This book was recommended to me by a friend I left behind in Seattle when I recently moved to San Francisco. "Great!" I thought, "A book about a girl...moreThis book was recommended to me by a friend I left behind in Seattle when I recently moved to San Francisco. "Great!" I thought, "A book about a girl around my age girl-dating lots of people from the internet! I bet it's hilarious." I just signed up for GirlfriendSocial myself, completely out of my comfort zone; I've never even been on an internet date with a guy and I'm typically closest with men.
This was not a book about 52 internet girl-dates, though. It was a book about a nice, openminded, friendly lady who feels all alone in her "new" (two years?) city of Chicago, even though her mom lives, I think she said, 6 blocks away? And she has cousins and her husband, college buddies, a work clique, and other various acquaintances around her? Hmm, at the beginning I'm starting to see that our status and social needs are quite different. For example, I don't have a close relationship with either of my parents, and I rarely (every 5-10 years?) see my brothers, much less my cousins, aunts, and uncles, who all live in the Bible Belt. As a major introvert, I need more alone time than socialization, and I have way less experience in friendships (especially with females) than I do with intimate boyfriendships. Her starting point actually seems like crazy levels of socialization to me.
The thought of going on one girlfriend date per week (not just from the internet; many of them come from acquaintances or are people she's already met) for a year sounds insanely active for myself, but I want to read about Rachel's experience. This book may not be the "ok enemies" of girl-dating that I'd hoped for, but I become hooked because I'm ready to hear all about how other people define and initiate girlfriendship. It's like a socio-cultural anthropology class! Which is also what I say when I watch Ru-Paul's Drag Race.
It's a long book. Well-written, if a bit on the oblivious-cliche side. I eventually find our common ground: we both like to bond over blogging, we are both humorous and require some degree of hilarity in our friends, and we both have identified anxiety around clicking with other women. Compatible friends are everywhere; I can, like most readers of this book probably, imagine getting along brilliantly with Rachel, even though our bad TV choices have little overlap. And improv? How ballsy. How awesome.
In the beginning of the book, I started to make mental notes about how unrealistic she was approaching her search for a BFF. There were many definitions and black-and-white thinking involved with her social approach; it felt stuffy and limiting. Mostly I just kept thinking that she hadn't fully grown up. Having camp buddies and school pals, those are the awesomest parts of being a kid, just like not having to pay bills or have periods. But you grow up, and then you have to get a job, you start to bleed, and women hate you if you're skinny, and they hate you if you're fat.
But Rachel is smart. She realizes very quickly that she needs to adjust her expectations a bit. She doesn't stop pursuing a best friend either, she just adjusts her definition of such. It's a part of being open-minded and receptive to life. She understands that, and she loosens up quite a bit by the end of the year. In the beginning, I felt like she wouldn't be friends with various people out of snobbery almost, but by the end she was having lunches with Texan waitresses and renting friends from a website.
There is much mention of research, much reference to other sources on friendship, loneliness, and the modern woman's social world. Rachel has done her homework. It's a pleasant read, and it makes you feel like you're not alone in your loneliness. That's valuable, and it's empowering. To know others have felt as awkward as she, and to hear of the responses she receives from her blogging around this topic, inspires you to do something about it instead of continuing to assume everyone else has it just fine and you are the weirdo. You are then empowered with examples of steps you can take to make your own BFFs: websites, services, strategies. I think this book works for the Good Side, and ultimately I'm glad I read it.(less)
This isn't an ultra-deep book, but it's definitely not one of those cheap magazine-masquerading-as-book books, either. It's a fun read if you're into...moreThis isn't an ultra-deep book, but it's definitely not one of those cheap magazine-masquerading-as-book books, either. It's a fun read if you're into psychology and humility.
At the end, you'll find out why the author is even writing about this stuff in the first place, which I think is extremely relevant when assessing this book. He grew up in a small town in Mississippi, which is the poorest and least educated state (I too am originally a Mississippian). He and his wife decided to take a trip to Germany after high school, and while in Europe they realized they were "uneducated" and didn't know much about the world. I have the utmost respect for this. We can all learn from placing ourselves into the unknown.
After the eye-opening trip, he and his wife decided to go to college. They enrolled in a psych class where they were lucky enough to find themselves working with an instructor who helped them to truly think, to go deeper than surface level with psychology and assumption, judgement, cultural relativism, etc. This teacher inspired the author to constantly learn and analyze and question - what a gift. He took it and ran with it, and that's where this book comes from. His obvious passion for the subject makes for a higher quality read.
Is this book for super psych nerds? Not really. It's not meant to be a text book or some kind of revealing all-knowing revelatory text. It's just a fun brain-teasing book that will get your wheels turning and, hopefully, inspire you to dig more deeply into your solidly held beliefs to ask yourself, "but why?"
I have for years avoided reading anything about WWII in Europe. I'm glad I waited until I was a bit more aware and receptiv...moreThis journal will haunt me.
I have for years avoided reading anything about WWII in Europe. I'm glad I waited until I was a bit more aware and receptive, even though that's not why it took me so long to go there.
Helene Berr is, for such a young age, astonishingly insightful and brave. She writes about her impending doom with a clear mind and her words echo eerily familiar pains I've felt in my own country, though obviously not as harshly...
"The glorification of violence, pride, sentimentality, the glorification of emotions of all kinds, the taste for vague and gratuitous melancholy, these are the features of the Germanic character against which my own temperament rebels."
"Maybe people who take sides are happier because they find a solution, however erroneous it may be, and they have a goal: having something to hate is much less stressful than feeling no hate at all."
"...can those people speak of Christian charity when precisely what they do not know is the meaning of fraternity and human sympathy? Do they have the right to claim to be the heirs of Christ, of that Christ who was the greatest socialist the world has known, and whose doctrine was founded on equality and brotherhood? They don't have any idea what brotherhood is."
To feel that unfairness in modern times pales in comparison to dying in a concentration camp, which is what happens to Helene. I actually hadn't read any reviews of this book prior to reading it, so I didn't know how it ended (I wanted it that way). You read entry after entry of beautiful observations of Helene's feelings of love, affections, intellectual curiosity, moral philosophy, and in the end you can't even believe she could die, she is so strong.
I identified so much with Helene that I could hardly stop reading. It's honest and refreshing, unselfish, and beautifully written history from a perspective that could be no closer to the honest truth.