Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark (Book Summary)

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When Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff met at a 2015 Halloween party, they found a passion for real-world crime stories and tales of bad. Immediately a friendship flourished and they decided to begin a podcast to explore these topics. Since then, with millions of listeners, My Favorite Murder has become a global hit. The podcast’s success has resulted in the overwhelming sale of live shows and a book deal.

Both Georgia and Karen overcame significant barriers, including problems of mental health and eating disorders that shaped the way they see the world today. You are going to hear their never-before-told tales in this overview. While reading you will learn lessons that you can apply to your own lives.

A short warning before we begin: The following chapters contain explicit language.

Trigger warning: violence, sexual violence, death or dying Sexism and misogyny.

1- Screw politeness when it comes to your well-being – but don’t blame yourself if you don’t act.  

It’s difficult to be a child, as everyone understands. This was definitely the case with Georgia Hardstark, whose concerns about stuff such as her flat chest and hyperactivity caused her to suffer from low self-esteem. But when she found Riot Grrrl’s underground feminist punk movement, Georgia threw aside her doubts and became a fearless, outspoken feminist. 

Riot Grrrl helped Georgia understand that when individuals attempted to take advantage of her staying polite was not the same as her kindness. She mastered saying “fuck politeness,” particularly when it came to predators. For instance, a guy purchased her a shot at a bar late one night despite her constant rejection. Instead of politely accepting the drink, she spilled it in front of him on the ground and came home.

But while Riot Grrrl helped Georgia to become a strong, assertive woman, she discovered that in all circumstances it is not possible to be courageous. Georgia moved from Orange County to Los Angeles after graduating from high school in 1998 and worked as a waitress. One day, a middle-aged guy named Lawrence, one of her frequent customers, showed her his portfolio of photography and asked if he could take her picture.

She was flattered and dressed in platform sandals, a tight shirt, and wore more makeup for the occasion. But when Lawrence suggested driving them to a scenic lookout in the mountains of Santa Monica, Georgia thought intuitively that something was wrong. Still, she agreed to the plan not to disappoint him.

Riding in the vehicle of Lawrence, Georgia feared she would become a victim of murder. And the uncharacteristically soulless gaze of Lawrence on the cliff confirmed that she was right to be scared. But when Lawrence asked her to take off her shirt for a photo, she continued to play along and even agreed. Nonetheless, Lawrence did not hurt her and drove her back to the car park where they met. Georgia jumped out of the vehicle and ran away as quickly as they pulled in to the car park.

Georgia was so ashamed that she let Lawrence photograph her shirtless that years later she did not tell anyone about the event until she brought it up on “My Favorite Murder”. Georgia came to understand with the assistance of her therapist that while self-advocacy is crucial, it requires practice to master it. She read about it in real crime tales that like the many victims, failing to stand up for herself in a scary scenario did not mean she was to blame for the actions of another person.

2 – Good friends and positivity are required to be healthy, but treatment may also be required.

If you spend any time on the internet, you will understand that in the past few years the notion of self-care has gained traction, or treating yourself well. Most self-care proponents suggest taking yoga or a vegan diet to prioritize your health. But for Karen Kilgariff, self-care and treating yourself well is merely about taking full responsibility for your issues with the help of close friends.

Karen had a full-time job that consumed all her energy. She would blame others in discussions for anything that went wrong and gossip with other coworkers about these experiences. Sometimes, by pivoting to blame her confidants, she would deal with her guilt of oversharing!

Fortunately, she realized that there was an issue with this pattern, so she discovered a certified therapist to assist her address it. The therapist helped her see that she had counted too many individuals as “friends,” and that she should reserve these discussions for a couple of close friends instead of confessing her every problem to anyone she met.

While on the way to lunch with her friend Laura, she discovered the significance of such close relationships. Karen, as she often did, introduced a monologue about her continuing unrequited romantic interest in a narcissistic man. Laura had been listening for months to stories of this saga patiently, but she snapped this time. Slamming the brakes, she announced that Karen was obviously not interested in the guy and she was supposed to forget him.

Although it was difficult to hear this, Karen had a moment of clarity and saw the pathetic, obsessive person she was becoming. She also knew that only a close friend who genuinely cared about her would take time and effort to offer this kind of advice.

Ultimately, she learned that even your closest friends don’t want to hear you complaining over and over again about the same issues. As such, trying to make sure your friendships are mostly concentrated on beneficial subjects rather than adverse subjects is a good idea. And if you are stuck in unhealthy habits, remember that the view of a therapist can be a great help in turning things around.

3 – Georgia was taught the significance of friends and family by an adolescent shoplifting incident.

