1 How Natasha Vargas-Cooper Does Money | The Billfold

How Natasha Vargas-Cooper Does Money

How do you do money, freelance-journalist Natasha Vargas Cooper?

You’re totally freelance now, is that right?
I’ve never been offered or gone out for a staff job. There’s a lot of outdated dues paying I won’t abide by. I also don’t dig on having to deal with other personalities in an office setting or as a day to day thing. It wears me down and out. I worked as a union organizing and policy analyst for six years, and there was a lot of focus on having harmonious relationships with co-workers and members to make the organization function better. A lot of personality tweaking and processing that felt worth it for the sake of a much greater and loftier goal. That made a lot of sense within a union context. I don’t want to do any of that within a writing context. I want to be left alone and focus on the work. The work is the best part. Hell is other people, right? Any organization with more than two people is dysfunctional. There’s one editor I would work for full time if he asked, but he hasn’t.

You decided to live with your parents when you went into writing, and I remember reading something you wrote about living there. It seemed like it was much more of a choice than it was the boomerang-generation-last-resort that a lot of people talk about.
Living with my parents doesn’t impede my independence or creativity—living in poverty does. Living with my parents enables my ability to write. If I had to pay 750 bucks a month in some windowless shit hole in Korea Town, I’d have to do five to six fluff pieces a month on think-y pop culture pieces no one gives a shit about within an hour. I’m a slow writer and that sort of work shreds my nerves and exhausts me. Doesn’t leave room for much else. So I’d do that so I could … do what? Pay rent to some landlord who won’t fix my toilet? I’ve lived on my own and paid my own way before and I don’t need to prove to myself or anyone else that I can take care of myself. What I want to do is journalism and being mired in poverty or debt doesn’t allow me to do that. I’m in a fortunate position where I can ask myself what do I WANT to do rather than ‘what do I NEED to do’? I like to take full advantage of that privilege, I grew up solidly middle class, and I don’t want to backslide. That’s the point, to move forward; my parents didn’t work their asses off so I could drink alone in an apartment and eat ramen. I’m not interested in that sort of struggle. I like living with them, they are cool people and have a pool.

Do you live paycheck to paycheck?
There are entire months when I don’t get paid. Realistically I probably only get paid five times a year. I’ll get a large sum of money and I’ve been lucky enough live on that before it gets down to zero I’ll get paid again. The goal is to get big ticket pieces so I can spend my time on those, and don’t have to cobble together smaller pieces and listicles and slideshows, which I’m not very good at anyway. I am not a blogger, I can’t hack it as one, I’m slow. I had two weeks at Gawker that made me want to put a gun in my mouth.

I’m pitching five editors from five publications constantly. I have relationships with them. I’m not sending blind queries. There are two ways the magazines pay. One is a negotiated fee-per-word, and one is a lump sum payment per piece. And I have a good rate. Very early when I started writing I got a book deal and my first longform piece was for The Atlantic, and through those I was able to establish myself early on.

How did you learn how to negotiate?
Whenever I’d get a piece, I’d tell my dad—who was a journalist for 30 years—and he’d say, “How much are they going to pay you?” I’d respond sheepishly that “I didn’t ask” because at the beginning it kinda felt like the editor or magazine was doing me a favor. And he’d make me get back on the phone and get a contract. Coming from a union background, I also don’t, uh, have a lot sympathy for bosses. These are giant conglomerates who can absolutely afford to pay $25,000 for a photo shoot, so they can absolutely pay me my measly fee.

I don’t have any sentimentality about this profession. I don’t romanticize it or my relationship with these magazines. And I don’t have any illusions that the business relationship I have is with the editor I’m working with, because it’s not a friendship, it’s a business deal (not living in New York helps reinforce this perspective). So I ask for a contract, I say, “Okay, this is the fee,” and sometimes they’ll push back on it, but I have a pretty good idea of what my work is worth now.

Day to day, what is spending like for you.
I don’t use credit cards. I can’t. They’re too dangerous. I do have one but it’s for absolute emergencies only, like I got kidnapped and need to rent a car to drive two states over back home. I have a debit card. I try not to ever use cash, because cash just disappears. I spend it, and then sometimes I literally lose it after putting it my pocket. It’s a mess. Plus the debit card is a kind of automatic book keeping. My bills right now are very overpriced healthcare because I am self employed, car insurance, and cell phone, and every year I save up to travel to Hawaii for 10 or 11 days or something, just go alone to cavort with dolphins and starfish and shit.

How do you keep track of your spending?
I don’t track. I don’t login to my account. It makes me nervous. I don’t live monastically, but I don’t spend money on anything that I don’t think it’s okay to spend money on. I maybe go out to eat too much, but that’s it. I refuse to feel bad about that. I roughly know how much I have in my account, whether it’s below $1,000. When it drops below $500 I will adjust my spending. I don’t have a problem with spending. I have problems in a lot of other facets of my life and worry about those. Getting paid is hard, spending I can handle.

