Jen Lancaster & Imaginary Friends

Bright Lights, Big Ass Jen Lancester“Did you get my email?”

“Hm?”  I was reading Jen Lancaster’s Bright Lights, Big Ass, which was so funny I hadn’t checked my email in two hours.

“I said I’d read Proust with you.”

Huh? How could I think about Proust when I was reading Lancaster?

“Did you comment at my blog?”  I teased. (I recently invited people to read Proust with me.)

“I’m too shy to comment.”

No, why go online?  I’ll read his email later.  Lancaster is just too funny.

Bright Lights, Big Ass begins with a letter to Carrie Bradshaw (“from the desk of Miss Jennifer A. Lancaster).

Dear Carrie Bradshaw,

You are a fucking liar.

And for that matter, so are Jay McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis, and everyone else who’s ever claimed city life to be nothing but a magical, mythical, all-around transcendent experience chock-full of beautiful, morally ambiguous people lounging around at fabulous parties, clad in stilettos, and offering up free piles of blow….

No one’s ever offered me anything more provocative than a cough drop or a hug in my ten years here in Chicago.

Nor where I live, Jen.  There are no fabulous parties here, except political fundraisers and barbecues where people in jeans and hoodies mill around the back yard drinking beer and listening to Johnny Cash.  And though I’m sure there are coke-induced all-nighters at clubs, the houses on my street are dark at 10 p.m.

in Lancaster’s hilarious collection of essays, e-mails, lists, and logs, she describes working as a temp, riding the bus, her husband’s meat loaf, a visit to the OB/GYN, and the bureaucracy of the public library.

I laughed over her horror of women’s wellness exams. The nurse, who doesn’t take well to Jen’s jokes about weight gain, provides her with a paper, not a cloth, gown, and  Jen thinks this is because she is fat.

Nurse Ratched advises me to strip completely, and as I undress I wonder if “completely” includes my socks.  Erring on the side of caution, I toss them aside first, pleased with having the foresight to give myself a fresh pedicure.  Earlier this morning, I also brushed my teeth a second time and flossed.  Fletch noted my excellent dental hygiene and asked,”Is that the end they’re going to examine?”

In another essay, when Jen gets bored writing at home and tries to distract her husband, he suggests that she go talk to her “imaginary online friends.”

They aren’t make-believe.  Besides, I’ve already done that.”

Carrie Bradshaw

Carrie Bradshaw

I certainly have my share of “imaginary” friends, and Jen is one of them.  Jen is a Roseanne-cum-Carrie-Bradshaw Everywoman who has gained 50 pounds since her sorority days, is funny and “mouthy” (a word my mother used to use), and doesn’t care for “hippie vegans.” (Okay, I’m almost in the hippie vegan category ). Her politics are horribly conservative (she rarely mentions them, thank God).  I very much enjoy her humor, though.

Carrie Bradshaw is another imaginary friend, a kind, gentle, liberal soul with whom I have little in common:  I am not much of a shopper, and so much of Sex and the City is about shopping.  I have never worn high heels–they cripple the feet–and Carrie’s tutu doesn’t come in my size.  I also prefer her jazz musician boyfriend to Mr. Big.

But in Sex and the City, I recognize the importance of the support network of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte.  In real life, women do get together and talk unselfconsciously about taboo subjects, and though Samantha may be the only character in a sitcom to return a vibrator and loudly advise other women in the store on the effectiveness of the different “massagers,” there is an underlying wholesomeness and empowerment of unmarried women in these episodes.

We are not Jen Lancaster or Carrie Bradshaw, but we write about our lives, real or imaginary, with details slightly changed “to protect the innocent and keep the neighbors from egging my house,” as Jen Lancaster says.

Here’s to imaginary friends and online life!

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