• By Kali Benjamin
  • Posted Monday, May 21, 2018

Books We Like

Bachelor Nation : Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman

My name is Kali, and I belong to Bachelor Nation. You can find me on my couch on Monday nights, 8pm on the dot, adjusting my antenna (who has cable anymore?) in a fruitless attempt to stop the screen from jumping so that I don’t miss a minute of the show (a minute is a long time when you’re only dating someone for eight weeks and are expecting a 2.3 carat ring in the end.) Does bingeing on The Bachelor make me a bad feminist? What is it about this contrived, faux romance that draws in 6 million viewers every Monday night? In journalist Amy Kaufman’s debut book, Bachelor Nation : Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure, she explores this cultural fascination through interviews with various producers, fans, and contestants in order to reveal the show’s dark and manipulative inner workings - making for an illuminating read for any die-hard fan.
Author Amy Kaufman is a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, and a long-time member of Bachelor Nation franchise - having once even been invited to attend show events before being banned by ABC after her coverage got a little too “real” for its liking. Through her insider perspective, Kaufman is able to provide us with a behind the scenes look at the inner workings of The Bachelor, from tales of producer manipulation to alcohol-fueled debauchery (do Corinne and DeMario come to mind?) to what our fascination means, culturally, and what the show says about our lingering Austen-esque views on romance, marriage, and our deeply ingrained, Disney-fueled infatuation for our own (unrealistic) “happily ever after” scenario. Kaufman explores every aspect of the show from the roots of TV romance , the creation of the fantasy, the bubble effect of the mansion (no outside contact, no books, no music, but all the alcohol you could ever want), dramatic editing and producer manipulation, to contestants riding the coattails of The Bachelor following their appearances on the show. She explores the show’s cultural significance and influence through its stereotypical heteronormative lens, prompting both the book’s reader and show’s watcher to explore and discuss the appeal of the concept of “romance” in regard to maintaining feminism without sacrificing femininity, our subconscious yearning for fulfillment and companionship, and basic human behavior in a simulated environment. Also, as a way to break up these in-depth analyses, Kaufman peppers her book with interviews with various celebrity fans and their opinion of the show, from the likes of Amy Schumer to Donnie Wahlberg.
The Bachelor may have started out as a much needed escape from reality after 9/11, but it now prompts us with “bigger, more fundamental questions we need to be grappling with: Why are so many of us desperate for the type of fame that television can bring? Why is it so easy - and so fun - to judge others from the privacy of our own homes? And why do so many of us depend on romantic love to validate our worth?” How can we balance our subconscious longing for companionship and impossible romantic ideals (what, we don’t all go on extravagant and luxurious dates in St. Lucia one week, Paris the next?) while maintaining our independence and feminism? It’s okay to love things that seem to be at odds with feminism while being a feminist, and Kaufman’s cultural analysis supports that. So embrace your fandom openly, watch The Bachelor through a critical lens, and read Kaufman’s book - pair it with a nice rosé for your next “Bach Discush.”

And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell

Meaghan O’Connell’s personal account of the road to and through pregnancy/motherhood is nothing but refreshing. Honest and intimate, O’Connell captures the tangled thoughts of the many women as they approach their thirties - all the agony of the someday’s, maybe’s, and eventually’s. She tackles the innermost thoughts of women of this generation while going against societal tropes of motherhood - making for a compelling read for mothers, anyone considering motherhood, or those who are definitely not — this novel is meant for every woman.
O’Connell begins her memoir where you would expect her to - the realization of her first pregnancy. Barely one week past her engagement to her longtime boyfriend, she experiences that ever-so-relatable, “...am I pregnant?” scenario that forces her and her new fiance to come to grips with an unplanned pregnancy. This realization brings with it a dizzying jumble of emotions for O’Connell, as her opening lines bluntly state: “A baby was the thing we were trying to keep out.” Eventually conceding, O’Connell describes how “part of me loved this feeling, of being steamrolled by life, of being totally f*****,” and “wanting something I [she] didn’t want,” she describes their lack of preparedness through vivid detail, noting their “...refrigerator was at least fifty years old, another reason we were ill equipped to be parents.” Unlike the fluff we’re used to - a couple embracing, nothing short of thrilled upon the achievement of their impending parenthood, Meaghan (I feel like we can be on a first-name basis now, after reading such a personal memoir) provides raw insight into pregnancy and childbirth; including all of the not-so-palpable aspects.
Meaghan goes on to share every intimate detail of her pregnancy with her readers, from haunting nightmares to the toll on her body; "My entire middle section ... looked like a balloon that had been deflated but also, somehow, was full of wet dough ... It bore no resemblance to any version of myself I'd ever seen." She writes about spending her days Googling everything about pregnancy, from statistics of postpartum depression to website after website comparing babies to various types of produce, but is ultimately unable to answer the unanswerable: “What will it be like?” and, “How will it change me?” She stretches beyond that well-worn pregnancy narrative that we’re so used to and instead asks, “What if instead of worrying about scaring women, we told them the truth?”...“What if we treated women like thinking adults?"
Ultimately, as Meaghan O’Connell recounts her experience of an unplanned pregnancy as she nears her thirties, she provides an engaging and candid look into her own journey of self-examination. And Now We Have Everything is the memoir that finally provides us with a realistic insight into one of the most universally shared experiences in the world. Using an appropriate amount of dark humor and wit, Meaghan, in all her honesty and frankness, has become a beacon for those of us also staring down the barrel of motherhood. With And Now We Have Everything, Meaghan O’Connell has become the voice of the women of our generation by passing on to us her sincere account of what it feels like to become a mother without necessarily feeling like a grown-up yet.

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