Cathy emailed me and asked me if I would read and review her book. I was initially humored by the premise – a woman who decides to follow the advice in magazines (such as In Style, Cosmo, and O) for one year.
But the problem was, I don’t just shy away from memoirs and autobiographies, I run screaming like my clothes are on fire. I have read a few, but I generally avoid them. So I really thought about it before I agreed to read this book, but I was intrigued by the idea of following the advice of magazines because I haven’t bought a non-cooking magazine since before I was 18. I thought it would be comical to see where someone’s life ended up after following all the (what I think is) lame advice found in magazines.
I really liked this book! Cathy is honest with herself about why she’s at this low point in her life. She doesn’t use any psychobabble like, I don’t have good self-esteem. No shit, Sherlock. You’re behaving horribly. You’re letting people use you and walk all over you! I wouldn’t like myself either! Rather, she starts changing her behavior, and with that change her mind starts shifting.
Changes didn’t always have to be profound. Take, for example, Cathy’s attempt at learning how to use cling wrap:
I have a thing about cling wrap, aka the kitchen equivalent of a wire hanger. Both menaces share the exact same characteristic – the ability to completely fuck with you. Cling Wrap, wily, born of static, and with a gravitational pull toward its home planet, simply demanded too much work. Maybe I have poor motor control, but I just can’t deal with this runaway-train aspect. Aluminum foil is malleable, predictable, and to my aesthetics, so much prettier.
But this project was all about self-improvement. Perhaps learning how to encase a sandwich in plastic would also serve as a meditation on tolerance and acceptance.
When I read this, I thought that perhaps I should learn to work with cling wrap, too. It does make subtle changes in Cathy’s life.
Cathy has a great sense of humor and is able to keep the subject light while taking it very seriously.
The areas that Cathy works on are things I didn’t think are necessarily covered in “glossies”…making the story all that more interesting. Dealing with cling wrap happens in the first month when she decides to start eating better, partly by brown bagging her lunch. Other months consisted of doing things outside of her comfort zone, feeling more comfortable being the dreaded thirty-nine, decluttering her apartment, and dealing with the guy she’d doinked at the office (in her cubicle!).
I knew that Cathy was getting it; she was changing as a person, but it didn’t have as much to do with the magazines as it did with her own willingness and efforts to be a different and better person:
But instead of helping me feel good about myself, the sisterhood had merely provided the nod for what was already in my head, tickling my neuroses by manufacturing problems that weren’t even part of my world – but would be, if I continued to read the magazines as parables for my own journey.
Reading this book, I found myself wishing I was friends with Cathy, not to hear about her magazine transformation, but because I would love to be friends with someone who had the kind of guts and determination that it takes to change your life…that’s definitely something I respect and admire.
If you come to Northern California on a book tour, Cathy, let me know. 😉
Rating 86 out of 100.