I feel weird saying this, but: as a longtime devoted reader and commenter at the Toast, my reaction last Friday when Nicole and Mallory announced they’d be closing the site on July 1 was a weird cocktail of shock, grief, bewilderment, and…relief.
The Toast is a glorious feminist haven, and in many ways has felt like a real friend to me in the nearly two years I’ve been reading it regularly. I don’t actually know any of its editors or writers or commenters, but as a collective it’s supported me, listened to me, made me smarter, and made me laugh until tears pooled at the corners of my eyes. I’ve been humbled and embarrassed in the comments of the Toast, too–because I am a human who makes mistakes and the Toast collective has no problem putting a firm hand on your shoulder and righting you when you steer into choppy territory.
So yes, I wallowed in a fair amount of grief after the announcement. I cried several times. I’d forget for a while and then remember all over again that my friend was going away.
But I also felt a weight being lifted off me. Partly this is just a weird result of my psychology. Things ending and people leaving is natural and comforting to me; we could unpack that all day long. You know that feeling when someone you’re dating breaks up with you, and part of you is sad but part of you is also like, “Good thing they left before things got real!!!!!” and it’s kind of defensive but also deeply true? It was like that. FINE, The Toast. Leave me, just like everyone does. Etc. etc. etc.
The relief was also very practical. The Toast has been run, VERY excellently, by a small team. They seemingly work all the dang time, and even though I’m sure it can be great fun, writing and editing whatever you want and corresponding with readers and authors and getting to be online all the time, it’s also a lot of work. There’s a lot of legal shit to muddle with and a lot of bone-dry tech issues to work around in this business. Work you’re passionate about is still work. Work that you can do from home in your comfy pants is still work.
So, again–even though I don’t know these people and they certainly don’t need any of my concern–I’m glad they’re taking care of themselves. The site wasn’t profitable enough. More importantly, Nicole and Mallory didn’t want to do it anymore. How inspiring is that? People who seemed to have dream jobs in certain respects decided to end it before it became a thankless slog. That’s beautiful.
It’s also preferable to the other options that might have been. They could have sold the site, and even if they’d sold it to someone who understood The Toast and wanted to keep it alive, it would have become a fundamentally different site. Or they could have kept churning out content but without the love and spark of what it’s been the last few years, and that would have been so painful to watch.
In a way, I could see it coming. Nicole/Mallory have been hinting at the unsustainability of the site and the possibility of burnout for a while now. I was pragmatic enough, at least, to know that it wouldn’t be around forever. But I thought it still had a few more years left.
I have one of those website blockers installed in my work computer–in an effort to stop procrastinating so much, I set to only allow me 30 minutes a day on some of my favorite sites. The Toast was one of those sites for a while, but I took it off the list at some point, because it wasn’t mindless procrastination fodder. It was nurturing and real and sustaining. It made my life richer and more colorful. It sustained me during some difficult times in my life. It gave me a home.
I adore The Toast and am so grateful that it existed at all, and that I got to be a part of it.