Book Reviews

Everything’s Trash, but It’s Okay

If you appreciate quippy hashtags, you’ll like this book.

If you enjoy humor mixed in with your statistics, you’ll enjoy this book.

Everything’s Trash, but It’s Okay is Phoebe Robinson’s second essay collection (of three collections). Her first, You Can’t Touch My Hair, is more focused on what it’s like to be a black woman in America, while Everything’s Trash, but It’s Okay explores the life of an adult woman in terms of money, body image, feminism, work, and more.

Through hardships such as financial struggles and workaholism, to successes like meeting Bono and Oprah and building a podcast following, Phoebe Robinson shares stories that are relatable and humorous. There are a lot of pop culture references, and I definitely did not get a lot of them, however, for me that didn’t detract from the story.

In this post, I’ll explore a few themes from Everything’s Trash, but It’s Okay, and at the end of this blog, you’ll see a links to an excerpt from Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes and to an apartment tour of Phoebe’s NYC home (because yes that is something I want to see and I think Phoebe would appreciate that).

Money and Work

In the chapters “Money Is a Trifling Heaux and Also Your BFF” and “You’re Not Curing Cancer (Unless You Are-Then Carry On, My Workaholic Son)”, Robinson talks about her financial woes and obsession with work. It’s no secret that in the United States how much money you make and what you do for a living are at the center of many conversations.

When meeting other people, one of the first things we ask is, “What do you do for a living?” Part of it is curiosity and finding something to talk about, but the other part is more subconscious – fitting your narratives together. If I’m a writer and I meet a CEO, am I supposed to feel intimidated, jealous, or awestruck? Or some other feeling altogether? Regardless of job title, many people are guilty of putting in way too many hours at work because it is part of our identity. In our system, workers contribute to society and everyone else is a burden. And things like vacations are pendulum swings – you take no vacation or one you can’t afford, no in-between. If you’re putting that vacation on a credit card, you may be hurting yourself even more. Not only do you end up working more because it’s an addiction, but you have to earn more money to pay off what you’ve spent, plus interest.

As Phoebe Robinson demonstrates, not everyone is perfect with money 100% of the time, and it made me feel better about the times I haven’t had my finances together. I never felt like I had someone I could talk to judgment-free about the things I was experiencing with money, especially after some *ish went down with my ex. It’s difficult to do, but the important part is seeking assistance and doing better in the future.

Complicity

If you read my post about What Storm, What Thunder, you may remember a section devoted to turning a blind eye to things. It comes up in Robinson’s book as well. When discussing the Women’s March, she says that those who were unable to attend could still make an impact in other ways, such as donations or being more vocal about women’s issues, “…and if you didn’t do that, then you clearly weren’t for the advancement of women. Rather you were silently complicit in keeping status quo or, worse, adamantly against women progressing.”

This notion of being silently complicit is not new. It is the same as turning a blind eye. If you aren’t actively trying to stop something, then you are okay with it happening because it’s not happening to you. We can amplify the voices of those who know what they’re talking about (instead of putting ourselves at the center of those narratives) and donate money to organizations that make an impact and live up to their claims.

Body Image

Robinson discusses her body in “I Was a Size 12 Once for Like Twenty-Seven Minutes” – a scary and taboo topic for many of us. In fact, unless we are disparaging or making jokes about our bodies, it seems like our bodies aren’t acceptable the way they are. Loving your body and showing it off is not “humble” or “proper”. Women in particular are conditioned from a young age that their bodies should be enjoyable for the male gaze. They are to be toned, tightened, curvy or small in the right places, unblemished. Basically, if you’re not always a work in progress, you’re trash.

I’m so tired of feeling like I have to tell total strangers that I just met that I’m trying to lose weight. In fact, I’m not even actively trying anymore. And it’s zero people’s business what my weight is anyway. After I separated from the military with worse body image than I joined with, I spent the last half of 2021 trying to accept my body the way it is right now regardless of what anyone wants it to, or thinks it should, look like. People disguising their hatred or disgust for someone’s body with unwanted advice or opinions to sound “helpful” is not a good disguise for said hatred and disgust.

When I was younger, I had a very slender friend who made a remark about how it’s not her fault that she can’t gain weight. And it was true – she could eat anything and it didn’t seem to matter. When Phoebe mentions how she suddenly finds herself at a size 12 after being a size 0, she recognizes that women who are usually a 12 or above may think “oh no boo hoo” – but Phoebe is totally right. It is horrifying to wake up one day and realize you don’t recognize your body. And that’s something that is not size-specific. It can strike any of us.

Robinson ends the chapter with, “Dare to do for yourself what Bridget [Jones from Bridget Jones’ Diary] couldn’t do: Look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I like myself just the way I am.'”

Life is too short to let people who want to dictate how you look or act be in your life and make decisions on your behalf. Or the people who want to take advantage of you, or the people who don’t want you to succeed.

And after reading this, I feel like I want to call her Pheebs. I would definitely give her a hug. I’d ask first, of course, but she seems like such a fun, warm person.

Phoebe Robinson’s latest book, Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes, released in September 2021.

Learn more about Phoebe Robinson at these links:
Creator Website
Instagram
– Adapted essay from her 2021 book Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes
– If you’re extra/obsessed like me, you’ll enjoy this photographic apartment tour of Phoebe’s and her S.O.’s home
– Entertainment Weekly article about Tiny Reparations Books


With micro-bites of discourse, Oak + River Books goes beyond a ratings system.



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