#AMREADING JAMMI ATTENBERG’S ALL GROWN UP.
This is not your ordinary sex and the single woman story. Well, yes, the heroine, Andrea Bern, is single and has sex, but the question consuming her is: At what point can you call yourself a grown-up? What’s the defining element: marriage, parenthood, emotional survival? The answer (s) are both gut-wrenching and mordantly funny.
Everyone is urging Andrea to read the newest book of wistful memories by a single woman, now married. It’s the ultimate how-to-grow-up book. They are like carrier pigeons, fluttering messages. My coworker Nina, the bangles on her wrist clinking, hands me a copy although I have never expressed an interest in reading it. Old college friends go on Facebook and post links to reviews and say things like “This reminded me of you”. Where is my dislike button? Where do I click to scream?
Andrea has a drunk one-night stand with a guy in her brother’s band. He phoned and asked me point-blank if I was an alcoholic and I said, “No. I’m just young and having fun.” Followed by tears, choking-sob tears, and I made sure he heard it. The trouble is: he brother is right, she is an alcoholic.
What does she get out of sex? I kiss him and he kisses me and we laugh and we are close and I believe so deeply in that moment that I tolerate his bullshit.
Then there is the problem of her aging mother partying with aging men. Is that what I have to look forward to? I am furious with her. I had been tamping it down all night and now my anger is a brilliant, pulsing red, fully blossomed…Talk to us, says one man, some loser. Tell us what’s going on with the kids today.
And last not least there is the problem of her job: Whatever thrill I had in perfecting my job is now dead, because perfection itself is boring: it’s only everything leading up to it that’s interesting.
Welcome to middle age, Andrea!