Monday, March 28, 2016

Book Review: If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse by Gina Barreca

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge,from St Martin's Press, for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it

This new book from Gina is being released tomorrow,
 just in time for your to read while sitting in the stands watching baseball and soccer games!

If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse cover


Gina Barreca is fed up with women who lean in, but don't open their mouths. In her latest collection of essays, she turns her attention to subjects like bondage, which she notes now seems to come in fifty shades of grey, and has been renamed Spanx. She muses on those lessons learned in Kindergarten that every woman must unlearn, like not having to hold the hand of the person you're waking next to (especially if he's a bad boyfriend), or needing to have milk, cookies and a nap every day at 3:00 PM (which tends to sap one's energy not to mention what it does to one's waistline).

 She sounds off about all those things a woman hates to hear from a man like "Calm down" or "Next time, try buying shoes that fit". "'If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?'" is about getting loud, getting love, getting ahead and getting the first draw (or the last shot). Here are tips, lessons and bold confessions about bad boyfriends at any age, about friends we love and ones we can't stand anymore, about waist size and wasted time, about panic, placebos, placentas and certain kinds of not-so adorable paternalism attached to certain kinds of politicians. The world is kept lively by loud women talking and "'If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?'" cheers and challenges those voices to come together and speak up. You think she's kidding? Oh, boy, do you have another thing coming.

Book Excerpt:
We’ve come to believe we need a great deal to make us happy—serenity, security, and success, for starters—when all we really need is Brie and a refillable glass. Happiness is neither elusive nor unobtainable, not if we set our sights lower. That’s our current problem as a culture: we think our very pleasures must be coaxed out, like shy, tiny, blinking woodland creatures emerging into the open when, in fact, our pleasures are more like raccoons who will eagerly rip off the tops to things, grinning like tiny maniacs with masks, and having as much fun as possible before getting chased away.  Why ignore our inner-raccoons?   
I want to make sure my inner-raccoons stay with me through life, even as I get older.
I’ve lived my life with enthusiasm, courage, raucousness and passion. Why on earth would I want to grow old gracefully?
Why would I want to be Whistler’s Mother when my whole life what I’ve wanted to be is Mae West? 
Let’s face it: It’s about as likely that I’ll become calm, serene and dignified as I age as it was that I’d be prim, proper and sweet in my youth. 
Those were always lovely fantasies — for somebody else. But like charming dresses that would never flatter me, I don’t fit into these patterns. They weren’t designed with me in mind. No matter how I try to tailor them or hold my breath long enough to slip them on, I know they’d be confining, inappropriate and impossible to carry off. 
But “growing old gracefully” is one of those phrases we’ve heard so often we’ve internalized the concept without examining it. I’ve decided that as I age, rather than becoming contemplative and introspective, to become more disruptive, seditious and boisterous instead. Not only am I not going gentle into that good night, I am not going gracefully into that late afternoon. I intend to go as gentle as a mastodon stuck in a tar pit. 
I want to be one of those women who brandish a cane. I come from a family of people with bad knees, so that particular accessory is probably in my future. But I don’t plan to “carry,” “rely upon,” or “make occasional use” of a cane, but to brandish it. The two things a person can brandish are canes and swords and I’m unlikely to model myself after either Xena, Warrior Princess or Joan of Arc at this stage (although anything is possible). Cane it is. 
I might also start carrying a flask. It might contain gin; it might contain Ensure. What it contains is beside the point: What matters is that I will be able to whip out a flask.
I might also begin to dispense some of my possessions to the young under my care. This will happen in those instances where I can now afford to purchase higher quality goods. “Please take this handmade quilt. Grandma's gonna get some sheets from Frette's.”
After 50, you can begin to distinguish what actually makes you happy from what you've always done to please others. Being able to define that difference is an accomplishment. It's one of those areas of expertise that takes at least 10,000 hours to learn.
After a certain age, you finally become the indisputable authority on the subject of yourself. 
It's absurd to think that you're then supposed to spend all your time sitting quietly while people tell you dull stories about their kids (whom you don’t know), their dogs (who have a limited range of talents, although often cuter and less self-involved than their kids) or their gall bladder surgery (more engaging than either offspring or pets).
Is it simply a lack of imagination that makes us view old age as a time of life when people are mostly worried about what will get stuck in their trachea? Or is it because we’re still bound by weirdly constructed, and entirely arbitrary definitions, telling us how people are supposed to act at a certain age? 
When I was a girl, I was told I wasn't supposed to be energetic, ambitious or competitive. I was told I wasn't supposed to be fierce, seditious or desirous. I didn’t listen then; why would I listen now, when I’m being told essentially the same thing — a version of “Sit down and be quiet”? 
It's easy to say that what I really want for my 80th birthday is to be surrounded by loved ones and to have my health, but what I truly believe I’ll want on my 80th birthday is a leased Ferrari and a month at the Waldorf. I'm 59, so if I'm lucky, I have a little time to make plans. Rather than grow old gracefully, I want to grow old gaudily, and let the raccoons have the run of the place.


As you can see from the excerpt above, this is a book that will have you laughing, snorting, and maybe about to pee on yourself (if you're of a certain age/bladder disposition)! Gina tells it like it, no holds barred, as we know from her previous book (I'm Not That I'm Bitter), and in this book that tradition continues. She is honest in her opinions, but pretty much states what used to be known as COMMON SENSE, just in a really hysterically funny way! Older readers will feel her thoughts on aging and coping with the younger generation(s) to be right on target. Learning to let go of keeping up perfection allows SO much inner peace, its almost criminal! And Gina JUST might inspire you to take a look at your life and decide to shake it up a bit, and let out your inner raccoon too! 

About the Author

GINA BARRECA is nationally syndicated columnist with Tribune News Service. She's the author of It's Not That I'm Bitter, Babes in Boyland, They Used to Call Me Snow White but I Drifted and co-author of I'm With Stupid: One Man, One Woman, and 10,000 Years of Misunderstandings Between The Sexes Cleared Right Up with Pulitzer Prize winner Gene Weingarten. She's a professor of English at UConn, and a member of the Friars' Club. She grew up in Brooklyn, NY but now lives in Storrs, CT. Go figure. 


  1. WOW! ‪#‎Thanks‬ Nicole Henke for the ‪#‎hug‬ of a review and for your generous, thoughtful words about the ‪#‎newbook‬! I am in your debt and delighted that you enjoyed IF YOU LEAN IN, WILL MEN JUST LOOK DOWN YOUR BLOUSE? Hooray for the ‪#‎Tribeofloudsmartwomen‬ ‪#‎loudsmartwomen‬ and ‪#‎troublemakers‬!!

    1. Gina

      Thanks so much for stopping in and for the shout out on Facebook! HUGS


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