When money gets really low, I know about two weeks before I’m going to run out, I’ll get an alert from my account, and that’s when I get on the phone with outlets who haven’t paid me in 90 days.

How do you pay your bills?
I have a whole neuroses with my cellphone bill. I have phone alerts set up, and I’ll pay it over the phone after the first call. For my health insurance and my car insurance, I write my dad a check. I don’t know anything about it and I don’t want to know anything about it. I just write him a check and if it goes up, I write the check for more. When I was living my boyfriend, I had him take care of the bills. I don’t know what it is, I just don’t want to deal with it. If I have to deal with it on my own, I will find a way not to deal with it, you know?

Besides bills, where does your money go?
I’ve weened myself off of clothes shopping. Not that I’m a recluse, but I really don’t see people enough to merit a lot of outfit changes. Plus I have plenty of clothes. When I had the union job, I had a lot of disposable income, but now when I do buy clothes, I tend to feel bad about it because I have enough clothes. I don’t do luxury items. Right now I’m interested in buying furniture, and I’m okay with that. I’m okay spending money on audiobooks. They’re expensive, they’re like $25, but I like them so I feel fine buying them every ten days. I feel good about spending money on food. I feel good about spending money going out to eat. And I am okay picking three days to stay in a fancy hotel and write. Basically the whole point is to not make me worry about money. Though I have two constant money nightmares, one that I’ve forgotten to check out of a hotel, and they just keep charging me, and the other that I’ve rented a car and I can’t find it, and they keep charging me (details!).

One thing I’ve admired is your tendency to call out clients that don’t pay you.
Well there’s absolutely no excuse for that shit. That’s just bad labor practice. Besides being exploitive, arrogant, and disrespectful–it’s illegal. So I will gladly burn those bridges and publicly shame them. When an employer was cutting worker benefits or fuckin’ with the union in some way, you picket. You put the rat outside. Or we’d have 20 employees march on their office. I don’t have 20 other people to march with me so I will just email blast the top brass, other staff members, until I get a response. Phonecalls and tweets, they don’t like that. You make an issue hot, people have to move. I don’t work for magazines that pull that, it upsets and demoralizes me too much. When I have money, it’s not worth the agitation track them down every day. I’m not a fucking money collector. But when I’m running low on cash and I look and see that a certain magazine is six months overdue in paying me, I campaign.

Do you have retirement savings?
I have a little bit of a 401k left over from my union job, but other than that, no, and that’s the number one source of contention in my household right now, that I’m not currently saving. My family wants me to start it now, but I feel like I haven’t made enough money to be saving yet. I’m 28. Hopefully by the time I’m 30 I’ll feel like I can start putting something away.

I have a feeling I know how you do taxes, but: How do you do taxes?
I don’t do anything throughout the year. I take a week and do it all at once. I rarely use cash and so my debit card statements are basically my books. I print them out and go over them over the course of a few days while sitting in front of the TV watching a show. I very deliberately don’t pay a lot of attention to all the numbers I’m adding up. I don’t want to know what it costs for me to live, how much I’m actually get paying. I’m self reflective about a lot of things, but how I spend my money isn’t one of them.

How do you like to split the check?
I hate splitting checks. Hate it. I think it’s gross. One person pays, the next person pays the next time. Okay maybe if you’re in a big group you have to split it up, but otherwise, it’s $30, someone should just pay for it. And on dates, it better be the dude. When I go on dates, I am a total proponent of the guy paying for the first two dates. I’ll pay for the third, but the first two he better pay for–birth control is expensive and makes my tits hurts. You think dinner is expensive? Plan B is expensive. Fuck you. Chances are you’re going to get blowjay after this date so just be a gentleman and pay for my fucking pad thai. Girls who let dudes get away with that shit are scabs. SOLIDARITY, SISTERS.

Do you just sit there, or do you make a grab for your wallet?
Oh I’ll go for my wallet, but he better slap my hand out of the way. I’ll pretend like I’m going to pay because that’s polite form, but if you let me, I won’t think much of you. If you can’t afford to pay for a dinner, then you take the bus for a couple of days and save up, I’ll pay for dessert.

Previously: How Matt Levine Does Money


161 Comments / Post A Comment

You think dinner is expensive? Plan B is expensive. Fuck you. Chances are you’re going to get blowjay after this date so just be a gentleman and pay for my fucking pad thai. Girls who let dudes get away with that shit are scabs. SOLIDARITY, SISTERS.


neener (#242)

@redheaded&crazy i don’t feel like i’m from the same planet as this woman, how am i supposed to feel solidarity with her? i am not exchanging pad thai for blowjays, and i am not a scab.

i think it’s the vitriol more than the sentiment that’s bothering me. I think. I’m trying to think back on how my first/second dates generally play out.

