Excerpt: Anna Kendrick's Scrappy Little Nobody

Posted by Goodreads on November 7, 2016

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Oh, Anna Kendrick. Is there a more adorable and slightly dorky actress on the big screen right now? We think not. Lucky for us, she's bringing her weird, wacky, wonderful worldview to readers with her new book of autobiographical essays that are just as endearing as the star herself.

But don't let her down-to-earth, I'd-have-beers-with-her vibe fool you. Kendrick has serious acting and singing chops. She was nominated for a Tony Award when she was just 12 years old for her performance in the Broadway musical High Society. She also earned an Oscar nomination for her role in Up in the Air. She's a serious box office star with her Pitch Perfect movies and her new animated movie, Trolls. And did we mention that she has a mere 5.8 million Twitter followers?

With Scrappy Little Nobody, Kendrick shares laugh-out-loud stories, including the one below. Who can't relate to this dating story of the aloof introvert who might have actually just been a boring dude who wasn't that into her? You'll cringe for Kendrick and you'll laugh as you identify with these funny vignettes.

he's just not that interesting

The summer I turned twenty-one I dated a musician named Connor. Well, I thought he was a musician and that we were dating. He thought he was a screenwriter who occasionally played music and that we were "hooking up and not labeling things because labels cause drama." He was twenty-eight and something of an introvert. I took this to mean that he was deep and artistic and probably judged me for talking as much as I do. Once we broke up I realized it just meant that he was kind of boring. And probably judged me for talking as much as I do.

This was my first lesson in He's Just Not That Into You. Sure, that episode of Sex and the City had aired and the book had been written, but guess what, TV writers can't learn your life lessons for you. I plowed ahead, actually having conversations with friends that sounded like this:

"Do you think I'm coming across overeager? Do I need to play it more cool with him?"

"Maybe? Why don't you just not call him for a while and wait for him to get in touch with you?"

"Well, if I didn't call him at all we'd never talk again."

(Oh. Sweet Anna.)

When we first started hooking up, I was twenty. He would play in clubs and bars at night, which meant that at first, it was simply unavoidable that he'd spend most of the night without me and invite me over once he got home. I reasoned that it wasn't a booty call if the law was keeping us apart. A fake ID was out of the question, since I looked like a guilty fifth grader on my best day. So at a certain point my only goal became to not get dumped before I turned twenty-one; then I'd be able to really get my hooks in. Oh god, it hurts to write.

Looking back, it's hard for me to understand what I was doing. Why on earth would I pursue someone who clearly had no interest in me? It's not like we had fun together; the man didn't like me so much as tolerate me. I suppose the easy answer is that I hadn't had a decent relationship yet, so I thought bagging a "cool" and attractive male was the whole objective. We would have made a terrible couple. But his indifference blinded me to all the red flags. He drove a BMW but slept on a futon. He watched the History Channel like it was a reliable source of information. Part of me knew I was only determined to bring him around because he was resisting me, but the idea of acknowledging the rejection hurt more than pretending it might be going somewhere.

I'd been so nervous when we met (and only got increasingly nervous as I tried to win his affection) that as a result, I have no idea what I was even like around him. If I could see tape of us interacting, I doubt I'd recognize myself. Who was I supposed to be making him fall in love with? My strategy was to just be agreeable. I had this fantasy of a braver, parallel-universe version of myself, but I was the most sterile, inoffensive version instead. When he said things to me like "You use humor as a defense mechanism," I should have said, "Yeah, and you use pithy proclamations that let you maintain your sense of superiority as a fuckin' defense mechanism." Instead I clenched my teeth and made a plan to be more serious from then on.

We saw each other sporadically. Sometimes I'd send a breezy text, start a casual conversation, and spend the day staring at my phone until he got the hint and invited me over. Our group of mutual friends would get together a couple times a week and I'd invariably end up going home with him after those nights, so I did not miss one group hang-out that summer. At the time this group seemed impossibly cool to me as well. I'm sure their allure was wrapped up in my desire to stay connected to him. Also, I don't know if being motivated by amazing sex would have made my desperation more pathetic or less, but I cannot say that was part of it.

As the weeks went on, I alternately gained and lost ground. He had some setbacks professionally and he opened up to me about some of his fears and insecurities. This is awesome, I thought gleefully as I held him.

A couple of weeks later he was still feeling down. I offered to come over early one morning and cook him breakfast. This was partially a gesture, something to make him feel cared for, and partially because he was so strapped for cash I knew he'd appreciate a free batch of groceries. He'd taught me how to make his favorite breakfast burrito and I went to the Gelson's Market by my apartment to pick up everything we needed. Normally, I walked to Gelson's every morning to buy a lone Power Bar. But today the checkout girl saw my basket: the tortillas, the eggs, the spices. She noted the change in my purchase and commented, "Trying something new?"

