's Lecture on Self-Care Georgia Gets Her Nipple Pierced for All the Right Reasons
3 You're in a Cult, Call Your Dad 97
Karen on How to Not Drink the Kool-Aid Even When You're Spiritually Parched Georgia on Kleptomania and Calling Your Dad
4 Send 'Em Back 125
Georgia on Car Crashes and Meeting Karen Karen's Step-by-Step Guide on How to Be a Latchkey Kid
5 Don't be a Fucking Lunatic 155
Karen's Plan for When the Party's Finally Over Georgia's Top Ten "Holy Shit!" Moments in Therapy
6 Get a Job 195
Karen's Dos and Don'ts Guide to Becoming Employee of the Month Georgia on Working for the Weekend and Also Free Snacks
7 Buy Your Own Shit 221
Georgia Demonstrates the Zen in the Art of Being a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Karen's Advice on How Not to Be Thirteen Forever
8 Stay Out of the Forest 253
Georgia Loses Her Brother but Finds Herself Karen's Lessons from Listeners and Canadian Aldermen
Fuckin' Hooray!: Georgia's Conclusion 287