Jen Lancaster hates to burst your happy little bubble, but life in the big city isn't all it's cracked up to be. Contrary to what you see on TV and in the movies, most urbanites aren't party-hopping in slinky dresses and strappy stilettos. But lucky for us, Lancaster knows how to make the life of the lower crust mercilessly funny and infinitely entertaining. Whether she's reporting rude neighbors to Homeland Security, harboring a crush on her grocery store clerk, or fighting-and losing-the Battle of the Stairmaster- Lancaster explores how silly, strange, and not-so-fabulous real city living can be. And if anyone doesn't like it, they can kiss her big, fat, pink, puffy down parka.
Lancaster (Bitter Is the New Black) is a plus-sized, downwardly mobile Republican. She makes fun of disabled people. She cracks nasty about Anna Nicole Smith (granted, she was still alive at the time). She annotates her text with footnotes cheering herself on. When she's feeling particularly mean, she writes in her own "pidgin Spanish." But in spite of all her politically incorrect rantings, there are times when Lancaster is just too on-target to ignore. People who worry about Bush imposing the Christian lifestyle on everyone, for instance, should take heart from how he's raised his daughters--those "twins are but a Jell-O shot away from starring in the presidential edition of Girls Gone Wild." Even if readers can't altogether sympathize when Lancaster has to downscale her shopping "Holy Trinity" from Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus to IKEA, Target and Trader Joe's--they know what she means when she talks about the relentlessly cheerful sales staff at Trader Joe's, the tough-love staff at Target or how IKEA's going to take over America by keeping us all busy with Allen wrenches. Her humor is a bit like junk food--something you can enjoy when no one is looking. (May)
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May 01, 2007
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Excerpt from Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster
In my former, auspicious career I addressed crowds of thousands without breaking a sweat. I negotiated with dour, gray-suited hospital administrators so hostile they'd drag me into the desert and leave me for dead given the opportunity, yet I stood my ground in demanding they accept my company's contract, "Or else." And I've guided corporate executives through the most dire of crises with a smile on my face the entire time. So you'd think chatting with a kindly medical professional in the privacy of her office wouldn't be but a blip on my radar.
And that would be true.
If I were wearing pants.
Today I've got an appointment with the girlie doctor and I'm nothing less than terrified. I've put off my annual wellwoman exam for four years because I'm so cowardly about this sort of thing, no doubt stemming from my Quaker-like sense of modesty. Sure, it's all well and good to litter my conversations with every variety of f-bomb, but when it comes to showing my unmentionables to a complete stranger? Regardless of her impeccable medical education, extensive experience, and board certification? I think not.
However, I'm really trying to act more like an adult lately, so I force myself to make the appointment. Of course, I have to down a whole bottle3 of wine to do so. And then I cancel it three times before Fletch, disgusted by my lack of courage, threatens to (a) drag me to the appointment on a leash like we have to when we take Loki to the vet to have his nails clipped, and (b) check me into the Betty Ford Center if I don't stop inhaling boxed wine every time I look at the phone.
I have to honor the appointment this time and the only way that's going to happen is if there's an elaborate system of treats and rewards in place. I decide my beforehand treat will be a trip to the bookstore, so I ask Fletch to drop me off at the Michigan Ave Borders an hour before my appointment.
We've just gotten in the car when I start to hyperventilate.
"Funny, but Loki doesn't start to panic until after we've exited our parking lot," Fletch observes. "You need to breathe in a paper bag or something?"
"No." Gasp. Gasp. Gasp. "I'll (gasp) be (gasp) fine," I reply.
"I don't understand your anxiety. Are they going to cut you at all?"
"Oh, sweet Jesus, no!" I shriek. "Then they're just going to look at stuff?"
"Alone, in an exam room--just you and the doctor, and no one else, right?" We cross the bridge over the north branch of the river at Division and begin to drive past the projects.
He glances at the boarded-up buildings with their broken windows and concertina wire and poses a question. "Okay, which would you rather--to be dropped off in the middle of Cabrini Green at midnight with a handful of cash or to see your gynecologist for a routine visit?"
I don't even have to consider the choice. "The Green. Definitely the Green."
He turns to face me. "You're kidding."
"No, really--maybe Florida and J.J. still live there? And Thelma and Ralph, too. But not James. Poor James. He was killed in a car accident before the family could move to Mississippi for his excellent new job. And that? Was not dy-nomite." "I wouldn't know. My racist parents refused to let me watch Good Times. However, they were able to decipher fantasy from reality, which is more than I can say for you right now."
I begin to hyperventilate again as we turn down Michigan Ave and idle in front of Borders. "Okay, you're here," Fletch says. "Good luck today."
"Do--do--you have any last-minute advice for me?" I stammer.
He looks thoughtful for a moment. "Yes. Yes, I do."
"You should try to be less of a pansy. See you later!"
I escape into the safe confines of the bookstore, secure in the knowledge no one there is going to make me pull down my pants. I linger over the new releases and peruse the sale table. I go upstairs to the cafe and eschew coffee in favor of herbal tea, figuring the caffeine would make me even jumpier. Beverage in hand, I cruise the self-help section but don't see any titles that might make me "less of a pansy."
I buy a few new reads before heading down the street. I trudge past many happy places--Cartier, Coach, Tiffany, and, of course, Garrett's Popcorn, but window-shopping fails to make me smile because I feel like Dead Man Walking.
I pray to get hit by a bus as I turn down St. Clair Street, figuring the doctor could check out my girl parts while I was under sedation to fix my broken leg, but no such luck. I arrive at the office not only intact but early, damn it. As I climb the wide marble steps to the front door, I'm overwhelmed by the desire to run. However, my inner adult forces me to press on and take the elevator to the eighth floor, likely because my inner adult fears running slightly more than pants-dropping.