I definitely have to be reading a book a certain way in order to write a review of it, or to talk about it at length, or to discuss it during book club, or to analyze it in class. It generally involves a lot of note taking, a lot of scribbles in the margins, and furiously bulleted lists of things to talk about.
I didn't read Bossypants like that. I picked up a copy, set it on my bedside table for a few days while I pretended to read Faulkner, and read it from cover to cover during my flights to and from Boston this weekend.
I didn't take notes. I didn't think much of anything other than, "Ha!" and "I love Tina Fey!" and "I want to be in a best friend three-way with her and Amy Poehler."
This is all to say that I don't have a review of Bossypants, and I'm okay with that. It's flipping hilarious. I don't need 1500 words to explain to you why. But I do want to share one chapter that made me fall absolutely head over heels in love with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (as if my love could run any deeper).
The chapter is a love letter to Amy Poehler, "one in a series" according to Tina. It goes like this:
Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers' room, waiting for the Wednesday read-through to start. There were always a lot of noisy "comedy bits" going on in that room. Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can't remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and "unladylike."
Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, "Stop that! It's not cute! I don't like it."
Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. "I don't f*cking care if you like it!" Jimmy was visibly started. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit. (I should make it clear that Jimmy and Amy are very good friends and there was never any real beef between them. Insert penis joke here.)
With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn't there to be cute. She wasn't there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys' scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not f*cking care if you like it.
How amazing is this? And how concretely can you imagine Amy saying and doing this? That petite frame, that expressive face, that bob of blond hair turning on Jimmy and declaring, "I don't f*cking care if you like it!"
You know that saying, when a man says "no" it's the end of the conversation, but when a woman says "no" it's the beginning of a compromise? I hate that saying. But I know firsthand how true that is, how forgiving women are, how easily we fall into the diminutive role of "maybe I misspoke" or "did that seem too vulgar?" or "maybe you're right" or "I shouldn't use the F-word so rampantly in this post because my family is reading this."
I am vulgar. I make really inappropriate jokes about anal sex and vibrators. (Case in point: I am going back and forth about whether or not to remove "anal sex" from that last sentence because it seems too vulgar.) I am far too forthcoming about my personal life in public settings. And I don't f*cking care if you like it.
Last night a budding romance ended with a long, drawn-out phone call, during which I refused to cave or second guess myself or soften my stance when he said that me expressing my needs was hurting his feelings.
That was the first time that has ever happened.
The typical female tendency... (or maybe I should speak for myself and not lump all of you unsuspecting women in with me and my issues)... my typical tendency is to see his side of things, to give him another chance, to convince myself it will get better.
You know what I've learned in twelve years of dating men? It doesn't get better. It only gets more complicated. People only get more emotionally invested. Sex only gets more infrequent and more mundane. People only get more jealous. Low self-esteem only gets lower. Unless someone seeks out change (and I mean sincerely: going to therapy, working on themselves in a significant way), people don't change. If you're not happy with the way things are right now, if you can't live with this for the rest of your life, it's not going to get better. People only get more controlling, more manipulative, more critical as time passes, as things get comfortable.
So why can't we just say it and be resolute: You're not giving me what I need. Why do we second guess? Why do we doubt ourselves? Why don't we trust that first gut feeling of, "This isn't right"?
It reminds me of the debate going on over at The Huffington Post. You know, the one about why women aren't married. These sorts of conversations are only contributing to our tendency to doubt ourselves, to blame ourselves, to be quick to identify what we're doing wrong while sidestepping everything that is wrong about the relationship.
Initially I wanted to comment on the website, but I refrained. I tempered my anger and took a few deep breaths, because I can get carried away. But you know what I wanted to say? I wanted to say, "Why are we always talking about what WOMEN are doing wrong? Why are there books and articles and essays and blogs dedicated to how picky WOMEN are, how demanding WOMEN are, how unlovable WOMEN are? Why are we creating, engaging in, and prolonging a dialogue that implies that being alone and a woman is the most awful thing in the world? Why is being single and female such a self-conflating taboo? WHY? Why aren't men writing books about how single men are sabotaging their chances to be "happy" (and by "happy" I of course mean "married")? And, more significantly (because I believe this is the most damaging thing about this dialogue), why aren't men ARGUING WITH EACH OTHER about whether or not they are being too picky, too demanding, too unrealistic?"
That's what I would have said.
The Canadian, when I push the issue of feminism, likes to say, "Get a new cause!" as if sexism is something that was solved in the seventies. I generally roll my eyes and assume she doesn't really mean it, because the fact is that sexism did not get solved in the seventies. For me, the educated, enlightened people are the biggest challenges. It's so much more insidious than the jerks who beat their wives and make them walk three feet behind them at all times.
For me, being a woman often feels like a constant battle against myself, against other women, and against a world of men who believe that there is nothing wrong. It's a battle to speak your mind, to not use your sex appeal to get what you want, to not back down, to not have your needs be back-burnered by someone else, to be seen for who you are rather than what you look like or how successfully you fit into the mold of what a "lady" should be. It is so ingrained to care about what other people think, to accept unacceptable treatment, to question every decision we make, and to tear each other down in the process.
[I just want to take a minute to acknowledge how aware I am of the increasing pressure on men to reach an unattainable level of perfection and to be objectified, too. I don't mean to imply that only women are affected by this, but the pressure our society places on its members to be physically, emotionally, and materialistically perfect is another post entirely.]
What I would like for my daughters is for them to be comfortable being themselves and to not care if no one likes it. I would like for them to be proud of who they are, to trust themselves, and to be sure of their convictions. What I would say to them is this: the people who love you will love you for exactly who you are, and the people who don't like it don't f*cking matter anyway.
(You can read more of my writing and musings at www.awordfor.blogspot.com.)