#1, chances aren’t you’re not going to get a blowjay after this date.
#2, I don’t like to feel that I owe anybody anything (I guess this is my own headspace because I hope guys don’t really think that paying for my dinner = blowjobs).
#3, I like to treat people to things as much as I like to be treated. So if I like somebody and am enjoying spending time with them, I’ll pay for stuff. If I don’t like somebody … I will not spend more time with them but I’ll probably pay my share at least, for reasons going back to #2 I suppose.
#4, I expect dudes to pay their weight in birth control once we get to a stage where that is a thing, whether that is, taking me out for dinner or chipping $10 or buying condoms.

But buying me dinner on a first date to pay for the plan B, cost of which is incurred via the blowjob I gave you … well … I don’t know if you understand how conception works.

Basically, I like somebody I’m dating to want to pay for some things for me. If they do that, I will pay for some things for them. I think this is more because I like to think I am a generous person who treats the people I like to things, but I can’t be dating somebody who won’t be generous in return because then I feel taken advantage of, and … I don’t know. Whatever. So yes, it’s a good sign if guys are willing to pay for things on first dates, but it’s not an expectation I have that won’t be returned.

*crosses picket line*

neener (#242)

@redheaded&crazy i guess my line of thinking goes: “why isn’t SHE a scab for giving guys blowjobs when she wouldn’t, except for the pad thai?” because honestly i’d rather split the tab than give an unenthusiastic blowjob. why are those the terms of the deal we are defending?

and in general, i think you should be generous (with dinner tabs and sex) with people you care about, and absolutely NOT feel entitled to either under any circumstances. there are situations where it’s implied that one party or another will pay for dinner (i think that if you invite somebody on a date to a nice restaurant, you are implying that you will pay), but i don’t think those situations include “every time a woman goes on a date with a man for the first time.”

lalaland (#437)

@redheaded&crazy SO much vitriol. It’s nice to read about someone who doesn’t have it as together as the previous “How ___ does money” interviews, but whoa.

Also, regarding conception, I am confused. So she doesn’t like birth control, I am assuming she means the pill…so instead uses Plan B (basically a megadose of hormones) EVERY time? What the what?

There are a lot of assumptions being made in this thread.

melis (#42)



This article “has it all,” A+, would favstar again.

@Reginal T. Squirge I’m gonna throw one more in!

I ASSUME I’m not getting the joke here.

I think it’s my feminism acting up again. Dagnabit.

lalaland (#437)

@redheaded&crazy I am going to assume that not only do I not get the joke, I don’t want to.

For me, this entire article gave off a very Cat Marnell/xoJane vibe – I don’t care/want to deal with money issues, rawr rawr I’m so edgy, bj’s for pad thai, things are gross.

I’ve read a few other pieces by Natasha Vargas-Cooper, including the bath salts piece (which I enjoyed, as I kind of thought bath salts = Lush bath bombs…) and her answers to this just didn’t do it for me.*

*Not that they have to do it for me, of course. Just a comment/thought on the internets.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@lalaland Good call about the look-at-me/xoJane vibe.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@lalaland Aw you beat me to it! But yeah, this is very played out and just not that interesting.

@lalaland Whaaaat? This was an interview with a writer who knows what her skills are worth, takes no shit, does her own taxes, and lives with her parents because she thinks they’re cool. I don’t see the connection at all to a Cat Marnell’s flighty stream of consciousness posts about her daddy issues, beauty products, and adderall.

@Deb of last year@twitter I agree with you Deb!

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Deb of last year@twitter But seriously is she the one who ate Kleenex. Because yeah, enough said.

oh lord or this piece where she snorts actual bath salts for baths.

lalaland (#437)

@aetataureate I wonder if this is where I got my bath salts misconception?

Just a big ol’ YES to the last 2 paragraphs.

sally (#917)

“I haven’t made enough money to be saving yet. I’m 28. Hopefully by the time I’m 30 I’ll feel like I can start putting something away.”

What is that even supposed to mean? She hopes she gains some maturity in the next two years? Not impressed. Nor by blowjobs for noodles.

melis (#42)


@sally i want to see this tumblr

Bill Fostex (#573)

As an ostensible gentleman, I always pay for dinner on the first few dates (unless the girl really insists that we split it, which I think is pretty dang reasonable), and usually beyond, since I always end up dating girls who are totally broke. But those last two paragraphs… Jesus Christ… most annoying woman alive.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Bill Fostex The funny thing is, by going out with a bang with the offensive dating/”blowjay” (really?) shit, she’s avoided the “Your parents pay for your lifestyle” complaints that feel more earned on this than any other Billfold piece.

Bill Fostex (#573)

@aetataureate Yes! Also, I definitely would not want that kind of mouth on my penis.

City_Dater (#565)


I’m guessing “high level misdirection/distraction” was exactly the point of those last couple paragraphs.

@Bill Fostex Definitely. Your penis deserves better.

Bill Fostex (#573)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook Thanks, Nat.

Bill Fostex (#573)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook I’ll treat you to a bowl of ramen some time!

Now I’m not just gonna sit here and let you insult Natasha Vargas-Cooper…

melis (#42)

Natasha teach me how to live

@Reginal T. Squirge @melis First we start a K-Stew prayer circle.

Word. Natasha VC is perfect in so many ways. I can’t even.

