Between the Pages: Operating Instructions

You know Anne Lamott,  yes? She’s that crazy aunt you always wanted to spend your summers with, but your mom was afraid you’d like her way too much and never want to come home.

So you snuck over to her house and tried to act fly-on-the-wall-ish while she regaled her coke and jack days, but oh! me, no, I’m not eavesdropping, I’m staring at this huge zit that is a product of me being thirteen and awkward and she makes you feel so cool and hip about that too, like your face was designed for pimples.

Yes, well, I finally read the last (although one of her first) of her books: Operating Instructions. In the memoir of the first year of her son’s life, her early voice is discernable: “Nowadays I go around being pregnant with the same constancy and lack of surprise with which I go around being aware that I have teeth. But a few times a day, the information actually causes me to gasp–how on earth did I come to be in this condition? Well, I have a few suspicions.”

I sent this book to two new mothers, and then read it for myself, not to scare me, but to soothe me: Could I be the only one thinking this motherhood thing could not possibly be the cake and cookies and party hats women pretend it is. Don’t they freak out? Don’t women want to lie in repose and wail themselves, sucking their toes (if they could reach, due to that damn episiotomy)? Don’t women want to drink copious amounts of vodka, but aren’t allowed to cause they’re nursing? Don’t they ever want to scream to their husband that changing two diapers and picking the baby up several times a night does not equate to having chaffed nipples and a lifetime of saggy vaginas? (Cause really, who’s gonna do Kegels while dropping Jenny off at soccer practice or scrubbing the casserole dish?)

Sigh. Anne Lamott says this. Her candid honesty about mothering makes me want to cry for the lonely work women frequently do to raise a child. And it makes me want to double up on birth control. Nevertheless, Lamott, as always, elicits gut-wrenching laughs and leaves me pondering.

Funny how a writer who writes about a baby so strikes a woman with none. How a writer who writes about faith so moves a woman with none. She’s magical in that way: humble and confused and just as effed up as the rest of us, grappling for  hope, understanding and sleep. And yet, she makes you feel human. Real. And that’s the thing about Anne (I’ll call her by her first name, cause I imagine having coffee with her on a regular basis) her honesty allows us to let down our own guard, to be honest, if even for a fleeting moment, with ourselves. If only till we shut the book.

Next up on the reading list: The Bitch in the House and The China Study

What’s on your nightstand?

3 thoughts on “Between the Pages: Operating Instructions

  1. I love her books and, yes, some of us actually did have those thoughts before we had kids! A few of my friends who had children when Mark and I were first married were the best birth control. But eventually we just decided that we would regret not having children…so, voila, Everett and Hollis.

    I wish I had the concentration and mental capacity for a book right now.

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