"Oh! Yeah …" I paused. "I'm making breakfast for my boyfriend." What was the harm in saying it, right? It felt like Connor and I were probably heading there anyway, and as far as she knew I was perfectly deserving of having the guy I'd been seeing for months accept the title of "boyfriend." Unlike, say, all my friends, this girl had no reason to believe I was kidding myself. She smiled back at me and nodded conspiratorially. Yes, I thought, it is adorable. How quaint am I, clumsily attempting to cook breakfast for my boyfriend? Like something out of a movie, I'd burn the first batch, he'd laugh, and I'd smack his arm. Yes, Gelson's lady, that's exactly what's going on here.

I made the breakfast and he was grateful, but it wasn't quite how I'd pictured it. He had somewhere to be that afternoon, so we both headed out. I was in the car, waiting to make a left-hand turn, when my phone rang. It was him! He never called me first! Especially not so soon after saying good-bye. I snatched the phone out of the cup holder and answered. "Hi, stalker, just can't leave me alone, can you?" Nice one, Anna, perfect play.

"I was just behind you. You're doing my most hated thing. When people turn left onto Sweetzer but don't signal, so no one knows why you've stopped. I just had to go around you."

I thought he was calling to say thank you for breakfast, or tell me something funny he'd just seen that made him think of me, or maybe just to say that it was nice to see me and could we hang out again tonight. He was calling to critique my driving.

Why was I trying to spend more time with this person?! I didn't even enjoy his company! What is wrong with twenty-year-old girls?!

I debated even telling this part of the story because I hate admitting that I forgot to signal. But on the upside, it shows what a spineless doormat I was shaping up to be, so it stays!

When I finally turned twenty-one it didn't change our dynamic as much as I had hoped it would. He started showing interest in a new girl in the group named Erika, and I could feel him pulling away even more. The next time we had a vague talk about "what we were doing," he seemed to debate himself Sméagol/Gollum style in front of me. "Well, we get along … I mean, we don't ever fight … and I'm not saying that I want to be with anyone else right now … but I guess I don't want to miss out on any opportunities." I should have screamed, "I'M the opportunity, you asshat!" But I clenched my teeth and convinced myself once again that I didn't need a "label." Before I left, I at least managed to ask the question.

"Okay, so you don't want to be with someone else, but I have to ask. … Erika … is there anything there I should be worried about?"

He furrowed his eyebrows, more in comic surprise than anger.

"Erika the brunette? Barrett's friend? No, no, I'm not even attracted to that girl—I think that girl has a boyfriend." It was enough for me. I figured a guy who secretly liked a girl might protest that she had a boyfriend as a cover-up, but if he hoped they might get together at some point he wouldn't bother saying he wasn't attracted to her or call her "that girl." Twice.

(Yes, reader, I know you know where this is going. You are far better at everything than I am.)

A few weeks later he came over and broke up with me. I cried. So much. It was hideously embarrassing. What had happened to me? I had handled my first breakup like a champ. This guy so obviously wasn't into me, we weren't ever really together in the first place, and I was behaving like a messy trophy wife who'd just been told the prenup was ironclad.

He was very sensitive about it and put up with a lot of waterworks from a girl who'd claimed over and over she was fine with just "having fun." During the following days, the finality of being dumped started to feel like a relief. It could have gone on like that for god knows how long—being ignored, making myself available, swearing I was fine with how things were, too nervous to push for the "boyfriend" status. Or worse, I could have actually transitioned it into a real relationship—I've seen it happen. It looks miserable. I always want to scream at the guy, "You let her get her hooks in so far that you married her? Did you even notice it happening??" And I want to scream at the girl, "This is what you put in all that work for? A husband who's utterly disinterested in you and cheats constantly while you turn a blind eye??"

Almost immediately after we ended it, I could see that I was far angrier with myself than I was with Connor. On one hand, he must have seen I was more invested than he was, and arguably he should have let me down easy in the first few weeks of knowing me. On the other, I can't blame a guy for believing me (or more likely, pretending to believe me) when I insisted I was happy keeping things low-key and having casual sex.

I left town a few weeks later to film an independent movie in a tiny town in Indiana. After work one night, I logged into Myspace on the slow motel internet. I'd held out on cyberstalking for a while (two days) and rewarded myself by looking up Connor and everyone remotely connected to him.

In modern movies, the dumped girl finds out about the new girlfriend through a picture: the dude and his new girlfriend smiling on a hike or kissing at a party. I found out because Erika wrote a blog post about it. There, on Myspace, was a half-page post about the new man in her life. The most surreal part was that she'd incorporated lyrics from his songs throughout, like sappy, stilted Mad Libs. You wouldn't know those songs, so I won't try to re-create her post, but imagine if Paul McCartney had a new girlfriend and she wrote something like this online: I knew that If I Fell it would be a Long and Winding Road, but Do You Want to Know a Secret? I need him Eight Days a Week, because All You Need Is Love.

I thought my skull was going to cave in on itself.

Thank the lord that at this point in my life I'd implemented my "no matter how upset you are, sleep on it" policy regarding conflict. I drafted ten different emails to Connor. They ranged from furious, wounded, two-page diatribes to the classic single "Wow." It's a dangerous word to send an ex. Ostensibly restrained and dignified but in reality self-righteous and petulant. I slept on it and in the end sent nothing.