“Okay maybe if you’re in a big group you have to split it up, but otherwise, it’s $30, someone should just pay for it.” While I agree with this in theory (I like the idea that friends buy friends things and it will all Work Out In The End) I also think this can come across as pretty inconsiderate. I have been in positions where I am scraping by and really, really cannot afford more than my Caesar salad. So I order my salad and someone else orders the steak sandwich with a bottle of wine. I’d rather pay for my Caesar salad and not for my friend’s wine, you know? And vice versa! Such a strong anti-splitting-checks stand makes for awkward bill-paying and is not fair to the person who is really watching every penny. Not all of us can afford to blithely “not spend money on anything that I don’t think it’s okay to spend money on.” It’s fine if you’re in a group with similar incomes/expenses, but otherwise…maybe not so much.

(I have strong feelings about this, obvs.)

@dj pomegranate I’m in the same boat, but when I hang out with friends who make multiples of what I do, they just pick up the check 2/3 or 4/5 of the time.

I still feel like I have very little idea what journalists make, especially in our New Media World. Like, I once looked up the union pay scales at the New York Times (this was before the media crash, late 90s, early 2000s) and the top pay rate for reporters with like 15 years of experience was $75,000. Then a few years ago I was reading about a financial reporter discussing his $350,000 salary.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@stuffisthings By “financial reporter” you mean “corporate spy,” right? That’s spy money, son.

@stuffisthings I made $ 22,000 last year.

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook That’s actually more or less exactly what I was thinking (i.e. enough to go out to eat and on vacation, but not enough that paying rent wouldn’t entail big sacrifices).

Now I am just going to sit and be quietly amused as you are insulted by people who would tell you to move back in with your parents if you hadn’t already done so.

@stuffisthings One of the more vexing things about working freelance is not knowing how much money you’re going to make a year. So you kind of live on a month to month feast or famine. There is a top tier, of course. Those journalists who, say, have a 4 piece/yr contract with a major magazine. They are still freelance but they know their floor is. Over the last three years my floor and ceiling have gone up and down wildly. Two years ago I made double that thanks to a book deal. I have no idea if I’m going to make another penny this year. Makes long term planning difficult the upshot is the tremendous flexibility. I know few outlets who will pay reporters more than $300 dollars for online only pieces. In the print world, with magazines who REALLY invest in long form it’s usually $1 to $2 a word.

leonstj (#1,060)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook – Setting jokes aside – as a writer, what do you think the industry needs to do to make slow/long form more of a tenable career for people to get into and hone their skills at?

And what about assholes like me who – I mean, I read your bath salts piece and a dozen other really great pieces of long magazine writing the last month via an app which also removed all the ads – so clearly that’s not helping things (I mean, I also subscribe to a bunch of magazines that do long stuff well, so I guess i can pat myself on the back a little, but it’s more because I like shit to read when I’m at the park and work makes me hate computers).

@leonstj Thanks for reading! I think about this a lot but don’t have a great answer. A lot of the magazine who pay great money for reporting are endowment based not advertising/subscription based– so the easiest way is to find a multi-millionaire who likes publishing as a hobby? Or sees it as a public good. Not a very good answer, I know. Utopian even! I think places like Byliner and Longform have some interesting models of distribution. The Atavist as well. It’s definitely not on the consumer to figure out the answer to this, it’s the publishers. Journalism is valued at the big magazines but, you know, they only publish 12 times a year with maybe 40 long form stories per title. TIGHT labor market.

honey cowl (#1,510)

What the actual fuck? Who is this woman? Why does she think these things?

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Lauren She’s a very great long-form journalist whose recent piece on bath salts will scare the holy shit out of you.

AND her tumblr introduced me to the Gibbon Center tumblr. Just, everybody do that.

melis (#42)


melis (#42)

is that what you call the little things eyeshadow comes in

melis (#42)

they’re not tubs but little compacts with shallow wells, you know the kind I mean


@aetataureate So glad you are down with the gibbons! I applied to volunteer there and learn the secrets of the Gibz.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook The thing is, they’re cute and they rule, but the commentary from the people is even better. Like, so-and-so is reunited with her family after months apart! This guy is learning how to take care of himself! AHHH, gibbons.

EM (#1,012)

I’m a Natasha Vargas-Cooper fangirl, but I have to ask– obviously your arrangement is between you and your parents, and I too have generous upper-middle-class parents who would let me live at home if I needed to, but… don’t you feel like you have a filial responsibility to contribute financially? I mean, $22K is not a lot of money, but you could still pay a small amount. Or do you contribute in other ways? I think living at home with one’s parents can be an awesome alternative to shilling out for crazy rent (I live in Vancouver, which is comparable to NYC in crazy rent prices, and I’ve lived at home while going to grad school), but there’s also something hard to justify about being a 28-year-old who has lots of money to go out for dinners and buy audiobooks but doesn’t seem inclined to direct any of that money to her parents. I liked living with my parents too, and they are cool people who let me use their car and filled their fridge with lots of fancy gourmet cheeses, but I still paid $500 a month because it’s hard to find an excuse not to. If they’re financially secure enough not to need it, paying rent to your parents is a retirement fund of sorts, because they’ll probably end up giving that money back to you later as an inheritance.

