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You're Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation Paperback – December 26, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 124 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tannen (You Just Don't Understand; That's Not What I Meant; etc.) continues to study human interaction through conversation, this time attempting to peel back the layers of meaning that make up conversations between mothers and their teenage and older daughters. While Tannen intends to clarify the ways in which mothers and daughters relate to each other verbally (through direct conversation; indirect messages, or "metamessages"; compliments or insults disguised as judgment; etc.), her own message is muddled by an overabundance of anecdotes and examples and too much stating the obvious. In chapters such as "My Mother, My Hair: Caring and Criticizing" and "Best Friends, Worst Enemies: A Walk on the Dark Side," Tannen seeks to examine every angle of various discussions and makes obvious comments, like "Where the daughter sees criticism, the mother sees caring.... Most of the time, both are right." She then expands on her comment with lengthy and often unnecessary explanations. While Tannen is astute in her observation that "Our relationships with our mothers go on way beyond their lifetimes, no matter what age we are when we lose them," she fails to clear up the mysteries between mothers and daughters.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Talk is essential to women's relationships, best-selling (You Just Don't Understand, 1990) linguistics professor Tannen maintains. This book responding to readers' feedback about the mother-daughter chapter in her I Only Say This Because I Love You (2001) argues that satisfying conversations between mothers and grown daughters can be the ultimate healing agents, a kind of Holy Grail for women. Or not. "Words are like touch. They can caress or they can scratch." The illuminating extracts from mother-daughter colloquies that she cites bring to life both the soothing ointment and the ripped-open scars possible in interchanges on issues indicated by the chapter titles "Involvement or Invasion," "Great Expectations," "Incompatible Style Differences," and "Difference Equals Distance," as well as age-old sources of conflict for this extraordinarily intense kind of relationship. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (December 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081297266X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812972665
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If nothing else, this little volume reminds mothers that their words have more power and impact on their daughters than they may realize....and vice versa. I absolutely agree with Tannen that mothers should avoid discussing weight, clothing and hairstyles unless ABSOLUTELY necessary (would you want anyone critiquing you in those areas, especially if the advice was unsolicited)?

While much of the book is common sense, there are many insights at well. The intimacy between mother and daughter can so easily turn into hurt and pain. Tannen gives solid info on treading through those dangerous waters with a fair shot at maintaining deep bonds throughout life.

One tip I found particularly useful: Communicate via email or in writing when things get really hard. Somehow putting down one's thoughts on paper, editing and rewriting one's words can offer a calmer perspective and avoid impulsive and angry reactions. In other words, allow some breathing space before continuing the conversation...or find another way to communicate without speaking directly.

Good advice - because, in the end, it doesn't really matter HOW you maintain the mother/daughter bond...it just matters that you do.
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Format: Hardcover
I must say, I read the book with an open mind but I really got so much more than I could have ever dreamed of. This book is a must for Mom's and adult Daugthers. My daughter is reading the book now and already I can see the effort she is making to understand me better and I certainly will think before I speak (to her) from now on. I truly did not see how I was coming across to my daughter. The book has truly opened my eyes, made me think and has helped me a find a neutral and effective way to communicate with my 20 something daughter.
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Format: Hardcover
It never occurred to me that my mother and I are "typical." What a relief.

Yes, the book is "light" in parts. Yes, Tannen's own issues and angst come through loud and clear, as though she truly needed to write this book to purge her own demons. But it is also extremely enlightening. Many AHA moments.

The book is a blueprint for mending fences, reading signals, and growing up. Either the mother or the daughter has to be the adult. It doesn't matter which one. The rewards for learning how to put the past behind are tremendous.

And as an only daughter who lives 1200 miles away from my 84-year-old mother, with brothers who all live 15 minutes away from her, I might have to give up all the resentments I've invested so heavily in toward the boys for ignoring mother's needs. Now I understand that our mother is not interested in receiving their help - she wants mine.
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Format: Hardcover
This book HAD to be written for my daughter & me!! My daughter had started reading it & was not even past the 2nd chapter when she was yelling, "MOM!! YOU JUST HAVE TO READ THIS!!" Ohmigod, It is DEAD ON our relationship. Unlike some books that before you finished it, would have you seeking professional help, this makes me feel WONDERFUL that we are obviously not the only ones with all these same feelings and interactions. How comforting in itself! I absolutely love this book so far & am looking forward to reading the rest of it. HIGHLY recommended :) Thanks for writing such a good one. Beverly (& Jennifer) Armstrong
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book. It was hard not to see myself, my mother and my daughter. First half of the book points out the error of our ways but the second half gives some practical advice on how to stop hurting those you love.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"You're Wearing That?" is a frank review of the various dynamics in discussions between mothers and daughters, and it is helpful to have each angle pointed out and made clear that you're not alone in your dysfunction. In that way, the book was therapeutic.

On the other hand, it offered little solution to the problem, other than to recognize that is what you're doing, that those are universal problems, and why the female nature unwittingly recreates these situations. The basic format of most of her examples went something like, "The mom said this, the daughter took it wrong, the mom was surprised and hurt." And the general thrust of the advice was, "Moms, don't give too much advice. Daughters, they don't mean it that way so don't overreact."

I sensed that perhaps the author's recent loss of her mother led her to cast a more generous light on dysfunctional mothering communication, giving it the benefit of the doubt, while her late realization at how she'd misunderstood her mother led her to cast daughters' perceptions as the problem.

Perhaps that is true in more healthy families, but what if they DO mean it that way? There was some discussion of darker dysfunctional relationships, but not much advice about what to do to change that or heal from it, which left an otherwise comprehensive discussion quite lacking.
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Format: Hardcover
It took me a while to get through the book because I would read a few pages and then have to spend some time processing. Obviously it didn't apply totally to the "issues" I was having with my two grown daughters but it was a huge help. It got me to stop and think about words and conversations, how important they are and how "loaded" they can be. I like that it wasn't a "fix it" book, she is a linguist and not a therapist. So the focus was just on how we talk to each other. Sometimes that awareness is all that is needed.
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