Well played, 2019.
14 January 2019
I'm pleased to note that 2019 is off to a strong start for me, at least reading-wise. And the reading part of my life is one of the few parts of it that I take very seriously, so this is good news.
Last week I got Glynnis Macnicol's memoir No One Tells You This from the library; how I found it and why I requested it, I of course don't remember. I really have to get back to my reading notebook and start tracking where I read about the things I request. Or, I can become more comfortable with just forgetting why I do any of the things I do. Yeah. That'll probably be easier.
There's nothing all that outstanding about this book; it's basically a forty-year-old woman's working out, on the page, what she's made of her life so far and what it means to make a woman's life without marriage and children in it (which is still the prevailing narrative for most women). It's also the story of her mother's decline and eventual death due to Parkinson's Disease, and what it looks like to try and help with caregiving when you live in a different city than your parents and other family members. Here's what the jacket copy has to say about the book:
"...single women and those without children are often seen as objects of pity, relegated to the sidelines, or indulgent spoiled creatures who think only of themselves. Glynnis refused to be cast into either of those roles and yet the question remained: What now? There was no good blueprint for how to be a woman alone in the world. She concluded it was time to create one."
More and more lately I find myself basing my judgment and enjoyment of memoirs less on their subjects and execution than on, quite simply, how much I like the author. What does this oh-so-scientific process look like? I read about twenty to fifty pages of a book, and if I feel, meh, I just stop reading (even when I think something is well-written). On the other hand, if, in those first fifty pages (which, because I skip around a lot when I read: beginning, last chapter, bits of the beginnings of chapters in between, can really come anywhere in the book), I have a moment when I read something the author has written and I think, "HA...I like you," well, then, I just decide I will enjoy the book and read the whole thing.
So that's what happened here. And here's the point where I decided I just like Glynnis, even when I don't agree with everything she's saying or doing:
"If there had been a soundtrack to my life in recent years it was the buzz of my phone. If there was one thing I wanted to leave behind in my thirties, it was my phone. It felt like a narcotic...the device itself was not entirely the problem, so much as the fact that it held incontrovertible evidence of the series of bad relationship decisions I'd made over the past few years. It was like carrying around a court transcript of my personal crimes and misdemeanors, proof of a person I didn't want to be but had been...repeatedly.
She was always waiting for me. If I scrolled up (and up and up) I'd eventually reach that first innocuous hey that had unleashed her. Men and their heys. I'd come to see them as a 'dead end' road sign: nowhere to go past this point." (pp. 35-36.)
Men and their heys.
I didn't even laugh. I just snorted and felt how deeply I knew all the weariness in that one statement. I have a very small dating history and am obviously one of the few women in my (or any) generation who has never gotten or taken a lot of shit from men, if the sheer number of stories out there is any indication, and even I instantly recognized the universal truth of those four little words. How many times did I get excited when some man gave me a "hey"? How many times did I analyze what a "hey" or any other little innocuous sentence meant? How frustrating is it that an entire generation of men now thinks that's an acceptable way to contact women on social media or in texts (and evidently you just have to count yourself lucky if that's all the more clueless or aggressive they are)?
Men and their heys.*
I like you, Glynnis. I liked your book. I appreciated opening 2019 with it. Go write some more and I'll read it. Until then I'll just think "men and their heys" in my internal voice dripping with derision and feel solidarity with you, even though I'm a married woman with kids living a narrative more recognizable to society. You never know what we've all got in common, do you? That makes me happy.
*Although men are really pretty incidental in the book. Mainly Macnicol is just doing her own thing. And I liked that too.