@Michelle Hey Michelle — I could absolutely live on my own but my quality of life would be poor. Now it is high. I prefer it that way and no one suffers for it.

@Michelle I am not into suffering that shit is laaaaame.

EM (#1,012)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook No, not living on your own– I’m asking about living with your parents because it is a cheaper option and also enjoyable if you like your parents, but still sacrificing some audiobooks in favour of kicking in rent (or money for fancy cheeses). Like how do you balance out contributing to the household in exchange for the higher quality of life?

@Michelle I can’t digest cheese because I’m lactose intolerant. My parents own our house and their mortgage is cheap. It was never assumed that I’d pay rent when I came back because I’m their daughter not their roommate. I pay my way by paying my cell phone bill, car insurance bill, and healthcare bill. My healthcare is very pricey because of some health things and because I am self employed. My car insurance is also not cheap because I have a bad driving record. I go out to eat a lot at places like California Chicken Cafe and spend $10 on lunches because I’m kind of a shitty cook. I could stay home and cook and it might be a little cheaper but I don’t like doing it because it tastes bad. Audiobooks pass the time I spend in my car and make me smarter. By the way, 1 audiobook = 1 1/2 paperback book or 1 hardcover. Reading while driving is hard.

If it were up to my parents, I would never move out again. Who am I to deny them their happiness?

Ellie (#62)

@Michelle I didn’t like this piece, but I’ve lived with my parents briefly as an adult and not paid rent. I contribute to the household in other ways. I hate to think about this, but I imagine I’ll contribute financially or at least much more in other ways when my parents are much older. It’s normal in other cultures for adult children to still live with parents and I sort of wish it were more normal in ours. I think there’s a big difference between “not doing anything with your life” and “living with your parents” – they are definitely not intrinsically equivalent.

deepomega (#22)

I agree with the other commenters. I just don’t understand how it is possible to be a Feminist, and also be Full of Anger. Is it just me? Am I the only person who thinks this? Am I the only one in the whole world who thinks it is bad for women to express anger? I think the only possible explanation is that I am the only human being who has ever felt this way.

@deepomega I think your feelings are new and special.

deepomega (#22)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook The bad part is now I can’t stop singing “TONE POLICE” to myself (to the tune of DOG POLICE)

@deepomega Really upset about Dog Police now.

leonstj (#1,060)

I’m just bummed awl-network + NVC didn’t add up to hamilton/jackson/franklin FMK

edit: oh, and by the comments too. that’s what is actually a bummer.

@leonstj F= Jackson M= Hamilton K = Franklin (Franklin was into all types of zanny sexual shenanigans!)

bitzy (#1,630)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook Then why isn’t he the F? At least give me something interesting.
F=Franklin M=Hamilton K=Jackson

@bitzy I just feel like Franklin would be into Burning Man today, you know?? Are we both marrying Hamilton because of his banking skills? Or because of his views of federalism?

bitzy (#1,630)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook Definitely for the dollars. I also have no problem with letting those I love pay for shit I need sometimes.

I find this entire thread absolutely fascinating. Can’t tear myself away.


aetataureate (#1,310)

@redheaded&crazy It feels like the Awl wagons have circled on this one.

deepomega (#22)

@aetataureate What do you mean? Are you talking about the 11 comments right at the top that say there’s too much vitriol and too much sexual bartering? Or the ones in the middle saying she’s the most annoying woman alive, and not worthy of sucking that dude’s dick?

aetataureate (#1,310)

@deepomega No, I mean the thick layer of inside jokes no one is explaining, the congratulating of Ms. Vargas-Cooper on just . . . being alive and saying a thing? and how apparently her discussion of sexual bartering is a big joke even though it reads totally straight. Yes, suggesting a dude should buy you dinner since he’ll end up with a BJ later is a strange firecracker to light and run away from.

Thanks for setting an asshole trap for me though.

Slutface (#53)

@aetataureate I guess they like this person so it’s okay for her to be an asshole?

@aetataureate I actually think I’m all caught up on the jokes that I’m not cool enough to be in on!
I think my initial comment re: vitriol is being misconstrued though so I’m just going to take a moment to clarify that I specifically and only meant referring to women who don’t like to let guys pay for things as scabs.
Since my pull-quote included more than just that, I apologize for any confusion. I realize aint nobody else give a damn, but I do!

eta: I also don’t want to be part of some internet pile-on which I’ve apparently started/am continuing to contribute to. So ahhhhhh I’m going to stop! I’m sorry for saying you don’t understand how conception works that was like, pretty much a joke! but a mean joke. so I take it back. (nobody cares) (okay great)

mof (#342)

@aetataureate you just put into words my facial expression while reading most of the comments.

