Lost in Suburbia – A Momoir contradicts itself right there in the subtitle. How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself, and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs. Apart from being a mouthful, everyone knows it’s practically impossible to get your cool back in the Jersey suburbs. Of course, I had to read. Let me tell you, Tracy not only achieves “cool,” she attracts “cool.” She discovers it’s possible to be cool AND live in New Jersey, and she makes it clear that truly, wherever you live, being honest with yourself and having a sense of humor automatically defines you as cool.
Tracy lived in Manhattan, was a TV exec, and based much of her identity on how cool that was. She remained cool as she met her future husband and married him. Then she became pregnant, and as most of us know, the downward spiral from coolness happens quickly. Especially 20 years ago, when, as Tracy accurately surmises, “I think all maternity clothes were made by Garanimals.” Humor like this takes us through her pregnancy, the baby’s birth, and the dreaded bris. For those Jewish mothers intending to have a bris for their boys, heed her advice in the chapter aptly titled, “Why You Shouldn’t Let your Mohel Take The Red-eye To The Bris.” (The Mohel, pronounced “moy-el”, is the person who performs the circumcision.) She
explains that a Mohel can either be a doctor with some rabbinic training, or a Rabbi with some doctor training. She chose the former, since “If the guy was going to make a mistake, I preferred he screw up on the Hebrew rather than the surgery.” With that, we know she has her priorities straight.
She follows the arc so many of us do, which is to say, her family outgrows their tiny space in the city, needs more room, resigns themselves (after kicking and screaming) to the suburbs, and struggles with identity post-kids. What she does differently is write about it in such a way that I was snorting with laughter through every chapter, while relating to her experiences, and being caught off-guard by the perfectly-timed moments of poignancy when they happened. At one point, after having gone back to work post-baby, she came home at lunch time to discover her nanny (and a few other nannies) laughing, eating chinese food and watching tv while her baby (and a few other babies) were playing happily and contentedly nearby. She runs to the bedroom and calls her husband to tell him how unhappy she is. ”‘I thought I wanted to go back to work, but I hate my job and I miss our son and the nanny is having a better time than I am,’ I cried.” I was so moved by this, and I have never had a nanny, nor did I go back to work post-kids. That’s part of what makes her book so unusual. You don’t have to even come close to having had the same experience as Tracy in order to feel exactly what she feels in long-distance sympathy and understanding. It is SO relatable.
Hilarious moments (who hasn’t been stopped by a cop while in her ducky bathrobe, or ignored the Board of Health warning on a restaurant’s door, or interviewed the Chief of Police with a pair of thong underwear stuck to our shirt?) and personalities (everyone has a “Peanut-Free Cheryl” in their lives) make this so much fun to read, as do the moments of epiphany, such as one that comes when she is struggling to find “her people” among the New Moms set. Thinking she could be friends with anyone else who had kids the same age as hers failed miserably. She realized “Women who were annoying, narcissistic, shallow, or just plain boring before they had kids were still that way after they had them.” She conveys how hard isolating motherhood can be, but figures out a way back to find friends, a new career, and her cool. Though it’s my humble opinion that her cool was evident even when she thought it wasn’t.
On a serious note, one thing I absolutes LOVED in this book is the portrait she painted of her husband and her marriage. It’s never overtly stated, but from the way she writes about their interactions, they are so clearly best friends and have so much respect and love for each other, it made me wish I lived in New Jersey so we could double-date. Okay, maybe that’s going too far. But I at least wished they lived in Baltimore.
1. I received the book I’m reviewing here for free from the publisher.
2. I won another copy of the book in a Twitter Party. I’d make it a giveaway here, but I have no idea how to do that legally, and I’m lazy, so I’m just going to give it to my sister.
3. All opinions are my own, but are heavily influenced by how much coffee I have drunk.
4. I get no compensation for writing this review, except for the hope that if I ever get my sh*t together enough to write my own book, Tracy might consider writing a back-cover blurb for it, and possibly introduce me to Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess.
You can get your copy of Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir at this Amazon link.