19 January 2015
Review of Jennifer, Gwyneth, & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness One Celebrity at a Time
Author: Rachel Bertsche
Publishing Info: Ballantine Books, July 2014
How I Got This Book: I purchased a copy on my Kindle
Thoughts: This was a really fun read. My first of 2015. My first completed book in I'm not sure how long. I can't remember when exactly I first heard about this book, but it's been sitting on my Kindle for quite some time. I really can't even tell you what made me decide to read it the other day, but I am really glad that I did.
At its most basic level, this book is about Bertsche's quest to create some sort of framework for her life. She's a writer who works from home. She found herself working out maybe twice a week, feeling sluggish, and maybe even borderline depressed. I can totally relate to this. I'm only working parttime, which some weeks equates to five hours. On a good day, I'll stay in my yoga pants until almost lunchtime before putting on jeans and a t-shirt of some kind. Sometimes I'll get the exercise bug. Sometimes I'll get the writing bug. Basically, things can be a little bleak.
Bertsche found herself doing what most of us do--looking at celebrities and thinking about how put together and perfect and happy they seem. So she created a project for herself where she would take on a new celebrity and aspect of their lives for a month. For instance, Jennifer Anniston's body or Sarah Jessica Parker's wardrobe or Tina Fey's work ethic, plus eight other celebrities. To gather her information about what to do, she looked for direct quotes from the celebrity herself, like the mention of a favorite cookbook or style ideology, or from an approved secondary source, such as Anniston's yoga instructor, Mandy Ingber. Once she got her information, she copied the celebrity as best as she could on her budget--this was important because celebrities have personal chefs and can afford $500 purses, but Bertsche found a way to make it all work for her.
As she went, she learned a lot about celebrity worship (though I hate to use that word, I just can't think of something better) culture and the how and why behind regular people's desire to emulate certain aspects of their favorite celebrities. Since the 1970s, celebrities have had more and more of an impact on culture and are frequently looked at as role models. Most of this is a carefully crafted image through the use of publicists, but nowadays more celebrities are conscious of how they impact others.
Through this quest to get her shit together and be happy, Bertsche was struggling with fertility issues. Throughout the book, she would say "I know it seems crazy to try to get my life together when it's going to be interrupted soon enough by a baby." But by the end, she says that her efforts to get her life together helped her deal with the ongoing fertility struggles and the ability to adapt to the changes she faced when she finally did get pregnant. She rarely had a perfect day where she did every single thing she was supposed to do from working out to getting dressed to eating at home to spending time with her husband to working, but she did what she could and felt good about it. Certainly much better than she did on the days when she hit snooze on her alarm several times (or reset her alarm for a couple of hours later), stayed in her yoga pants all day, and ate junk.
I totally understand what she means. I am the happiest when I am the busiest, when the opportunity to sit and read for an hour or watch a couple of episodes of NCIS or otherwise be lazy feels like a luxury. Periodic boredom is a gift. Regular boredom is a curse. Like Bertsche, I've had a lot of unstructured time over the past few months. I really appreciated reading about this journey to creating a framework. I can totally relate to looking to celebrities for inspiration on haircuts, outfits, exercise, and so on.
I'm not going to come up with my own list of celebrities to emulate for inspiration, but I am interested in applying some of what Bertsche learned to my own life.
I actually tested it this morning. Initially I set my alarm for 7:00, but I wound up getting up at 7:30. It's OK. Then I made my coffee and hopped onto my computer to do a little work, like Tina Fey. I put on a comfortable, cute outfit that made me feel good, like Sarah Jessica Parker. I finally inquired about my friends' ETA and found out that they were going to be quite a while. No matter. I used the opportunity to do some cleaning, hit my yoga mat (doing the DVD of Anniston's instructor), and write this book review. I feel good that I was able to use the unexpected delay to accomplish some things I needed to do as opposed to sitting pissed off on the couch, trying to read or watch TV that I really didn't want to be watching. Now the plans have changed again (actually, they got canceled), so I'm trying to come up with some other way to constructively use my time, again like Tina Fey.
I'm not at the point quite yet where I can truly settle into a routine because I don't have a job that has set work hours nor do I have a job like Bertsche where I set my work hours. My hours fluctuate on a daily and weekly basis. But if I make a plan and a to-do list the night before or even first thing in the morning, I can get a lot more done that I think I can, particularly when I make the effort to sneak in some progress during downtimes, planned or not.