@aetataureate How am I being an asshole by blowing a dude on a date??? I think that’s pretty nice! This is about respect.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook I didn’t say you were being an asshole. This is what I don’t get. Are you intentionally misreading or inflaming to be funny, or are you just making fun of the regular commenters here who are expressing different opinions? I certainly don’t care who you blow but “Girls who let dudes get away with that shit are scabs” is rough.

@aetataureate Oh, I see now. Yes, it’s rough but they can take it.

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook Hey so if someone has a bad experience involving a similar scenario and some VERY spicy Thai food, in this situation is it acceptable to ask for one’s dinner money back? Asking for a friend.

Phil K. (#1,740)

@aetataureate I also feel bad when the jokes are not explained to me. :-/

leonstj (#1,060)

I was just checking the rulebook, and the pad thai beejer also includes either under-the-shirt or over-the-shirt + in-car-action.

For reference, don’t forget the basics – Drinks (beer) = makeout, drinks (wine) = boob, movie = HJ, dinner=mouth on junk, vacation or jewelry=sex, dealing w/ your mom = buttstuff

@leonstj I think the currency exchange on buttstuff has gone way down. You need to count for inflation and if the dude has a boxspring. Needs to be added to the principle. Mattress on the floor = only dry humping. NOTHING ELSE.

leonstj (#1,060)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook – Hold on, is mattress on the floor okay if the apt is BUDDHIST THEMED and there he has a dharma-wheel tattoo? ASKING FOR A FRIEND.

@leonstj First problem, Dhrama-wheel tattoo = she gets to fuck all his friends. I DON’T MAKE THE RULES HERE, I JUST KNOW THEM.

Mattress & box spring on the floor, no bed frame because he thinks they’re pointless, really nice sheets and down comforter with duvet cover? Also asking for a friend.

melis (#42)

@Reginal T. Squirge how often do you wash the duvet cover

@Reginal T. Squirge Money shots allowed.

My friend was literally just telling me about this Buddhist guy who rents a room from her parents. He took out the bed because he got used to sleeping on a pile of blankets when he lived in his car. He also used to have a futon mattress, but he donated it to his ashram and they turned it into FIFTEEN mattresses. True story. I mean, the story was bullshit, but it is true that he told it to my friend’s parents.

@stuffisthings I have many unresolved feelings about futons.

Megano! (#124)

@leonstj Oh man, those rules totally go out the door if I’ve really been craving pad thai.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

So the Billfold is going to be like xojane now and just post the most ludicrous, attention-seeking garbage they can come up with in an effort to drive page views?

I get it. But it doesn’t mean I like it.

navigateher (#555)

@MuffyStJohn Why was xoJane my first thought also.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@navigateher Plan-B Related Internet Shitstorm PTSD. GlaxoSmithKline is working on a treatment, and when the time comes, Mike Dang will tell us how to afford it with no insurance.

@MuffyStJohn What do you find attention-seeking about this? I thought what she said about using credit cards for emergencies only, intuitive spending (knowing how much money you have but not tracking it, feeling good about buying what you need, etc), setting up phone alerts for bills, calling out deadbeat employers was all very interesting to read… Is it just because she mentioned blowjobs at the end that makes you think it’s ludicrous?

leonstj (#1,060)

@Deb of last year@twitter – have you ever seen a blowjob? they’re pretty ludicrous.

“Deleted by user” was actually leon asking what he could get for a chicken satay.


Ok, that one literally made me laugh out loud. Nicely done.

leonstj (#1,060)

@stuffisthings – I’m sorry, my food-for-sex-bartering table doesn’t include indonesian, moldovan, and (weirdly) French.

The Latvian section is surprisingly thorough, however.

mlh (#905)

How do you do money, Natasha Vargas-Cooper?

I don’t. Fuck money. Blowjobs.

Very insightful.

@mlh the billfold MIGHT ACTUALLY BE THE WORST.

sox (#246)

@mlh @mlh But isn’t the point of this whole series to see how people do money? Now we know how The Natasha VC does money.

This is a pretty typical example of her voice/tone when writing personal opinion pieces. I think those familiar with this are maybe more used to it (I have admittedly had to get used to it), but in a lot of ways I find it insightful to get an honest presentation of how this one journalist does money – maybe particularly because she doesn’t do it the way lots of folks here seem to want her to.
Regarding the whole BJ for noodles uproar, this is really not for us to judge is it? That’s up to the dude who asked her out. But she answered the question she was asked honestly.

@MuffyStJohn Muffy makes a point. All this wild stuff about me living at home, filing invoices, going out to eat, paying for birth control is a cheap ploy to SHOCK and TITILATE people. Glad I left out the part about being a drug mule and having unprotected group sex.

riggssm (#297)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook “Glad I left out the part about being a drug mule and having unprotected group sex.”

*call me

sox (#246)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook If you are a drug mule and STILL don’t have a savings account, then I think your parents have extra grounds to nag you about that!

navigateher (#555)

“I grew up solidly middle class, and I don’t want to backslide. That’s the point, to move forward; my parents didn’t work their asses off so I could drink alone in an apartment and eat ramen.”

