“I would like to think I’m a superhero and can handle anything,” Ms. Arfin said of her cool-girl persona. “But I’m not. My feelings still get hurt. I’m very sensitive.” She laughed a little at this, but still conveyed the directness and clarity of someone who’s spent a lot of time talking to people—friends, therapists, group members, readers—about herself.
That may be because Ms. Arfin is a recovering drug user and alcoholic who chronicled her tumble into addiction in a 2007 book, Dear Diary. It told the story of a self-professed “high-maintenance Long Island Jew” who went from all-ages punk rock shows to getting high in the Lower East Side on 9/11 and wondering “what the big deal was” as the World Trade Center smoldered just blocks downtown.
Ms. Arfin sent copies of her book to “every single person in the world I admire,” she said, a list that included the comic actress and writer Amy Sedaris and director Judd Apatow, along with her old professors from Hampshire College.
“I didn’t get any response,” she said. “But it didn’t matter.”
After rehab at South Oaks and the Betty Ford Center, Ms. Arfin has been clean, she said, for six years. Her blog, Cafe Con Lesley, still documents frequent nightcrawling—Spike Lee, Jay-Z and John Stamos all make appearances—but now, she said, when things get weird, she goes home early. “I have friends who still do drugs, but if they’re going out and doing coke, I leave.”
After Ms. Arfin failed to catch publishers’ interest with two post–Dear Diary book proposals (one she described as “Our Bodies, Ourselves for punk rock kids”), she took some time off and traveled in India. Upon returning, she was offered the job at Missbehave, whose pages she hopes to make more “accessible,” less “urban.”
“I don’t wanna see the word ‘dope’ anymore. Things like that,” Ms. Arfin said. “I’m not into like Electroclash and boom boxes and bamboo earrings. I’ve never really been into that stuff.”
She proudly listed some of her current interests: the Dixie Chicks (“Oh my gosh, they’re so talented!”), Teen Vogue, Gossip Girl, VH1’s Celebrity Rehab and A&E’s Intervention, which she called “the funniest and saddest show.”
“I don’t believe in ‘guilty pleasures’ anymore,” she said, despite the fact that she once wrote “The Vice Guide to Guilty Pleasures.” “Moving onwards, I don’t want to feel guilty about the things that make me happy.”
And she doesn’t want Missbehave to be just about her friends, either, real or virtual. “I wanna get bigger covers. … Believe me, I don’t know how to do this. I’m, like, learning as I go along.”
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