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Fear of custard, writing about yourself, mixtapes vs. d*ck pics

Justin Myers (The Guyliner)

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Writer and novelist Justin Myers, a.k.a. The Guyliner
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Justin Myers is a writer for British GQ and the author of three novels, most recently The Fake-Up. But he's probably best known for his blog The Guyliner, where since 2014 he has added his own commentary to a long-running dating column from the British newspaper The Guardian. Today on Follow Friday, Justin talks about four of his favorite people he follows online:

  • Someone who makes the internet a better place: Daytime Snaps, @daytimesnaps on Twitter
  • Someone who makes him think: Annie Lord, @annielord8 on Twitter and Instagram
  • Someone who makes him laugh: R Eric Thomas, @oureric on Twitter
  • Someone he doesn't know in real life, but wants to be friends with: Dame Joan Collins, @joancollinsDBE on Twitter and Instagram
Thank you to our amazing patrons: Jon, Justin, Amy, Yoichi, Elizabeth, Sylnai, and Matthias. On our Patreon page, you can pledge any amount of money to get access to Follow Friday XL — our members-only podcast feed with exclusive bonus follows.

That feed has an extended-length version of this interview in which Justin talks about someone he has followed forever: Comedian Mollie Goodfellow.


This show is a production of, hosted and produced by Eric Johnson

Music: Yona Marie

Show art: Dodi Hermawan

Social media producer: Sydney Grodin

Full transcript of this episode
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ERIC JOHNSON: Hey, check this out: We did something really fun this week over on the Instagram, @followfridaypod. On Wednesday, I posted a "lightning round" of bonus questions with last week's guest, Josh Fruhlinger. You can find a longer version of that same video on Twitter, @FollowFridayPod. Give it a watch wherever you like and tell me if you like it: If enough people do, I'll do more of them.

But now, let's talk about today's guest, Justin Myers. Justin is better known as The Guyliner, and we talk about his most famous online work early in the interview. He was so fun to talk to and I think you're going to love all four of his follow recommendations. If you want to show Follow Friday some love you can donate any amount over on Patreon and unlock a bonus follow from Justin about this really funny comedian that he has followed forever. So please consider chipping in at Thank you.

If you're listening to this episode in the Patreon feed and you've already heard Justin's first four follows, then check the shownotes for the time of follow number five.

Thank you so much to all of our amazing patrons. Thank you to everyone who is following the show on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. And most of all, thank you for listening in today. Here's the show.

[theme song]

ERIC: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, the podcast about who you should follow online.

Every week, I talk to creative people about who they follow, and why. This is a guided tour to the best people on the internet, led by your favorite writers, podcasters, comedians, and more. If this is your first episode of the show, take a moment now and please follow or subscribe in your podcast app.

Today on the show is writer and novelist, Justin Myers, also known as The Guyliner. He was recommended by a previous guest on the show, Helen Zaltzman from The Allusionist. If you're looking for that episode, it originally aired in April 2021, a full year ago, which is impossible to imagine.

You can find Justin at and on Twitter and Instagram @theguyliner. Justin, welcome to Follow Friday!

JUSTIN: Hello! Thank you very much for having me on.

ERIC: So glad that you could be here. People who listened to Helen's episode last year will know this already, but you are best known, maybe, for a series you've been writing for a long time, about eight years now, called Impeccable Table Manners.

JUSTIN: Eight years. Oh, God.

ERIC: It's a review of this column in the Guardian magazine called Guardian Blind Date. And you've been writing online, sort of picking apart what people say in this dating column. Most of our listeners are in the US, so maybe you could talk a little bit about what Guardian Blind Date is, what makes it interesting, and then what you do, with Impeccable Table Manners?

JUSTIN: It's really hard to explain without sounding like I have severe social problems, but I will give it a go. The Guardian is been a national newspaper in the UK, and for the last 12 years or so, in their weekend supplement magazine, they have been printing a column called Blind Date, in which they send two complete randoms who have applied to be in this column, off on a date somewhere in a restaurant to eat a free meal in the hope that love will blossom.

Then after the date, they're emailed a set of stock questions. They're always the same every week. They've changed very little variation over the years, and they answer them. I'm a big fan of the column. It's a really interesting look into how people behave and also what they choose to reveal about themselves, not only to a stranger on a date, but also in a magazine.

