i’m absolutely dumbfounded that i am the only person who has given this book a one star review so far. although it is pretty new. i’m sure more people will join me as the book circulates & people make the mistake of reading it.
i thought this memoir was absolutely dreadful. i concede that i have a well-documented irritation with stunt memoirs, in which someone tries some stupid bullshit for a year & then writes a memoir documenting their little experiment. but anna david’s experiment also managed to be weirdly anti-feminist, self-loathing, shallow, & disgustingly confessional at the same time.
we open with anna’s embarrassing obsession with a married man (who also happens to be a famous artist, supposedly). she meets him at a party & he pretty much sums up all of the issues that are causing her to remain single into her mid-30s in one kind of misogynistic, extremely patronizing sentence, & this makes her fall “in love” with him because i guess her “type” is dudes that put her down & point out all of her obnoxious neuroses. i can’t tell if she’s a masochist or just staggeringly un-self-aware. i’m thinking it’s a little from column A, a little from column B.
anna spends all of two weeks hanging out with married art dude. they never become physical in any way, but they both admit that they are in love with one another. of course, he is married (& a douche, but i guess i’m the only one who noticed that part), so they agree that they can’t do anything about their love. & listen, i am not really a big fan of he’s just not that into you or anything, but if a dude is actually in love with you for real, he will probably try to be with you. even if he is married to someone else. i know hollywood has sold women this bill of goods about how tortured love affairs exist where two people would be together & have a fairy tale romance if not for some troublesome obstacle like a wife, but that’s really not the way things work in real life. unless you are a douche or an idiot. like these two.
when anna returns home to new york city, she spends literally months mourning the end of the love affair that wasn’t before finding herself in the self-help section of a barnes & noble bookstore (& seriously? an author that brags about frequenting barnes & noble? wow). she finds a copy of “sex & the single girl” by helen gurley brown. gurley brown founded “cosmopolitan” magazine & wrote this book in the early 60s as a kind of how-to guide for the swinging working single urban girl who may not necessarily want to devote herself to finding a husband & being a housewife. it caused a stir in its day & kind of set the template for “sex & the city”-style culture/everything that is wrong with third wave feminism. it is a revelation for anna. apparently she had never heard of this book or gurley brown before, which indicates to me that she is shockingly uninformed about her own career path, seeing as how she has been self-employed as a romance/sex columnist for several years. does she just not read books at all? it certainly would explain a lot.
anna decides to follow gurley brown’s (antiquated, sexist) advice for a year & see what happens. actually, she wants to see if it will help her land her dream man, although she claims that it is actually just a journey of self-discovery (since–spoiler–no men are landed). what follows is about 300 pages of that one friend you have who constantly talks about how she is totally okay being single, she doesn’t need a man to complete her, women that allow themselves to be domesticated by relationships are cheating themselves, i am woman, etc etc, but whenever she gets drunk or doesn’t get a call back from a man she went on a date with, she calls you up in tears, wondering why she is so chronically undateable. there are DEFINITELY women out there who truly are not on the hunt for a relationship…& then there are the women who employ that rhetoric as a smokecsreen to convince themselves that they are not distraught over not being in a relationship. anna is solidly in this latter category.
she leaves no stone unturned in her quest to get a guy/feel good about herself. she redesigns the interior of her apartment, updates her wardrobe, takes voice modulation lessons, learns how to cook, creates a match.com profile, goes speed dating, takes up rollerblading…i mean, do you see where this is going? on the one hand, it’s shit that you should be embarrassed to admit (rollerblading? is it 1989?), & on the other hand, it’s the “domestic arts” that she claims she has not permitted herself to enjoy thanks to the poisonous influence of feminism. lest you think i am merely inferring, she actually explains several times that feminism has conditioned women to believe that being feminine (by which she means dressing in a sexy manner, knowing how to cook, or liking to have flowers in your apartment) is shameful & frivolous. she is seriously one step away from explaining that she really wants to embrace her femininity because it’s her duty to be a woman who can make a man feel like a man. i guess it’s no surprise that she sounds like a dating handbook from 1962, because she is modeling her life on what is basically a dating handbook from 1962. i’m surprised she didn’t include a chapter on douching with lysol or flying to puerto rico to obtain illegal abortions.
& sprinkled throughout these boring & overly detailed stories about how long her curtains are & the importance of a 35-year-old woman owning a nice pair of ruched leggings are bizarre confessional stories about how she rused to be a raging cokehead, or always felt like “the other woman” in her parents’ relationship because her father treated her like a wife. um. WHAT? i get that anna has been in therapy for a long-ass time & sometimes talking about this shit with a relative stranger every week makes a person lose their sense of appropriate boundaries so they write about their quasi-incestuous relationship with their own father like it’s just no thang, but trust me, it’s pretty jarring to mix a paragraph about your history as a coke addict into a chapter on learning to roast a chicken. & don’t even get me started on the INCREDIBLY graphic story she relates about getting mixed up with a dom who introduced anna to her submissive side. if i’d wanted to read amateur erotica, i would have.
& then, right when i was thinking about how much i disliked anna & this book, i got the section about anna wondering if she was still fertile. she decided to make an appointment with a fertility specialist to “get her fertility checked out”. really. she actually made an appointment with an IVF clini to “get things checked out”. um, anna? you actually get your fertility “checked out” by either your gynecologist or a fertility specialist recommended by your gynecologist. not some random IVF clinic. when she goes in for her appointment, the nurses jump right into explaining what to expect from the IVF cycle & anna is like, “wait, whaaaaat?” i wanted to leap into the book & shake her. no one is born just magically knowing what to expect in an IVF clinic, but the woman is a freelance writer. you’d think she’d have some understanding of research.
she opts not to freeze her eggs for later use, & wonders if all those people out there having babies have really thought about what having babies is all about. she thinks that people treat it as just the next item on the to-do list after getting married, & haven’t stopped to consider toddler tantrums or sullen teens.
how. FUCKING. condescending. can you possibly fucking GET? perhaps ANNA perceives of babies as “next on the to-do list” because she made it pretty fucking clear throughout her entire book that she perceives of marriage as something to check off that same list, but a lot of parents out there have actually stopped to consider that babies don’t stay babies & that every day of parenting is not going to be super magical happy land. but then again, most people who end up in an IVF clinic know what IVF is, so….
this book was awful, anna seems like a terrible person, please don’t read this book.