As a single mother’s kid whose meager revenue and child support rarely covered the bills, Georgia was unable to afford the luxuries enjoyed by her colleagues in Orange County. It wasn’t easy to wear the hand-me-downs of relatives, so it wasn’t surprising when Georgia evolved into a rebellious 13-year-old that has a shoplifting habit.

Stealing was a way to take back what she felt was rightly her own for Georgia. She shoplifted her first G-string, precious shampoo, various boxes of Marlboro Red cigarettes and a Red Hot Chili Peppers cassette tape using the deep pockets of Levi’s jean jacket she had received as a Hanukkah current.

Then one day, she was caught on a shoplifting journey with her friend Meg to the local mall. As she put a couple of earrings in her pocket at Charlotte Russe’s budget clothing store, something suspicious about a woman caught her eye in a nearby aisle. Georgia whispered to run in Meg’s ear, but it was too late. Although Meg did it in time, Georgia was grabbed by the arm by the undercover security guard and brought to the back of the store.

Georgia realized it was only a minor misdemeanor to steal inexpensive earrings. But she also knew it was much worse than prison what she faced now: she had to call her parents. Speaking to her mother was not one of the options as that would lead to an awkward spanking. So she called her dad, who with her and her siblings was less strict.

When she was picked up by her dad, they both cried. They were permitted to leave by the security guard and subsequently her dad got a bill for the cost of the stolen earrings, plus safety fees and a tiny penalty.

The shoplifting event taught Georgia that she could depend on her dad to assist her regardless of what difficulty she was in, including boys or drugs. Fortunately, when she was in her twenties, her rebellious nature dissipated. But she remembered what she had learned from her relationship with her dad as a teenager: the value of helping one’s friends and family, even when making irresponsible mistakes.

4 – Georgia’s friendship with Karen is preceded by her decades-long obsession with real crime stories.

How did the voices behind My Favorite Murder get obsessed with a real crime? Well, the interest of Georgia in the topic dates back to her early encounters in the 1980s with horror fiction. After watching Pet Sematary’s film adaptation, Georgia became fascinated by the genre and started reading novels like Christine and The Dead Zone by Stephen King. She immediately became addicted to the sensation of fear caused by the tales. She also rapidly began to appreciate the way her company was kept by these books.

She read “The Stranger Beside Me”  around that period, a biography of Ann Rule’s serial killer Ted Bundy. She instantly became hooked on tales of real-life crime. Although she wouldn’t know what the word means until over two decades later when somebody invented it on the Facebook page of “My Favorite Murder”, she became that day a Murderino–a fanatic of true crime. 

Her obsession in the 1980s was unquestioned as her friends and family were fans of real crime TV shows like Unsolved Mysteries and America’s Most Wanted. But as she grew older she found that her niche interest was off-putting for many individuals, owing to her reading autopsy reports and obsessing with analyzing bloodstain patterns. Across the years, she learned how to assess whether someone shared her fascination by trying to seek for tips such as a predilection for television shows like Law & Order or CSI.

Then one night, Georgia overheard a lady at a 2015 Halloween party in Los Angeles explaining a story about a car accident she had experienced the day before. Georgia approached Karen individually as individuals left the group to seek a less macabre discussion and asked her about the facts. They soon began speaking about the newly broadcasted HBO TV series The Staircase, which followed the trial of a man who had killed his spouse. For hours, the ladies continued to talk and planned to meet for lunch.

Georgia instantly felt a profound bond with Karen, and as both females were already hosting podcasts, Georgia proposed working together on a real-crime podcast. She not only gained a lifelong friend in Karen but eventually “My Favorite Murder” would unite her with millions of those that shared her passion.

5 – Georgia learned after a lifespan of counseling not to fear a diagnosis.

As we learned, Karen started receiving treatment as an adult and realized that professional counseling is never too late to take full advantage of. On the other hand, since she was six years old, Georgia has also been seeing a therapist after her parents divorced.

She still finds counseling a useful way to deal with life and in her meetings, she continues to understand more about herself. One of her significant takeaways from counseling is that diagnosing a disease does not imply a catastrophe. Over the years, anxiety, ADHD, depression, and OCD have been diagnosed with Georgia. But while some people may panic after being told that they have a psychological illness, Georgia understands that a diagnosis is actually a good thing.

First of all, diagnostic tests are often generalized labels for your conditions and are essential to your insurance company to cover your care. Secondly, you can work to try and resolve it if you learn what’s wrong with you. For instance, knowing she has ADHD has enabled Georgia to seek assistance from her therapist to deal with it. This prevents the disorder from hurting her career or relationships negatively.

But therapy can be useful even if you don’t have a significant diagnosis. Georgia has always felt guilty of being lazy. She complained in a discussion with a life coach that she was never motivated to do everything she wanted to do, such as writing or going to the gym. The coach pointed out something that surprised her: she didn’t have to be motivated. On the contrary, everything she had to do was show up. 