Some of these people are insane. And some of them are very ordinary. And you're no less interesting the more ordinary you are, I've found, in this column.

I used to talk about it on Twitter a lot with other people. It's a really popular feature over here, the Blind Date column. And I used to write a dating blog of my own. I used to hide my identity and go on dates with men and write about them afterwards.

Then when I found a boyfriend, I still wanted to write and needed to find something new. So I just started doing analyses of these blind date answers. Because there are stock questions, it's quite easy to draw conclusions, make comparisons, and make social commentary about what they say and how they answer these questions.

And it snowballed into — something I used to do for half an hour on a Saturday morning, into this gigantic thing that got me an army of fans. I'm so uncomfortable with every aspect of it, but it's great.

It's not really about the people who are on the date, I always say. Really, the column, in my analysis, is about me and about the world in general. It's about the things these people say on these blind dates; what they mean to us, generally. We've all got something in common with them. That kind of thing.

Well, when I first started doing it, I would kind of rip them to shreds. But now that we live in the "be kind" era, I've kind of backed away from that a little bit. And for the last few years now, it's been more of a general commentary on how mental the world is.

ERIC: You also write a weekly column for the British edition of GQ. And I want to ask you about something you recently wrote called "What to do if someone you love is a terrible person on Twitter."

This is the sort of headline that I will click in five seconds. It's immediate bait for me. I'll link to this in the show notes, but I love the fact that you encourage people to confront toxicity in private, to not start a forever war in the Facebook comments. And you also write that, "You have a right to an untarnished online space. And if that means unfollowing everyone you know in real life and banning your family from looking at your updates, so be it."

This podcast is Follow Friday, but I frequently unfollow people or mute them. I am a huge fan of this approach. It sounds like you do the same? Do you kind of curate your own social media in this way?

JUSTIN: I'm a muter, rather than an unfollower. I follow now very cautiously. I've got like 34,000 followers or something on Twitter, which is a frightening prospect, sometimes. It could be worse, obviously. It could be 200,000.

So I'm quite careful now about who I follow. In fact, it was quite a big deal for me to come on a podcast called Follow Friday because I always get very nervous endorsing anybody. The way things are at the moment, anyone can turn into that milkshake duck overnight. People are going unhinged at a rate of knots.

I'm a muter. What I don't like is when you unfollow somebody or you block somebody, I don't like that being used as a badge of honor by that person, which sometimes happens. "Oh, I'm blocked by @theguyliner because I said such and such." It's used as a promotion for that person and I'm so not about that.

ERIC: Right. They'll take a screenshot and use it as a way of alleging some sort of hypocrisy. At least that's the way it happens in the US in our political sphere over here. It's like, "I thought you cared about free speech," or some nonsense like that.

JUSTIN: Yeah, screenshots are very rarely done in good faith.

ERIC: Exactly. Well, let's flip the equation. We will dare to venture into the world of who you follow online. Everyone else, you can follow along with us today. Every person Justin recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at

Justin, before the show, I gave you a list of categories and I asked you to tell me four people you follow who fit in those categories. Your first pick is in the category "someone who makes the internet a better place." And you said Daytime Snaps, which is on Twitter @daytimesnaps.

Everyone who's not currently driving, I strongly recommend going to @daytimesnaps on Twitter so you can see what we're going to be talking about. But Justin, to the best of your ability in an audio podcast, could you try to explain what Daytime Snaps is all about?

JUSTIN: Yeah, this is very much a not-for-radio kind of account because it's all visual. So Daytime Snaps is a very simple concept. It is out-of-context screenshots of British daytime television.

Now, I don't know what daytime television is like in the US, but I imagine it has its own charm. But in the UK, we have things like auction shows; there's the usual breakfast TV of people talking about the news in a very weird, wooly, vague way; there are property shows, magazine and discussion programs, game shows, and quizzes.

And they are usually populated either by the worst celebrities in Britain or people you would very likely move house if you had to share a garden fence with them. And obviously, I love it. And the TV shows are completely deranged.

It's just like a really fascinating peek into British culture, which also makes it terrifying. And I would love to hear what Americans think of this account, honestly. But it's kind of people doing very strange things.

And the thing about daytime TV is that you get the kind of people who don't get to be on television very often. Like once upon a time, you might've seen them on prime-time game shows, but we don't really do that anymore in the UK. The celebrities now from the increasing celebrity circuit, they come in and they take part in these shows.

