The funny thing about memoirs is that unlike with fiction, the protagonist is a real person who you can Google and find out more about. I enjoy learning about the author whose memoir I read, but one thing I will not do is Google a picture of the author until I have completed the book in its entirety. I am horrible with faces, which means that whenever I read a book, I never picture a face in my head. Instead I just imagine a vague outline of the protagonist (large, small, short, tall, etc.), some shading, and keep a mental list of descriptors (like brown hair, dark eyes, oversized glasses, etc.). For me, it is great fun to do a final reveal at the end of the memoir to find out what the author actually looks like.
I recently finished reading You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein, which is a memoir covering moments in the author’s life from adolescence to adulthood. Jessi Klein is a comedian and writer who has worked on Comedy Central. While Klein is successful in her own right, her face was a mystery to me until I Googled her. I know that this is a weird thing to say but — Jessi Klein is much prettier than I anticipated she would be.
In her comedic way, when Klein describes herself, she plays up her less classically beautiful features and creates a caricature of herself. As a teen, she uses words to suggest that she is a frumpy mess, as a young adult she makes it sound as if she looks mid-aged, and as a recent mother she uses words to suggest that she is an ogre in human clothing. In one chapter of her book, Klein describes the difference between women who are “poodles” and women who are “wolves.” Poodles are women like Audrey Hepburn who carry themselves with grace, seem to have a high degree of self-confidence, and who look effortlessly beautiful. Then, there are women who are “wolves,” those who can also look beautiful; however, these women must put in a high degree of effort to achieve the look. Of course, poodles may not see themselves this way—everyone has problems—Klein is simply pointing out that beauty and confidence is more of a problem for some than others. Klein refers to herself as a wolf throughout the book.
Perhaps as a reader it is easier to identify with a wolf than it is to identify with a poodle. Wolves do not have doors held open for them, rather they must earn entrance and even then, still must force the world to accept them. Wolves don’t expect things to always turn out well for them. They are aware of their faults and work hard to compensate for them. We like wolves because we take secret joy in watching their failures, but also feel warm when they succeed.
I feel that many female authors paint themselves in a less-than-generous light when writing their memoirs. Even famous authors like Amy Schumer, Mindy Kahling, and Tina Fey describe themselves and their appearances in very wolf-like ways. All of these women are beautiful yet their descriptions of themselves reveal the giant divide between how we see ourselves versus how we see others.
You’ll Grow Out of It, of course, of course (!), is more than just about Klein’s appearance — what I mentioned above is just a small, but pervasive part of this memoir (and the only element that I chose to focus on in this review). Klein is first and foremost a keen observer of people and hilarious writer. Some particularly funny moments include her awkward birthday flight on Delta airlines, her search for the perfect wedding dress, and her commentary on the hit show “The Bachelor.” There were also some tough moments in the book that deal with relationship struggles and fertility issues. Klein always gives the reader something to laugh about even in life’s more serious moments.
Overall, I very much enjoyed the book. It had a similar tone to I Was Told There’d Be Cake (my review here), however, this book was wee bit funnier, and certainly a more personal account of events. If you enjoy humorous essay books, certainly do add this title to your reading list!