How I Accidentally Wrote A Sex Memoir

girl at wall black and white

This was, inexplicably, the only result when I searched “sex memoir” on Shutterstock. Luckily, my sex memoir is pretty much exactly like this. No belly button rings, but otherwise the same.

I have been writing for this site for about three years now. Longer, if you count my time freelance writing as Elizabeth “The Misanthropologist” Richard, who most of you probably don’t remember. But we’ll get to her in a second.

The Gloss has been a lot of things in my time here–back in 2010, it was a lot snarkier, meaner, and a little less body positive. It’s become something more pro-lady, while at the same time maintaining its irreverent tone. It’s also shown a greater emphasis on longform first person essays–when I first showed up, it was all high volume, 8-10 posts a day about various fashion things. That transitioned into something with more personal essays and the corresponding photos of authors of those essays.

…Which presented a huge problem for me, because I dislike writing about myself.

Which brings me to my first point: my first book just came out. It’s a comedic essay collection. It is also a memoir. Loyal readers may be surprised by this. I sure as shit am. Moreover, the book is a sex memoir–maybe not quite in the usual sense one gets when hearing that–but it’s a memoir about my sexual development all the same. Which I’m still trying to wrap my head around.

It’s surprising to me for a couple of reasons. Part of that is wariness at good old fashioned hubris; what kind of asshole writes a memoir in her mid-20s when she has lived in no discernibly interesting way? (Cynical readers may here say, “A lot. A lot of assholes.”) I dislike that aspect–and I have no substantial charge against the criticism. I wrote about myself. I’m young. I’m “another white girl living in Brooklyn” writing about my stupid life. For those of you upset by this, let me extend my sincerest apologies.

Also–and this is the bigger one–I am deeply, neurotically private and up until getting the book deal, I avoided writing personal stuff wherever possible. Gloss readers know that, even when required to post a selfie, I usually prefer to obscure my face and shy away from publishing any sort of personal anecdotes on the site. (Of course, that was before Wed Bed Dead)

Another reason this memoir business comes as a surprise is I’d also never written narrative nonfiction before. Outside of fashion blogging, I’d only ever written fiction–and I’d only ever envisioned for myself a very arid future as a writer of leaden, ponderous literary fiction.

Last of all, I never thought of myself as funny. Certainly not funny enough to go about writing “comedic memoirs.”

…By which I mean, you should absolutely buy this book. Right now. Seriously. It’s really great and I am extremely qualified to write it.

So, how I got to this point is a little convoluted and–in the interest of hoping you’ll order my book or go outside and buy a copy–I thought I’d share with you the story of how I accidentally wrote a sex memoir.

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    • Fabel

      I just finished reading it yesterday! I loved it, & I love you, & also HOLY SHIT YOU WERE THE MISANTHROPOLOGIST?? YOU ARE TRICKY AS FUCK

      • Fabel

        also going back to re-read those columns now so I can find out how it did not click as I read your book. ASHLEY

      • Ashley Cardiff

        I am blown away that anyone remembers that column! Oh man, I loved writing it. Some are pretty weak to read now, but I’m so fond of a few of them. I think Jennifer’s favorite thing I’ve ever written is the Enrique Iglesias sponsored post.

      • Jennifer Wright

        It is. I love that post. I fucking love that post.

      • Tania

        That was one of my favourites, too.

      • Fabel

        I love that one, too. And the dicks one. It’s honestly hard to pick a favorite, because I seriously loved them ALL (& I feel less sad now that I know “Elizabeth Richard” is actually you, & didn’t get lost in a forever k-hole ;) )

    • Lauren

      I bought your book last week on amazon and just got it yesterday. It is currently in my purse waiting to be read on my lunch break and subsequent train ride home tonight after work.

      But the real point of this comment was YOU WERE THE MISANTHROPOLOGIST?! God I loved those posts! It never dawned on me that it was probably a pen name, but looking back that totally makes sense. I’m now even more excited to start your book. And I’m also excited about the hours of work time I will waste going through old Misanthropologist posts.

      Congrats on the book. I hope it’s the first of many. And by that I mean many books in general, not just many sex memoir books.

      • Ashley Cardiff

        Thank you so much. Totally floored that anyone remembers that character–it’s like 1000 years ago in internet time.

    • Dot

      YOU WERE THE MISANTHROPOLOGIST?! Oh my god, worlds colliding!!

    • Katie

      Put me down for yet another TOTAL SHOCK AND AWE that you were writing the Misanthropologist, the column that made me love this site. This makes me so happy.

    • Kit

      I got your book and saw the “portions of the following essays were originally posted on the Gloss” page at the beginning and couldn’t put my finger on where I recognized the titles. OF COURSE you wrote that column. THIS MAKES SO MUCH SENSE.


    • Tania


      ETA: Everyone else already said that.

      • Ashley Cardiff

        I’m still floored even one of you remembers.

      • Tania

        Those columns are what got me hooked on the Gloss! I was so sad when they stopped showing up. I feel much better knowing she didn’t die in a ditch in a drunken stupor.

    • amanda_ernst

      I am so glad you wrote this, Ashley. I wanted to read your book but was afraid I’d have to picture you having sex. Thank god! Now I am definitely going to buy a copy. And that Enrique post: brilliant.

    • Eagle Eye

      SO GLAD that you turned out to be the Misanthropologist! I was sad when she went away, but your cartoons basically filled that void – I should have put 2 and 2 together. GAH!!!!! Internet. Mind. Blown.

    • Cee

      I LOVE your book! This was my unemployment luxury of the month and I do not regret it one bit. I read half of it the first day and was slightly crying and nodding on your description of anxiety on chapter 2 (I think). Now I’m at a chapter a night because I don’t want it to end! I’m in the second to the last and I don’t know what to do with myself when I finish :/. Who knew a book about your sex life would do so much for my anxiety issues. I should tell my doctor!

      • Ashley Cardiff

        You are wonderful.

    • Phoebe


      Echoing everyone else, I loved the columns and I’m so glad that your writing resulted in a book deal. So much awesome, Ashley!

    • jamiepeck

      Memoirs can be funny and interesting and fun to read if they are written by someone good (like you). I think you are a little too hard on yourself and you don’t need this many disclaimers. That said, it is kind of an endearing quality of yours, so whatever. I just hope you do not secretly think me an ignoble ass for having no such qualms.

      • Ashley Cardiff

        I used to think the more extreme cases of over-sharers might qualify as ignoble asses; I don’t anymore, I dont think. If anything this whole experience has given me a strange respect for those who can be so balls-to-the-wall about their personal lives.

    • Ewa

      I kinda feel blessed;) I came to your website after a few months’ break (my hard drive was crashing-crashing-crashed, and The Gloss loads slow as hell), and I learned that you were The MIsanthropologist. God, I LOVED that column. Mystery solved. I can die now:)