We have a very big magazine show in the UK that runs five days a week. It's called This Morning — highly original. And it's presented by Holly and Phil, who are, I would say, borderline iconic celebrity figures in the UK. And these shows sometimes have very big stars on them and sometimes they have people like the woman from New York who made £30,000 a week from farting into a jar.

ERIC: Oh, my gosh.

JUSTIN: Mm. And the screenshots in Daytime Snaps are presented completely out of context. There's never any caption, any supporting text at all. But obviously, sometimes on these discussion shows... we have a show called Loose Women, which is kind of like The View. It's the British version of The View and if there's a phone in or some kind of audience participation, obviously, there'll be an on-screen graphic that will make you question your sanity. And before we came onto the show, I just collected a few for you from Daytime Snaps. Some examples would be, "Is it okay to kiss your pet on the lips?"

ERIC: I saw this one, and the picture of kissing your pets on the lips is this woman making this very intense frown, is the only way I can describe it.

JUSTIN: "Is this the world's biggest potato?" "How to cook lasagna in your dishwasher." And my personal favorite is, "I have a fear of custard." And this was a phone-in line on This Morning and they had a woman phoning in and she had a fear of custard. And as she was talking about custard, she couldn't say the word without retching. And this is live on television and this woman is almost throwing up.

I always imagine, and this may not be true, that American TV is slightly more sensationalist than UK TV. But there's something very twee about British daytime TV, I think. Daytime Snaps kind of encapsulates that weird tweeness, that very local feel that UK daytime TV has.

ERIC: We have a lot of these chat shows and morning news shows, things like that, and a lot of game shows as well. The classic thing in America is if you are home sick from school, that means you get to watch The Price is Right, a long-running game show where people are competing to guess the prices of things they don't need and would never buy otherwise.

JUSTIN: Yeah, we had that one for a while.

ERIC: But my favorite one on Daytime Snaps is also from a quiz show. It's either the host or contestant, I'm not sure, it's a Black man with glasses and a bald head looking at the camera. And below him is the question, "What is the Norwegian word for a speed bump?" And the options are fartsdump, poopslump, and bumstrump.

And he's just looking at the camera like, "I don't know what I'm doing here either."

JUSTIN: That sounds like The Chase, which is a very, very popular quiz show here in the UK. And it runs on prime time as well. It has huge audience figures and has a celebrity version and all sorts. It's massive, The Chase.

One great one that I really liked was, and I don't know whether it's the same in the US, but in the UK, we have this culture on these shows of, there's a very expensive phone-in quiz, and we call them premium rate phone lines, where the caller is paying a fortune per minute to enter this competition. And the answers are always really easy, to encourage you to enter.

So I just noted one down, which was, "Which of the following does an owl not have? Is it A, eyeballs, B, a neck, or C, eyelids? And I really had to think about that one, actually. It's eyelids, right?

ERIC: I thought it was a neck. I don't know. I'm pretty sure they have eyeballs.


JUSTIN: Yeah, it's just an amazing insight into the insanity of Britain generally, I think.

ERIC: This is an important cultural exchange.

JUSTIN: Yes, very much so.

ERIC: What is it that Daytime Snaps does that makes the internet a better place? And is there something that we, as regular internet people, can learn from Daytime Snaps that can also make it a better place?

JUSTIN: Yeah, I think so. I think the reason it makes the internet a better place is that it shows how important it is to laugh at yourself. And even in these times of ceaseless darkness, you will never have a problem as big as the woman who had to phone Holly and Phil to say she was afraid of custard. It just won't happen.

So it makes the internet a better place by reassuring you that things could be a lot worse.

ERIC: And if you're playing along at home, the Norwegian word for a speed bump is fartsdump.

JUSTIN: Oh, it actually is fartsdump. Okay, very educational.

ERIC: Exactly. I think I do have this podcast categorized, one of the categories is the education category, and this is exactly why. We learn important stuff every week on this show.

JUSTIN: This is the kind of stuff you will never learn in an English class in school. So there you go.

ERIC: Exactly, what they don't want you to know. Well, that was Daytime Snaps, which is on Twitter @daytimesnaps.

