Bossypants

One thing I have learned: book clubs on Meetup are mostly bullshit. In the past few weeks, since moving to the East Coast, I have thrown myself into Meetup with a fervor, forcing my inner introvert to shut up and deal with it. Last week, I went to a book club meetup to discuss Bossypants. The day before, I had spent hours quickly rereading the book. I took notes and marked passages. Then I show up at the book club, only to spend the next three hours listening to grown women yell at each other about planning next month's book club and to also fantasize about trips to Disney World and to repeatedly say the phrase "T-I-Double-Gger." It was embarrassing, honestly. I'm not judging adult Disney fans because right after this, I met up with another professional adult female friend to see Beauty and the Beast. Afterwards, at dinner, we talked about the film and had a more intelligent conversation in the ten minutes while we were waiting for drinks about the movie than I had witnessed in the three hours I was at that "book club." According to my friend, she tried several book clubs when she first moved here and found the same thing: high on personal drama, low on actual discussion of the book.

Okay, end meetup book club rant. Now, let's talk about the book! I should talk about it with someone, after all. I first read Bossypants a few years ago. While getting ready for a business trip to Las Vegas, I picked it up at the airport bookstore as something to read. For me, Bossypants is always going to be associated with a pool and margaritas after leaving the conference early. Sorry, Tina Fey. I remember enjoying the book. But can you really be critical while hanging out in Vegas for a week on the company's dime? Side note, the conference was about Agile Software Development and I learned stuff, really! But you know when you can be critical? When reading it the day before your first book club, when you think you'll be having a good discussion and you want to impress the other women with your insights.

And here is my next confession: I really, really didn't like it this second time. Maybe it's just the timing (does her humor fit in to the 2017 world?) or the medium (maybe she should stick to TV or maybe I should have listened to the audiobook instead). There was something about her writing that seemed desperate, like she was trying very hard to be funny with every sentence. Everything felt forced and not at all natural. Everything was a comparison to running a television show which, surprisingly, was not something I, an engineer, could relate to! She also went on for way too long about the Sarah Palin stuff and I am just not in the mood to revisit that right now. And then there was the random bit where she responded to emails. It felt like her agent said she really needed another chapter and this is what she pulled out at the eleventh hour.

But that being said, I think I found it most effective when there were insights or pieces of pseudo advice. When the writing was less about comedy and more about the message. Like when you knew you were a woman or reflecting on your first period or identifying the things about yourself that have been labeled deficiencies but that you actually like.

She was also good at creating people. She refers to her college boyfriend as someone who swore to wear a shell necklace until Apartheid ended. Yep, we all know that guy. She mentions crying in college because she listened to "I Will Always Love You" and didn't associate it with anyone. Jesus, that's real and more effective than any of her jokes.

She's extremely self-deprecating, which I appreciate because that is 99% of my humor. She talks about being a woman in comedy. While it might not get a Vanity Fair cover, I went to a school that was 78% male and I work in an industry with about the same ratio, so that hit home for me as well. There are only so many roles for women, so many spots. It creates a competition for women and her reflection on the changing role of women in comedy was the book's most personal and also most effective bits.

Some other random advice I flagged with a Post-It note: the show doesn't go on because it's ready, it goes on because it's 11:30. My new company is super Agile so I might put this on a board somewhere. It's just a nice sentiment. Shit isn't always perfect, whether it's a sketch comedy show or a design document. Do your best and meet your deadline. I like it!

Another idea that was interesting: school tells you when to leave. You graduate and move on, whether it's high school or college. There's a clear progression. How to decide to leave SNL? How to decide to leave the cushy job you've had for six years and move to a state where you don't know anyone? Good questions, Tina, good questions.

I'm going to end on a throwaway bit that wasn't very personal to me but still funny and true and a very different take on things:

Photoshop is good. It's easier, safer, and cheaper than surgery.