Valerie Frankel just might be my new snarky author crush.
It’s hard not to like her, really, in her latest memoir. It’s Hard Not To Hate You details Frankel’s struggles with jealousy, insecurity, dissatisfaction and health troubles, as well as her life with Steve, her musician husband, and their two daughters. Frankel is a professional writer and her peeks into the freelance life were fascinating — especially as she works from home and has scores of books bearing her name at Barnes & Noble.
But the real meat and potatoes of this memoir? Frankel’s struggles with haterdom, something that rang only too true for me. I mean, y’all know me. Generally speaking, I consider myself a nice person . . . but wow, do people get on my nerves. My meltdowns on loud movie theatre talkers and rude cell phone chatters are the stuff of legend. You cut me off on the road? The ensuing diatribe would send you cowering back to your mama’s house . . . you know, if you could hear me. And I realize that it’s not good to walk around with all that unchecked rage boiling up inside me, immediately thinking of the terrible things I could say to line cutters and impolite cashiers if given the chance.
So, I guess I read this book as a how-to guide to drinking less Hater-ade.
And it worked. Though Frankel is a new-to-me author, I completely appreciated her insights regarding why it’s “hard not to hate” her spouse (a man she actually dearly loves, of course); the nasty, holier-than-thou neighbor who refuses to acknowledge her presence; the subtlety racist woman from her daughter’s school who can’t distinguish between she and another Jewish mother (though they look nothing alike). The book feels like tunneling into Frankel’s soul — and she does eventually get to the bottom of the hate and discovers where much of it stems from. And, like any addiction, owning up to the problem is the first step.
I’m a lifelong hater. Moody, bossy and controlling, it’s hard for me to admit that my bad moods often spoil things for others — but I know that’s the case. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to check my negative energy, resist complaining when things aren’t going my way and realize that not everything is about me. That final bit is a realization Frankel and I share — that no, the world isn’t out to punish me. The jerk who cut me off in traffic wasn’t cutting me off in traffic, you know? He was just being a jerk. And I happened to be minding my own business on the highway during his Reign of Jerkdom.
I appreciated Frankel’s many nuggets of wisdom, specifically regarding the need to own your jealousies rather than trying to swallow them whole. We’re taught that it’s uncouth and petty to feel jealous, but that’s not really true — is it? You can feel anything you’d like. Now, it’s not as though you’re going to walk around slapping the coworker who just got a big promotion or sucker-punching some dude who won $1,000 in scratch-offs. You’re just going to feel the jealousy and move on, right? But you can’t bottle up that dissatisfaction, no matter the feeling. You can’t hide from your negative reaction to your friends’ behaviors, and you can’t ignore the inconsiderate things people do in public. If you do, you’ll be lighting a flame under your own inner boil. And it’ll reach a roil in no time.
You know — if you’re like Frankel and me. The one thought I had while reading It’s Hard Not To Hate You is that some people will Get It and some people won’t. And those who don’t might find the book a bit more challenging. Take this quote, for example:
When I had plans, I felt a sense of dread and had to psyche myself up to get out the door. But then I’d have a great time and wonder why I didn’t go out more often. When opportunity came again, however, I’d wave at it as it passed by.
I related to that far more than I’d care to admit, and that is what sealed my relationship with Frankel. Constantly teased for my antisocial tendencies by my sister and, oh, everyone, I always break into a sweat before social situations but wind up enjoying the heck out of everyone’s company. It takes me a very long time to turn casual friends into close ones, and even then? I’m skittish. Easily scared off. Any relationship that begins to feel like a relationship often sends me scampering into the sunset, and that’s something I don’t like about myself.
But Frankel understands.
It was nice to read a book that felt like a personal address to me, but that doesn’t mean it’s a book for everyone (what book is?). As much as I enjoyed It’s Hard Not To Hate You, I can appreciate that it might be a tough read for others. But if you like your memoirs humorous and are a fan of greats Jen Lancaster and Laurie Notaro, I’d urge you to give this one a try. It might cool your Hater-ade consumption, too.
It’s Hard Not To Hate You will be released in hardcover on Sept. 13.
4 out of 5!