Ohhhh, Jessica: The Frisky Past And Present Says Goodbye & Good Luck

Let me start this post by making Jessica’s departure from The Frisky all about me. When Jessica came into my office a few weeks ago and told me she was leaving The Frisky to become Executive Editor at YouBeauty, I burst into tears. Even though I’d always known this day would come, the last long-term staffer leaving the nest and striking out on her own, I’ll admit I was totally unprepared for how hard I would take it. After six years of working together, Jessica has been my ride-or-die, a constant in what has been a very up and down, exciting, wonderful, but also difficult journey for this website. As with any job, especially one that has a public face, there’s been so much that’s gone on behind the scenes that readers don’t really know about. Our near-shutdown in 2010, after our original owners decided to sell us and a buyer fell through at the last minute. The first six months at our new company, with half the staff, each of us who remained working remotely because there wasn’t yet office space, the disjointedness no doubt reflected in some of the site’s content. Budget cuts, company-wide layoffs, four CEOs in half as many years … and yet throughout it all, my girls, my women, stayed true, passionate about the site and what they were writing, none more so than Jessica. She has been utterly integral to the site’s evolution, voice and overall success. The Frisky would not be what it is without her.

Jessica has also been, by far, our most misunderstood (and at times maligned) staffer, something she has dealt with far better than most people I know would. She has bravely put herself out there, sharing personal stories to illustrate larger issues that affect many — her struggles with depression, her exploration of her sexuality and identity as kinky, and her romantic journey, culminating in her marriage to a lovely Australian man named after my favorite leafy green. She’s taken strong, opinionated stances on a wide variety of topics, unafraid of disagreeing with the party line. She is my kind of feminist, one who is completely and totally true to her ideals, who wants this world to be a more just, compassionate place for us all. One of my favorite things about Jessica as a person and as a writer is that even after all this time, I’m still sometimes caught off guard by her opinions, which are often incredibly nuanced and reflective of a wide range of influences. Working with Jessica has been a challenge and a learning experience for me and that is a gift. She has kept me on my toes in more ways than one. I am going to miss that more than I can put into words.

There’s much, much more I could write about Jess — like how adorable her selfie faces are, and how any IM from her that starts off “Can I tell you something gross/TMI/personal/weird?” is bound to be the best thing you’ve heard all day — but I don’t want to hog the mic. I asked a bunch of former/current Frisky staffers and contributors to chime in with their thoughts and well wishes, with the goal of showing Jessica just how much she is loved. I expect she’ll be a puddle of tears by 11:10 a.m. easily. 

You have to admire Jessica Wakeman. She isn’t ever afraid to say what she is thinking. Because she is so outspoken, she gets the worst of the trolls and remains unwaivering in her convictions. It’s so inspiring! To her friends and coworkers, she is a constant source of support and positivity and giggles. She might just be our generation’s Susan B. Anthony. I’m very glad that instead of waiting to convene with other women, Jessica gets to post her passionate opinions right to the internet everyday. And I’m happy that will continue on, even if it’s not on our beloved Frisky. – Simcha Whitehill

I’m about to get all FEELS up in here, but Jessica taught me that it’s so very worth it to be 100% unapologetically yourself, and it’s absolutely essential to be kind and forgiving to yourself. As women, I think a lot of us are conditioned to dim our own brightness for fear of “upsetting” someone or to keep our mouths shut even as unjust things happen all around us under the guise of being polite, and Jessica helped me understand that living like that benefits absolutely nobody and that we have every right to say what we think, even if it makes a few people uncomfortable. She taught me that great rewards come from being honest and putting your vulnerabilities out there and that it’s so very important to know your worth and advocate for yourself in this world, especially as a woman.

Jessica is also the reason my career had a chance to begin! She hired me as an intern and then over time she kept going out of her way to teach me things that were essential to know that but I’d never have thought to ask about on my own, and I have an inkling she’s made a point of putting good karma out into the world and helping out lots of young writers in this way. Years from now, once I’ve learned a thing or two, I hope I can pay it forward by helping somebody else the way she’s helped me, because it’s really made all the difference in the world.

I’ll miss Jessica’s love of Matchbox 20, iced white raspberry mochas, panda shoes, pastel ensembles and salad line chats. She is a bold, kickass feminist who taught me and about a million other readers that it is totally okay to be yourself and that it doesn’t matter one damn bit what other people think, and I have her to thank about SO much of what I’ve learned about writing. She’s pretty much larger than life on the Frisky homepage, so imagining it without her boggles the mind, but her words and advice will always live in the Frisky archives for the days when I/we miss her most! – Claire Hannum

I think the best way to put my impression of Jessica is “an enigma wrapped in adorable.” Does that make sense? She is adorable, both in that she’s a cute person and in that she’s easy to adore. She’s, like, slyly complex, very kind, very compassionate, and super-sharp and observant. I’m glad I got to work with her, her perspective has really expanded my own. – Rebecca Vipond Brink

Oh my goodness, how to sum up my adoration and admiration of Jessica Wakeman in just a few words?! I think what stands out to me the most about Jess — in her writing and in her personal life — is her ability to straddle the line between vulnerability and self-assuredness in a way that so few people can. She’s willing to open herself up to the world, to show her true self to others and face the criticism and bullshit that is invited by that level of vulnerability, and yet she never wavers in who she is and what she stands for. She is very brave. I aspire to be braver — as a writer and as a human being — because of her.

