Messy, messy humans

My current fantasy is a nasty, sweaty dance party, one that starts at three a.m. and runs through dawn, me and a hundred people I’ve never met jumping around to a sound system that drills through the walls.

I didn’t always like crowds. In my twenties, I told people I didn’t like to be in large groups, that I disliked the idea of being trapped in a mass of uncontrollables, with no idea of what might happen next. But it was more fantasy than true. Sometimes we say what we are not in order to see what we are, and something about being the kind of man who disliked being around other people felt appealing, like an important facet of the type I longed to be: serious, stoic, alone with my thoughts, the guy who doesn’t belong and can’t be bought. Truthfully, what I didn’t like about crowds, if anything, was their unruliness, their messiness – which, now that I think about it, is another way of saying what I didn’t like about myself were those moments when I was unruly, when I was messy, and not just because I’d had too much to drink.

For a long time, I told myself that being self-conscious, adrift in my skull, was simply an unfortunate aspect of my mind. Instead, it’s probably where I felt most safe.

Last weekend, Friday night, a friend invited us to a house party. Everyone was fully vaccinated. We weren’t in violation of city rules, but it still felt dangerous, guilt-inducing, basically surreal. The host was a famous musician, and all of the guests were stylish and interesting. I fell into a long conversation in the kitchen with a young person I’d never met, who’d recently lost their father. The room got crowded. We went outside. They were eager to talk about him, their father, when I asked what he had been like, what he desired most in life, what he loved. After an hour, both of us were crying, hugging in the dark.

It’s taken me a lot of time to be comfortable being a messy human in front of other messy humans. Now, it’s all I want.


My new nonfiction book, Everything Now, comes out June 15th, which means it’s available for pre-order from AmazonBookshop, or your local store. And! If you pre-order, shoot me an email and I’ll send you an inscribed bookplate from my publisher to stick inside the book. Here’s how:

  1. Forward your receipt (or send a photo of it, or just tell me you pre-ordered, whatever) to

  2. Include your name, mailing address, and the name of who you’d like it inscribed to, and I’ll put a bookplate in the mail.

The book reaches stores on June 15. It’s gotten some really nice mentions and early reviews. Events are being scheduled. I’ve said this before, and it is ever true: connecting with readers, in any way possible, is incredibly rewarding, and I really appreciate it. As always, thank you for your support.

What the what? A (mostly) weekly newsletter by novelist Rosecrans Baldwin of (very) short essays about things he finds beautiful.

Rosecrans’s new nonfiction book, Everything Now, forthcoming June 15, 2021, is available for preorder via AmazonBookshop, or your local store. Any books mentioned in this newsletter are on a list at Bookshop.