This book is the outtakes from every David Lynch movie. Not the blooper reel, but the scenes that Lynch cut to shave some minutes or just because they were unnecessary and boring. It is, in that way, a found-art piece of all the scraps of daily life and all the momentous decisions people make to be boring.
To me, Blume got the inner life of this cowardly woman, Sandy, all wrong. And I can understand why that would happen. I think women, especially married women, but actually most of us, learn to protect ourselves from judgment and ostracism by writing so many layers of narrative about our selves, and then wrapping our real, vulnerable selves up in those narratives. Eventually, something that we were playing at becomes who we are in an instinctive way. But, I don’t think it becomes who we are in a complete way. ***SPOILERS***
For example, Sandy’s outer narrative is the happy homemaker, and Blume’s inner narrative of her is the scared little girl who longs for sexual freedom. Sandy chooses to abandon the ephemera of sexual freedom because she is a coward. She realizes that she would be equally unhappy in any marriage, so she chooses to stay in an abusive one. She is a threat from Judy Blume to every unhappy housewife who doesn’t value her own sexuality. At the same time, she is Blume’s symbol of the futility of women fighting for freedom in a biased world. She is Blume’s cowardly version of Edna Pontellier.
I don’t buy it, though. I just do not believe that people are that boring. I think there is more that is villainous and more that is heroic in every person than Sandy’s outer and inner narratives allow. Honestly, I’ve thought a lot about these inner and outer stories because Sandy is exactly what my mom’s story of herself always was. That’s not to say that it was a revelatory experience to read this book. It was more like a joke I’ve heard so many times that I forget the end is even a punch line. My mom left her Norman and chose her Shep, but that is neither here nor there, really, in the story. ***END SPOILERS***
And I guess that’s my problem. No woman’s story is actually about her relationship to men. When women frame them that way, I think it’s a smoke screen for an inner life of which they are honestly
ashamed, or even of which they are so proud and protective that they can’t share it. Blume sets up an outer, Republican Sandy, and an inner, Democrat Sandy, thereby keeping all of her selves shallow and political.
That is to say that this story about the inner life of a suburban housewife, written by a woman, fails the Bechtel test
(credits to Ceridwen and Sock Puppet for bringing that wonderful invention to my notice). And I get that sex is the point of the story, but even in the lesbian adolescence scene, Blume describes one girl as the man and one as the woman, clear that the conduct is about preparing for later heterosexual sex, not about the relationship between the two girls. Then, the description quickly jumps to Sandy’s uncle feeling up his sister-in-law.
And I guess I’m making these criticisms because I don’t think it’s fair to compare this book to bodice rippers or paranormal romance. This book is not silly by any stretch of the imagination. It is not about sunsets and dragons and symbolical fantasy. It is about reality and real fantasy. So, it fails. It’s not true. Sandy’s inner reality is garbage, just like her outer reality. I do not believe that an experience between two adolescent girls lying naked in a bed would contain as little intimacy or feeling as Blume describes. I’m not saying that Blume is lying, I’m just saying that her writing here is as cowardly as Sandy. And I think when women do the zombie act, it’s just that – an act. On some level, I’ll accept that it is a coping mechanism, but it is not real. Maybe it is just my paranoia, but I think feminine cowardice is a lot more sinister than it looks. It is a passive-aggressive version of ambition.
At its best, this book has the atmosphere of Romeo and Juliet
- some morons trying to work out their feelings, while the world crumbles around them. At its worst, this book is Eat Pray Love’s mom – trying to show that women aren’t idiots by working with the premise that women are children. After all, who protests the most about not
being children? Children. Ultimately, even if you look past all the garbage of Sandy’s fantasies and shallow turmoil, this book still commits the ultimate sin. It is boring.
Also, all the food they eat is really gross.