This week I read another memoir by a funny woman: Jen Kirkman’s I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life without Kids.
I think I read a blurb about the book in Bust or maybe Bitch. I’m not sure. But I honestly had no idea who Jen Kirkman was or if I would find her funny. (In case you also don’t know: she’s a semi-famous stand-up comic who also works with Chelsea Handler on her various TV shows. I’m vaguely familiar with the existence of Chelsea Handler, but haven’t actually seen her TV shows ever.)
Despite being “chlidfree by choice” myself, I wasn’t sure how up I was for a diatribe about how it’s really, really, really OK not to have kids and not to want to have kids. Like, not to want to at all. I get exhausted explaining this in my own life, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to read scenes from awkward conversations in my past through Jen’s eyes.
It turns out that I did want to read precisely that, because Jen is a lot funnier than I am. The only downside to her re-telling of this awkward encounters is I she only stands up for herself and her choices in the book, never in person when someone was being a jerk. She allows horribly invasive conversations to continue, and then afterwards fantasize about what she should have said. She’s a stand-up comic! Isn’t she supposed to be witty on her feet, like to deal with hecklers and all that?
I knew I was going to like Jen from page 2 of the introduction, when she wrote “One thing I know about myself is that everywhere I go is my new favorite place.” I am totally like this. I have lots of friends who are in their thirties and working serious-person jobs (like professor at a Very Fine College) who talk about “going home” for holidays and other occasions. To them “home” means their parents’ house, or at least the town in which said house was located, even if it’s thousands of miles from where they live, work, and make their lives. I have other friends for whom “home” is where they went to grad school, wooed, and married; and they live with this nostalgia for the place. No other place can ever compare, so they will never be home again.
For me, “home” has always been “where I am currently living.” When I moved to a tropical paradise with my husband, pets, and all my stuff, my mom asked if we would “go home” for Christmas. I was totally baffled: where, exactly, did she think “home” was for me, if not with my husband, pets, and all my stuff? Certainly not the town in which I grew up, where precisely zero members of my family currently reside. Maybe she meant where she currently lives, in a racist, homophobic shithole in the South? I have visited twice and vowed never to return, so “home” might be a bit of a stretch. Maybe she meant the town in which my husband grew up, where none of his family lives (but at least his dad lives kind of close)? Because somehow when we got married his “home” became my “home” instead of wherever we live together becoming our home? Or something? I find it all both exasperating and confusing.
Well, anyway… enough of that rant.
I enjoyed Jen’s book a lot, though I should probably get off this memoir treadmill. I often couldn’t remember if a particular guy was from Jen’s past or Ophira Eisenberg’s. I will say that I found Jen’s story of meeting and marrying her husband much more moving and sincere than Ophira’s. I guess it’s not a spoiler to say they’re no longer married. I was puzzled when I read a sentence late in the book in which she said she lived alone. The book jumps around a bit in time… I had thought I was reading a more recent story, but maybe it was pre-Matt? Then I was genuinely sad when I read the (almost throw-away) sentence about the divorce. She never goes into detail about what happened, and that’s not really what the book is about. The marriage was relevant because a married and childless woman in her thirties is just asking to be grilled by near strangers about her life choices. The divorce wasn’t as relevant to the story. But I was involved enough with the people to care about it, which says something good about the book, I suppose.
One final thought: I cam away from this book completely baffled as to how I had no idea who Jen Kirkman was before reading it. We could have been friends! We should have been friends!
- She lived in Brookline Village at the same time I did!
- She performed with Improv Boston during a time when I was taking classes at Improv Asylum and pretty much constantly going to improv all around town (including Improv Boston) whenever I could!
- She and I both stayed at the Grand Wailea on Maui, at maybe around the same time but probably not!
Jen, want to be friends?