Let's move on to your next follow. Justin, I asked you to tell me about someone who makes you think, and you said Annie Lord, who is on Twitter and Instagram @annielord8. Annie is a dating columnist for Vogue. So I assume you probably read her work to inform what you write for GQ and for Impeccable Table Manners. How did you start following her?

JUSTIN: Someone tweeted her into my timeline. I discover most people that way, I suppose. It was a column she'd written and, unfortunately, I can't remember which one it was. But I had never really read anything like it. You'll note that my picks are kind of all writers. Maybe it's because I'm a writer as well, but I like to read writers. It sounds obvious really, I suppose.

I like reading different kinds of writers and Annie is such a beautiful writer. The way she writes it's so emotional and yet not saccharine or overly sentimental, just really meaningful and yet still light in tone. She's such a brilliant writer.

I've been a dating columnist in the past and I write about sex and relationships for GQ. So she's a very different kind of columnist for me in that rather than to give information and advice or whatever like I do, she talks about her experiences. And really, her columns are kind of like chapters of a novel almost, a very beautiful novel.

She really draws you in and her writing is always really insightful, yet kind of wistful. I think she's quite young. I don't know. I mean, everyone is young compared to me, but it feels like, despite her age, she's been through a lot. And I don't necessarily mean in a harrowing way. But when she writes about men and relationships and how she gets on with other women, it's so wise and sometimes self-deprecating. But it always comes from a place of "I have experienced this and I'm not pretending to be the authority on this, but this is what I think about it."

And she goes off into really beautiful tangents and muses about ... It's just really nice. She's got quite a dreamlike quality to her writing. Really beautiful writing. And I think reading her could only enhance your life if only to get a better understanding of what the world might be like for a young woman who is still kind of finding her way through it.

ERIC: Yeah. You were saying earlier that with Impeccable Table Manners, a lot of it is drawing from your own life, your own experiences. And I really think that anyone who reads a dating column, or a sex and relationships column, or anything like that, they're looking for the wisdom of someone else's experience, right?

One way to look at it may be like the shortcut to wisdom, where it's just, what is a life that someone else has lived maybe that I could avoid red flags or pitfalls or avoid heartbreak, or what-have-you? Just to kind of get a little bit ahead of where someone else was, who was once in my shoes?

JUSTIN: Yeah. And not just that. I think there is an element of escapism, of spending a little bit of time in somebody else's life. Being alive a long time is no guarantee that you will ever fully work yourself out. But Annie's journey is quite a fascinating one to watch. I think bigger things are definitely coming her way.

She does have a book coming out in late spring called Notes on Heartbreak, but you're right in that even if it's not really obvious advice given in quite a guidance-y way — not a word, but you know what I mean — there's an element of learning through someone else's experiences. And also just being entertained by it. You can still be entertained, I think, by experiences that aren't always positive. The thing about Annie's writing is that even if the subject matter is quite dark or doesn't have a happy ending, and I definitely prefer stuff that doesn't have a happy ending, which is maybe why some of her stuff appeals to me. But it's written in such a lovely way that you will enjoy the experience, nonetheless.

ERIC: Exactly. The book that you mentioned that she has coming out, called Notes on Heartbreak, I think it's about the end of a five-year relationship. This is how the publisher describes it on their website: "Annie charts her attempts to move on, from disastrous rebound sex to sending ill-advised nudes, stalking her ex's new girlfriend on Instagram and the sharp indignity of being ghosted."

So kind of continuing what we're talking about, drawing from your own experience. A lot of that description is stuff that Annie has done herself as a newly single woman.

But when you are drawing from your life experience in what you're writing for the public, do you sort of set boundaries with your current or former partners about like, "Hey, I can write about this. I can't write about this?" How do you navigate that line between your personal life and what you are producing for the public?

JUSTIN: I don't share much about my current personal life. That's how I get around it, I suppose. Most of the things I talk about are things from maybe when I was single. I don't really talk about my previous relationship, either. Not for any sinister reason, just because I wasn't the sole owner of that experience.

I can talk about my own emotions and feelings during that time, but I don't talk about the specifics. So mainly, I talk about experiences almost as a concept rather than going into granular detail. Unless they are experiences that I feel I can own myself, and if anybody complained about me, I could say this was something that happened to me.

