Eight Voicemails from My Grandmother, Who Is Very Upset About the Apparent Death of My Career

by Samantha Henig


This weekend marked the end of the the New York Times Magazine’s Meh List, a feature for which I have been the chief columnist for the last two years. Writing The Meh List takes up approximately five minutes of my week. (My real job is as the magazine’s digital editor.) But The Meh List is in print. The Meh List has my byline. Therefore, for the purposes of my ninety-year-old grandmother, The Meh List was my job. When I told her last week during our family’s Rosh Hashanah gathering that the Meh List was about to end, she waited until we had parted ways to unload her concern onto my mother. “No more Meh List?” Grammy asked her. “Then how will her bosses be able to be judge how well Sam is doing her job?”

As a farewell to The Meh List, here are eight voicemails from my grandmother about my Big Important Job that is no more, to be published on a medium that she does not understand and does not care to.

March 30, 2013, when I handed over the reins to someone who cares about the Mets for our annual Mehts List

Hi Sam, it’s your Grammy. The magazine has meh, but it doesn’t have Sam. I’m sure you know that. But you didn’t tell me. So tell me what it means. That’s it. Bye. Anything connected with my Sam I need to know. Bye. Love.

May 11, 2013

Hi it’s Grammy, and I’m reading the Meh List. Want to share with you that I think “ships in glass bottles” has always been a meh to me, so thank you for that, thank you indeed. But I don’t know what JWoww is. Or happy Friday. You’ll have to explain the others to me. But ships in glass bottles is great.

May 29, 2013, when I thought it would be good to get some other New York Times personalities in on the Meh game, starting with Brian Stelter. (I took on the “additional reporting and user experience” credit at the bottom of the list.)

Hi. It seems to be a quarter to nine. And I don’t know what day it is. Sunday? No? What day is it? You will know. This is your Grammy. I’m a little bit late in reading the magazine section. I’m a little bit late in everything. And the shock of — not the shock of my life, but a big shock was that the Meh List does not say “by Samantha Henig,” and I get a big kick out of it saying “additional support and…trial experience?” I can’t even read it right. By Samantha Henig. You didn’t tell me. Have you been promoted? Did they realize that your skills are in many other directions? Tell me what happened. This is your Grammy. Bye.

August 25, 2013

Hi, it’s your Grammy. Very proud of you, reading the Meh List. And I have to tell you that every once in a while I push it away, but here it is. I’m such a throwback, my love. The only items that are familiar to me are “mom and baby” and “the last two weeks of August,” and the rest I don’t know. I have so much to learn! And as they say, so little time. But lots of time to be proud of you my love. Bye.

March 17, 2014

Your magah [ed note: a family nickname for “grandma”] is looking at the Times Magazine and it says The Meh List by SAMANTHA HENIG, not additional reporting or anything. Your own name right there. I’m very proud. Whatever you wrote was adorable except I don’t know what Smith…wick’s is, but everything else I got, which doesn’t happen too often. So, I’m proud, I love you, and I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.

June 14, 2014

Hi it’s me again, and I promise, I hope, I think this is the last time today. I’m reading the Meh List, and you know, Samantha, I know that my birthday is coming up but this, what’s the word, reinforces the fact that I’m getting to be really old. On the Meh List, I don’t know anything except the last one; I remember Citronella sort of vaguely. I don’t know what pocket squares are, air plants, celebrity apologies…most of all what is a Latergram and what is 2048? So fill me in so I come to this century a little bit closer. Thanks sweetie. Bye.

June 21, 2014

I’m calling to say I love the Meh List today more than other days because it’s got that beautiful name right up front. It doesn’t say “additional reporting by,” it says BY you. So I’m very proud. And of course I don’t know what half of them are. Like…Chris Pratt action hero? That’s the one that I basically truly don’t know. And I don’t know what a mechanical pencil is. So, fill me in. But I’m filling you in. I’m so proud, and I love you. And this is Saturday, because I get Sunday’s paper on Saturday! Part of it. Love, with pride, bye.

September 29, 2014, the day after the final Meh List ran in print

This is a fan … letter? Fan mail? How do you say that? Anyway, I’m a big fan of this Samantha Henig, who I love a lot, and I just read the Meh List. MEHH List. Ha. And I think it’s fun. Especially the last one. Ha! Oh dear. You’re so funny, you’re so cute, you’re so wonderful. Love. Proud. Proud to love you. Bye.

She appears to have forgotten her concerns from last week about this being the final Meh List and what that means for my performance assessment, much like she has forgotten all but the vaguest notion of Citronella.

Samantha Henig is the web editor for the New York Times Magazine