Smart & Sassy Memoirs I Just Couldn’t Put Down

Being a woman is…just…you know? Sometimes? There’s something really wonderful and comforting about reading the words of other women and knowing you have that shared experience. Even if it’s the ONLY experience that we might share, I just love hearing the stories that women tell.

I’m an escapist when it comes to reading and generally default to fiction. In fact, I go through long periods where I refuse to read non-fiction outside of work. (Especially after long days of editing academic writing, I just needed to immerse myself into some YA fiction.) The one constant exception to this role was for comedic memoires. Then that expanded to women’s memoirs.

Funny, poignant, captivating, infuriating, and thought provoking. When a woman has something to say, listen up.

Here’s a list of some of the memoirs that I was just enthralled with – the ones that I devoured. The ones that I just could not put down. They’re not all recent publications, but they are all definitely worth a read.

B3D50C59-7FF0-4DC8-9B14-C9F3EC6F5125How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

I’m the opposite of a stylish party girl but the need for external approval resonates with me deeply. I found myself captivated by a morbid curiousity about the glamour and chaos of her life. How she built success in between binges and pill popping is infuriating and fascinating. Highly recommend.

“I extracted a pink Addy, put the blessed thing on my tongue like I was taking Communion, and chewed it up like it was baby aspirin.” 

FCAD8922-EB70-41C3-B759-CCD16458F582How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

“I’m 16 I’m 16 I’m 16 and these are my best clothes, and this is my best day”

I don’t think any line in any book has resonated with me more than this. So easily can I put myself back in my 16 year old mind, picking out my “coolest” outfit, waiting to see my crush.

Caitlin Moran is siginificantly cooler than me, but I found words on feminism and womanhood ones that I could hang on to.

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Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is a brilliant mind and I so enjoyed reading about her brand of feminism, as well as her life experiences that shaped who she is.

I relate to her love of Scrabble and adoration of Ina Garten but more importantly, I learned so much by reading from a perspective that culturally, and racially, is so different from my own experience.

“At some point, you have to surrender to the types of privilege you hold.”

450ADC18-423B-43E7-B902-338E34AF765CI Feel Bad About my Neck (And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman) by Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron was an iconic culture maker and I related deeply to her aversion to purses and love of food. She somehow simultaneously speaks for everywoman while still having this unattainable quality charm and grace. More aspirational than instagram, if you ask me.

“your purse is just a big dark hole full of stuff you spend hours fishing around for. A flashlight would help, but if you put one into your purse, you’d never find it.”

583FD45D-C052-4621-A40A-EC8103B5B7EAGirl Walks into a Bar by Rachel Dratch

I was crying laughing at the horse anecdote. Personally, I think the cliché of girls who love horses is lame (horse culture is dumb — cash me outside) and lost it at this recap of a terrible date.

Bonus: If you want a teaser, listen to Rachel tell the horsemeat story on The Moth. It’s a slightly different telling than in the book, but still so funny.

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The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman

Life highlight: Sarah Silverman showed up unannounced to a Christmas Eve show at the Comedy Cellar when I was in NY a few years ago. The best.

I had no idea of her struggles with mental health as an adolescent and learned so much about how her young life shaped her creativity and comedy as an adult.

“Make it a treat.”

Words to live by.

What are you reading these days?

Design

Oh Baby, No Baby?

I’m not pregnant. 

Let’s just get that out of the way now, shall we?

For some reason, Stereotypical gender roles indicate that, because I’m 34 years old, I should be well on the way to motherhood by now…but that’s just not the case. Still, my fertility (or lack thereof), and the fertility of all women, is always up for discussion. But I don’t have to tell you we have no boundaries when it comes to women’s bodies, do I?

Even when it’s asked with love, “When are you going to have a baby?” is an inescapable and frustrating question for so many women. There are a bazillion layers to dissect here, so just for today’s blog post, I’m going to focus on the part that hit me the hardest last year: sharing big news.

Shockingly enough, a woman in her thirties can have news to share that isn’t related to having a baby.

When I was going to share the news about our move to Baltimore last summer, I chose my words very carefully. Like, I practiced how I was going to tell people because I knew – I just knew – that if I buried the lede even the slightest bit, folks were going to jump to the pregnancy conclusion.

Think about it. If a woman of “childbearing age” starts an announcement with “I have news…” where does the mind jump? I mean, even the word announcement evokes images of baby bumps and showers and maternity leave.

Still, I had high hopes for my enlightened, feminist friends and colleagues as I prepared to give notice of my international relocation.

I phrased my news as such:

“So, Paul got a new job and we’re moving to Baltimore!”

