Word on the streets of Greenpoint has been that It Doesn’t Have to Be Awkward arrived at the bookstores. This book is jointly written by the familiar household personality, Dr. Drew, and his daughter Paulina Pinksy.
This intriguing father-daughter collaboration really piqued our interest. Moreover, Paulina is one of us – a Greenpointer! We had to sit down with her and ask our many questions.
Who is Paulina Pinsky in a few short-liners? We want to know more about this Greenpointer whom we are so proud of!
Bright, bold writer; comedy writing teacher to high schoolers; ex-figure skater and bulimic; the baby girl in a set of triplets.
What was the inception story of It Doesn’t Have to Be Awkward?
Fall of 2019, on the tails of the #MeToo movement, my dad was approached by an agent at UTA about writing a book on consent. He liked the idea, but felt that he couldn’t do it alone. I had just graduated with my MFA in Nonfiction Creative Writing from Columbia University that May and I am young, so my dad thought of me for the project.
Did I think my first book was going to be a guide to consent with my father? Absolutely not. I’ve been working on a memoir for the past five years, so I thought maybe that’d be first. However, I am thankful for the opportunity to have had these conversations with my dad and to really learn about the book publishing process from the inside – the experience has been invaluable.
You must have such a close father-daughter relationship with your dad, Dr. Drew. Did working with him on this book show you a side of him you never knew?
I listened more deeply to his experiences. I didn’t really understand how much my dad had struggled with panic and anxiety in his early twenties (which, thanks to genetics, so did I). So really listening to his experiences taught me more about him and his history, which I am grateful for.
But also my dad is a self-professed workaholic and, as a result, was gone a lot during my childhood. So I think, to a certain extent, my dad asking me to work with him on this project was his way of showing that he believes in my writing capabilities, in addition to sharing what he loves: work.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Awkward talks about TCB (Trust, Compassion, Boundaries) a lot. Do you find it challenging to constantly practice TCB in your daily life?
TCB is a muscle, and just like any other muscle, it feels a bit wobbly and weak at first. Plus, it’s vulnerable to try new things. But the more reps you get in, the stronger it gets.
Ever since writing this book, TCB snuck up on me – I have been unintentionally asking myself these questions when something feels off: Is there mutual trust? Am I being compassionate? Are they being compassionate? Are my boundaries being respected – am I respecting their boundaries?
Ultimately, TCB is in service of healthy communication and relating. And when one of these elements is missing – Trust, Compassion, or Boundaries – then everything feels off. And once you identify the missing element, then it grants you the opportunity to communicate what you need.
It felt vulnerable to start communicating what I felt was missing in any given situation – whether with a friend or a romantic partner – but now, I feel like I have a framework that helps me solve my own problems. Rather than creating chaos, I’m having conversations.
Did the process of writing this book helped you understand yourself better?
I wouldn’t say that I was practicing healthy consent prior to writing this book. Fall of 2019, I was Tinder Queen Extraordinaire, ghosting people left and right. Having sex with people because it was easier just to do it, than to say no.
But now, with TCB in mind, I feel that I am able to show up more fully in all of my relationships. From friendships to parents, significant others and siblings, this framework has helped me become a person worthy of trust, compassion, and boundaries (though, we are ALL worthy of TCB).
Without giving too much of the book away, why should our readers at Greenpointers get a hold of this book? Is it just for teenagers or how can a grown-up benefit from this read?
By taking consent out of a sexual context, we were able to demonstrate that consent is instrumental to all relationships throughout life. The more practice with consent in an interpersonal context, the more likely we are able to make healthy consent choices in a sexual context.
However, this book isn’t about the mechanics of sex – it’s about the interpersonal navigation of all types of relationships, from friends to parents, teachers and romantic partners. By focusing on all of the relationships you have throughout life, we show how TCB is a framework that can help you relate to others and protect yourself. This book was written with 12-20 year olds in mind, but I have friends in their mid-thirties telling me that they’ve been thinking about TCB in all types of relationships.
If you want to practice healthy consent in both your life and your relationships, then this is the book for you.
You also teach comedy writing to high schoolers at Columbia University. What is the importance of humor in your personal life and in your work?
Humor is instrumental to everything I do – my writing, my teaching, my everyday life. Humor is a mode of survival. Humor allows me to tell the truth. But mostly I think it’s important to always have a sense of humor, no matter the situation.
When I first got to grad school, the anal tone in the room could crack glass– no one had a sense of humor. Which made me feel self-conscious, I was worried that something was wrong with me. But then I realized that I needed to find my people – the ones who don’t take themselves so seriously, and know how to laugh.
Life’s too silly to be dour.
When it comes to my high school comedy writing students, I teach my students to always punch up, not down – and to play to the height of their intelligence. But more specifically, I make each student think about their individual identity– does their racial identity allow them to speak to a specific experience? Does their gender or sexual identity create a certain perspective?
In my class, it is never cool to make jokes about someone’s race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity – pointing at difference and saying “Ew” isn’t funny, it’s lazy. However, I believe that if you can elucidate a perspective that isn’t simply “That Person Is Different”. I want to make space for my students to try things out. As a teacher, I aspire to help each student do better, think smarter. It’s easy to make jokes that target differences – just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it’s cool to shit on it.
I’m much more interested in helping my students express what they uniquely see, and to speak to it. Usually they come up with more interesting content because they’re not making easy, lazy jokes.