A lovely lady in my book club (you know how I love my book club!) lent me this book, Bitter Is the New Black by Jen Lancaster. It's been out for a while- published in 2006- but this was the first I had seen it. Jen Lancaster describes it as a "layoff memoir" and it is wonderful.
The book begins with descriptions of Jen's fabulous life- Prada handbags, Ralph Lauren Capri pants, and a list of regularly scheduled spa services (she says her favorite is the simple mani-pedi: "They work on your hands and feet at the same time while you sit in a vibrating chair. I call it the sorority girl's version of a threesome."). She is, well...a little umm...witchy with her criticisms of other people, but her one redeeming quality is that she usually keeps these criticisms to herself, thinking them for the reader's benefit and not saying them aloud. The book is filled with the most deliciously snarky little footnotes. Really, I think one of the best things about this book is the footnotes. So much fun!
Now I have one friend who said she quit reading after the second chapter because she thought Jen was just too mean, but she really should have kept reading. I loved the scene where Jen is trying to get "half a dozen anorexic wannabe models" who work the reception desk at her salon. By the end of the scene, I was begging Jen to strangle someone! She remains far calmer than I could have done.
Of course, this is a layoff memoir, so Jen is let go from her job that provided not only the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed, but also a great deal of her identity. For months she searches for work. She is turned down for jobs because she is over-qualified. She is even turned down for a job that she almost had but lost because a "friend" swooped in and sabotaged Jen's opportunity. And then she is forced to go to the unemployment office. You can imagine how well she did there.
As she becomes aware that her financial situation is becoming more bleak, she concedes the need to move to a smaller, cheaper apartment. And so she begins to pack. This is the point where the new Jen really enters the world. She can't believe all the "junk" she has: All the bottles of expensive lotions that she never used, all the bottles of nail polish (many the exact same color), her ridiculous DVD collection, and finally her shoes and hand bags. She monetizes each junk collection by calculating what she could have bought instead- COBRA health insurance, six months phone service, a year's worth of auto insurance, and a healthy money market account. "I now understand that I have no right to bitch about being broke because I was really foolish with the money I had when I had it."
It is a beautiful thing to watch Jen grow and realize what is really important in life. I loved her and I can't wait to read more of her books. If you are interested, she has a blog of her own. You can find it here. A great book that I highly recommend- especially to my friends out there who have their own touch of the snark. You know who you are...
Oh! And just a quick side note- I nearly DIED when Jen described her friend's wedding in the former Chicago Public Library. Married in a library? That is totally up this book nerd's alley!