You're entitled to write about your own life and portray things in an honest way. And if you hurt someone, then that is an unfortunate side effect of it. But I try not to do that. I wouldn't ever say to someone, "Don't write like that, in case you hurt someone." That's a conversation you have to have with yourself and you have to live with your own choices. But I don't do that.

I could do that. I have mixed feelings about monetizing your pain. I know that it can be very lucrative and I know that it can also be a healing experience for you, and it can also be an entertaining experience for others and it can really help others. But it's just something I do very carefully.

And what's great about being around for such a long time, I've been writing about myself for about 12 years or whatever, it's that it's trial and error. I've worked out from maybe oversharing sometimes or undersharing other times. I've got the balance right in myself, I suppose. And Annie, I think, gets the balance really right as well.

Her experiences, she definitely writes about them in a more raw way, I think. But yeah, she gets the balance right. She has a proper talent. Her writing really does excite me.

ERIC: You said that she makes you think. Is there anything specifically you remember that she has written that has changed your mind on something, or made you see something from a new perspective?

JUSTIN: I think when I say that she makes me think, what I mean is actually that her writing is so evocative that I identify with it, even though we are very different people. I'm at least, I think, 15 years older than her and I'm a gay man and she's ... not. She's younger.

Although we did grow up quite close. We're from close towns, close to each other in the north of England. She makes me think and I can identify with so much that she's saying. She makes me think about my own experiences. The things that are happening to her happened to me years ago in a way and it's really interesting.

Yet I see it from a new perspective, I suppose. What I see also is how things can be so unifying and so similar across gender barriers and age, any demographic you can think of. The experiences don't change that much, especially emotional experiences. So that's how she makes me think, I would say. It's both reassuring and horrifying that we're all kind of going through the same stuff, no matter who we are.

ERIC: We are doomed to repeat the history of what it's like to go through being single and going through relationships.

JUSTIN: The only thing that's changed out there really is technology. The f**kboys are still f**kboys; the heartbreaks are still heartbreaks. It's just all happening on much nicer phones.

ERIC: Well, that was Annie Lord, who is on Twitter and Instagram @annielord8. We are going to take a quick break now. But we'll be back in a minute with Justin Myers, aka The Guyliner.

[ad break]

ERIC: Welcome back to Follow Friday. Justin, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone who makes you laugh and you said R. Eric Thomas, who is on Twitter at @oureric.

R. Eric Thomas has a lot of jobs. He's a former magazine columnist and an author known for books like Here For It. He's a TV writer and a playwright. He's the host of some of the live Moth podcasts, which is really cool. So, Justin, what was your introduction to him or to his work?

JUSTIN: He's like an octuple threat; he does everything. He's great. I never know whether to call him R or Eric? His name is Robert, I think, but his professional name is R. Eric Thomas.

ERIC: In my notes here, I was just calling him R. Eric, as if it's a double name.

JUSTIN: It's quite funny because I'm from the north of England and calling someone "our Eric" is what you would call your brother, Eric. I can't remember how I came across his work. I imagine it would have been the amazing column he used to have for Elle Magazine online, in which he would dissect celebrity and entertainment culture with the sharpest of scalpels. They were really snappy and hilarious comment pieces.

He's got such a brilliant tone, and he makes you feel really involved. He's got this great gossipy feel to his writing, especially in that column, but it was still quite authoritative. It wasn't just empty gossip. It really had substance to it and just his ability to magic up an unforgettable turn of phrase.

He's got everything. He's so, so good. So funny. Fir celebrity culture, his is the take that you want. His assessment, for example, of the Will Smith-Chris rock Oscars drama was the right one. That was the one I was waiting for. It was a brilliant take.

ERIC: I think his take was called "Minding my own business" or something like that?

JUSTIN: Yes. Basically, he was saying, this is two rich men doing their thing and has absolutely no bearing on real life for us mere mortals. So stay the hell out of it. And how true is that?

ERIC: Very wise. I don't know how much you've delved into his other writing or how much of what makes you laugh is his tweets. Is there other stuff that he's written that really makes you laugh and really gets you?

JUSTIN: He has a couple of newsletters, which I'm subscribed to. There's Here for It, which he's been doing for a really long time. And that is his more personal newsletter, I would say. He just riffs on whatever has been on his mind and it's like, I'm tempted to say, a stream of consciousness, but that would make it sound like there wasn't any art to it because there really is.

