Not My Job: Jenny Finney Boylan Gets Quizzed On Hot Dogs
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we ask people who've done so much to do something so, so little. It's called Not My Job. Jennifer Finney Boylan has published 14 books. She's a columnist for The New York Times, a professor at Barnard College, and she is the first out trans woman to be in The New York Times bestseller list. But none of that matters next to the fact that she has appeared on Caitlyn Jenner's reality show. That's right. She is Kardashian-adjacent. Her new book is called "Good Boy: My Life In Seven Dogs," and she joins us now. Jennifer Finney Boylan, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
JENNIFER FINNEY BOYLAN: Hi. I think I'm actually Kardashian-adjacent-adjacent.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Well, because I think - isn't Caitlyn adjacent? So that would make me...
SAGAL: Well, is Caitlyn - I mean, you have to help me out here. You are part of that world of Hollywood glamour.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Am I?
SAGAL: You are.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Yeah, it's - I - it's really interesting. I can see - when I'm walking on the streets of New York and someone comes up to me and wants to talk to me...
FINNEY BOYLAN: ...I can tell within about two seconds whether they know me from my New York Times work or whether they're fans of the Kardashians.
SAGAL: Really? And how can you tell?
FINNEY BOYLAN: There's got to be a clever answer to that. I'm sorry...
MAEVE HIGGINS: I think I know. It's just if they're wearing glasses, it's because they...
FINNEY BOYLAN: Yeah, it must be the glasses. That's it.
NEGIN FARSAD: They watch the Kardashians with their glasses on. That's what it - you meant to say? Yeah.
HIGGINS: Yeah, with their - exactly.
SAGAL: The other major contribution, I think, to American culture is we have you to blame for all the negronis.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Oh, that's right.
FINNEY BOYLAN: That's right. I wrote a column about negronis the summer before last.
FINNEY BOYLAN: And it was interesting because the mail that I got from that, about half of it was people who - you know, the negroni was their favorite drink and they wanted to thank me for publicizing it. And the other half was - apparently this is a thing - cocktail writers...
FINNEY BOYLAN: ...Who insisted that I understand that I'd gotten everything wrong.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Yeah.
SAGAL: Yeah. I've spent some time with cocktail culture people - that's what they call it. They're just drunks, Jenny. They're just drunks.
FINNEY BOYLAN: My people.
SAGAL: Yes, they're drinkers.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Yeah.
TOM BODETT: I used to be in a cocktail culture, but we didn't call it that.
SAGAL: You have a new book, "Good Boy: A Life In Seven Dogs," and it is a memoir focused on dogs.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Yeah. Well, and the - well, the thing about dogs is how frequently - I mean, we just - we love our dogs, you know? But sometimes we love them out of all proportion to their qualities, like...
SAGAL: Their merit. Because I was - I have to admit, when I opened up - I mean, the book is called "Good Boy," so when I opened it up, I expected this was going to be heartwarming stories of lovely dog.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Yeah, no.
SAGAL: These dogs are terrible dogs, it sounds like.
FINNEY BOYLAN: A lot of my dogs were terrible dogs. You know, I had a dog...
SAGAL: Just the worst.
FINNEY BOYLAN: I had a dog that, you know, chewed its paws. I had another dog that - can I say hump on the radio?
SAGAL: You just did.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Yeah. I had a dog that was in love with my grandmother's leg. Yeah, she used to say - she didn't mind it either. She would say, you know, he's got more spunk than your grandpa.
SAGAL: Have - your first book - or at least your first memoir, I'm sorry, because you were a very established novelist before it - was, I believe, the first bestselling memoir by a trans person, certainly in The New York Times bestseller list. That's correct?
FINNEY BOYLAN: Yeah. Supposedly that's true. I mean...
SAGAL: Did you feel that you had this, like, obligation - this was almost 20 years ago now - to sort of - to paraphrase Milton, to explain the ways of trans to men, if you know what I mean? Did you, like...
FINNEY BOYLAN: (Laughter) Well, men in particular. I didn't know who was going to read that book when I wrote that book. If I had anybody in mind, it might've been, like, the members of my mother's bridge club - nice ladies in Philadelphia who were not going to take this news particularly well. And I think it's one of the things that's changed about transgender writing and the way trans people are - feel compelled to, you know, comport ourselves in the media. I'm really proud of that book, "She's Not There." But reading it now, 20 years later, I think I detect a far-off aroma of apology in that book or kind of a sense of, you know, begging to be taken seriously and to be treated with compassion and love. But now I don't know that people feel compelled to do that. I think that we are who we are, and I don't think it's necessary to apologize to anybody.
SAGAL: Right. Well, I mean, not to suck up too much, but one of the reasons it may not be necessary to apologize or explain is because of the success of your book.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Aww.
SAGAL: But when - as you transitioned, which I know was a gradual process, was there stuff about being a woman that was particularly difficult for you to learn without having had practice for the first 40 years of your life?
FINNEY BOYLAN: Well, a French braid is something that's never going to happen.
FINNEY BOYLAN: There were a lot of things that people told me about - well, when you're a woman, you have to do, you know, certain things this way. Like, I remember my sister-in-law, whom I love, Susan, did tell me, you're never going to be able to eat baby back ribs again in a restaurant because, you know, you're going to get sauce on your cheeks, and it's going to be messy. And I was like, is that like a federal law, no more baby back ribs?
