in which I rant about being self-absorbed

Hi, blog. It's been awhile. There are a lot of reasons, mostly having to do with finishing two manuscripts, the end of the school year, spending some time in Cincinnati with Ike-a-saurus, trying to avoid all news and poltics in order to save my dwindling sanity, going to writing conferences, etc.

But here I am and I'm ready to gripe. You must be thrilled.

So I'm reading a book right now, which isn't shocking because I'm reading books all the time, BUT I just broke a sacred rule and I read a review of said book. Now, I know, reviews are incredibly subjective, which is usually why I avoid them – especially before or while I'm reading a book. I like to form my own opinions that aren't accidentally or overtly clouded by other people's opinions. But this review was tiny and popped up at me before I really even realized what I was reading.

Now FIRE is shooting from my EARS – and not just because the review was about this particular book (which I happen to be really enjoying), but because the main complaint about the book is something I've heard before, ad nauseum.

Ready?

Female main character…
works outside the home…
worries about her job…
worries about her kids….
worries about her husband…
wonders if  she's made the right decisions in her life….  

Seems familiar and reasonable? Right? It's nothing new, it's not earth-shattering, but it's familiar and these are all things millions of women grapple with everyday. It's not a "message" book. It's not dealing with crises of world-ending proportions (unless you're the main character and you're watching your marriage dissolve, in which case, yes, world fucking ending).

So why am I riled up? Why am I just at the edge of seething?

Because the reviewer calls the main character "self-absorbed".

I'm sorry. WHAT?

Self-absorbed? Because the book is about her inner feelings? About her struggles trying to balance everything? About her guilt that she's not pulling equal weight in her marriage? Because it's third person limited so we only see what's going on in her head? Are those the reasons why she's self-absorbed? Or is she perceived as self-absorbed because she dares to question her life? She has the audacity to take a week to step outside of her Sisyphean daily tasks and think, "wait a minute, what the fuck is happening here?"

Self-absorbed.

It's so fucking "you're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't" it makes my nostrils flare. Let's talk about women who have it all – oh no wait, we can't do that because IT'S A FUCKING MYTH. OK, then, let's talk about women who are trying to have it all and then suddenly realize they don't know who they are anymore – oh no wait, we can't do that because it's self-absorbed. OK. Well, let's talk about women who want to have it all, but realize they can't, so they settle for what they can have, but always wonder about what they could have, or don't have, or want to have. Oh wait? Self-absorbed AND whiny. Shit.

It just really climbs all the way up my craw that a confident woman with a stable, successful career, who has the audacity to take time to question her personal decisions, is immediately labeled self-absorbed. When a woman is the main wage-earner in a family, when her husband stays home with the kids, when she misses dinners because of meetings, when she feels guilty for having to work over holidays, when she takes the time to recognize these things and wonder about them, and  - wait for it – NOT want to quit her job – she is clearly a horrible, self-absorbed, unlikeable character.

That is straight up bullshit, y'all.

And this issue isn't singular to this book. I know it's not. I know this argument, and my rage-y feeling, isn't new. (Just ask Wendy Davis.) I know this is a rant other people have had before me, and people will continue to have for ages to come. But seriously. This idea that a woman who has been trying to "have it all," who realizes that's actually pretty impossible, and who takes a moment think "oh, shit, now what" is a selfish person… it's getting really, really old.

Really fucking old.

You know what, world? Women can sometimes put themselves first. They can sometimes worry about their sanity without it being a humor piece. They can dissect their lives and try to figure out where things started twisting off into some kind of Volvulus of Necrotized Having It All. They can do things and it doesn't fucking make them self-absorbed. It doesn't make them "unlikeable" characters. It makes them humans. Actual human beings. Human beings who try hard, and who don't always hit the right mark. They're not whiners. They're not bitches. They're not actively trying to irritate people or ruin anyone's life, or even seek attention. They're just trying to figure shit out.

So if a book about a mother – a successful, career-driven woman – who is trying to figure out what her life means after having been married for almost half of her life, is a treatise on self-absorption, then I wonder what everyone thinks when a man writes a book about about the same… oh wait. That's right.  Those books win the Pulitzer prize.

Sigh.

I don't really know how to end this rant, but in a kind of perfect way, my life is ending the rant for me. Lunch is boiling over. The kids are not wearing pants. We have an appointment in 40 minutes and at least a 30 minute drive to get there. My brain is fogged from PMS and from a hundred new writing projects I'm trying to sort and rate and prioritize. I'm missing friends who are far away. I'm wondering when I will ever get out of the house – alone – again. I am thinking about whether I can sneak in a vacation before the next editorial letter arrives.

But I'm not going to blog about any of that.

I wouldn't want you to think I'm self-absorbed.

 

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