You can tell that it probably doesn't take him that long to write. It's just all natural. It fizzes off the page. It is properly sparkling stuffy; so funny just the way his brain will go off. It's like a labyrinthine journey but it eventually comes back to his original point. Just the way he ties it all together is really good. I would recommend subscribing to that.

Then he's also got his Previously On newsletter, which is more about pop culture observations, talking about anything from romcoms to mixtapes, to Drag Race, whatever is happening out there, he's on it.

But I think some of his funniest stuff was around when Maxine Waters ...?

ERIC: Yes, US Congresswoman.

JUSTIN: She's a Congresswoman, that's right and — how would you say it politely? She's an older lady, right? She's in her 70s and she's quite advanced in age.

ERIC: Apparently, she's 83. I had no idea.

JUSTIN: My ... God! Well, she looks fantastic. I thought I was being rude by saying she was in her 70s because she doesn't look it. She is an amazingly intelligent and quick-witted woman who really gives Congress, or whatever it's called. I don't know much about US politics, I must admit.

Wherever it is that she sits, she gives them hell. And R. Eric Thomas's summaries of when she was in the news — he wrote a book, actually, about her and it was very funny. It's just the way he inhabits the character and he has such a brilliant brain that he makes you believe this kind of satirical parody version of Maxine Waters...

It's probably quite close to the real one, and I hope it is true, that she's really like that. It's not even necessarily his one-liners, which are epic, it's just the entire package. And I would honestly read absolutely anything by him, given half the chance. It's a brilliant niche to have. And when readers decide that your take and your voice is the one that they want to hear, discussing what's happening, it's such a talent.

He wears it well and he's very prolific. And yet I never see a drop in quality or anything like that. He's just always on. I really admire him a great deal.

ERIC: Yeah, his book about Maxine Waters is called, I think, Reclaiming Her Time, which is a reference to famous-in-the-US viral political clip — someone from the previous administration was testifying in front of Congress and just being a jerk? He was not answering questions that she was asking. She's an older Black woman who suffers no fools, I think is the right way to put it. So she was not going to be bulldozed by some punk who was testifying and not cooperating. So whenever he started to get evasive, she was just yelling down to him, "reclaiming my time, reclaiming my time"

JUSTIN: Yeah, and she has definitely had enough of everybody's nonsense and I remember R. Eric Thomas a column about that. His column about that is definitely worth seeking out. I think it was one of his Elle pieces and it is just so funny. It's absolutely brilliant.

It's also worth remembering that he turns this stuff around very quickly but it's not like a hot take. It's not like one of those things that people will say anything for money. This was a considered, highly intelligent, and measured piece that would have taken a much lesser writer hours and hours and hours. But he just [snaps fingers] and it was done. It's so brilliant.

ERIC: Sometimes when I'm writing something, I need to stare at the blank page a couple of days, and then I go play a game on my phone. Then I come back and for some reason, the page is still blank. I don't understand why that happens.

The pop culture newsletter that you mentioned that R. Eric does is Previously On. It's at And I want to ask you about one of his recent columns, called Crush Culture Peaked with the Mixtape, the basic idea of which is that making a physical mixtape on a stereo, something that I'm old enough to remember doing, this was a time-intensive, stressful process, and that there's no form of online flirting like making a Spotify playlist or sliding into someone's DMs.

There's nothing that can compare to that because it just does not take as much... Do you agree with that? What's your take on how the internet has changed flirting with your crush?

JUSTIN: I agree with that. I was reading that one recently. I do agree with that. I think this is why we get men sending dick pics. It takes no effort. And I suppose they think, "If I send 20, then one person might go for it."

Whereas in the old days, and the fact that I'm saying "old days" makes me want to shrivel up into myself, like a raisin, but "back then," shall we say, in the era that R. Eric Thomas is talking about, you had to really mean it. You had to really put effort into this crush. You were spending your time making a tape, pressing pause and record, choosing the songs, agonizing over it. It's just much more of a commitment than dashing off a quick pic, taken down your trousers, or sliding a few songs over in Spotify that you can just send to a million people.

This is a mixtape, a physical thing, a tangible object that you would have to create, and then write a note to go alongside, put it in an envelope, take that to the post office, and send it to someone. If you did that now, you'd probably get a restraining order against you. But back then, it was seen as a fairly normal thing to do.

