Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jeneration X by Jen Lancaster

We're smack-dab in the middle of summer, and if you have nothing to read, may I suggest Jeneration X: One Reluctant Adult's Attempt to Unarrest her Arrested Development... by Jen Lancaster? Gut-poppingly funny, it goes so well with the season's Crystal Light and chlorinated hair. 

Lancaster has turned her unapologetic, self-deprecating memoirs into quite the cottage industry. Her first, Bitter is the New Black, detailed her humbling, yet humorous, journey through unemployment.  This latest installment (#6) is my favorite because her humor, always nodding at nostalgia, full-on nails the peccadilloes and foibles of those of us born in the 1960s and 70s, the Gen X-ers.  I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard when reading.  The usual "Jennsylvania" (title of her blog) themes are included: husband and pets and laziness, but Lancaster's upped the ante this time with nuggets particular to those in middle age.  Her trip to the mammography clinic is endearing, if anything because Lancaster is proud she fit into the regular machine and didn't need the super sized one.  She tests a skirted swimsuit (the wetsuit of middle-age), gives an uncomfortable bra the heave-ho, and decides spying on the neighbors is not a thrill but disgustingly t.m.i-provoking.

Reading Jeneration X, I felt like I was having lunch with a favorite friend. (I love listening while someone else does all the talking.) Lancaster knows how to dole out a story, one delicious bit at a time, and then hit you with a self-truth, so funny and true, you can't help but love her.  To wit:

Almost as soon as I discovered a deep and abiding love for Panang Thai Curry, I discovered that I can't digest it. Maybe I don't have a tolerance for so much spice or it may be that I ruined by colon from years and years of running Artificial Red Dye #7 through it. Regardless, I need to case and desist with the Panang Thai Curry because I'm murdering myself from the inside out. [Lancaster's husband finally calls the restaurant and tells them never to sell this dish to his wife. She closes with this lesson:]
Reluctant Adult Lesson Learned:
Being a grown-up means not staying in an abusive relationship...even if it's just with your colon.

In fact, the whole book, which I devoured like my own Panang Thai Curry sans ill effects, was a wonderful affirmation that life in one's forties is much the same for all of us. We become our own mothers and fathers and start taking better care of our bodies and minds.  Although, in Lancaster's (and my) case, it may be a little too late to keep sharp if your mind is comfortably ensconced in the 1980s. Her anecdote about becoming enthralled with the heretofore ho-hum song "Hysteria" by Def Leppard made me want to kiss her. I too heard this song on the radio a few months ago and can't get enough of it. I even created a Pandora station around it. Me love Def Leppard?  What is happening?

It's just part of being Generation X, baby.

p.s. My friend T.M. and I went to a book signing by Lancaster a few months ago in our town. She is an engaging, composed speaker and very generous with her time. I highly recommend seeing her if you have the chance. Also, the assembled group of fans was gracious, unassuming, and not fashionable in the least. (My highest compliment, folks.)