Also? She’s funny. People might not realize that because so much of her writing is focused on heavy topics, but I remember a few months into working full-time at The Frisky, I read one of her essays and found myself cracking up. I sent her an instant message that said, “Jess, I hope you get enough credit for being funny, because girl, you’re fucking hilarious.” – Winona Dimeo-Ediger

Jess and I first became friends because we were rivals. I was the editor-in-chief of a new ladyblog called The Gloss, and we were trying to form partnerships with other websites to help get our brand out there. Some people wanted nothing to do with us. But Jess didn’t care about competition. What started out as a few work-related coffee dates turned into late night phone calls, weekends watching awesomely bad TV movies, and even holidays spent with each others’ families.  A lot of what I know about how to be a friend I learned from her. She’s also a really, really good cat-aunt. – Lilit Marcus

Dearest Jessica … As you leave our little sisterhood to pursue bigger and better things, I’d be remiss for not mentioning your influence on me over the last 15 months. Before I even met you, your thoughtful, insightful and relatable essays helped me to feel like I knew you, but when I started working at the Frisky, I realized that there are so many more dimensions to Jessica than what can be learned online. You’re one of the truest feminists I know, and your bravery to speak your mind and stand up for what is right, has, in turn, made me a greater one. You’re opinions, though not always met with warmth from mean internet trolls, have shown me that in order to be a great blogger, we must be true to ourselves no matter what anybody else thinks. Change starts with having the courage to say something that others are simply too afraid to say.

You have an innate ability to draw people’s strongest passions and deepest feelings out in a way that is not just a skill of yours— it’s a craft. It takes a certain talent to be able to make thousands of strangers feel like they’re your closest friends, and more so, to actually think of them that way in return. I admire your editorial gift, your grit and ability to face intimidation head-on, your dedication to those you hold close and, most of all, the way you have undoubtedly left an impact on everybody whose paths have been lucky enough to cross yours, mine included.

The Frisky truly won’t be the same without you, but I have no doubt you’re destined for wonderful things. You’ve helped make The Frisky what it is: a compelling, funny, truthful outlet for women all across the world who want to be just like you, and for that we thank you. We could probably use a few more Jessica Wakeman’s in the world, as long as they know there’s only one you. Thank you for being such a wonderful friend, mentor, co-worker and role model. We will miss you (but certainly won’t forget you). – Katie Oldenburg

I love you, Auntie Jessica! – Lucca McDonell-Parry

Jess taught me to push myself as a writer, let my feminist flag fly, and that a little spank here and there isn’t always such a bad thing. We’ll miss you here at The Frisky, especially when you let yourself get vulnerable and open up to us all, friends and strangers alike. Good luck on this exciting new step of your career! – Avital Norman Nathman

If I were writing a story about Jessica Wakeman—or maybe a screenplay, because goodness knows she deserves one—this would be the detail that I’d start with: that, when you go to a restaurant with her, she orders a glass of milk. Because even as she writes well-wrought rants or pieces about the dynamics of spanking, she is at her core a humble, down-to-earth and exceptionally kind person. Jessica is the kind of person who’ll give you an honest answer on whether that thing you wrote is good, or who’ll gchat you at night because she wants to have a philosophical question about why good people do bad things. She’s a tremendously thoughtful human being, and a person who does that thing so many of us can’t—just jump in. It’s been a joy to watch her grow as a writer over the years, and to see her find the man of her dreams. I see good things ahead for her. – Kate Torgovnick May

My favorite thing about Jess is how she drinks whole milk with her lunch. I think it encompasses everything important that you need to know about her: she’s completely wholesome yet totally unconventional at the same time. She is a truly fair, honorable, and kindhearted person, a trailblazer and one of the only people I know who truly doesn’t let other people’s opinions get in her way. I wish her the best of luck at her new gig. It was an honor to work with her for so many years. – Ami Angelowicz

Jessica Wakeman might blush in real life, but never online.

I have spent years reading Jessica’s essays, rolling my eyes, and mumbling “I can’t believe she wrote that.”

Have you read her? Of course you have. If you haven’t, you should. I think, in the future, we won’t marvel about how this generation “overshared.” We’ll wonder why it was, before, all those centuries before, we shared so precious little.

Thank you, Jess, for making me a better writer. We should all aspire to a reader shaking their head in shock that someone would so bravely be themselves.

“I can’t believe John DeVore wrote that” is my new, personal mantra.

That is not the only lesson I learned from her at The Frisky. I learned that, apparently, I am a feminist. I think. Jess? Am I? Well, I tried, and writers like Jess informed me and, ultimately, changed my creaky, old, white male thinking.

I also learned that the toughest people sometimes love pandas.

I know that much has been written about the abuse female writers suffer online — the wanton cruelty, personal insults, and threats of violence. Jess wrote candidly about her love life and sexuality. She is a public feminist, and wrote passionately about culture and equality. Through it all, Jess stood up to bullies and never shirked a noble battle. I know negative comments can creep down your throat like a toxic fog, and Jess spent some days stumbling, reeling.

But Jess was a warrior, like all of my friends at The Frisky, and those angry comments are, really, just impotent wails. Angry, terrified shrieks. Tiny marshmallow fists banging on the door. The dinosaurs probably made a terrible noise as they slowly went extinct.

Never let anyone discourage you from writing how want to write. Don’t fucking do it.

For six years Jess kept writing, and writing, and writing, never flinching, staying on mission, bravely being herself, even while being heckled by those nasty shrimps sitting in their opera boxes. – John DeVore