At first I thought I didn’t understand these sentences right because, you know, third language and all that. But no, I understood all right. Sadly.

sally (#917)

God, I come back and half the comments are the woman herself, sniping at commenters. Now that’s a hot mess.

Agree, smells like xojane. Is Mike Dang at a wedding?

mof (#342)

this is disappointing. i like the billfold because i get to read interesting smart stuff. this is not interesting smart stuff.

deepomega (#22)

OK guys, I realize this is Not Respecting The Form, but here is what is going on for all the Young Hairpinnistas who are wandering over and making this face >:O

1. Natasha is a long form journalist who has written a lot of things that are nice to read.
2. Her style in her non-long-form-journalism stuff tends towards gonzo-y shit, I guess, although she’d probably get mad at me for saying that. See all her FMK pieces from the Old Hairpin Days. Look at all dem dick jokes!
3. There are jokes and layers of sincerity and exaggeration in this, but especially towards the end of it – if you aren’t clear on the humor of a former union organizer saying “SOLIDARITY SISTERS” about sucking dick and not paying for dinner, I’m not sure what to say.
4. There is nothing I love more than people accusing someone of trolling because they don’t like what the writer is saying. NEVER STOP

Fig. 1 (#632)

@deepomega (I think this comment thread conclusively proves we need more NV-C on the Billfold.)

mlh (#905)

@deepomega The flip side of the accusation of trolling is all the smug comments that people who don’t like this just don’t get the joke. When I read a FMK post I know what I’m getting. This site is edited by the most sincere blogger on the planet, Mike Dang, and people who come to it want to actually read an answer to the question, How do you do money? If you’re too cool to answer it, then don’t do the interview!

leonstj (#1,060)

@deepomega – MANSPLAINER

madrassoup (#929)

Just so I am clear. Not LOVING the article means:

1) Not liking long-form journalism or Natasha’s contributions to it;

2) Not properly appreciating Old Hairpin (circa what, January 2012?) style;

3) Not getting this joke or union humor in general;

4) Accusing Natasha of trolling; and

5) Sending a bat signal out to the Awl-iverse

Did I leave anything out? It might be easier if next time there is a list of Authors Whose Every Utterance You Must Love, Always, to avoid similar hiccups.

deepomega (#22)

@mlh So you’re saying there is no info on “how you do money” in this? There’s a lot, not to mention what she’s added in the comments, and then it ends with personal date paying philosophy and dick jokes.

@madrassoup Not loving this article means you disagree that the best part of The Dark Knight Rises was when they showed an unmasked Tom Hardy. I demand love.

Maevemealone (#1,735)

@deepomega She never revealed what she spends on make-up and Lisa Frank dolls. She should clearly be set on fire.


deepomega (#22)

@madrassoup UGH you’re making me be REALLY SINCERE AND LITERAL and I HATE IT, but here you are because you were nice enough to not call anyone an asshole upthread:

1. That was just an explanation of who she is, since there were LITERALLY people posting asking who she is. I don’t care what you like or don’t like, nor do I think this piece is a litmus test of whether you deserve to like something.
2. I guess, probably, although if you go by the link I sent Old Hairpin ended in June of 2011.
3. You can get the humor and not like it, but you can’t post things like “why isn’t SHE a scab” and claim you understand what humor is.
4. Only applies to people literally accusing her of trolling.
5. What?

You are allowed to dislike whatever you want! You’re not allowed to claim that this piece was xojane trolling or that NVC is too vitriolic without getting SASSED UPON

Hope that clears things up, though. ;)

madrassoup (#929)

@deepomega I like you sincere and literal (and I’m being sincere — I like that the Billfold is earnest and doesn’t require a long memory to follow a comment thread, but that’s a gripe for the next time Awl/Hairpin commenters bring their inside-baseball banter to the party (does that help clear up point #5?)).

And you make fair enough points, although regarding 1) I took the “who is this chick?” questions as rhetorical since the answers are built very well into the article, and regarding 4) I will only add that if you are anal like me (and want to get a good lay of the land before diving into the fray) and comb through the comment transcript, you will see that you were the first to use the word “trolling.” That’s not a gotcha, that’s just saying that comparing the tone of this piece to that of something written on xojane is not the same thing as saying someone is trolling.

synchronia (#185)

@madrassoup Not in the original sense of trolling for newbies, but in I guess a newer sense of trolling for pageviews (as MuffyStJohn was complaining about way upthread).

neener (#242)

@deepomega i guess i regret not getting the joke and becoming the official “clueless hairpin jerk” of this thread, but in my defense people really do believe what natasha vargas-cooper is too cool to mean about paying for dates, and i’m actually jealous of you for living in a world where it’s impossible for somebody to say what she said without meaning it, at least a little bit.

atipofthehat (#58)


The Old Hairpin isn’t coming back, is it?


