Cameron Esposito couldn’t have known her memoir Save Yourself would come out in the midst of a global pandemic. But her aptly titled book includes observations that feel eerily pertinent to this unsettling time.
“Humans are scared out of our minds and want to be saved,” she writes. ” We want to know why we are here, what we are supposed to do, and how to protect ourselves.”
Esposito is a comic, writer and actor. When she titled her book, she had in mind queer kids, struggling to understand themselves — as she once did growing up in a strict Catholic household.
As an adult, Esposito is still seeking answers, but she says she finds meaning in connection — to herself and to others. She writes, “maybe that connection is God and we are our own saviors, meant to save ourselves.”
On transforming from a “butch, awkward, tomboyish kid” into a popular teenager
I say that the book is for queer dids, but I think it’s also for anybody that felt that they couldn’t quite measure up to cultural standards. I mean, I … was having the experience that is in every movie. You know, I was dating the captain of the football team. … I wasn’t an outsider at school. I was pretty well liked. And [yet] that was not my experience of myself. You know, I really thought I was disgusting and wrong and that something was really off with me.
On the chapter in her book called “Getting Gay”
I was at a conservative Catholic college and realized that I was falling in love with a woman. I was a theology major at the time. … I was also really interested in specifically the social justice side of what I saw in my faith … doing work to try to connect with those who are underserved. And it was in doing this work that I met this woman, another student at my college. We eventually kissed, which was this, like, massive life-transforming kiss. …
I had dated men and it had felt confusing to me why people were in relationships. I mean, I liked the guys I dated. They were my friends. But I also felt a real emotional distance from them and I felt like a real physical distance from them. And then having this experience of kissing a woman for the first time was really a reorganization of all of my experiences up until that point in life.
On being sexually assaulted in college, which she describes in her 2018 comedy show Rape Jokes
I didn’t know that I was sexually assaulted in college until years later. … I had no sex-ed growing up. I did not understand the concept of agency, of bodily autonomy, of consent. I didn’t understand any of those concepts. And I really thought that part of my job as a woman — and as a Catholic person — was to be available to men.
And so even as I was dating a woman, I was closeted about that. I couldn’t have come out at my college at the time. It was not covered by their nondiscrimination policy to be queer. So you could be kicked out as a student or removed as a faculty member. And so that combination of things being closeted — and the shame of that, and the isolation of that — and not having accurate information about what sex really is put me in a situation where I … was in a category of folks that it’s so easy to be a target.
On feeling some compassion for the man who assaulted her — she writes that he was also from a conservative, Catholic family and “maybe he didn’t know what real love or real sex looks like”
I have slept with women in my life — I have slept with people who are conditioned to say yes. And I feel a responsibility to make sure the best I can that everything that’s happening between us is consensual. And that’s because I have, you know, sort of both sides of that experience. And I would just say that is a better experience to feel that you’re really connected to the person you’re being intimate with. I would want that for men. I would want men to have to look at themselves and improve, because that’s what I would want for myself.
On how she connects with her audience given the coronavirus restrictions
We work in the gig economy — we literally do gigs. I was supposed to be on a book tour right now and I’ve been doing these Zoom book events. You know, I’m not making my living doing those Zoom events, but one thing that’s really amazing is that the audience members that attend — and it’s been hundreds and hundreds of people — you can scroll through and you can see the cameras if they opt in in their own homes. … I never get to go home with my audience. I never see them in their beds, watching me on their laptop or being able to ask questions. … I don’t paint this with a super rosy picture. You know, folks are going to lose their businesses, and folks are going to lose their lives. This is a really tough time. And I also think that we are doing a lot to still try to connect with each other — and that is astounding.
On her girlfriend, Katy, who is immunosuppressed and went to urgent care because she had a cough and fever
The scene was unfamiliar to me. There was a guard at the door and I wasn’t allowed to go into the waiting room with her. And then I was sort of sitting in the hall and a doctor came out with that, like, very serious doctor face that you never want to see and said that they thought she might have a blood clot in her lungs. And so she was immediately transported to the E.R. They also put her in the COVID ward because you know, it’s a lungs issue. So then I had to just leave. …
She did end up being discharged. … The doctors said that they think it is coronavirus. So they said the safer thing is for her to come home. … They did test her, but they also said that there’s a large delay right now in getting those results back. …
She’s home with me. … In some ways, just seeing her again feels like a massive relief. I have so much compassion for anybody whose relative or loved one is fighting coronavirus right now because they can’t be there by their person’s side. …
It feels so weird to talk about something like personal medical information publicly when you’re a public figure. But I’m trying to figure out how to talk honestly about what’s going on right now, because there are so many people that are in high risk categories that maybe aren’t just the elderly. There are a lot of people that you might not assume [are high risk] just by looking at them.