Is there are special sub-section in the misery-memoir genre for stories told with self-deprecating humour? I think there is and Rosie Waterland’s The Anti Cool Girl is the latest addition.
Like Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors and Liam Pieper’s The Feel Good Hit of the Year, Waterland takes you through her childhood, one filled with addict parents, overdoses, stints in rehab with her mother, butchers’ knife attacks, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, bullying, abusive foster parents, suicide attempts and periods of homelessness. And she’s only 28.
I would hate to think that the reading public are becoming desensitized to these ‘horror’ childhood memoirs – no eight-year-old should be waiting up at midnight not knowing if their mum is coming home that night and, if she does, how drunk she’ll be. No eight-year-old should think of rehab as a holiday. No eight-year-old should have to see their parents passed out in a pool of vomit and shit.
“After starting on her first bottle of wine mid-afternoon, by the time she finished her fourth at 7pm, she had already reached what I like to call her ‘Dignified Royal’ stage (a stage which involves far too much faux indignation for someone who only makes it to the toilet half the time). “
Waterland shares a few gems of wisdom (stuff* that I’ll remember) that did make me laugh –
“…he said he loved me after a week, which, believe me, is never, ever true. Someone telling you they love you when you’ve only been dating a week is like someone telling you they like ‘Two and a Half Men’ when they’ve only seen the opening credits. It’s a very big – and very misguided – call to make.”
“I’m a firm believer in the theory that you never truly know how drunk you are until you’re sitting in a toilet cubicle alone. That’s when you realise how much the floor is spinning and how you can’t get your eyes to focus on the love poem Tammy wrote about Corey’s sexy rat’s tail in 2002. You go into that cubicle feeling like you could take over the goddamn world, and you leave it barely able to walk.”
Perhaps Waterland’s glib tone is her way of dealing with all that happened to her. I don’t know. I’m sure that many people will laugh at her stories but I found the majority very, very sad. And regardless of who’s writing it (and the fact that it’s their story and they can tell it whatever way they choose), I just can’t laugh about the sexual abuse of children or watching your mum attempt suicide.
Rosie has her own recipe for chicken soup. I’m sure it’s very good but I do like more of a chowder-style in my chicken soup.
* like Maggie Alderson’s advice, “Never trust a man with two mobile phones.”