Ariana Lenarsky (@aardvarsk) on Literary Twitter and the Linguistic Career of “lol”

arianaAriana Lenarsky is a musician, poet, and comedian from Los Angeles. She’s written for places including McSweeney’s and HuffPo, and writes, performs and produces at the Upright Citizens Brigade in LA. Lenarsky also studied classical vocal performance and sang with the band cossbysweater “before that name became a liability.” This week Lenarsky walked me through three of her favorite tweets, and she talked about the power of punctuating a thought with “lol” and about tweeting photos and texting them to strangers.

Lenarsky: I so feared what Frankie/Fuck Frankie would do to me if he saw me snap a pic of his hog that I really panicked and tried to escape. I took the picture, turned my wheel hard, floored the gas and drove up over the sidewalk into a Gelson’s parking lot, scraping up the front of my car. I suppose retribution came quick for this young paparazzo.

Did you take that picture intending to tweet it or did you decide to do so later? Is one or the other of those more typical for you when you post photos on Twitter?

I couldn’t have tweeted it faster. My phone was just the porous middleman between that biker’s license plate and the internet. I’m always scared to tweet photos because they take up so much space on people’s timelines, and I hate to make a scene. After uploading a photo, I usually wonder “what have I done?” and then I emotionally block out the experience. Do I ever intend to tweet? I think yes. I’m kind of a new tweeter. I’ve had a twitter for several years, but I only started tweeting in earnest to try and receive massive critical and social acclaim about a year ago. What I’ve learned is that any tweet should be flexible enough to double as a hilarious text you’d send to your most hilarious friend. That’s a hard rule to follow when you’re feeling cranky.

Classic 9/11 tweet. Just because someone is a real looker—you know what? It doesn’t automatically mean you want to suck on their bottom. That’s just common sense.

Who were some of the first people you followed on Twitter?

For several years, I was too nervous to follow comedians. Instead: literary twitters. That seemed safe. I followed The Paris Review, Electric Literature, NYRB Classics. I only let book & poetry news splash across my consciousness. It was too dangerous to rely on Twitter to make me laugh. It required a lot of trust on my end, because what if, occasionally, I had to read unfunny tweets? No. That would hurt my feelings and make me feel let down. I didn’t want to be disappointed. The only comedians I followed were Megan Amram & Mindy Kaling, people I didn’t feel would injure me with mediocrity or irregular pleasure. Eventually things took a turn, and I eased the stick out of my asshole, which allowed more laughter to flow up into my life through my smiling, wide-open behind.

What is the best and/or worst interaction you’ve had on Twitter?

I follow a really dorky book news account, and one day it fucked up big time. Some goon tweeted that beloved children’s author Jon Scieszska had died. Very upsetting—and, I felt, a lie. I did a quick Google search and discovered he hadn’t died at all. It was merely his birthday. An elegant mistake had been made. I immediately tweeted at them “whoa whoa whoa whoa WHOA @Jon_Scieszka is ALIVE & WELL & IMMORTAL. Do not frighten me like this ever again.” They apologized, and a few hours later, the real Jon Scieszka tweeted: “Thanks for all the birthday love, Twitterverse. Also happy to find out I am not dead, but “ALIVE & WELL & IMMORTAL”. I couldn’t believe it! One of my favorite authors from childhood, quoting me as I stood up for his right to be recognized as alive. It was bizarre & beautiful. I tried to get him to follow me, but he’d had enough.

“lol” is a beloved acronym so successful in its linguistic career that it’s been promoted, impossibly, into punctuation. I feel so strongly about this transformation that I’ve threatened to blog about it. I love thinking about lol. It’s a sentence softener, the lightest way to turn a frustration into something barely positive. For example, “just got a parking ticket while at the DMV” is complaining, but “just got a parking ticket while at the DMV lol” means you’re annoyed, but you’ve still got a lol on your face about it. Maybe if Alanis Morissette had written “Ironic” today, she would have called it “lol,” and would be catching a lot less flak about her use of rhetoric as a result.

Are wordplay and language things you’ve been interested in for a while?

Yes. I love language things, better known as words. I like solving their little problems. I like trying to guide them toward where they seem to long to go. It’s very romantic. It’s hard for me to fall in love with someone if they aren’t curious about what can be done with words.

What would you say is the tweet you’ve made that has the most backstory to it?

This person actually first messaged me on December 31, 2011. I didn’t respond, because I thought it was a new year’s creep looking for a smooch. I never deleted it. Eventually, I finally wrote back “Who is this?” as if she had just texted me two minutes ago, not two years ago. She was totally discombobulated. I made things much worse with the dog pictures, but then, to my relief, she responded with equally cute pictures of animals. From then on, our friendship was easy as pie. We haven’t learned anything else about each other. All I know about her is that she has a tattoo on her arm of her french bulldog, Frida. We probably text a couple times a month. It’s definitely the longest, healthiest romantic relationship I’ve ever had.

Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn and works at Funny or Die.

From Our Partners