Halt the blog! My wife asked me a question and I firmly practice nepotism. Mrs. Brilliant is in a ‘mom’s’ book group and they are reading Bad Mother by Ayeletat Waldman
Her question: Everyone loves this book, I don’t. But I can’t exactly say why. You’re brilliant; can you please read it and tell me your opinion of it?
So I am reading what seems to be one woman’s neurotic comparisons to counter all women’s feelings of inadequacy in regards to being a mom. My first thought about it was that men and women compete differently. Men practice what I call positive or external competition. Woman practice what I call negative or internal competition.
Here’s an example of male competition: I invited my neighbor to come over to see my new fire pit (ironically, my wife dug it as she’s stronger than I am) and two weeks later the neighbor had built one twice the size! Using the largest boulders I could carry from another friend’s construction site, I cosmetically enhanced my pit. Although his is deeper, mine now has wider girth. In fact I could now barbeque two of his children in mine. All was well until my friend with the construction site saw ours and now HIS is deeper and wider. If I were to further enhance mine, my house would cave into it and incinerate at the next cookout. So the boundaries have been established. Its over. I have to back down, mine is good enough for its purpose. I am satisfied. FOR NOW!
Now, let’s look at an example of female competition: a woman sees the well endowed models in Cosmopolitan, their equivalent of a bigger barbecue pit. A few run out and enlarge their breasts. However, most just feel inadequate and unattractive to men and buy products that promise to make them more attractive. Woman aren’t about the actual breasts, but the underlying message – you are not lovable without these.
Most men aren’t about the message but instead the thing. One can manipulate a woman by suggesting they aren’t good enough without… Their kids and family will suffer if they don’t have… and their husband will leave them if they don’t have… and they will DESERVE the abandonment because they did not…. It’s like selling tires by showing a mom driving with her kids and insinuating: If you don’t have THIS tire, their death by mutilation will be on your head.
Men on the other hand can be manipulated simply by showing them a larger brighter TV screen than they now have. The competitive gene kicks in: your neighbor is watching a 50 inch TV while you have a wimpy little 41 inch set.
So, back to the book. It seems that according to Ayeletat Waldman, the purpose of Bad Mother is to try to normalize and reassure all mothers that “I am ok, you are ok.” But here’s how I see it: in bringing up discussions on society’s views on woman’s inadequacies, it activates the negative internal competition gene so women buy the book to feel more adequate. It is the equivalent of sublimated psychological breast augmentation, except the reading audience doesn’t get the augmentation themselves. Instead, they internalize the feelings and talk about them in book groups. My wife likes happy endings in the literature she reads, so pointing out the obvious to facilitate communal female bonding isn’t her idea of an acceptable resolution. My wife also said the book felt TMI (to much information.) It is choppy and goes on and on and on…. With good points mixed in (See future essay on the BREAST FEEDING NATZIES.)
That is my brilliant opinion of why my wife doesn’t like the book.
Dr. Brilliant cliché
Granny Doctor offers this: Remember the movie The English Patient, which was nationally cooed over and adored by romantic women? I hated the stinkin’ thing. All I saw was a bunch of weak, dishonest people sneaking around and indulging their impulses, then leaving each other to die when the going got tough. I deplored every character in it and found it as romantic as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. My only thought as to why women liked this movie was that it catered to their secret buried thoughts of rebellious love, much like those cheap romance novels featuring heaving breasts and throbbing rods.
I think your wife hates the book for the same reason. It’s just more crap designed to cater to the secret buried thoughts of women. And from a review that I read, I sense that Waldman is a bit of a dishonest hypocrite herself:
“Very disappointed by this book, which should be called “Bad Book” rather than “Bad Mother.” Her premise, and first chapter, are good: that it’s impossible to be a “good” mother in this society, with so many unattainable expectations placed on women. But the book veers off into nothing more than her own personal musings on her personal life, which is not that compelling.
Turns out she’s not a bad mother at all. She’s really a great mother with four wonderful kids, a great house, a great career, AND the perfect husband, who is a very successful and wealthy author. So, can I relate to her? No. Do I want to hear about her perfect sex life? No. Or her perfect husband? Not really.”
I haven’t read the book but I already plan to avoid it. I’ll take your wife’s word that it just isn’t worth it. She has good taste.
B.C. – The bridges of Madison County was another one. Fake sacrificial mom gives up her hopes and dreams and suffers quietly and needlessly to maintain the status quo of her family thus screwing up her three kids. It was a blockbuster book and movie. Only ‘Bad Mother’ isn’t really that. She isn’t hiding herself or playing a false role like these other two books. She’s obsessing over creating some balance and goes into herself and her life at length. This is why the book transitions from the image of the impossible societal good mother to her current personal incarnation. She is amusing: “All men need do to be a good dad is show up!” Whenever I come home now I say out loud: “I showed up!” I have to admit that I would never obsess over my quality of parenting. As long as my kids entertain me, all is well. Anyway, her message that woman need to think more like men is not gonna happen anytime soon, but Her style, thus her book, is good for a few laughs in any case.
GD- I wish I’d read the book, I’d have a better idea what I was talking about, wouldn’t I? See, you can’t judge a book by it’s review. I think this applies to people too.