In honor of International Women’s Day, I offer this book review

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Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, by John Gray

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

There are some books that you hear about and you hear about and you hear about, and eventually you think, “Hmmm, maybe I ought to read that. It’s had a huge cultural impact on our society, it might be a good idea to be in on that.” Kind of like seeing Stars Wars, E.T. and the Godfather Trilogy (I still haven’t seen E.T. or the Godfather Trilogy, but I hear they’re both great). It’s just a big cultural thing, you know?

With books, there are a few that everyone needs to know. There are the obvious ones — classics written by the likes of Dickens, Austen, and Hawthorne. There are those timeless works that were never meant to be popularly read, but rather popularly seen (Shakespeare, Euripides, Sophocles, Malowe), yet have somehow become English High School standard fare. And then there are the books that ripple through our space and time. Oprah said this, or my friend said that, or a church is protesting against this. The books that capture the public attention for longer than the space of a breath and manage to hold it.¬†Sometimes these books have actually earned that attention. In most cases, not so much. This book? It really didn’t.

It said nothing that we haven’t heard before. It actually reinforced a lot of offensive stereotypes. As a woman, one I personally took offense to was in the introduction. John Gray’s telling the story of how, after his wife (Bonnie) had torn while giving birth to their first child, she’d been put on pain killers. After he took 5 days off from work to help her with taking care of the newborn, he returned to work. That day she apparently ran out of sick pills and asked his visiting brother to pick up a refill. For some reason, the brother didn’t return with the pills. When the author/husband returned that evening, his in-pain wife starts crying to him about her day, he takes offense and they get in a fight.

All perfectly reasonable and normal. Newborn baby, stressful times, blah, blah, blah. The reason this is important is because this is the authors so-called “Ah-ha!” moment. He apparently, at this point, turns to storm out, and his wife says, “John Gray, stop! You’re a fair weather friend! You love me when I’m smiley and happy, but you don’t like me when I’m frowny and down!” Or something to that effect. I’ve made it even cheesier than it was in the book, but let me assure you: it was pretty cheesy in the book. I am willing to bet it was not that cheesy in real life.

Anyway, long story short, the author says that he realized his wife was right, all she needed was a hug, he’d been a taker and not a giver, blah blah blah. Then he said what pissed me off and made me throw the book across the room with a growl (don’t worry, it was an old, beat-up copy that I obtained second-hand from a free bin). And I quote, “Another woman would have instinctively known what Bonnie needed. But as a man, I didn’t know that touching, holding, and listening were so important to her.” I hate those kind of blanket statements, and I have to admit I’m prone to dismissing any advice that comes from someone who makes those types of statements. Do you know what I, a born and raised female, do when someone cries? I pat them awkwardly on the shoulder and ask if there’s someone I can call.

People come in all flavors, and a blanket, generic statement isn’t going to capture them. Neither is a condescending attitude of, “Remember back when you lived on Venus and I lived on Mars? Remember what that was like? Now we live on mean old Earth that has made us forget all those Venusian and Marsian traits!” My gosh, it’s like a Scientology manual gone mad. I wonder if it is.

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