What does it mean to live life on your own terms, giving “zero fucks” about what the world thinks? Award-winning TV writer and author Laura Belgray shares what it means for her, in a new memoir titled ‘Tough Titties: On Living Your Best Life When You’re the F-ing Worst‘ (available now), which has been described as the “loser ‘Sex And The City'” (by her own husband, no less!).
Her wildly relatable coming-of-age stories include hate-following her 6th grade bully on social media decades later; moving home post-college to measure her self-worth in hookups with Upper West Side bartenders; dating a sociopathic man-baby; proving herself in the early ‘90s at New York’s coolest magazine (as the world’s worst intern); falling for get-rich-quick schemes on the Internet; and, most of all, saying “tough titties” to the supposed-to’s in life: driving a car, being on time, handing in your paperwork, learning to roast a chicken, and having kids.
Peppered with cutting insights on our confusing, self-help-y culture that calls hair removal “self care” and tells us to give our 110% but also to give zero f*cks, ‘Tough Titties’ will leave you feeling better about, well, everything. ‘Tough Titties’ is one big permission slip to be a dork, a sometimes-unspiritual slacker, a late bloomer and, ultimately, 100% yourself.
With an impressive endorsement from the one and only Marie Forleo, who says ‘Tough Titties’ is “a hilarious, must-read permission slip to be 100% you”, we wanted to get some first hand inspo for living a “zero fucks” life on our own terms. Here’s what Laura shared with us about living unapologetically child-free in a country that wants to control every uterus, and that time she almost got Kelly Ripa to say the word “titties” when promoting her book on national TV.
Congrats on the release of your book! What have been the most eye-opening or memorable responses to ‘Tough Titties’ so far?
Thank you! I experienced the most shocking response when, looking forward to a big billboard in Times Square that a friend was gifting me, I heard back from the Times Square billboard committee that they’d rejected my video. Apparently, you can’t show the word “Titties” in Times Square, a place where an eyeful of flesh ones is practically unavoidable.
And then, when Kelly Ripa shouted out and held up the book on Live!, she had to block out the word with post-its and work around the title: “Let’s call it…Tough Tee-Tees, Tough Ta-Tas.”
I wasn’t hugely surprised the title would be too racy for morning TV, but when did Times Square get so prudish, specifically about text? Meanwhile, no one seems to object to the Naked Cowboy’s package, fully evident in his tighty whities.
Also surprising: after fighting tooth and nail against industry pressure to make Tough Titties, a prescriptive self-help book — which most publishers maintained was what my audience would want — I’ve been amused to see it in one section called “Mind, Body, Spirit” and another named “GET INTO THE SPIRIT | BECOME A BETTER YOU.” Especially considering the subtitle: On Living Your Best Life When You’re the F’ing Worst.
While it’s neither a self-help book nor an anti-self-help book, I know Tough Titties does help people, so I’m OK with that. Also, I’m fully into being on the table right next to James Clear’s Atomic Habits, which has hogged a top spot on the NYT bestseller list for what feels like a decade.
How did you land on the title, and what kind of reaction did you hope to elicit from people?
For a while, my working title was “New Dork City.” Most of the stories felt like they could only have happened in NYC, and the dork theme was strong. But I knew there was a bigger idea there, and one day, I caught myself saying “tough titties” and realizing I say it all the time. It’s usually in response to something someone thinks I should do differently. THEM: Everyone else comes in at 9am and feels you should, too. ME: Tough titties.
I realized, it’s what I’ve said to most of the supposed-tos in life: climb the ladder in a J.O.B., find The One in your twenties, get married, have kids, have nice nails, be good at cooking and cleaning, hit the proper milestones on the proper timeline, be seen as “having it all” yet also be of service and on a mission to change the world, by Empowering One Woman At A Time. Tough Titties to all that. It’s not me.
Also, tits. I have them, it’s been a whole thing (or, two things). There’s even a TITular chapter. And yes, I’m twelve.
Your stories really are a welcome middle finger to societal expectations of women. Why is it important for you to be unapologetic about this, considering the times we live in?
Ah, the times we live in…where those old-fashioned expectations of women actually become federal law and Handmaid’s Tale becomes less and less far-fetched. I don’t know if that’s what you mean, or if you’re talking about social media and the pressure to look young, thin, and flawless but also without looking like you’ve had any work done or admitting you’re on Ozempic. “I’ve just been eating really clean!” Sorry, I digress.
I think it’s always important to be unapologetic about who you are, especially when who you are doesn’t fit expectations. It’s permission-giving. It paves the way for others to be unapologetically them, and that’s the only happy way to be, IMO.
The idea of celebrating being child-free is still so taboo, but we are seeing more and more people share their stance. Why do you think society is so shocked by women who love being child-free?
When I was in the heart of my baby-making years and on the fence, I googled madly, looking for any older women celebs who’d chosen not to have kids and were fulfilled and happy with their lives. Over and over, only two came up. One was Oprah, but she didn’t count because although she “had it all,” there was always a coda: …except kids. The other was Dame Helen Mirren. The possibility of a woman happily existing without raising children wasn’t in the public conversation. So it’s a pretty new idea, and that’s why I think society is still shocked by it.
Your husband has described your book as the “loser ‘Sex and the City’”. Can you expand on this for us?
Ha. That just came out of him. I was moaning about how I still didn’t know how to describe my book, which he hadn’t even read yet. He shrugged, “Isn’t it just loser ‘Sex and the City’?” He was pretty dead-on. The NYC-themed coming-of-age stories do serve some 80s/90s/00s glam: going to Studio 54, working in magazines and TV, meeting a world-famous filmmaker who hit on me and my friends in his suite at The Carlyle. But throughout it all, there’s a ton of cringe and trying way too hard (and failing) to be cool and fit in. Hence, the loser part.
Were there any stories that were difficult or uncomfortable to write about, and think about again?
The chapter “He’s Never Going to Leave Her,” about a 2.5-year relationship with my married salsa instructor, was easy to get on the page, but gave me a kind of hangover. I’d write, and then experience a lingering haze of ick. Emotionally, I was right back there, feeling miserably “so not me.” Same with the chapter “Self-Help Night at the Midtown Tunnel.” It poured out of me but put me right back there at their yuck-o workshops, wondering, “Who even am I right now?” You know when you work out in a t-shirt you’ve sweat in many times and the funk reactivates, and you’re like OH MY GOD, IS THAT SMELL ME?It was kind of like that.
What does it mean to live in a way where you give “zero fucks” today?
As I say in the book, I believe zero of the people who claim they give zero fucks. Especially on social media. If you’re declaring it, you want us to celebrate you for giving zero fucks, which is giving a fuck.
I think giving zero fucks what anyone thinks about you, which is the usual context for saying “zero fucks” or “all out of fucks,” is #goals. I’d love to feel that way. I just know few, or possibly zero, people who actually do.
What do you hope readers, especially women, will love most about your book?
I hope they’ll love how hilariously true it feels to their own experience, even if their life is nothing like mine. My favorite compliment from any reader is “We’re the same person!” Most of all, though, I love it when they say they can’t put it down. I get in ruts where I can’t get through a book and live for that book that makes me a reader again. I’ve heard from many people, “Tough Titties got me back on a reading spree,” and that might be the most gratifying response of all.