Ask Me Anything Tour: Skylar Gudasz, Kate Rhudy, and Libby Rodenbough | Friday, Sep. 16, 7 p.m. | Anisette, Raleigh

In an age of information and ceaseless hot takes, the power of some old-fashioned advice is, somehow, stronger than ever. (See tried and true advice columns like Heather Havrilesky’s Ask Polly or Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar.)

In their Ask Me Anything tour—which stops in Raleigh this week—kindred Triangle musicians and frequent collaborators Skylar Gudasz, Kate Rhudy, and Libby Rodenbough put the format to good use with performances that are interspersed with answers to audience-submitted questions, in a style equally mystical and grounded. These answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity; a shorter version of this piece can also be found in print. 

Why is settling down cringe?

— squirmy wormy

LIBBY RODENBOUGH: Cringe has had its useful applications, no doubt, but I’ve been wondering if we’re outgrowing it. What does cringe tell us about our value system? Where does it lead us? If it’s to a future where we stand on top of our cold lonely towers and look down at all the blissful losers below, I’m not sure I want to sign up. On the other hand, I like how cringe has made us question bandwagon ideology and boring aesthetics.

I guess there is something aesthetically boring about snuggling into bed with the same person every night. But guess what else is boring: desperately searching every corner of existence for a half-baked idea you have about freedom until anxiety is riding you like a hot oppressive cowboy! Have you ever read Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek? Sure, one could call it boring to spend three pages talking about how a grasshopper’s left leg lifts off a sourwood leaf, but maybe she’s on to something. There are mysteries and treasures to be found in knowing a person or a lifestyle, or a place, deeply. Settling down is cringe because cringe is something you have to stay running away from every second of your life. But I don’t think that sounds fun.

KATE RHUDY: I think accepting good love, in general, can feel embarrassing. Predictability can be just as much of a thrill.

SKYLAR GUDASZ: Squirmy wormy, recently I heard a beautiful woman on the subway tell her Hinge date that her goal was to be a housewife, and honestly? She seemed like she had some things figured out.

hi i’ve never been in love but i’ve heard about it and i am interested in subscribing

there is a person with a green thumb and one dog named after a flower

i am interested in spending more time but we accidentally live very far away

anyhap.  how do i tell this person that i want to bring them a firefly, a bouquet of garlic, a tunnel that undoes our distance?  do i?  dare i?  am i swerving out of my lane?

bless u, thick mess in the midwest

LR: Thick mess, I can only say that, in my own life, the impulse to give away my heart/firefly/garlic bouquet has been rare enough to be worth following. I take it from your love caginess that you may feel some ambivalence about the whole idea. How could you not, in the era of TikTok polycules and love-bombing discourse and, not least of all, climate catastrophe? If it sparks your curiosity at all, though, I encourage you to seek love as an antidote—a minor act of resistance (stay with me; shake off that cringe reflex). Think of your feelings for this person as a metaphysical territory Mark Zuckerberg has no dominion over. Think of your garlic bouquet as a value Elon Musk can’t manipulate. However it goes with green thumb, I suspect you’ll be proud of yourself for managing to suspend your disbelief in a world that gives you so little to believe in.

SG: Have you tried summoning them closer by creating a playlist and dancing naked to it under the full moon? Bless this Mess.

KR: Thick mess—I say go for it. Rarely do we get to experience gestures of bouquets of anything, much less fresh garlic. If I were green thumb in this story line, I’d be honored to be presented with the offerings of a love tunnel. If it doesn’t work out, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You made someone feel cherished?

Rapid Fire Questions

signed, Groove

What is yr favorite variety of tomato?

LR: A firm one, with white bread and mayo.

SG: One from Mighty Tendril Farm in Cedar Grove. 

KR: Beefsteak. I like the patterns. Libby, same, with salt and pepper.

How many points should a star have?

LR: No one wants to hear stars pontificate.

KR: I just took my first sip of a mimosa…I have nothing to say about the stars

What is ur favorite line from a female character in a film?

LR: This is the question I’ve been thinking longest and hardest about, no lie. It’s kind of like when somebody asks me my favorite song lyric…I just don’t feel like I can rip it out of the context of the song/movie and have it retain its selfhood. I love most everything Cher says in “Moonstruck” and the way she says it. 

SG: Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny was highly instructive. Wearing your lover’s t-shirt and giving lectures in hotel rooms about hunting. Only breaking silent treatment to said lover by being court summoned to share gear expertise under oath. 

KR: My favorite movie is the Sound of Music, and I love most everything Julie Andrews says and the way she says it. God bless Kurt, shushing Liesel, “oh but it’s terrible reverend mother” 

What accent do you find most sexy?

LR: I’ve grown to resent the allure of the exotic.

SG: My type, no matter the accent, is tall and quiet. 

KR: I’m not very well-traveled.

What personal habit is too embarrassing to do on tour but you wish was normalized??

LR: My bandmates will tell you I find almost nothing too embarrassing to share with them 🙂

SG: Drinking three cocktails before lunch like the late Queen of England.

KR: Locking yourself in the green room to eat your dinner and watch Riverdale. Self-care is not embarrassing.

How can you keep friendships when one of you is rich and the other is broke?

