What I'm Reading Now: Bossypants by Tina Fey

I guess I should say I’m reading Bossypants when I can get a hold of it. I started reading it in the DMV, waiting for my daughter to take the written test.  I guess she kept glancing past the glass partition between the testers and the DMV riff-raff to see her mother giggling over a book rather than nail-biting over the outcome of her daughter’s test (She passed. Enough said.)

This was my first mistake.  Parenting experts say you should encourage your children to read by not only reading to them but reading in front of them, but they’re clearly not factoring in that these little children will grow and grow, and then they will be in your room not only stealing your overpriced blouse from Anthropologie but also that book you’ve been looking forward to reading all day.  I still can’t find my copy of Patti Smith’s Just Kids I bought six months ago (loved the first six pages!), and I rather suspect it’s in the Teen Cave.

Then, while I was still barely in possession of Bossypants, I made the mistake of sharing a particularly important passage (yes, these are the reverential terms in which we will speak of Bossypants) with my other daughter, a near teen, and at 10pm last night I last spotted Bossypants heading with her into the Near-Teen Cave.  “It’s just so good!” she said, hoping–I’m sure–that I wouldn’t rip it from her clutches.

I can’t complain.  This is probably as close to reading the important feminist writers my daughters may come for a while.  I tried to lure them to Gloria Steinem on more than one occasion, but they’re wise to me now and find a certain repulsion in anything I consider Important Reading.  And, anyway, the Catcher in the Rye Debacle a few years back taught me that what spoke to me so acutely in the 70’s is as relevant today as shag rug.  Holden Caulfield’s fight is not their fight. But Tina Fey’s? I think we’ve found a bridge.

I should back up and say: We worship at the shrine of 30Rock, SNL and Mean Girls. I have not watched Baby Mama yet, as like David Sedaris’ Barrel Fever I’m saving it for a time in the future when I may need a good laugh (may it never come).  You know, like a savings account: reserved for emergency use only. So Tina Fey is the agent most likely to make a vote swing in our house.  Save your Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir for Grandma’s visit.

So when my boyfriend (yes, his paws were dangerously grasping the book too for a good while yesterday) read aloud the chapter titled “I Don’t Care If You Like It” to my Near Teen, I felt a shift. We’d lighted upon that consciousness that I’d been quietly rooting for: Feminism IS still relevant. And once again, it’s the funny people getting us there.

I’ve considered paraphrasing the story, but 1) I loathe paraphrasing and 2) I couldn’t do her timing justice.  So at the risk you’ll skip it (don’t), I leave you with this story from Tina Fey’s Bossypants:

Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday read-through to start.  There were always a lot of noisy “comedy bits” going on in that room. Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke.  I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike.”

Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.”

Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit. (I should make it clear that Jimmy and Amy are very good friends and there was never any real beef between them. Insert penis joke here.)

With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute.  She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.

I was so happy. Weirdly, I remember thinking, “My friend is here! My friend is here!” Even though things had been going great for me at the show, with Amy there, I felt less alone.

I think of this whenever someone says to me, “Jerry Lewis says women aren’t funny, or “Christopher Hitchens says women aren’t funny,” or “Rick Fenderman says women aren’t funny…Do you have anything to say to that?”

Yes. We don’t fucking care if you like it.

I don’t say it out loud of course, because Jerry Lewis is a great philanthropist. Hitchens is very sick, and the third guy I made up.

Unless one of these men is my boss, which none of them is, it’s irrelevant. My hat goes off to them. It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don’t like something, it is empirically not good. I don’t like Chinese food, but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist.

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