Style, Sex, Substance:Frank Talk from Catholic Women – UPDATED

The first time I head the title of Hallie Lord’s new book, I was intrigued:

Then I saw the list of formidable female writers Hallie had assembled to write ten frank, strong, funny, thoughtful and wrenching essays on the challenges of living an authentically Catholic life in a world where women are expected to take their cues from Kim Kardashian and Reality Wives (no thinking required) or Hillarys-Clinton-or-Rosen (the thinking is settled). I was hooked.

What writers? Besides Hallie herself there’s Catholic Digest editor, Danielle Bean, writing on Marriage; screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi on Engaging the Culture; the Register’s Simcha Fisher on Motherhood; Patheos’ own Elizabeth Duffy writing with typical honesty on Sex; Rachel Balducci covering Friendship, Anna Mitchell on Being Single; Rebecca Teti on Work; Karen Edmisten on Spirituality, and Conversion Diary’s Jennifer Fulwiler, whose humorous, lively and instructive essay, How I Fell Out of My Minivan and into My Identity is reprinted in its entirety, here at Patheos:

The ladies at church seemed startled when I climbed out of the window of my minivan.

When the driver’s side door handle broke the week before, I decided to avoid the overwhelming task of getting it fixed by learning to live without a functioning car door. I was too tall to scoot over the seat and out the passenger side, but I grew up watching The Dukes of Hazzard and knew that entering and exiting vehicles through windows was a perfectly viable option. In fact, people wouldn’t even realize that anything was wrong! They’d be so impressed with my smooth moves that they’d just think I was too awesome to open the door.

I quickly learned that the upper-body-strength to lower-body-weight ratio of the lean, male, twenty-something actors who starred in The Dukes of Hazzard is quite different from that of a thirty-four-year-old mother with a penchant for cookies ‘n cream ice cream. Also, that the window of a minivan is about two feet higher off the ground than that of the sporty vehicle featured in the TV show.

Unfortunately, one of my first experiences with these realities occurred in front of my acquaintances from church.

A lady named Teresa, whom I knew through mutual friends, walked over to say hello. I tried to wave—this was mid-exit—but my foot got stuck in the steering wheel and I lost my balance. I tumbled out the window, letting some profanity slip as I grasped for something to break my fall. Teresa glanced nervously at her children, probably not sure whether to assist me or flee while she had the chance.

I stood up, brushed myself off, and proceeded to make small talk. Assuming that she was also there to drop her children off at the parish Mother’s Day Out program, I made a little joke in reference to the increasingly ominous noises coming from inside my car. “If only we could drop them off by catapult, right?”

“We homeschool,” she explained with a smile, nodding towards the three smartly dressed children standing politely beside her. “We’re just here for daily Mass.”

Oh, splat. I can so identify! Read the rest here, and by the time you’ve finished you’ll know that you really need to own this book!

Hallie Lord is, to my way of thinking, something of an American Original. Her essay in the book is on style, and that’s not surprising, as she is a style-maven and an online-personal shopper (I am hiring her as soon as I lose 10, or 70 pounds); she’s also the proprietress of the creative blog Betty Beguiles; Beauty Romance and Style with a Vintage Twist. Tony Rossi recently interviewed Hallie for a Christopher Closeup podcast, and as she talks about how Catholic women can feel sometimes feel isolated in their experiences (and how these essays work to belie that impression) her charm and energy come through loud and clear!

I’ve heard a few people say this book is as good for men as it is for women, because it gives men some insight into what their wives or girlfriends or mothers are facing or thinking as the days go by. That’s probably true. All I know is, Mother’s Day is coming and this is a great gift for a woman you love! I’m getting a copy for my niece.

Read a review of Style, Sex and Substance at Brandon Vogt’s The Thin Veil.

I told you Hallie was “an original.”
I am so far behind on email that I just found this — the Lord family’s solution to hearing recently that I was having a bad day and in need of a prayer or two:

How adorable is that? And how kind, and generous and sweet? What a good way to live your life, doing small sweet things for others, just because you can! Thanks, guys!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Mandy P.

    I read the essay. Good stuff! I liked Jenninfer Fulwiler’s blog anyway, though. And I love, love, love Simcha Fischer. She is hysterical! I think I will add this to my reading list. :)

  • Marie Bernadette (@MbernadetteE)

    I’m no mother, but I wouldn’t mind if someone picked this up for me! I keep hearing great things about this book. Glad to hear you concur with all the other great minds :)

  • Manny

    I loved reading the exerpt. Jenninfer Fulwiler has this way of reflecting on her life’s experience that makes sense of our Catholic teaching, and she does it with a great sense of humor. I have read her blog and find it just as compelling. It probably takes a convert to really fathom our teaching. By the way I saw her being interviewed on Life On the Rock (EWTN) this week and she was as interesting in person as in her writing.

  • Hallie Lord

    You are such a sweetheart, Elizabeth. Thank you so, so much for all your encouragement and support!

    Oh, and that picture cracks me up! It’s such a perfect representation of their personalities. Especially that one on the right. She’s all kinds of crazy. ;)

  • Momma Kyle

    A quick thank you before I go to order this book—would miss so many great ones with out your posts!!!

  • Matt

    While the majority of reviews for this book have been very positive, a friend of mine has some concerns that seem reasonable….

    Mrs Scalia, any thoughts?

    [I mostlyconcur with Barbara Nicolosi's comments. Your friend finds the book theologically sound but not to her taste. That's legit. I expect the vast majority of Catholic women -- those not so scholarly yet not completely uncatechised -- will do what people do with a book of this type: love some parts of it but not others. People have different tastes in things. For instance, she hated Elizabeth Duffy's chapter, I liked it and probably for exactly the same reasons that she hated it. It would be a truly dull and uninteresting world if we all thought the same precise things, had the same taste and came at ideas, material, learning and so forth in precisely the same way. Ten chapters from ten women are going to resonate ten different ways. I saw similar critiques of Disorientation; How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind (which I contributed to) with some folks saying some chapters were too intellectual, others too un-intellectual, etc. Individual taste always comes into play. I liked the book very much, and I have no problem endorsing it b/c theologically, it is sound.-admin]