My poor coworkers in Indiana never heard the end of it. Despite my moaning, the cast and crew were really supportive. They didn't know the situation, they had no obligation to cheer me up, but on days I was mopey the director would say, "My landlord back in LA just called and told me there's a toothless prostitute named Erika—with a 'k'—hanging out behind the dumpster in our alley and she's offering hand jobs for a dollar, but no one's taking her up on it."

"You've never even seen a picture of her. I know you're trying to make me laugh, but she's actually really pretty."

"You're right. She's very pretty for a toothless prostitute who hangs out behind dumpsters and smells like a pile of dead rats. Oh yeah, he said she smells like a pile of dead rats."

It's amazing the way this over-the-top and uncalled-for meanness warmed my loathsome little heart. It's a strategy I've followed, perhaps at my peril, when my friends go through similar scenarios. I know it's childish and lame, but it feels good, and you're allowed to be a miserable shit for a while after you get dumped. You know your ex and his new girlfriend aren't evil, but it's easier to feel like they are. Breakups can turn fully dimensional people into stubborn little vessels for your most stubborn little feelings. It takes a while for them to change back.

Very recently a strange thing happened. Someone who still knows Erika brought her up to me. I cringed: that bitch.

"You know she still thinks you're pissed at her." This gave me pause. She still thinks what? How does she even know me? I was twenty, I was a mousy girl she met one time. I assumed she hadn't even caught my name. I figured she didn't know I was a person. But I realized, Oh my god, I'm not pissed at her. I'm SO not pissed at her. I literally have no feelings about her. In fact I don't think I'd recognize her if I fell over her! Oh, hello, fully dimensional human, you're free to leave my brain now!

It was a real lesson in my endless capacity to hold a grudge. I do it so well, I don't even notice that it's happening. I walk around with these calcified resentments for years until someone points them out and I can go, "Good lord, is that still in here? Let's get rid of that. And throw out 'pretending that watching boys play video games is fun' while we're at it."

I had to take a moment to wonder who else fell into this category of default enemy. I went through a mental list of people who, in theory, I'd want to hit in the face with a meat tenderizer. My coworker from ten years ago who owes me like three grand? It was ten years ago! You were addicted to OxyContin! Go! Be free! My seventh-grade teacher, who told me that most child actors don't succeed as adult actors? You just wanted to scare me into having a backup plan! Farewell! Good luck! Tori from fourth grade, who accused me of writing mean stuff about all our friends on the playground wall? BURN IN HELL, TORI. I KNOW IT WAS YOU!!!

I'm still working on it.

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Dana (new)

Dana Alvarado I think I am completely going to love this book.

message 2: by Terrie (new)

Terrie I love the writing style. I feel like I'm having a glass of wine with a really smart friend who makes me laugh at life's ways. In this particular story, I love that she left in the "car turning" phone call BUT she thought about taking it out. So honest!! I am going to get my mini pad and pre-order this so I can read it on DAY 1. Thank you, Anna!! (Also I am going to recommend it for our January bookclub book! Should be a great conversation starter!! ANNA, if you are reading this, want to join us? Sunday January 8 10:00 brunch. All of us are GREAT cooks so the pot luck is spectacular!!)
Terrie Robbins, Saint Louis.

message 3: by Tony (new)

Tony Your writing style is like mine, or, perhaps my writing style is like yours. Doesn't matter. This is really great work. Makes me think I'm just catching up at lunch wth an old friend.

message 4: by Tracy (new)

Tracy I love you, Anna. As a greatly talented actress and singer, and now as a writer, as well. Your talent knows no bounds! This book does have the feeling that I'm catching up with a friend over lunch. I can't wait to read it. I love the casual it-feels-like-she's-talking-directly-to-me style.
As a completely unrelated aside, "Cups" is a fantastic song, and one of my absolute favorites. "Pitch Perfect" is indeed perfectly hilarious and enjoyable. It's been on my DVR for almost a year now, and I've watched it countless times. I'm looking forward to reading your book and I wish you all the very best.

message 5: by C (new)

C L She writes honestly and is honest about her feelings
about what she's writing. Her reactions to allowing
herself to be abused by an imitation intellectual could
provide a road map of what we should avoid, but as she
observes; we all have to make our own mistakes and
crawl out of the pit by ourselves.
Sad but true.
I suspect the author is more edgy than she lets on. Her
humor seems to provide the self restraint she exhibits.
A good piece of work.
C. L. Zois

message 6: by Julie (new)

Julie pretty darn good

message 7: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Doogbee I really likes this book.

message 8: by Shirin (new)

Shirin I love you Anna. Your writing style is just as cute as yourself.

message 9: by Nadia (new)

Nadia I love you Anna . Your writing skill of amazing as you . You are the best

message 10: by Atukwase (new)

Atukwase Ritah You're really artsy. Can you paint? That would be most awesome. Am trying to write a book too, so i guess i'll keep trying.

message 11: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Martinez Love it! Got to buy myself a copy! Well his loss Anna is a the most beautiful smart person with a awesome sense of humor ans she's such a cutie! Got love Anna! What a dick head!!

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