14 November 2011

on pushing 30

"The one thing you should know about me is this: I'm the consummate good girl."

That's how the back cover of a book by Whitney Gaskell begins. The book is a pinkish-purple, and the cover involves a swirly font—looks like it could've been handwritten by a 15-year-old hoping to appear fancy—and high heels.

I tell you all these cover details because, contrary to that saying, I most definitely judge a book by its cover. I am seduced by typeface, clean design, and—although this is on the inside of the book, so perhaps it makes me seem less judge-y of outward appearances—hefty, creamy paper. No, saying that I like the touch of a book doesn't make me seem less superficial.

Maybe re-phrasing this way helps: the sensory details—the aesthetics, too—of a thing add to the reading experience.

You know it's true: the weight of a book in your hands, the smell of the paper, the pressure in your fingernail when you dogear a page to mark a favorite passage. These details are valid.

And these details, when applied to the Whitney Gaskell book I found next to Wives and Daughters at the library, said:

I am chick lit.

I am set in either a big East Coast city {preferably NYC} or a small town that is based not on the reality of small town life but more on the idealized but updated Donna Reed version of small town life. In this small town, there is a charming cafe that rivals Starbucks and has vegan options, even though in a real small town, you'd be going to something called the Dairy Barn for your Maxwell House drip coffee and ham salad sandwich at lunch.

I will have a protagonist who is either in publishing or a lawyer. Regardless of which it is, she will have the same amount of money and be able to buy scarily expensive shoes a la Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City.

Those high heels may figure prominently in a scene where she meets a man who is perfect for her. She will meet him just after breaking a heel.

Or she will meet him the one time she doesn't wear the heels when she runs a quick errand—dashing out of her hardwood-floored, granite countertopped, vintage-feeling apartment that could be used for a photo shoot for Anthropologie. She will meet him when she hasn't done her hair and when she's wearing sweatpants and old running shoes.

I would make a good movie starring Katherine Heigl.

Chick lit can be so comforting in its predictability.

Chick flicks bring the same comfort. You know that Katherine Heigl is, indeed, going to get together with whoever it is after they go through a spell of "No, I hate YOU more! Also! Look at my adorable pencil skirt! Also! Have you met my whacky but endearing friends? Also! I think you're self-centered, but aha, I just learned that you can make an amazing coq au vin. You're full of surprises; I think I'll stick around."

Sometimes, you just want predictable comfort. Actually, a lot of times I want predictable comfort, which may be why I like Jane Austen so much and why I was at the library to get an Elizabeth Gaskell book in the first place.

I decided to go for the predictable comfort of the Whitney Gaskell book, too, because:

  • the book is called Pushing 30: And I am, indeed, pushing 30.

    I did not get this book as either a) a guide {how can I make the last month of my 20s hilarious and worthy of a chick flick? And if I were to be in a chick flick, who would play me? I wish Audrey Hepburn were still available. I would also accept Mary Tyler Moore.}


    On this whole turning 30 thing: I'm not freaked out at all/delving into over-analyzation/starting to act like I'm wise beyond my years/thinking wistfully of college/officially declaring myself a spinster/planning on finally losing all inhibitions and partying until I forget how old I am.

    But I will read a silly book about someone else turning 30.

  • the protagonist—Ellie—called herself the consummate Good Girl: And I relate to that, although she does talk about washing her make-up off every night, even when she's tired. If that is a sign that you're a Good Girl {and not, you know, going to church and singing in the choir and spending nights in Vegas reading Persuasion}, well, then, I may not qualify. I get really tired and lazy—and FYI, start to make a lot less sense—at about 10pm.
  • the back cover talks about Ellie's pug: Honest-to-goodness, I was thinking that I could put the book back on the shelf.

    The story sounded so-so—and SO trite, actually. It's about how Ellie, our adorable lawyer who lives in Washington, DC, meets a man twice her age, and she immediately falls for him. But, OMG, can she finally have some happily-ever-after happen to her with "the one man who's so wrong for her, he's perfect"? {What does that even mean?}

    Plus, I could relate to Ellie only it that she was almost 30 and a Good Girl with a Clean Face {sometimes, on my part}. The rest of it—dysfunctional family {that's right, family, I don't think we're dysfunctional! Do not take Thanksgiving as a chance to prove me wrong!}, hating her job {Dear People I Work With: I like my job.}—I didn't relate to at all.

    Even from the back cover copy, I could tell I wasn't going to be all that invested in her family/hating work problems. Most likely, if we were friends in real life, I'd tell her to pull herself together.

    But then, there was this: "...and she's somehow become enslaved to her demanding pet pug Sally." A pet pug! Just like mine! Maybe this book will be portentous for the next month before I turn 30, especially since I dress up my pug like this:

    If that little face doesn't say "demanding pet pug," I don't know what does.

Turns out I shouldn't have let the mention of a pug sway me. In general, that's actually a pretty good life principle to live by: do not be swayed by pugs.

I didn't make it beyond the first chapter where Ellie meets The Older Man—while, GASP, running an errand in her sweatpants because she had a home-hair coloring disaster! How could she let herself go out in public like that? Oh, such tragedy! Oh, and her pink hair!

I hope you can tell from the number of exclamation points that I had very little sympathy for her. I did have a little for her pug, though.

And from now on, I will stick with Elizabeth Gaskell when I'm in the G section of fiction at the library.


  1. I had a similar experience last fall when I picked up a chick lit called "Cuba." Such a bad choice. I felt like my eye balls were going to fall out.

  2. A very apt description, there with the eye balls. Reading the few pages I made it through of Pushing 30 made me want to roll my eye balls quite a bit. And I did.

  3. I read that book! I'm glad you put it back. I remember finishing it legit depressed, which takes some doing. Her life is sad not because of any of the aforementioned aspects of it, but because she is whiny and kind of ridiculous.

  4. Emily! I can't believe you made it through the back...but thank you for confirming my decision to stop reading it :)



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