— poboy winter

LR: Poboy, let me begin by saying my dad is a successful lawyer, my parents gave me a down payment for the house where I live, and I make approximately $35,000/year. I’m sure you’ve noticed that rich people tend to think it’s rude to talk about money. I think it’s something about an implied connection, either positive or inverse, between wealth and virtue. If we believe that profit is the stolen surplus value of labor (and gosh, I hope we do), then there’s certainly something wrong with having a lot of money.

So I say get that friend to unburden themself and treat you to things. And maybe just talk about money more? I don’t know, but I wonder if we can demystify wealth a little if we cheapen it with conversation. I certainly think people who have had financial help in their lives should talk about it publicly because as hard as it is for me to believe, there really still is a healthy myth about hard work leading to financial well-being. What a joke! Laugh at it together. 

SG: Not to be cynical, but I don’t know if you can keep such a friendship without a lot of emotional labor—though that’s probably true of everything worth holding onto. The question is do you want to hold onto it? Probably only you can answer how much of that kind of labor you’re willing to expend, as it sounds like you’re already in a position where your job labor is being exploited for someone else’s profits – and who’s got time to work for free?

As the friendship goes on, economic realities that may have seemed invisible at the start can come more to the forefront, and with the added stress of not being able to afford things, it can feel personal to watch other people afford them (especially because here in the land of the free we like to pretend class doesn’t exist—making it that much harder to emotionally bear the seemingly invisible and yet very real pressure it puts on human relationships). I agree with Libby—depending on the bedrock of the friendship, you can try working through the hardness with some radical honesty.

Anytime said friend invites you to something out of reach, respond by saying “I can’t afford to, but I hope you have a great time!” Or maybe in your heart of hearts, you hope that they don’t have a great time—in which case, poboy, it may be time for you to sail away from their high-speed yacht on your patched-up dinghy. Probably easier to see the stars away from all those fancy lights.

KR: Rose and Jack made it work (loaded)! Friendships are like tomatoes… I think we’re capable of holding space for an array of relationships in our life. If it does your heart any good to have this someone in your life, consider yourself and your boundaries, and figure out what works for that friendship. I, too, am a proponent of transparency. If it feels bad, defer to Skylar, and sail away.

Hi stranger! 

Here’s a question for you: my partner of 5+ years and co-parent to my 10 y/o (perfect) child just left me out of the blue. I’m devastated to say the least. My heart is broken but also, because of unfulfilled commitments and empty promises to my child about being a parent to her, so is my trust and respect. She says she still wants to be in my daughter’s life and of course my darling daughter wants that too. Can I should/should I allow this? 

For context: I already share my daughter with her mom. Lord knows I don’t need yet another painful shared custody situation and frankly neither does my daughter. My now-ex has also expressed vague plans to move away, would I just be setting up my daughter for further disappointment? 


-J , 33

SG: First of all let me say, Bereft, that I’m so sorry about your broken heart. People are endlessly complex, aren’t they? I encourage you to 1. go to therapy and 2. wallow in your heartbreak a bit—may I suggest the Victoria Facelli triple ice cream carton in the freezer method—a pint for eating while you tell a friend about it; a pint for eating over the sink in the weeks to come; and lastly, a pint for when you run into them unexpectedly and it’s awful. A three-pint system.

People are just as disappointing as they are capable of being incredible and generous, and it’s with this generous spirit that I imagine one enters into the realm of parenthood against all odds – and here I’m speaking of the odds like no guaranteed universal leave, no universal health care, no affordable childcare, underpaid teachers, no guaranteed right to the bodily autonomy to decide whether or not to have a child…I could go on!  It’s wild and yet, amazingly, so many brave people like yourself beautifully and imperfectly undertake it. 

In parenthood, like with all creative endeavors, it seems there’s much that is not rational and so rational arguments and punitive rules, as much as we might want the blunt clarity of them, can’t necessarily apply. Here you have answered your own question—”and of course my darling daughter wants that too“—so with a great understanding of the boundaries of where your own disappointment lives and where your daughter’s desire to be near a person she loves exists, I imagine you have the integrity and skill to create an arrangement that allows you protection and her agency. And if you don’t? It’s probably best to fake it til you make it. Isn’t that most of parenthood anyway? Nurse your broken heart while being inspired by your child’s agency, as agency is something your daughter needs to be able to learn about safely with you in preparation for a world that doesn’t necessarily think she should have it. Shall I leave you with a Coldplay lyric? “Nobody said it was easy.”

LR: I can imagine that losing someone whom your kid loves is its own circle of bereavement. My instinct is that there’s no clear benefit to extending that bereavement by removing your former partner from your kid’s life. As long as she continues to feel loved and safe and supported, I think a 10-year-old can deal with someone who used to be around a lot becoming more physically distant. Not to suggest that it won’t be sad, but I don’t think every change in bodily presence has to leave a kid with abandonment issues—as long as she understands what’s going on (kids deserve real explanations imo) and gets a say in it.

There’s a very real chance she has a fruitful lifelong relationship with your former partner, or that she remembers it fondly if it ends. Your pain is its own matter (tho inevitably your daughter will feel that, too). I reckon it’s a bear hunt scenario where there’s no way over/under, only through. I’ll say this—sometimes I wish my parents had been more vulnerable around me when I was growing up. Maybe there’s an opportunity here for your daughter to learn a little something about loss—which is a part of life you ultimately can’t ward off from her—and to get closer to you in the process. 

Support independent local journalismJoin the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Comment on this story at