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In “Okay Fine Whatever” Courtenay Hameister Faces Her Fears, From Waxing to Polyamory

Hameister approaches each self-appointed challenge with an unflagging sense of humor that lifts even some of her safer choices.

By Saundra Sorenson @ladyfriend

General anxiety disorder can be a real time-suck.

No one knows this better than Courtenay Hameister. For 12 years, she was the venerable host and head writer of Live Wire Radio, the "live in front of a Portland studio audience" podcast that became nationally syndicated during her tenure. In 2013, she made the difficult decision to pass the torch on hosting duties. But in doing so, her quality of life improved to the point she was forced to calculate just how much she'd lost to anxiety.

A witty dip into the genre of DIY exposure therapy, Okay Fine Whatever (Little, Brown, 301 pages, $26) details Hameister's attempts to rectify years of anxiety-driven avoidance. She devotes a year or so to rushing headlong toward the stumbling blocks that delayed her from reaching what she views as age-appropriate milestones—everything from getting high at work to experimenting with polyamory.

"That's one of the many fun things about GAD—sometimes it barges in during experiences that have never caused you concern before and never will again," Hameister writes. "It's like your nervous system is throwing a twenty-sided die with life events on it to decide when to get agitated."

Hameister approaches each self-appointed challenge with an unflagging sense of humor that lifts even some of her safer choices. It won't surprise her Portland audience to learn there is a professional cuddler with a storefront—even The Oregonian was all over that years ago—but Hameister emerges from her awkward session at Cuddle Up to Me with a fascinating rundown of client-screening practices and the menu of available services.

Yet too often it seems a stronger narrative was cut for space and levity. Okay lags with an 11-page, Lysistrata-style condemnation of the Brazilian wax, a well-trodden tirade in which Hameister herself seems to go MIA, as if it were written out of obligation. Similarly, "assignments" like attending a sex club and navigating OkCupid lack the kind of originality that comes through when Hameister doesn't hold herself as strictly to the "funny memoir" standard. She writes movingly about the complicated way her first sexual relationship came to a gut-punching end, and her sparse description of her father's suicide—which she links to her OCD—is devastating and restrained.

She also avoids discussing her time at Live Wire much, confessing she regrets conflating her job with her identity. But given that she managed to swing years of deadline-driven public performance despite struggling with a debilitating disorder, I think I speak for the jittery creative hoards out here when I say we'd like to hear about that in more graphic detail than we would, say, painful pubic landscaping.

SEE IT: Giving Fear the Finger: The Okay Fine Whatever Book Release is at Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St., albertarosetheatre.com, on Thursday, Aug. 9. 7:30 pm. $36 advance, $39 day of show, $46 preferred seating. 18+.