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It’s unclear whether Cazzie David actually wants anybody to read her debut essay collection. For starters, it’s called No One Asked for This. “I regret every word I’ve ever said out loud,” the 26-year-old writes in the book’s introduction. In the second of three chapters titled “Tweets I Would Tweet If I Weren’t Morally Opposed to Twitter,” David tucks an apology into her list of fake-tweets: “It seems you’re still reading my book. I’m so sorry.”
Why would someone who is embarrassed by everything she says publish a book filled with 19 intimate essays about her life and more than 100 imaginary tweets? It’s a question David asks herself while introducing her book; in a painfully self-deprecating tone the reader will become accustomed to, she chalks it up to her proclivity for self-sabotage.
But it takes a certain kind of person to land a massive deal on a book she doesn’t even seem sure she wants people to read. David, daughter of comedian Larry David and environmental activist Laurie David, is exactly it: wealthy, White, attractive, and well-followed on Instagram.
David makes sure to let her reader know that she’s aware of this privilege. Throughout her essays—which revolve around her family, her self-proclaimed obsession with boys, and her five anxiety disorders—she frequently expresses remorse for finding things to complain about in a life most people couldn’t dream of having. She groans about enduring inpatient psychological treatment programs and her mom refusing to buy her a house when she was 24, but not without guilty asides about how lucky she is to have those concerns to begin with. Rather than interrogate her position in society, David seems to believe that mere acknowledgement deserves absolution.
The author’s boldest attempt to tackle her socioeconomic status comes in “Privileged Assistant,” which discusses David’s time working as a production assistant on Curb Your Enthusiasm—a job she asked her dad for after scoffing at her mother’s suggestion that she apply to Starbucks. “Us privileged [W]hite girls are not a popular bunch,” she shockingly declares, then goes on to share stories from her time at Curb in which she asks her dad for special treatment and gets away with being bad at her job, fulfilling every stereotype there is about the boss’s daughter. When the crew dislikes her, David decides that nobody will ever respect anything she does because they’ll always attribute it to nepotism. It’s an unsatisfying conclusion, written as if it were a reckoning.
It isn’t the only essay that leaves much to be desired. “Do Not Disturb,” David’s version of the rumination on social media it seems every millennial writer is required to pen, is often reductive: in David’s mind, cancel culture is just an extension of schoolyard bullying and our phones reign over us like a totalitarian regime. Her thesis—that social media desensitizes us and keeps us coming back for more—offers nothing that hasn’t already been said. And in her many essays about her anxiety, depression, and misanthropy, David often insists that nobody else on the planet is as neurotic as her, in what seems like a constant effort to convince the reader she is just not like other girls.
The book’s cringiest essay is “Too Full to Fuck,” which The Cut published as an excerpt and Twitter promptly tore apart. In it, David proclaims (with a misguided understanding of sex and gender) that when men and women have sex, “one gender has to save room in her body if a penis is to go into it—meaning that sometimes, if you’ve eaten a hearty meal, there isn’t enough room for a penis.” David writes with the confidence that her readers have all experienced the same thing, but it turns out that no one else seems to have a problem making “room for a dick.”
Not every joke misses the mark. David is quite funny at times, particularly when she’s writing about her family’s quirks. “Love You to Death,” where David explains her obsessive fear that her dad may die at any moment despite his good health, stands out for its humor and tenderness, and doesn’t lean on her father’s fame to be interesting.
“Erase Me,” the highly anticipated chapter on David’s 2018 break-up with Pete Davidson and his immediate rebound with Ariana Grande, is one of the most substantive works in the book. David recounts that a day after Davidson broke up with her, she was scrolling through Twitter right before her flight from Los Angeles to D.C. took off—that’s when she discovered he was with Grande. She shook uncontrollably the entire flight, spent much of her time in D.C. (where she was attending her sister’s graduation) crying in their Georgetown hotel room’s bathtub, and ran out of a club hyperventilating one night when they started playing a Grande song. The circumstances of David’s split with Davidson allow her to explore universal feelings of heartbreak on a nightmarish scale. The implications of her best essays could be fleshed out more, but at least they’re tangible.
The thoughtful, funny moments in No One Asked for This possess something familiar. Three years before publishing her book, David and friend Elisa Kelani created a web series called Eighty-Sixed, which I stumbled upon my freshman year in college. The series, which follows a girl going through a breakup, was relatable, hysterical, and self-aware—characteristics that are hard to come by in David’s latest project.
In the essay “So Embarrassing,” David provides another potential answer to the question of why she wrote her book: “I was told from a very young age that writing is one of the most helpful tools for processing emotions,” she says. Given the extent of the anxiety David describes, she certainly has a lot to process. But in the same essay, David reveals that she secretly wants to be a stand-up comedian.
Comedy is somewhere her talents might fare better, and maybe she needed to stumble through 19 essays to discover that. It’s just that most people aren’t afforded a book deal to figure it out—and David’s finished book doesn’t do much to justify its existence.