Sunday, August 30, 2015

Michelle Tea: How to Grow Up

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Michelle Tea has written a lot of memoirs, which is interesting since she's in her 40s. Many people write one memoir of their childhood, or one late in life of their whole life. Somehow for Tea, this works, though. For awhile I read everything Tea put out, but slowly fell out of touch. I'm not sure what inspired me to read "How to Grow Up," but I'm glad I did. While not the best book ever, "How to Grow Up" hit home. Watch out, personal(ish) post coming up!

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.