Julie Klausner's I Don't Care About Your Band is the anti-Marry Him — a celebration of self-love in the face of laughably bad dudes.
The book is largely a chronicle of Klausner's shitty dating experiences, recounted with broad and relatively inoffensive humor. On a guy who wanted to "share a cock" with Klausner, she writes: "like anybody's cock is so big that you'd be like, 'I can't finish this! Let's split it.'" And on an immature post-college boyfriend:
I didn't hear back from Rob that day, but in the wake of all the soot and emotional debris of, um, 9/11, I did manage to get him to invite me over to his apartment. It turns out that Rob felt vulnerable enough, by then, to extend an invitation for me to come over. So maybe the attacks were worth it! Right, ladies?
There aren't that many belly laughs, at least for me, but reading I Don't Care is like spending time with that friend who makes you feel like everything is going to Be Okay. Not because you're about to embark on some betterment program or strategy (for instance, Klausner detests The Rules), but because you're already awesome. Klausner writes,
Follow what it is that you love and makes you want to be better, always. But don't get yourself tied up with any kind of rock star — musician or not — who makes you feel like you're not made of star stuff. Because of course you are. Give me a break.
It's cheesy, yes, and it's nothing we haven't heard before, but it's nice to get this kind of message not from, say, a ladymag that will go back to undermining us on the next page, but from a smart writer who's also a pretty astute social critic. Klausner recently shared her analysis of the Muppets with Salon, but her take on The Office, and especially Pam's character, feels even more relevant. Klausner writes,
There's nothing scary about Pam, because there's no mystery: she's just like the boys who like her; mousy and shy. The ultimate emo-boy fantasy is to meet a nerdt, cute girl just like him, and nobody else will realize she's pretty.
While she has what seems to me a slightly restrictive definition of what it means to be a man (it involves "a hearty handshake"), Klausner has identified a particular type of Nice Guy (TM) — one who wants a woman who never upstages him, even with her beauty. She continues:
Fear can be the result of admiration, or it can be a symptom of contempt. When I see squeamish guys passing over qualified women when they're hiring for a job, or becoming tongue-tied when a girl crashes their all-boy conversation at a party, I don't credit them for being awestruck. They're reacting to the intimidating female as an intruder, an alien, and somebody they can't relate to. It's not a compliment to be made invisible.
Klausner understands that not all misogynists are blustery types who think they're better than women. Male insecurity, too, can breed misogyny — often a subtle kind that forces women out of the spotlight with sheer diffidence. According to Klausner, we shouldn't cater to this insecurity by being more nurturing — we should just not fucking stand for it.
Dispatches from dating hell can feel depressing, like everyone in the world is an asshole and there's no hope for anybody. I Don't Care, by contrast, is uplifting even when Klausner is, say, having sex with an unattractive jerk with a mysterious wound on his thigh. Every time she leaves a bad guy, there's a sense of relief, even joy — perhaps because she seems to genuinely like herself and realize she's better off. In this context, her reassurances feel less like empty you-go-girl-ism and more like a prescription for a happy life: if you believe you're great, there's only so much an asshole can take away from you. Lori Gottlieb tells women not to feel too good about themselves, lest they pass up so-so guys and "end up alone." Klausner's message, if she has one, is the opposite: feel great about yourself, and neither loneliness nor a so-so guy will destroy you. I know which one I prefer.
I Don't Care About Your Band: What I Learned From Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, And Other Guys I've Dated
Bad Boyfriends Make Great Stories [Broadsheet]
Earlier: Comedy Call-Out