The response?

“What? Oh, I thought you were going to tell me you’re pregnant!”

Bob's Face Palm

What do you even say to that? Ummmm, nope. Not pregnant, just preparing to leave my job, sell my home, and move to another country, so…NBD, eh?

I’m not talking about one or two individuals here either. With the exception of my nearest and dearest who already knew my in/fertility situation (more on that in a future post), there were a lot of responses of this nature.

It was frustrating because I really thought I had set myself up for news-sharing, baby-avoiding success by phrasing my move the way I had. I was also disappointed that even the most progressive, staunch feminist, liberal minded people still felt the need to share with me that they were expecting a baby announcement.

Now, I don’t blame these people for going there. And I know the question wasn’t intended in any way to be hurtful or even prying. Some even said it offhandedly: “oh, you seemed like you were going to tell me something else – like that you were pregnant.” But the fact remains that we as a society have got to stop being so obtuse when it comes to sensitive and personal questions about women’s bodies.

So, the next time a female friend says she’s got something to share, consider maybe that she’s up for a promotion, or that she just had something published, or that she found the absolute best new pizza place in town. Aren’t all those things worthy of celebration too?

Design

You Are Allowed to Take Up Space: Part 3 STUFF

Click here to read You are Allowed to Take Up Space: Part 1 BODY

And

Click here to read You are Allowed to Take Up Space: Part 2 MIND

The pressure to keep a beautiful home is a responsibility thrust upon women for decades, but perhaps most recently with the rise of social media and the additional pressures to not only have a tidy house but have one that is insta-worthy as well. It might be clean, but how will it look in those blog photos?

Having a perma-staged house requires more than a dutiful commitment to regular cleaning, but also the ownership of the prettiest stuff and in *just* the right quantities. As a lover of maximalist decor I am acutely aware of the ideals of minimalism, complete with an absence of cords. (Seriously, ever notice how there are NEVER cords in pictures of staged rooms? Where do they go?)

kaboompics_Blue sofa with pillows in a designer living room interior
Minimalist Ideal

I recently read a piece about Big Decluttering that really spoke to me. In Dame Magazine, Kate Washington writes

The classism and privilege baked into minimalism are multilayered. Big Decluttering, by positing the streamlined home as a purely personal matter of choice and shifting women’s attention to the domestic sphere, can distract from larger systems of oppression—including the direct oppression of less-privileged women and, often, children, who are severely underpaid for the labor of making all the cheap stuff that more privileged women are taught to toss out of our homes.

This truth has become painfully apparent to me since living in the USA. I’m entirely susceptible to the charms of decor available at a certain chain store that recently also experienced a short-lived residence in Canada.  *cough cough* And I’m not talking about Zellers.

This store sells its overstock and out-of-season items to the nearby Goodwill locations in my region that, in turn, sell the items at deep discounts. I can say with non-mathematical certainty that the marble cheeseboards, gold-dipped end tables, and copper-lettered wall art declaring “Seize the Day” and “It’s Wine O’ Clock Somewhere” lose 75% of their charm once strewn about the shelves of a thrift store, laying next to previously viewed DVDs, planners dated 2017, and sparkly cases for iPhones 5 and 6. (But if you think I didn’t still buy that gold-dipped end table, you are mistaken.)

The clincher is that we all already know that the producers of these goods, including fast fashion, are undoubtedly women, who are undoubtedly located outside of North America, and who are undoubtedly underpaid. This is not new information. Still, an artisan created end table of higher quality, produced locally, would most likely sport a price tag well above my budget.

Desire can only carry you so far. Perhaps if that end table was priced at 80% the regular cost for female patrons? Just a thought.

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My Ideal

All this being said, I’m not here to criticize my friends who are striving to find balance between all the STUFF to create the home she wants, not just the one we are told we should aspire to. In fact, follow my gal Ruth at Everything Unscripted who is strategically (and bravely) working to declutter her home and share her progress. I’m tuning into her FB Lives to help figure out how to deal with my piles of papers all over my office (or what I affectionately call my “blogger hovel”).

Ultimately, as I mentioned in the previous 2 parts to this series, you have to take up the space that you want. Occupy your home. It’s where you can feel safe to express yourself. If you want to fill it up with baskets of yarn (woven wall tapestries are making a comeback, after all) or souvenirs from your travels, go for it. And, by the same token, if you’re looking to clear space, do it because it’s what you want, and not because of an aspirational room reveal you saw on Pinterest. I promise you: a staged home is not a comfortable home.

This space belongs to all of us. Fill it up. Fill it up with your body and your thoughts and ideas, and the things you hold dear.

Design