The Stranger has a new editor, and she wanted to do a 25th anniversary issue—a look back at a quarter of a century of misses, near misses, and fails—and I've been ordered to write something for this issue. I don't want to write anything for this issue. I don't want this issue to exist. But I am not the boss of me anymore.
So here we go.
I don't believe in anniversary issues—or "birthday issues," as they're sometimes styled these days. (Old, married, and out-of-touch baby boomers have 25th anniversaries; young, single, and out-of-fucks millennials have 25th birthdays.) So back when I was editor of The Stranger—during my reign of error—we didn't do them.
A couple of anniversaries (10th, 15th) rolled around on my watch, and on both occasions the idea of an anniversary issue was kicked around. And on both occasions I stomped the idea to death. Because I don't think readers care what was in the paper 10 years ago or 20 years ago. We're lucky if readers care what's in the paper this week. And I don't think readers feel sentimental about the publications they read. Editors feel sentimental about the papers they edit, writers feel sentimental about the papers they write for, and publishers feel sentimental about the papers they run into the ground (just kidding, Tim! You're amazing!)—and they project their sentimental feelings onto the readers and convince themselves that readers would enjoy an anniversary issue. But readers don't care. (Full disclosure: We actually did a 10th anniversary issue. But it was bullshit—fake stories, things we hadn't run, writers we didn't publish. Because back then, back when I was in charge, we made fun of tropes like anniversary issues.)
At those editorial meetings long, long ago, back when people suggested we do anniversary issues, I dismissed them as exercises in auto-fellatio. No more. Our new millennial underlords might take offense. Women and trans men cannot pleasure themselves orally—that's why "auto-cunnilingus" isn't a thing—so using "auto-fellatio" to mean "self-obsession" is sexist, transmisogynist, and ableist. (Yes, ableist: You've got to be bendy, hung, and slim to pull it off.) Perhaps it's safer to describe an anniversary issue as exercise in auto-anilingus instead, since we are all equally incapable of rimming ourselves.
Or it might be more accurate to describe an anniversary issue as the worst birthday party you've ever been to. Other people's birthday parties are tedious—yours is too, just not to you—but imagine a birthday party where the guest of honor recounts the highlights of their long life, complete with slide shows, timelines, and thoughtful reflections. You would jump out the window to escape that "party."
What you're holding in your hands is the print equivalent of a really terrible birthday party. Or the act of auto-anilingus. One or the other. Or both, maybe.
Oh, hey, look—Seattle Weekly just put out an anniversary issue. (Happy 40th birthday to whoever works there now and whoever owns that publication these days.) Slate is celebrating its 20th anniversary, too, posting new articles reflecting on old articles.
And no one cares. Or I don't care.
It's possible I'm the one doing the projecting here. Because as a reader myself—of this and other publications—I've never enjoyed anniversary issues. So perhaps I should stick to "I" statements: And I don't think readers care. I certainly don't. I mean, I read everything—I read all day long (I'm almost done reading Twitter)—but I couldn't get through the Weekly's 40th anniversary issue because, my God, who gives a fuck? And though I read Slate daily, and I frequently invite Slate writers on my podcast, I haven't been clicking on their auto-anilingus pieces because, really, who gives a fuck?
So I fully expect that you, dear reader, don't give a fuck about this issue. I tried to spare you—really, I did. I strongly argued against even doing this issue. But what's done is done. Still, I don't think anyone is going to actually read it. Which means no one will read the piece I've written for the anniversary issue—this piece, which was written under protest and duress. I could put my Social Security number and all of my passwords right here without fear.
But here it is anyway, despite my protests. Our anniversary issue. Whatever.
Oh, don't get me wrong: I'm proud of The Stranger, I'm proud of the work we've done, I'm proud of the impact we've had on this city. I also love each and every person who works here now, has ever worked here, or will work here in the future. Pride and sentiment are human emotions that I can and do experience. I'm just not convinced—I'm still not convinced—we should build an issue around these common "feels," as the kids say. (I bet you're proud of whatever it is you do—I bet you love the people you work with—but unless you work at a newspaper, you aren't going to force anyone to read about it.)
Incidentally, dear readers, my birthday is coming up, and you're all invited to the party. I'm going to tell you all about what I was doing, thinking, reading, and wearing when I was 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and 45. There will be timelines and slide shows and thoughtful reflections and anilingus.