Duchess Goldblatt: My New Imaginary Friend

Have you met Duchess Goldblatt yet? She’s my new friend and I’d love to introduce her to you.

Perhaps you read about her in the New York Times Book Review:

@DuchessGoldblat, if you aren’t familiar with her, is a Twitter personality — a “character.” She’s a self-described 81-year-old author of royal blood, who lives in the (fictional) town of Crooked Path, N.Y. She has a (fictional) middle-aged daughter, Hacienda, who is incarcerated, and she’s the author of the (fictional) memoirs “An Axe to Grind” and “Feasting on the Carcasses of My Enemies: A Love Story.” Her avatar is a (nonfictional) 1633 painting by Frans Hals titled “Portrait of an Elderly Lady,” which hangs in the National Gallery.

Julia Klam, July 7, 2020

In a Twitterverse that spawns imaginary enemies at every turn, Duchess Goldblatt has arisen as a much needed, much adored imaginary friend.

I was introduced to Her Grace last month by way of several writers who I follow on Twitter: James Rebanks, Lara Prescott, Rosanne Cash, Cheryl Strayed, Susan Orlean, Benjamin Dryer. They were abuzz with the imminent release of her new book, Becoming Duchess Goldblatt.

The book (which I read on Kindle) provides the backstory of Duchess and her creator, Anonymous. It also provides a glimpse of Duchess’ persona, with her playful mystique and delightfully fun way with words. 

Anonymous’ story is well-told and compelling. It touches on themes like the prodigal son (from the perspective of being the good child), rejected love (familial and romantic), and mental illness (or, a better term, mental quirkiness). 

Interspersed with Anonymous’ story, the Duchess inserts her proclamations of magical thinking, drawn from her real Twitter posts.  

Here’s a sampling of Duchess Goldblatt’s witticisms:

“I spilled a bag of ellipses all over the floor.  Now I don’t know where anything begins or ends.”
“When I edit, I remove the words that don’t want to be there, hand wash them in warm water, and lay them flat to dry. I might use them later.”
“I left a window open overnight and the moonlight slipped away and now the sun’s getting in and touching all of my stuff.” 

Such proclamations appear daily on the Duchess Twitter account, consistently delivered in a voice that tickles the grammar-bone and warms the heart. 

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt is a worthy memoir and a snappy introduction to one of the most positive communities on Twitter.  

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For Further Reading  

You can follow Duchess Goldblatt on Twitter @duchessgoldblat. You’ll be in esteemed company.

For another laugh-evoking memoir, I recommend Furiously Happy: a Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson. Furiously Happy has been my go-to gift for friends undergoing surgery—on the premise that a good laugh helps the healing, and that reading about someone else’s batshit crazy stories makes you feel better about your own current situation. 

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Some Notes About Friendship From Duchess Goldblatt  

1. Ideal friendships start with the notion of an ideal friend. 

Before creating Duchess Goldblatt, Anonymous’ friendships were few and problematic. Here’s her account from one of her therapy sessions:  

Psychologist: “Try to find a friend who's emotionally healthy.  Who's fully functional.”
Anonymous: “But if they're emotionally healthy and functioning, why would they need me.” 
Psychologist: “I'm not sure you understand what a friend is.”

In an unlikely and amusing turn of events, Anonymous befriends her longtime music-hero, Lyle Lovett:  “…Our friendship was pure, like those that are forged early in childhood. You ever see two little kids running around together? They’re only aware of extracting the greatest possible fun out of that moment. That was our friendship. ” 

In creating Duchess Goldblatt, Anonymous uses the cover of a make-believe world to develop an entirely new notion of what an ideal friendship could look like. Like magic, ideal friendships are made manifest.  

2. It takes some audacity to make friends.  

Duchess came out on Twitter tabula rasa; she had no followers and no friends to invite to follow her. 

Anonymous writes: “I realized pretty quickly that nobody would find Duchess unless she started up conversations by commenting on other people’s posts, so I started reading other people and responding to them.  That’s how readers began to discover Duchess.”

“Don’t let anyone shame you for your love of an imaginary friend. Religions have been founded on less.” –DG

Word of mouth generated plenty of new followers. Within a short time, the imaginary Duchess had created a court that felt like a “welcoming, open-door salon.” 

3. Friends make an effort to connect and delight. 

Who among us doesn’t have childhood memories of making puns and inside jokes with our friends, marveling at each other’s cleverness and reveling in our own?  

Duchess is intentional about using her gift with words to connect and delight her friends. She uses “every opportunity to respond as a chance to create an inevitable surprise for the reader: ‘inevitable’ in the sense that once you saw it, there was no other response that would have been superior, and a ‘surprise’ in that people couldn’t guess what she would say next.  I tried to build in surprises around every corner.” 

“Some of you have been coddled too long. I’m not cutting the crusts off these sentences for you anymore.”–DG

“I try to keep my abiding love for all humanity in one place, but somehow it always ends up in piles on the dining room table.”–DG

“Not until people start seeing typos eating out of the garbage cans at night will they regret hunting proofreaders almost to extinction.”–DG

Such silly wordplay evokes mutual regard among friends and creates lasting bonds of friendship.

4. Friends choose kindness over snarkiness. 

The Duchess is straight-up funny, and she is always kind. It’s an unusual combination on Twitter.

“Sometimes I think of something so funny that I break out laughing by myself, and it’s then that I know you’re with me.” –DG

This niceness doesn’t always come naturally to the Duchess, and she admits that she sometimes has to dig deep to say something helpful. And it is this effort behind the graciousness that makes readers love her and want to be like her.

As Lyle Lovett observes, “Duchess is ever mindful. It’s her unconditional acceptance that makes her so beloved.  (She is) an invisible glue made of good will.”

“Lean hard with me on the side of sweetness and light, and we can rock it over.” –DG

5. A good friend celebrates your best self.  

Duchess hilariously touts her beauty and influence at every opportunity. 

“I look so beautiful today. It’s really hard for me to concentrate. I don’t know how any of you manage to get your work done with me around.”–DG

“Good night, friends.  Try not to fall ever more hopelessly in love with me tonight.” –DG

As Anonymous explains, her “relentless insistence on her own physical beauty is both a running joke and a call to others to see and acknowledge their own gifts.”

“I am sunlight.  I walk in beauty. Where there is Duchess Goldblatt, there are no shadows, nor any darkness, nor sorrow anymore.”–DG

By celebrating her own largeness, Duchess charms the reader into acknowledging and celebrating her own creative efforts and possibilities.  

“Hello, sunshine of my life. Everything you need to do, you can do, and I believe that you will. All will be well, love.” –DG

These are the words of a true friend.

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