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Self Confident Crosses Over into Self Absorbed and Jerky
on October 24, 2007
I really wanted to love this book, for many reasons. First, Jen survived as a female in the high stakes dot com era, which wasn't easy to do. She thrived and took charge - and traits that men would call "courageous" and "ready for action" in other men, they would call "bitchy" and "conceited" in women. It's one of the unfair aspects of men and women, and I am very eager to support women who do the best they can in those situations.
Second, Jen is overweight and is attempting to be comfortable with that in a world of stick-thin models and 24/7 press hammering us to be beautiful. Again, it is very hard in our modern society to even try to accept yourself if you're overweight, and I give great kudos to Jen for giving it her best shot.
Also, it is always REALLY scary to write your life story and put it out there. If someone criticizes Eragon, heck, it's just a fiction story. The writer might be a little upset. But if you criticize a memoir, you are now putting down an author's *way of life*. Since few of us can claim to live a perfect life, how can a reader possibly say someone else's way of life is "awful"? We are all trying to do our best with the world we live in. So I give Jen a lot of credit for having the nerve to lay her life on the table for public perusal.
Now, that all being said, I offer my impressions of the book with those caveats in mind. Jen was perhaps shaped by her dot-com environment to be snappy and judgmental. Maybe it's the only way she could survive. But you can only judge the book presented to you - you can't try to second guess the author's motives or background or reasons. And while I find her *writing style* to be great, full of snappy humor and well chosen words - I find her *willingness to harm others* to be very upsetting. This is the type of character, in a fiction novel, who bothers the heroine until the point that the heroine snaps, punches her in the face, and everyone applauds. To have this person out in real life behaving like this - and to have in essence a self-congratulatory book praising herself for her behavior - bothers me.
I gave a lot of thought to my reaction. After all, I used to watch All in the Family when I was growing up. Archie Bunker was very much like Jen - only cared about himself, actively hurt others as a daily way of life, and didn't care at all. His actions would explicitly cause others either emotional pain and trouble in their jobs. Jen is the exact same way. Why did I enjoy All in the Family, but get bothered by Jen?
After several hours of thought, it came down to the All in the Family atmosphere clearly being a satire. That was a fake situation explicitly made to show why that behavior was harmful, to hopefully help those who were like Archie to take a look at what they were doing and to stop doing it.
In comparison, Jen seems to be wanting to build a club of Jen wanna-bes, people who were just as pleased to make snarky comments to people *right in their face*. Jen went out of her way to hurt people who had physical or ethnic issues that were completely out of their control. It upsets me a lot that a movement of "hurting people" is thought of as fun. With all the conflict we have in the world, we should be trying to understand and help each other - not thinking up better and better zingers to damage each other's self esteem. What kind of a way is that to live?
Just off the top of my head, Jen lies to her employers. She is randomly deceptive for her own amusement. She actively works to harm her husband's chances at work. This isn't just once - but MULTIPLE times. She complains about how tight money is - but rather than help her husband, she BOTHERS HIM while he is working with immature, petulant whining! Her husband must have the patience of a saint, because if my husband started behaving the way Jen does, we would either be talking to some sort of a couples therapist or splitting up. Her behavior goes far beyond "cutely eccentric" and deep into the realm of "daily torture".
As much as she claims she is comfortable with her weight while she gorges on sweets, as soon as it comes to a real test like being in public, she is suddenly signing up with an Exercise Nazi and trying to kill herself so she can be "better looking" in public. I would have given her far more credit if after all her bitchy talk she did actually go out and "be herself" and be proud of it. if you're going to talk the talk (and a super-nasty talk at that) you better be able to walk the walk.
The book is full of many poor messages like this, wrapped in a fine silk of fun writing and comedic timing. I read a lot of books every month - but with the thousands of educational and inspirational new books that are out there, I would much rather read one that had an encouraging message, rather than one as discouraging as this one is.