And I think your crushes meant more then and you probably had fewer of them. You had a shorter list of potentials who might be interested in you. And so you focused your attention on them and did these things that would make them feel special. There's nothing that special about a Spotify playlist. I can make one of those in 10 minutes. That's not special.

And emails are the least sexy thing on Earth, because you can't judge the tone, but also you can't judge their handwriting. And the thing about physical mail that was so exciting is that you get to see their handwriting. And they say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. And if that's true, then the handwriting is, what, like the lawn? The front lawn.

So if it's good handwriting, it's perfectly manicured. Then that could mean one thing, not necessarily good. And if it's like a wild meadow and scrawling everywhere, then that could mean another. It's a view into their personality, right?

ERIC: My handwriting is abysmal. It is chicken scratch. So I am very grateful that I met my then-girlfriend and now fiancé online because she appreciates good design and good handwriting. If she had had to see my handwriting, I don't think it would have worked out. I think I really dodged a bullet there.

JUSTIN: Well, you see, Eric? My handwriting is very beautiful. So there's every chance that had I been the one mailing your girlfriend a mixtape, things would have been very different. I mean, things would have to be very, very different in many ways for that to happen, but just putting it out there.

ERIC: Well, that was R. Eric Thomas, who is on Twitter @oureric. We have time for one more follow today. Justin, I asked you for someone you don't know, but want to be friends with, and you said Dame Joan Collins, who is on Twitter and Instagram @Joancollinsdbe.

I guess DBE is Dame of the British Empire. Is that right?

JUSTIN: Yeah, that's an unfortunate part, isn't it? British Empire, nevermind.

ERIC: Don't think about it too hard. Joan is an actor known for TV shows such as the original version of Dynasty in the '80s. Regrettably, I think the only thing that I have seen her in is in The Flintstones Viva Rock Vegas, about which the less said, the better.

JUSTIN: Oh, God!

ERIC: Justin, I assume you know and love her from something slightly better than The Flintstones Viva Rock Vegas.

JUSTIN: Yes. I mean, I am a gay man in my 40s, so like most gay men in my 40s, I revere Alexis Carrington Colby from the original series of what we call Dynasty over here.

ERIC: Talk about the character. What makes her special? Why is she an icon?

JUSTIN: Alexis? She's a tough bitch. She's a proper glossy soap bitch. And I always feel that soap bitches are basically gay men in designer drag. They are kind of written that way and a lot of what Alexis said has become part of the gay lexicon maybe, nor for every gay man obviously, but for quite a few of them my age.

She was a villain, obviously, of Dynasty, but you kind of wanted her to win. Unless you are the dullest person on earth, there's just no way you could have ever rooted for Blake and Crystal, who were just two vanilla ice creams of nothing.

Alexis was the one with the color and the fascinating one-liners. She was ruthless, but her Achilles heel was her children. She was great. And what I find interesting about Joan is that, for all her protests that she's nothing like Alexis, I reckon she's not a million miles away.

I would say what I find really interesting about Dame Joan is that she inhabits this bizarre world. I don't think anyone would question she has A-list status, right? Joan Collins, she's an A-lister.

ERIC: Even without having seen Dynasty, I knew immediately, Dame Joan Collins, very famous actor.

JUSTIN: Very famous. So she's proper A-list, but she has quite C or D-list sensibilities in that some of the stars she hangs around with or knows, especially from the UK, are, shall we say, not quite of Joan's caliber. Yet she still grants them an audience.

I think she's probably one of the last to straddle that really interesting difference between Hollywood and British celebrity. Because our younger A-listers, Cumberbatch and Carey Mulligan, whatever, they all go off to Hollywood and they never really come back or they stay within that circle. Don't they? But Joan is from a bygone age where the lines blurred more.

Also, what's really interesting about her is that she had her own stint on the C-list in the '70s. She was making a lot of B-movies. There are a lot of alphabets in Joan's life: A's B's and C's, and then DBEs.

So she's this impossibly glamorous Hollywood woman who lives in a huge house in Beverly Hills, probably. And yet, she will appear on really popular, what you might call lower-grade TV shows in the UK, certain comedies which you wouldn't really expect a massive star would go anywhere near, but she will do it.

She was even a guest panelist on the British version of The Masked Singer recently. And she made a pretty good fist, I would say, of grasping what the hell was going on. She's in her 80s.

