Welcome to Ask Polly!

I'm leaving New York Magazine and moving to Substack full-time.

Westwind (1952) by Clarence Holbrook Carter

Welcome to the brand new, expanded Ask Polly newsletter!

I’m leaving the Cut for Substack, and I’m thrilled to have you here, to help me usher in a whole new chapter of Ask Polly. Even though I’ve spent nine years answering letters from strangers, analyzing their noncommittal boyfriends and difficult friends, their irritating bosses and dismissive parents, I only recently realized something: Joy is simple.

Humans are complex and our problems are convoluted and the world is noisy madness, but joy isn’t complicated at all. Joy is right here, in the air around me, in the ground under your feet, behind your eyes, inside my cells. You just have to look for it.

Sadly, our world was designed to fray our nerves instead of soothing us, telling us that we’ll always be unworthy and unsteady instead of honoring our sublime imperfections. Our brutal culture feeds us shame every day, urges us to work harder, points us at empty fixes, and pits us against each other. No wonder we’re increasingly isolated from ourselves and each other. Yet going on social media often feels about as relaxing as sticking your fork into an electrical socket.

I want the new Ask Polly to find ways to counter that brutality, delivering you a little bit of light and color and hope to propel you through your week. Subscribers will receive updates twice a week. In addition to my weekly advice column, I have a long list of subjects I want to pursue, in short and longer essays: how to cultivate a personal life philosophy that’s robust enough to sustain you through the hard times, how to resist the relentless message that you’re running out of time or that your age makes you insignificant or unlovable, how to bring your most original creative work into the light of day without fear, and how to recognize your deep need for human connection so that you’ll dare to reach for more love from this world.

I’m also anxious to bring Polly back to her freaky, aggressive, obnoxious roots, honestly — something it’s not always easy to do in media these days.

I have a lot of big plans for us, but most of all I just want to say thank you for being here. I’ve met so many smart, open-hearted people since I started writing Ask Polly, first for The Awl and later for The Cut. I honestly can’t wait to build something amazing out of the energy you brought to me in your letters and in your enthusiasm for my words. I’m excited to invent new ways for us to support each other and have fun doing it.

It takes a lot of work to keep believing in yourself and in this world. My goal is to bring you joy and help you strengthen your faith in yourself. I might be deluded, but I’m pretty sure I can pull that off. So hold on tight, and let’s see what we can do together.


Heather Havrilesky is the author of Disaster Preparedness, How to Be a Person in the World, and What If This Were Enough? and also writes the Ask Molly newsletter, written by Polly’s evil twin. Feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends. If you’re struggling financially, send me a note and I’ll comp you a six-month subscription to Polly or Molly or both. Need advice? Write to askpolly at protonmail.com.