I've heard the advice that you shouldn't read reviews of your own work. Easier said than done.
When you're a new/old emerging author like me, toiling in a vacuum most of the time, the thought that someone read something I wrote, then actually wrote about it, is like cocaine used to be, or a box of red licorice and binge-watching Fleabag is nowadays.
For the most part, I've been pleased/grateful/gratified with the reviews of Gray Is The New Black (Otis Books, June 2019).
But I won't lie. It isn't all 5 stars and fresh, crunchy carrots . . . yeah, I had to work in a reference to the random guinea pig photo, because, guinea pigs.
Here's an excerpt from my favorite critical review thus far:
"I looked to this memoir for the wit and charm of Ephron's I Feel Bad About my Neck. But it had none. In fact, after the first chapter, especially when the author described sitting on her toilet, holding her girth, looking at her nonexistent pubes, I wanted to commit hari-kari. Life at this age is hard enough. I didn't wish to wallow further in the author's angst and abandoned the book."
I was mortified that I'd caused so much discomfort. After just a few pages of my memoir, this reviewer considered ramming a sword in their belly and giving their guts a swirly. Nothing mealy-mouthed about that reaction.
But there's an up side. Better utterly grossed-out than bored? I think, YES.
As for Ephron, she's one of my favorite essayists. I reread her A Few Words About Breasts. It's not a few words about boobs. It's a lot of words about boobs. Not having them. Obsessing over not having them to the point of being convinced life would have been different if she'd been born with big ones.
As a flat-chested woman myself, I empathize with Ephron 100%. And it got me wondering: are breasts inherently funnier or less gross than pubes? Perhaps. And, yes, I get that it's not necessarily about breasts vs. pubes. But rather Rice vs. Ephron.
Not to be too defensive (but, what the hell), another reader (not a friend or relative, I swear) said that the hari-kari inducing scene was when I hooked her. At that point she felt the story was going to get "real" and she liked that.
And there's this (again, I'm not being defensive, really, I'm not): that segment from my memoir was recently published in Hippocampus Magazine, as Body Braille. Here's the pubes bit:
"My fingers graze the scant tendrils that fleck my pudgy pubic mound, a pale triangle diminished by the press of thighs and belly. It’s nearly hairless now, the once coarse thicket of dark hair rubbed off by years of chafing against restrictive clothing. There is a buffed sweetness to my beleaguered crotch, or so it seems in the dim lit bathroom. As if my body were reverting to girlhood, the maturation process moving in reverse now that the procreative imperative has been realized.
I mean, I think it's at least as funny as it is sad, or gross. Kind of like life. I still stifle a snort every time I reread "beleaguered crotch." Seriously. Women's parts put up with a ton of abuse and are still expected to pop out babies and be sexy.
For me, the whole balding crotch situation is right up there with eyebrows and attractive feet on the list of things I didn't know I'd miss until they were gone.
There's an upside to the nonexistent pube saga too. No need for waxing, Brazilian or otherwise. Just to be "with it" and because my sisters thought I needed to shake things up and "surprise" my husband, I went to a salon a few years ago for a wax down there. I asked for a "landing strip," figuring I should ease into this smooth pubis deal.
The patient woman faced with my patchy crotch area said, "You don't have enough left for no landing strip. Just take me a couple minutes to take it all off."
My husband didn't notice.
So, can we, should we talk about pubes? If you think "yes," or even "maybe," Gray Is The New Black: A Memoir of Self Acceptance may be just what you're looking for. You might wince. You might laugh. You might clutch yourself to keep from peeing (another lovely consequence of age, right?!).
What's the worst that could happen? It's a 312-page book and there's only one graphic pube moment. I promise. Just hide the knives, in case you experience a severe adverse reaction.
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Dorothy, author of Gray Is The New Black, blogs about the challenges and opportunities of being a woman and a writer of a certain age in a youth-centric universe.