Reading

Review of Glennon Doyle’s feminist memoir “Untamed”

Glennon Doyle’s Untamed was my Book of the Month Club pick for May, and I’ve been delaying writing a review for it because I have mixed feelings about it, but those are the important ones, so here it is:

I loved the beginning. She drew me right in with her short essay-like chapters about feminism, marriage, and motherhood. I could relate to so much. Then there were parts in the middle where she sort of lost me for a bit. She spent a lot of time repeating the same tidbits of self-exploration. And I love me some self-exploration, but eventually, I need out of my head and your head and back into an actual scene.

There are several chapters that focus on religion and spirituality, and as a sometimes-agnostic/sometimes-atheist, I resisted those at first. But she also presents religion in the most accessible way I’ve ever seen it presented—comparing God/spirituality to a liquid and religion to the glass that holds and confines it. This stirred something in me since most of us who have bad tastes in our mouths over these subjects are opposed to the rules and prejudices inherent in the institutions of religion, rather than spirituality itself.

There are some preachy this-is-what-you-should-say-to-your-children-and-to-everyone-else moments, which occasionally rubbed me the wrong way, but there’s also SO much good advice in here. My favorite takeaway from this book is the concept of “sinking into your Knowing,” which is the place where we find truth inside ourselves to do the next right thing (cue the Frozen 2 song).

She also delves into the concept of the perfect woman, who is beautiful, smart, funny, the perfect size, perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect friend, and who has all of her perfect shit together. But this woman doesn’t exist, Doyle points out. We’re all scared and lonely and suffering and sweaty and misshapen and longing. So when we aspire to be this mysterious perfect woman, we’re all just chasing ghosts.

Finally, Doyle explores racism in a way that is especially appropriate right now, pointing out that’s it’s not enough to simply say you’re not a racist—you must recognize the poison in your own blood that was put there by living in a racist society, and then actively root it out.

This book felt important. The kind of book you realize you should have read with a highlighter. So I may return to reread it some day and do just that.

Writing

Writing over fear

It goes without saying that this has been a really, REALLY hard time for basically everyone on earth. We’re all stuck, literally and figuratively—moored in our homes, the progress of our lives halted. I recently wrote about losing my job due to the pandemic, and the relief I felt from the simple act of putting words on the page made it clear that writing was the only thing that would keep me sane through all of this.

But I knew I needed to work on something new—something completely different from the multiple manuscripts on my laptop that have racked up dozens of rejections over the years. Those, in my mind, were symbols of the same sort of thing I was currently experiencing: stasis and failure.

I knew what I wanted to work on. Romance novels had been calling to me for a long time. The first book I ever read with explicit sex in it was Judy Blume’s Wifey, which I stole from my mom’s little library when I was about fifteen and read with the door closed, hiding it under my bed whenever I left my room. There was a lot I didn’t understand about that book at the time. But one thing that hasn’t changed between then and now is the instinct to read such books in private. Ebooks have made it a lot easier to read these lascivious tales when and where we want, no closed door or stuffing-under-the-pillow required. But if anyone were to ask me (pre-pandemic) what I was reading on the train, I still would have had a smooth lie ready to go.

I don’t think I’m alone in my puritanical upbringing, my childhood devoid of any discussions about sex or sexuality. It’s a fairly standard American thing—being raised on abstinence, carrying this odd shame with us into adulthood, discovering various forms of sexual entertainment, enjoying them, but never uttering a word to anyone about it. I’m not sure what the actual fear consists of. Am I afraid people will think I’m less intelligent or less morally upright if I admit to enjoying reading erotic literature? Or is it just a lifetime of shapeless anxiety tsk-tsking me inside my head?

Regardless, I’ve spent a good amount of time thinking about what I want to do next, and how I’m afraid to do it. But then, last month, the incomparable Janelle Hanchett hosted a virtual writing workshop in which she was asked about how she overcomes her fear. Her response was simple: I’m still afraid. But I have lost faith in fear as a reliable guide for my life.

It was everything I needed to hear.

So, because my fears are often so unreliable, I’m writing romance. And there is sex. And I will be afraid of what people think. And I will do it anyway.

Because the greater fear I have right now is what will I do if I don’t write it? What will I do while I wait to see what’s next? And how long will I be waiting?

I want light, and fun, and no way to back out of it if I panic (which I will). So I’m serializing my first adult romance novel on Wattpad and will—hopefully—be updating it with a new chapter each week.

Read. Enjoy. Share, or keep it to yourself. No shame either way.

A Terrifying and Beautiful Place:

http://www.wattpad.com/story/219627349