She didn’t have to wait to feel like her best self to do tasks, in other words. Even if she didn’t feel like going to the gym sometimes, when she got there, she would tend to put in a solid effort.

Although Georgia has had substantial experiences with therapists, she also understands that finding the correct one is essential. She generally can know if a therapist has the compassion and firm character she is looking for in the first few meetings. However that’s not the case always, but she’s learned that there’s no reason to be discouraged by this, even if she’s got to search around more to discover the perfect fit.

6 – Karen worked her fair share of bizarre jobs before becoming a full-time comedian.

Karen and Georgia agree that one of the best ways to watch out for yourself is to become self-sufficient when it comes to individual safety–or “how not to get killed.” You have to know how to pay the bills and feed yourself with a job, in other words.

Karen had her fair share of bizarre jobs on her path to become a stand-up comedian. As a high school teacher, she worked as a clerk in a frozen yogurt supermarket. She had an eating disorder at this point, which caused her to chow down on food to cope with the stress of adolescent life. But since all the cool girls had jobs in the yogurt shop, it did not occur to her that working with sugary dishes might not be the best choice.

One day as Karen worked, Thelma her boss stopped by. Karen decided to make herself a strawberry yogurt and read a book because there were no clients around and she had nothing to do. Thelma had said that the product could be eaten by staff after all.

It wasn’t until Karen served herself a third yogurt that Thelma snapped and instructed her to turn back to work. In retrospect, her conduct mortified Karen; she read and ate in front of the person who paid her. But she was amazed at the response of Thelma at that moment. And regrettably, she did not grow to understand the perspective of her boss until it was too late–after carving her initials into the store’s fudge, she was eventually fired for inappropriate behavior. Although she was ashamed that she was the only one of her colleagues to be fired, she was happy that she was no longer tempted by unlimited free frozen yogurt.

Ultimately, Karen learned how to hold a job, but she stayed in her animosity towards low-wage work. At Gap, one role was both minimum wage and part-time, so she couldn’t even afford to buy the clothes she was paid to sell to customers. What’s more, it was exhausting to have to greet with joy every customer who went in trying to buy something. For the remainder of her life, Karen was frightened that she would be stuck working at Gap, so she started to put all her energy into securing stand-up gigs. As we came to know, her work and effort paid off, as she then continued on to have a great comedy career.

7We need to move from victim-blaming in discussions and find creative methods to identify and stop killers.

They wanted to evaluate true crime accounts and describe methods that females could learn to defend themselves from predators when Georgia and Karen started “My Favorite Murder”. On the show, inspired by each murder they covered, they provided training and safety tips. However, this was criticized by many listeners, noting that their advice could also be viewed as victim-blaming. Suggestions such as “never get into a vehicle with a stranger” mean that if something bad occurs afterward, anyone who does so is to blame.

Georgia and Karen, taking the criticism on board, tried to change their focus to real crime. One account they covered was particularly helpful in understanding the victim-blaming issue.

In 1987, when they got off buses at night, a man in Toronto’s Scarborough district violently attacked and raped young females. Police had not been able to capture the predator for months, who has now become known as the Scarborough Rapist. Unfortunately, they voiced their annoyance at this, but they mainly blamed the ladies for the situation. 

When the local constable spoke at a press conference, he announced that women who put themselves in danger by traveling in the early morning hours should not expect protection. A month later, a municipal council member even suggested a women-only curfew.

Coincidentally, Paul who is Karen’s friend. His mom lived in Scarborough around this time. One morning she noticed that a young guy was watching her while swimming alone on the roof of her apartment building. As he paced around the pool, she became more and more nervous. But then arrived at a group of parents and kids, and the young guy vanished quickly.

When the Scarborough Rapist was ultimately detained, she was surprised to identify him on TV as the person from the pool that day. It turned out he was also a serial killer who tortured and killed many victims over a six-year period.

The mother of Paul had done nothing careless or stupid. Just like the ladies who took the bus at night, she was just living her life. It was the killer’s fault as they became targets, not theirs.

Having heard this story from a close friend helped Karen understand that she was guilty of victim-blaming. By analyzing the criticisms of their listeners, Georgia and Karen discovered that the best way to prevent someone from becoming a violent criminal is not to suggest what females can do differently to safeguard themselves but to detect the perpetrators’ conduct early on.

Stay Sexy & Don’t get killed: Karen Kilgariff’s Definitive How-To Guide, Georgia Hardstark Book Review

Karen and Georgia had to learn from many errors before and after producing “My Favorite Murder”, from avoiding politeness to taking accountability for victim-blaming. Although both women faced growing challenges, with the help of their therapists, family, and friends, they were able to learn and grow. And as they have become successful podcasters, they have been taught that the victim is never to blame in violent crime situations.

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