@atipofthehat what are you guys talking about, the old hairpin?

janestreet (#1,123)

Ummm this is the WHOLE POINT OF THIS SITE, ya’ll. Lady journo being honest about making 22K and living with her parents and eating out too much? +1 Billfold. This is the kind of thing I come here to read.

That said, being a girl who wants to pay for her own first-date dinner is also cool, I can see that it’s a preference. Though gentleman should still offer to see what kind of girl she is? (N.B. I am not that girl, but I respect that girl’s right to want to buy her noodles smothered in peanut butter mmmmm padthai)

@janestreet All ladies should have safe and legal access to delicious ethnic noodle dishes. Y/Y?

janestreet (#1,123)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook Y!!

also, in re: shaming people about not paying you/not getting paid on time/not getting paid for months: preach, freelance sister, preach.

I kinda wonder if Natasha hadn’t stated her age whether there’d still be the same kind of ‘this sounds like xojane’ responses? I thought Natasha came off as very confident in this interview and I was sort of picturing a 40-something Kim France type and was (pleasantly!) surprised when she said she was 28. Do some commenters see a 20-something offhandedly mention bj’s and suddenly instead of confidence see oversharing?

Nick (#1,548)

I didn’t know that Chloe McGruff was based on a real person.

@Nick I do not watch that show, will you please tell me how my life resembles the Bitch in Apartment 23?

Nick (#1,548)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook It’s not actually from a comic book, so joke’s on you.

@Nick is she bitchy? :(

@Nick Cool joke!

melis (#42)


deepomega (#22)


cherrispryte (#19)

And the scoring is in!

deepomega, with a score of 37.9, wins the Gold!
melis, with a score of 34.3, takes the Silver!
leonstj brings it home with the Bronze, and a score of 29.8!

Well done, everyone! Thai food and beejays for all!

@cherrispryte I have all the grills.

karion (#931)

Fuck the blowjob issue, leaving aside that you live in your parents’ basement – do you really order pad thai on a date?

Because, judgment. Pad thai is almost never done right.

Team NVC 4life. Because her ark has meercats, lemurs, and Mark Walhberg.


karion (#931)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook: Well, if he’s buying, THEN I SHOULD HOPE SO.

pandajerk (#1,737)

I am a long-time fan of Natasha’s writing and this interview delighted me, despite having paid for both tickets to a movie on a second date JUST THIS VERY WEEKEND.


theotherginger (#1,304)

all I can say is NVC WHY ARE YOU NO LONGER WRITING FMK FOR THE HAIRPIN??? or, why did I start reading the hairpin too laaaaaaaaaate.

atipofthehat (#58)


Maybe the Hairpin didn’t pay on time?

HA HA HA, sorry.

Megano! (#124)

Soo a question Natasha. How did you get relationships with these 5 editors? Did you know them from school? Did you meet them at events? Did you originally blind pitch to them? I’m looking for work right now (as a writer) but not having the best luck, so freelancing is probably going to be the way to go, but like, I don’t know a lot of editors.

@Megano! HAI some of them were blind pitches at the beginning. It’s one of those tricky things where work begets more work. Definitely having clips from places like the Awl helps a lot, editors read the site.

Megano! (#124)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook Thank you!

She’s awesome

frenz.lo (#455)

Aw, man. I got all mad because she doesn’t check her bank balance enough, and I was all set to come down here and be like, “What about overdraft fees how could you???!” and then I find out that everyone else is mad because of dating ethics. I feel like I missed the outrage meeting!
But, seriously, what about overdraft fees?

@frenz.lo I pay for overdraft protection !

friendzone (#1,741)

All of the xojane hate is looking a little hypocritical. Look at what y’all missed:

-I refuse to pay dues or deal with other people.
-I refuse to the concept of jobs that would pay me because I wouldn’t like them. JOURNALISM.
-I go to Hawaii every year!
-I don’t know how much money I have because I do not pay my bills.
-I give my money to anyone near me who has a penis. (Because I refuse to take care of it.)
-Sometimes, while living rent free with my parents, I like to go to a hotel in the city I live in to work.
-I do my taxes while watching TV because I don’t want to pay attention.

Only you can prevent xoj. Be the change people.

@friendzone Look at you go! The howls of execration only make the swimming pool that much warmer.

cherrispryte (#19)

@friendzone you know what i managed to take away from this piece?
- I am not in debt
- I am successfully doing what I want with my life
Look at what you missed!

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Natasha Vargas-Cooper@facebook To be fair, this is the normal kind of asshole comment people make on Billfold posts. “Why aren’t you committing suicide because you don’t fit my definition of financially responsible?!”

@aetataureate never been anything more true. ASTUTE OBSERVATION.

sockhopbop (#764)

@aetataureate Yeah, reading the Billfold comments (which I mostly love, except for the High Order of Fiscally Responsible Judges) has made me realize that one reason the subject of money is so taboo is because people who are honest about it subject themselves to big-time scrutiny/potential rage.

Exene (#391)

“Ween” though?

leonstj (#1,060)

@Exene – The Argus is practiced compassion!

Comments are closed!