July 27, 2016
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
This was a book club read.
Not for me. For people who are deep, and/or like to think they are deep. It’s why I hate poetry—just say what you fucking mean. Ugh.
And the voice was grating.
Of course, I may need to elaborate or finesse my feelings at the book club meeting.
Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs
Augusten is back! His last book, This Is How, was a departure from his usual genre (memoir) and style, and though I think I will forever love anything he ever writes, it was…well…not my fave. Lust and Wonder returns us to documenting his vulnerable, crazy, lovable, self-proclaimed wreck of a self.
I was crushed to learn that his 10 year relationship with Dennis was wrought with tension and misgivings, and worse, the depletion of humor and intimacy (though I would honestly love to read Dennis’s memoir of the relationship). I was delighted by the emergence of his love relationship with Christopher, his agent and now spouse. In fact, I think I love Christopher myself, what with the constant good mood and belly laughing!
A couple of gems:
I painfully related to:
“In my mind, I frequently see these movies of terrible things that may happen…I’ve never been able to stop the blockbuster disaster film from playing on an endless loop in my mind. I see the terrible coming, whether it is or not.”
“So many years of anticipating disaster is exhausting. Though I have tried to train myself not to think this way, it never works, so plan B is to go ahead and think this way but then remind myself I’m wrong.”
(Plan A and B are essentially cognitive therapy which I personally have not found helpful. I am currently on Plan Z: Zoloft has, thankfully, helped my endless loop become intermittent clips.)
This was interesting:
At one point, Augusten described the sudden realization of his feelings for Christopher after seeing a split-second picture of him on his computer.
“First, I felt love. Second, it was like a fist had been jammed into my crotch and pressed against my balls, an ache. I felt ownership, primal, just a mouth going, “Mine, mine, mine.”
I loved that—the knowing—in and of itself. But the interesting part was a couple of days later when I walked into the den and the same feeling (minus the balls) instantly overcame me when I saw the stack I’d left on the coffee table the night before.
Love. Mine, mine, mine.
In fact, this is one reason I love Augusten Burroughs’s books, compared to books like My Name Is Lucy Barton. If I am not the deepest thinker, I FEEL. Augusten FEELS, and he tells it like it is. There is such relief in that.
And then this was just hysterical:
“Arriving in Amsterdam was disorienting. Everybody rides bikes everywhere, which I supposed was admirable and inspiring, but it felt like stepping into a buzzing haze of flying monkeys…
Then there were the tangled, guttural vocalizations the Dutch people made to form their own private little language. Dutch isn’t easy for the outsider to learn, because it’s spoken from the back of the throat at the trigger spot for the gag reflex. In order to make the correct sounds, you have to have quite a bit of phlegm at the ready, which is probably why everybody smokes. Nonsmokers can’t even understand Dutch, let alone speak a single word of it. The word for “hello!” is actually the noise you make when you clear your throat really hard before hurling out a loogie onto the ground. “Have a nice day” sounds exactly like someone choking on his or her own tongue.
The smug Dutch learn three languages in school, because they know that nobody else in the world is going to speak their strangled and gasping mother tongue. They learn the extra two languages, I figured, to show off. I was onto them: in my experience, startlingly modest, peaceful people would do anything to get you to notice how startlingly modest and peaceful they were. The Dutch did not fool me any more than the Buddhists I’d known growing up in western Massachusetts. Give a Buddhist a vacuum cleaner and the very first thing he or she will do is run through the house with it sucking up all the spiders. Zen, my ass.”
Bahahaha, I love you, Augusten. (And Christopher!)
The Opposite Of Spoiled by Ron Lieber
In 12 years of primary school and nearly 10 years of graduate studies including Master and Doctoral degrees, I didn’t learn SHIT about REAL money, except from my MISTAKES—my huge, diabolical, crushing, unforgiving mistakes.
I could also fault my dad. Despite the hugely ironic fact that he attended Fordham University with Donald Trump (cough, gag, eew), my dad’s financial ineptitude was the seed of my warped relationship with money. But parents make mistakes, and my dad has a big heart with only good intentions. I love and forgive him.
I certainly don’t fault my mom. She did more as a single mother with less preparation or help than I can even believe. I love and respect her.
So it sure would have been nice if formal education had done more than teach the difference between a quarter and a dime, which is all I’ve seen so far in any public school curriculum all these years later.
I am determined that my kids will have a more thorough and meaningful financial education, but I’m about as qualified to teach them as someone with Borderline Personality Disorder is to teach social skills. Certain things get in your cells; you may be able to arm yourself with tools to maximize functioning, but you’re still basically fucked for life.
Still, I’m trying, starting, as I always do, with books.
Unfortunately, The Opposite Of Spoiled is more a discussion of parental and financial values than how-tos. Which is not a bad thing—AT ALL! But that much I feel like I have down, I really do. I cut my own hair and highlight with Wal-Mart’s own, but spring for the occasional reflexology foot massage because it honestly gives me a lot of value in my health and how I feel. I drive a pre-owned Camry but shell out a few thousand dollars every summer to visit my in-laws in Colorado because it creates lifetime memories for my kids and my husband and me. I psychically hug my house every morning when I walk downstairs, not because it’s luxurious but because it is perfect for our family. I talk about these things with my kids, and I spew about gratitude every single day. We take turns saying what we’re thankful for at the dinner table (when we’re not watching baseball and mutually feeling thankful for Giancarlo Stanton and Ichiro!), and we discuss the food, clothing, and monetary donations that we make as a family and volunteer work.
But I could still use more of a blueprint on how to teach real money smarts in age appropriate ways. There were tips in the book: The Give, Save, and Spend jars illustrated on the cover, allowance versus unpaid chores, and using pre-paid debit cards and Dollar Store spending (my kids have already blown through the fun-of-buying versus the you-get-what-you-pay-for lesson there). But I guess I’d hoped for something more meaty and “Here’s how you do it!” with steps and details.
In sum, I liked what was in the book, I was just left wanting more. I’m not sure how realistic that is. Money is complicated, and every family is different. I’ll just keep piecing it all together with books like this as best I can, along with input from people I respect and who have been successful. I’m also going to investigate if there are any local programs out there, for parents and/or kids. Hey, it’s summer. Money Camp, anyone?