Strange Bedfellows in the Parent ‘Hood: Two New Memoirs


I’ve mentioned my girl-crushes before, haven’t I?

No?

Hmmm…eyelash flutter…stentorian throat clearing.

Ahem.

Well, as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock would say, consider me bi-adjacent/curious where Rebecca Traister is concerned, as well as Heather Havrilesky, Amy Poehler, Samantha Power, Wanda Sykes, Ani DeFranco, Anne Lamott, Dolly Parton, and Bjork. (Or so their attorneys tell mine.)

Awesome as Traister is (and we’ve Salon-overlapped in person a few times. She rocks in person AND on paper), each week she wows me with her insights. Finally, this week, I had to blog my frickin’ heart out over her. She’s talking about two badmommy/bad-daddy memoirs that just came out. (Mom’s here. Dad’s here.) Damned if her childless ass doesn’t see through to the heart of things:

Like Hillary Clinton, who proposed healthcare reform that made her a pariah in 1993, and 15 years later found herself campaigning against half a dozen candidates using her ideas as a model, Waldman may have found that her outrageous reputation has been eclipsed by a blogosphere drowning in bad mother confessionals. But she is still a true lightning rod, and her new book is generously studded with Ayelet-astic grenades. She writes of aborting a baby at a comparatively late stage because of a genetic abnormality, and in her ensuing grief and guilt, wreaking havoc on other women suffering similarly by joining their online “heartbreaking choice” support group and then insisting that they use the word “abortion” to come to terms with what they had done. Waldman writes about how she gave up her beloved criminal defense job not because she was anxious to slough off her professional responsibilities or because it was a pragmatic necessity, but because she was jealous of her work-at-home husband’s days alone with their baby. She writes about her disappointment at the fact that her children are not exceptionally gifted, and the stages of denial, grief and anger upon learning that one of her kids had some learning issues. She confesses her surety that she will one day be jealous of her son’s wife, and her fears that her kids will inherit her bipolar disorder.

Waldman remains an invaluable answer to Caitlin Flanagan, the silver-tongued specter of maternal servility. From the first, she admits to escaping the doldrums of her self-determined stay-at-home motherhood by developing her writing career, something Flanagan rarely cops to in her profitably published paeans to opting out. Where Flanagan flogs her formula for marital bliss, which is that if you serve your husband hot meals, keep his house, raise his kids and give him blow jobs, he will repay you by remaining faithful and caring for you through illness, Waldman’s considerably more appealing equation is that if your husband cooks a hot meal, does a load of laundry and shoulders his half of the childcare, he will get a blow job.

Take that! Fucking Flanagan.

Lewis (whom I idolized at the dawn of my New Republic-launched career), Traister channels thusly:

Lewis, for his part, aims hard for a “Who me, parent?” attitude of casual paternity that he fondly hopes will recall his own father, a man who learned of Lewis’ birth by telegram, jokingly bragged that he never spoke to his son before he went to college, and from whom, Lewis announces, he has inherited the gift for “avoiding unpleasant chores without attracting public notice.” Never mind that writing an entire book about actually doing unpleasant chores attracts quite a bit of public notice. Lewis is determined to behave, from his title forward, as though the fact that he has written a tome about fatherhood is pure, passive happenstance. “The reader will quickly see that I didn’t set out to write about new fatherhood. I set out to write about Paris, but Paris was overshadowed by a seven month old baby.” The fatherhood part—like the baby itself—just overtook him, the same way the decision about whether to have a third child happened: “[Tabitha] had already made up her mind. It was up to me to prevent it, which is to say that it was only a matter of time before it happened. And that was that.” Were it not for these babies, showing up and casting their shadows over major European capitals, Lewis might just as likely have penned a treatise on motorcycle repair! Or unicorns!

I’m intentionally not quoting the best parts. READ THE REVIEW, BITCHES, THEN BUY BOTH BOOKS!

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