But for Joan, I think work is work and she's a grafter. And I think she really enjoys still working and being part of it all. What I like about her is that she's not your average elderly lady, obviously, but she is sending a good message that older people can still be funny and useful and have something to offer. They have something to say.

I just find her fascinating and I would just love to go for lunch with her. Apparently, she did read my first novel and liked it.

ERIC: Oh my gosh! That's so exciting.

JUSTIN: I know. My publicist told me this and I tell everyone at any given opportunity before I tell them what my name is. I say, "Joan Collins read my first book." It doesn't matter what my name is, just remember that fact.

ERIC: Exactly. Speaking of high-class or low-class TV shows, I'm not sure where this one falls, but apparently — when I was looking up what else she had been in other than the aforementioned movie that I have seen her in — Joan Collins was also a short-lived Batman villain in the 1960s TV show. She was called The Siren.

Do you know about this? This is from the Batman wiki, "The Siren has the ability to mesmerize any man to do her bidding by pitching a high note, two octaves above high C with her voice."

I'm just putting it out there, that maybe that's why every gay man is into her. Maybe you've all been mesmerized by The Siren.

JUSTIN: Maybe that's what it is. She sings that note that only gay men can hear. Maybe. This is actually part of the reason why she's so interesting to follow because, in her 80s now, Joan has nothing to lose. So she's quite frank about things that have happened to her in her career.

She's not ashamed of some of the more low-rent stuff she's done. She's proud that she was still booked and busy, as they say now. She can laugh at herself. She posts old clips of herself on shows. I think she did actually talk about Batman, not that long ago. She talks about the fabulous lunches she goes on.

I mean, she has not got impeccable taste in dining companions. I mean, I have seen her having lunch with Piers Morgan, which is unfortunate. She's really interesting because she still remembers what Hollywood was like. And she lifts the lid on some of the things that happened to her.

She had a TV show over here recently that was looking at her life. I think it was on New Year's Day in the UK. I can't remember the name of it, I'm afraid. It was from her diaries and she was just looking back and she was talking about the stuff that she's endured, the things she had to do to make money, the things she had to star in, the unwelcome attention of co-stars and directors and producers and all that kind of stuff.

She really is a survivor. And I find people like that really interesting. I think she's probably one of the very last left from that golden, or not so golden, depending on which way you look at it, era of Hollywood. There's a lot to be learned from Joan.

ERIC: I think I saw a clip from that same special you're talking about where she says, every man in Hollywood was a predator at that point. And you have to assume that there's a lot of her peers from that same time who didn't survive, who didn't keep on working, and who didn't find their own way past that system.

I think it's amazing that she has kept on working and that she, as you're saying, is opening up about that history and that she doesn't pull any punches about like, "Hey, here's what it was like to be me at this particular time in Hollywood history." I think that's great.

JUSTIN: Yeah, it's great because older women just kind of disappear. They disappear off the scene. There's only a few that you see, like Liza is still out there and then there's Joan and a few others, Angela Lansbury. But how interesting that they're all gay icons as well. There's something in that, isn't it?

ERIC: I think so. That was Dame Joan Collins who is on Twitter and Instagram @Joancollinsdbe. Justin, thank you for sharing these follows with us today. Before we go, let's make sure our listeners know how to find you, your work, and your books online. Where do you want people to follow you?

JUSTIN: Twitter is probably where I'm at my best, @theguyliner. I'm also on Instagram, the same @theguyliner, and even Facebook. Are people still doing that? Apparently so.

ERIC: Maybe! I don't know.

JUSTIN: Are they? I dunno. And my Impeccable Table Manners can be found at

ERIC: Perfect. Follow me on Twitter at @HeyHeyESJ and don't forget to follow or subscribe to Follow Friday in your podcast app. If you like this episode, then check out the past Follow Friday interviews with Helen Zaltzman from The Allusionist, Dana Schwartz from Noble Blood, and Dallas Taylor from Twenty Thousand Hertz.

Follow Friday is a production of Our theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie. Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan. And our social media producer is Sydney Grodin. Special thanks to our Big Fri Patreon backers, Jon and Justin. Visit for an extra-long version of this interview, featuring a bonus follow recommendation from Justin Myers.

That's all for this week. This is Eric Johnson reminding you to talk about people behind their backs. And when you do, say something nice.

See you next Friday!

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