[The following column, printed in the Monday, May 5th edition of Synthesis Weekly, is an installment from our literature columnist, Emilie Clark.]
Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me
Edited by Ben Karlin
Grand Central Publishing
In an interesting turn on the book cover theme: Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me, an anthology of essays penned exclusively by men, has a very blue cover. I think it is cornflower blue, but not being an interior design major, I might be wrong about that. Anyway, it seems that sometimes men also get stereotyped and gendered through the use of infantilizing color schemes. But I will say that this blue is a much nicer color than the pink of last week, and I was not embarrassed at all to be seen reading this book. My manly boyfriend says the color wouldn’t embarrass him either. So there you have it.
The premise of this book is pretty obvious. A number of famous and semi-famous male authors and comedians tackle some break-ups and the lessons learned from them. Andy Richter talks about how hard it was for a teenager of his girth to find a girlfriend; Stephen Colbert writes about an old girlfriend, but lets his wife redact the naughty bits; and Neal Pollack tells an especially hilarious cautionary tale about midnight emissions and pets.
Most of the stories are pretty funny, some of the laugh out loud variety, and some of them even have a bit of heart. But I was surprisingly underwhelmed. As I read the list of contributors, my anticipation grew strong, but a lot of the big names seem to have just phoned it in. Standouts include â€œA Dog is No Reason to Say Togetherâ€ by Damian Kulash Jr., singer of OK Go, who tells an intriguingly honest story about a relationship that could have been mine or anyone else I know. It’s about that kind of pre-marriage long-term relationship where the terms and contracts are really hard to define and you’re not sure how or when it should end. Another standout is Barbara Karlin‘s forward, â€œI Think My Son is a Catch.â€ I’m sure you can guess what it’s about.
For me however, the reason to purchase the book was two simple words: Dan Savage. Sex advice columnist and gay advocate extraordinaire, Dan Savage has become one of my heroes. I often find myself listening to a podcast of his column â€œSavage Loveâ€ and then immediately afterwards listening to an episode of This American Life with one of his stories on it. If you are not aware of Dan Savage, I insist that you immediately find something he’s written or done and read or listen to it as soon as possible. His story in this anthology, entitled â€œI Am a Gay Man,â€ is a good place to start.
Another option is to get his book The Kid: What Happened after My Boyfriend and I Decided to Get Pregnant. I read this book in five or so hours, costing myself some desperately needed sleep. Savage has the kind of voice and perspective that is so lacking in this insane world we live in that when you hear it, it’s invigorating. He’s like Obama but without the platitudes, and I’m assuming with a lot more sex talk. In his advice column, he gives great advice that covers everything you can think of but is always rooted in healthy common sense. In The Kid, he takes that perspective and focuses it on a â€œhot-button issueâ€ from a very personal perspective. If you don’t think Savage is a deity like I do, you might not rip through the book as fast; but I do guarantee that it will hold your interest even if you think you could care less about homosexual adoption.
But back to the book at hand. You will probably like Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me, but you’ll forget about it. And then you’ll be browsing a used bookstore seven years from now and you’ll see it on the shelf and you’ll think â€œThis looks really good! Look at all the great names on this nice cornflower blue book jacket!â€ So you’ll buy it, take it home and it won’t be until a few essays in that you’ll realize you already read it. Oh well. Live and learn, right? I think an ex-boyfriend told me that.