Monday, May 9, 2011

Books I've Read: The Purse-Driven Life: It Really Is All About Me

Alright, Sista Girl, get ready for a wiiiilllldddd ride as sassy over-40 comedian Anita Renfroe gives us a no-holds-barred, shoots-straight-from-the-hip, wacky, zany, HI-larious look at what it's like to be a middle-aged woman! Make sure you have on your Depends because you will literally piss yourself with laughter! And if not, you must be a stone-cold, humorless bitch!

In case you were wondering, that is what sarcasm looks like in the printed form. My mother recommended this book to me, along with accolades such as, "hilarious" and, "I cried so hard I had tears streaming down my face." I was skeptical. First of all, what my mom finds "hilarious" and what I do are very, very different. Case in point: I've seen my mother literally LOL and almost ROTF over the farting preacher while I failed to crack a smile. Conversely, I find the movie Superbad absolutely hysterical ("Pretend he's your little sister, your little sister, with the picha baga daga dicta!" gets me every time), but my mom would probably define it as a vulgar piece of crap. Whatever, to each his own. But I was pretty sure that what made her laugh so hard she had tears streaming down her face would more than likely solicit only a half-hearted chuckle from me.

This hunch was made even stronger when I read the blurb on the back cover: "Join comedian Anita Renfroe on an estrogen-driven look at a woman's middle: mid-section, mid-life, mid-kids...mid-crazy." Dear. Sweet. Lord. In. Heaven. I knew exactly the type of humor I was in for: saggy boob jokes. Hot flash jokes. Jokes about gaining weight. Jokes about your cwazaaaayy teenage or young adult children. Jokes that I've not heard not one, not two, but approximately 1,267,458,061 times from my mom, my aunt, older cousins, friends of my mom's, and even my grandmother. Let me tell you: there's no way you can spin a tit-sagging joke that'll make it new to me. I have heard it all, and not only do I not give a rat's ass, I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT RELATE TO IT. I'm 27, single and sans kids. The only other living thing that I take care of besides myself is my dog. I blow money on shoes and, more recently, trips to Pinkberry. I get it, okay? Shit happens when you get older. Please STFU.

I knew my mom's recommendation was coming from a good place, though, and she did honestly seem excited about the book, so I gave it a whirl. Turns out I was dead-on about the humor. Describing her bra size as "38 long" is just the tip of Renfroe's iceberg of played-out middle-age jokes. But you know what? Beneath that tired humor there were actually a few good messages that made me think and one that challenged me in particularly:

"...and finally realized this truth: when it comes to marriage, none of us is a deal. We are all broken and flawed and come not only with baggage but also with a fully matched set and enough issues to fully stock the periodicals section of Barnes and Noble (p. 56)."

This unexpectedly shone a harsh light on my attitude towards other people. In other words: I've been a real judgmental biotch lately. I've been incredibly busy finding faults in others, and this little passage was a reality check. Who am I to pass judgement? Lord knows I don't have all my shit together (as evidenced by my gratuitous use of the four-letter words in this post--and that's just the tip of the iceberg, folks). If I should work on finding faults in anyone, it should be me, and I should work on correcting those wrongs. This was a sobering realization.

Renfroe had other worthwhile things to say as well: we should embrace our uniqueness (or what she calls, "embracing your inner weirdness"); be the kind of friends we'd like to have; it's okay to laugh and be silly and enjoy life. These thoughts are the book's saving graces, because while I don't yet understand the humor behind a hot flash joke, I do get how important good friends are to have and have struggled with who I am as a person. Renfroe was able to get me to briefly stop rolling my eyes and pay attention to what she was saying, and I can get on board with that.

I still give this book one star, though. It's those damn middle-age jokes. Unfortunately, there are more of those than the worthwhile musings.