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Trying To Grow Up: Why I'm Quitting Chick Lit


After reading a few too many (hundred) plots in which whiny women who hate their bosses, coworkers, boyfriends, husbands, female friends, or all of the above find happiness through a combination of deus ex machina, superficial fashion advice, and completely implausible plot twists - I'm saying it out loud.  I HATE most chick-lit. 

I could go on at great length.  Becky Bloomwood, anyone?  Yes, if my life's ambition were to be an irresponsible child, I'd LOVE the “Shopaholics” series.  Spend, hide bills, lie, repeat 500,000 times, and maybe everyone will think you're cute.  Gag.  But unfortunately, I am trying to better myself through *work* and am attempting to be *responsible* with money! 

I'm convinced that if men wrote chick-lit, there would be a feminist outcry.  Women write it and it sells.  But much of it promotes the worst views of women:  that we are irresponsible children who cannot or will not take care of ourselves; that superficial attractiveness is all, and that we need divine intervention and a cute, rich man to save us.  I love men; don't get me wrong.  My husband and I will be married 10 years in May.  But he would not have ever gone out with me if I acted like the loser that many of these chick-lit protagonists do.

Allow me to sum up a few chick-lit plots:

1.  Get a bad job, with a bad boss (generally an older woman) who takes advantage of you, then whine about it for 290 pages, until you find a great job through the author's last-minute intervention.  For God's sake, don't do anything constructive, such as act professionally to impress more responsible coworkers, network, go back to school, or do volunteer work that will give you expertise in a field you prefer.  Why bother?  Whining is SO much more attractive!

2.  Act like a ditz (at best) in desperate need of medication for ADHD, or a person with bipolar disorder (at worst) in desperate need of medication for mania.  Whine about your tough life and how no one understands you for 290 pages.  Have several men interested in you for no particularly good reason, since you often act like you need to be hospitalized.  Then at the end, decide to get married after knowing your true love for a long time, such as six days.  Be very happy (presumably except when the mania overtakes you, that is).

3.  Have a bad childhood, with parents who didn't take care of you very well, including a mentally disturbed mother, but don't stay in therapy, deal with your childhood problems, and learn to be a responsible adult.  Instead, waste time selling theater tickets for years.  Then show up for a job interview with your skin tinted orange because you stupidly used your gay male friend's (cliche alert) self-tanner the night before, and get the great

job anyway, despite zero qualifications.  When you find men who are interested in you, do not show a shred of backbone by pursuing them.  Wait around for months for them to notice you're alive.  But, it's all OK, because you're looking much better these days, due to a decades-old fashion book called Elegance.  As we all know, clothes and makeup are important when a woman's brains and personality are for shit.

When you do show backbone by divorcing your gay husband, sob hysterically about it for months.  Make the connection that your father's emotional distance and your mother's instability contributed quite a bit to your being so upset.  Still, do not go into therapy.  Sob in your room and whine to your roommates (who in real life would probably have kicked you out after the first month) instead.

Now, you may think I'm kidding, or at least exaggerating, but -

#1 - you'll recognize this plot - the Devil Wears Prada and its many clones

#2 - The Wedding Day by Catherine Alliot.  And it's so much worse than what I described.  The heroine almost gets herself killed by having a hysterical fit in a carwash early in the book.  Why did I keep reading?  See below.

#3 - Elegance:  A Novel by Kathleen Tessaro

And so, you may ask, why does she read this crap?  Let me tell you why.  I am a victim.  Yes, I am a victim of my own stupidity by buying this garbage, thinking it's going to be a stress-reliever, then feeling the spike in my blood pressure as anger takes over and I resist the urge to throw the book against the wall.  (I don't want to damage my walls.)

On a serious note, I really, truly thought that chick-lit would help me bond with other women.  As in, I'd read what many other women like to read, and commune with them in spirit.  But I'm sick of it.  I don't dislike it because it's stupid; I dislike it because it in all-too-many cases (IMO) is written by women who are hell-bent on proving the truth of that awful saying - that women are like men when you take away responsibility and accountability.

And I have run across a few good books; Marian Keyes is good.  A book called Rescuing Rose is good.  African-American women often write decent chick-lit, because they seem more oriented to the real world, or at least their protagonists are.  But my God, I've read a lot of crap to get to the few good books out there.

Time to sell my chick-lit or dump it on another victim.


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