FINNEY BOYLAN: Is it?
HIGGINS: It is. But I was told stuff like that, too. I think that happens to all of us. I remember this - a woman I used to babysit for, and she was like, listen; OK? Men love dip, yeah? Men love dip. She was like, this is something you need to know as a woman. And I would, like, connect up these nuggets, you know, so I'd, like, to learn how to be a woman. And then another time, a makeup lady was like, always do a smoky eye because men love smoky eyes.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Oh, the smoky eye. Don't get me started on the smoky eye.
FARSAD: Oh, yeah, the smoky eye. Every woman gets that lecture.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Well, but that's the thing that you see. And I think this happens to men, too, that there's this - there's like - people think there's this set of rules. But really, I think we're all just winging it, all of us, all the time. Although I would say that, in my marriage - you know, and I'm still married. I've been married now for, I think, 33 years. I'm going to get the math wrong. I think it was 12 years as husband and wife and...
DIERDRE BOYLAN: Twenty one.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Twenty one years? My wife is shouting from the - 20 years - 21 years now. So another thing that is still mine - I am still in charge of changing the light bulbs if a light blows in the house because apparently someone...
BOYLAN: You're taller than I am.
FINNEY BOYLAN: She's...
FINNEY BOYLAN: Did you hear that?
SAGAL: I did. I did hear that.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Well, I am...
FARSAD: That's reasonable.
FINNEY BOYLAN: It's not about how tall I am, honey.
SAGAL: Well, Jenny Finney Boylan, it is great to talk to you. We have asked you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: Try to put ketchup on this dog, and I will end you.
SAGAL: So as we have been discussing, you have written a book about your beloved dog, so we thought we'd ask you about hot dogs.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Perfect.
SAGAL: Answer two out of three questions about hot dogs correctly, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, the voice of anyone they might choose for their voicemail. Bill, who is Jenny Finney Boylan playing for?
KURTIS: Brandon Yu of San Diego, Calif.
SAGAL: All right. You ready to do this?
FINNEY BOYLAN: OK, Brandon, it's you and me.
SAGAL: All right. First question - one accepted legend is that the hot dog as we know it, a frankfurter in a bun, was invented by a vendor in St. Louis around the turn of the last century once his first idea failed - serving sausages how? A, inside a wrapping of freshly cooked spaghetti; B, with white gloves to protect the eaters hands; or C, stuffed inside a whole roast rabbit?
FINNEY BOYLAN: Wow. I don't know. You know what? Maybe it was the gloves.
SAGAL: You're going to go with gloves. You're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: That's what he did.
SAGAL: He served them with gloves. And people would walk away with the gloves, so it wasn't working out as a business proposition. So he said, what can I give them that I don't need to be returned? And he came up with a bun.
All right. Here's your next question. In 1968, the baseball player Gates Brown was fined $100 because of an incident with a hot dog. What happened? A, he used the hot dog for a bat, which, while technically not against the rules, just seemed weird; B, as a catcher with famously small hands, he used an uncooked wiener instead of his fingers to call for pitches; or C, he got a hit, but he had to slide into second base, causing the hot dogs he had hidden inside of his jersey to explode, covering him in mustard and ketchup?
FINNEY BOYLAN: Wow. That last image is really nice to think about, but I think it's the third one.
SAGAL: You're going to say it's the third one. You're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: That's what happened.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Ding, ding, ding, ding.
SAGAL: He had been preparing - he had been eating hotdogs in the dugout. And all of a sudden, he was called up to hit it, and he's like, damn it. So he just put the hot dogs he had prepared into his pockets.
SAGAL: True story. Last question - Nathan's Famous is one of the most popular hot dogs in the world, as I'm sure you know, but when they first opened, people were worried that their very cheap prices meant they were serving low-quality meat. How did Nathan Handwerker, the Nathan of Nathan's Famous, solve this problem? A, they converted their prices to Japanese yen and no one could figure out the price in dollars; B, they hired people to wear lab coats and stand around the building to make it look like doctors from the nearby hospital were ordering hot dogs; or C, they introduced buy-two-get-one Tuesdays, where you would pay for two dogs but only get one?
FINNEY BOYLAN: The second choice sounds the most sensible, the doctors.
SAGAL: That's exactly right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
FINNEY BOYLAN: Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.
SAGAL: I - no, no, wait a minute. We do the bell around here.
SAGAL: Jeez. Yes, but you are right. You are right. That's, in fact, the case, that they decided that if they make it look like doctors were eating the hot dogs, they had to be healthy.
Bill, how did Jenny Boylan do on our show?
KURTIS: Jenny, it's hard to do, but you got a perfect score.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Oh, yay.
KURTIS: We're proud of you.
SAGAL: Jennifer Finney Boylan is an author, activist and columnist for The New York Times. Her new book, "Good Boy: A Life In Seven Dogs," is out now.
Jenny, what an absolute joy to talk to you. Thank you so much for being on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
FINNEY BOYLAN: Thanks, Peter. Thanks, everybody. It was really fun.
BODETT: Thank you, Jenny.
KURTIS: Thanks, Jenny.
SAGAL: It was really fun. Go have a hot dog. Bye-bye.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOG DAYS ARE OVER")
FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE: (Singing) The dogs days are over. The dog days are done. Can't you hear the horses?
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