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Tea is honest (and has been honest) about her crappy, rebellious childhood and her decades of substance use and abuse. "How to Grow Up" is about the rest of it- when she realized she liked life as a sober, self-loving adult. I'm not Michelle Tea- I didn't have a crappy, rebellious childhood (at least, not like that!) and I don't have decades of hard living under my belt. But I felt like Tea was speaking to me on page two: "I have spent the past decades alternately fighting off adulthood with the gusto of a pack of Lost Boys forever partying down in Neverland, and timidly, awkwardly, earnestly stumbling toward the life of a grown-ass woman: healthy, responsible, self-aware, stable." It took Tea finding bugs IN the fridge to realize that she was ready; it took my remaining two grandparents dying (and me surviving the grief) to realize that I had arrived. I feel warmth towards Tea again on page 3: "I type to you from a marginally clean home- no longer do roaches scamper under cover of darkness!" See, I've achieved that! I even have laundry going, such an adult Sunday evening activity, along with writing book reports! Tea doesn't really define exactly what being a grown up is, but I like this: "Through repeat failures and moments of bruised revelation, I have mastered the art of doing things differently and getting different results." A poke at the "stupidity is doing the same things over and over and getting different results," us grown ups (yes, me!) learn from our mistakes (except that I *did go to that Safeway again today and no, they STILL did not have everything I wanted to buy and yes, the line was still longer than it should have been. I don't think she meant ALL of our mistakes.) "At the end of it all," she writes, making me feel better, "we're all just kids playing dress-up in our lives, some a little more convincingly than others."
Right before Tea realizes she can't put her Thanksgiving dish in a fridge with bugs (they were IN the fridge!!), she realizes something: "sometimes you're so caught in old ideas about yourself, it takes another person to show you who you actually are today. And the person you are today is a lot more grown-up than last time you checked." Has this happened to you? It has happened to me. This line is in the chapter titled "You Deserve This," and though I don't quite find myself saying that too often yet, I have been checked a lot lately- I find that things I was CERTAIN I knew about myself are outdated, or that rules that I needed to get through life aren't really necessary and have to be rethought or let go of. Maybe I'll need a new set of rules: Tea has come up with her own rules like "Beware of Sex" and other rules for love- no, this book report isn't going there- but it's a poignant chapter where Tea walks through how her addictive personality intersected with the wild world of single-ness and sex. And even better, she's got some great tips on how to break up! None of these tips are meant to be read as an instruction manual: Tea is explaining how, as she became a grownup, she had to devise new rules for herself. This rings true.
I can't recommend this book for everyone. It's not that amazing, and through her many memoirs, it becomes a little voyeuristic to look so closely at Tea's life. But if, like me, you're going through or have recently gone through, a growth spurt (so to speak), this is really great.