Area Woman Blows Gasket: And Other Tales from the Domestic Frontier


"In this collection of essays, columnist Patricia Pearson takes us on a hilarious tour of our twenty-first-century obsessions and distractions." In Area Woman Blows Gasket, Pearson plumbs every facet of modern life, marriage, and motherhood, from choosing the right vegan-bran-hemp diet for your family to confronting your husband's irrational fear of mayonnaise to finding a way to return to work and not turn your child into a contract killer. Adult education classes, therapy, $100 haircuts, the latest news on what causes cancer, Christmas shopping ...
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Area Woman Blows Gasket: And Other Tales from the Domestic Frontier

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"In this collection of essays, columnist Patricia Pearson takes us on a hilarious tour of our twenty-first-century obsessions and distractions." In Area Woman Blows Gasket, Pearson plumbs every facet of modern life, marriage, and motherhood, from choosing the right vegan-bran-hemp diet for your family to confronting your husband's irrational fear of mayonnaise to finding a way to return to work and not turn your child into a contract killer. Adult education classes, therapy, $100 haircuts, the latest news on what causes cancer, Christmas shopping - all come into sharp focus with the help of Pearson's comic eye.
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Editorial Reviews

Bruce McCall
"You'll laugh along with her on every page of this smart, irreverent, and best of all funny, funny book."
Albany Times Union
"Pearson's writing is side-splittingly funny… amid the debris of the near-disasters perpetrated by her children, there's a tender mother hanging on to her identity at all costs."
Los Angeles Times
"Screamingly funny…No aspect of modern American life escapes Pearson's inquiring mind."
Hartford Courant
"Pearson…shows just how complicated (and laugh-generating) the pursuit of the simple life can be."
Nancy Lemann
"[Pearson's] attempts to deal with her anxieties, phobias, neuroses and addictions touch a mysterious universal chord that is most endearing and hilarious and inspiring."
Muffy Mead-Ferro
"Not only did I giggle to myself throughout this book…I came out on the other end knowing one thing for certain: I want to be more like her."
Karen Karbo
"Area Woman has … exposed the emperor of contemporary culture for being the nudist we all suspect he is. Read it and sob with laughter."
Library Journal
Many of us are fed up with our peculiar North American lifestyle, given the relentless pressure to purchase still more despite all our existing creature comforts. Often, it's the bizarre advertising methods and messages to incite our consuming responses that most provoke Canadian freelance journalist Pearson, who writes about it with excitable and pointed, if uneven, hilarity. She takes on Christmas, health news and fads, early-morning television programs, gadgetry, and common childcare issues (e.g., getting a tired-but-wired child to sleep before mom) with a refreshingly comic eye for the absurd, including herself. For larger memoir collections. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Canadian journalist Pearson (When She Was Bad, 1997, etc.) offers some mildly amusing, finally innocuous comments on organic foods, daycare and surviving motherhood. Pearson's gently satiric essays, many originally published in the National Post, seem to have lost their stringency this far south, where debates on carcinogenic foods, the invasion of privacy by credit departments and the evils of daycare have been swirling around for years. Written in a punchy, bulleted style meant for easy digestion, Pearson's flippant pieces excoriate the newfangled (American) way of food efficiency in favor of old-fashioned cooking: e.g., microwave popcorn's "flavor vapors" may cause cancer, so she offers the cheaper kernel-pot method. For Christmas, she eschews annoying electronic toys for her two small children in favor of such home-style devices as a stick, the cat and toilet paper. She has rejected the "hostile little ecosystem of female rivalry, with a smell of sugar-coated bitchiness," also known as the department-store beauty department, and now frequents a barbershop for a $15 haircut. To mitigate the guilt of dumping children in daycare, Pearson "researched" biographies of some famous people who grew up under surrogate parents (Elizabeth I, Jane Austen) and concludes, "Studies show that thinking of oneself as a semi-divine being can often compensate for decapitated or working mother." The substantial last section takes place in the village of Tepoztlan, Mexico, where the author holed her family up for six months to find "simplicity," and instead battled mangy dogs and importunate landlords. Frustrated by the language barrier, she offers some poignant remarks on being a new immigrant (she nowsympathizes with New Canadians who bemoan the "Aura of Rank Stupidity" their beginning English conveys) and a very funny anecdote about visiting el dentista where "dolor" becomes "dollars." Overall, Pearson's voice is almost engagingly naive, though her subjects are fairly derivative. A Great White North pundit altogether too nice for south of the border. . .
From the Publisher
Praise for Playing House:
“Think Bridget Jones’s Diary and Sex and the City meet Good Housekeeping and Today’s Parent. Vodka tonics meet baby bottles. Designer clothes meet grubby little hands…. Patricia Pearson made me laugh out loud.”
Ottawa Citizen

“I felt as if I had been entertained at a dinner … where I had grabbed the arms of my dinner mates on either side, mothers all, to keep myself from falling off my chair in laughter.”
The Globe and Mail

“Too well written to be dismissed as ‘chick lit.’”

“A fresh and lively romp … will leave you lusting for more.”
Toronto Sun

“Fresh, funny and sweet without being sugary.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582345369
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 4/11/2005
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Pearson is a columnist for Maclean’s and a former columnist for the National Post. She is also a frequent contributor to USA Today and the author of the novel Playing House, which was nominated for the 2004 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian and Cosmopolitan, and she has won three Canadian National Magazine Awards. She lives in the Gatineaus with her husband and two children.
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Read an Excerpt


The other day, I had to write an op-ed for USA Today, which meant that I had to formulate an opinion about something in the news, and this required tracking the news, which is like following an exploding bag of confetti. Facts fly out of media damnably fast, with spectacular aimlessness, and pundits who try to pursue those facts develop something less like wisdom and more like ADD.

“Did you know that the average person swallows five spiders a year?” I asked my husband last night.

“No, I did not,” he replied, “and don’t tell me you’re going to write a column about it.”

“Actually, I don’t plan to,” I said, “because, also, the Middle East is burning down, and some woman sued McDonald’s because she burned her mouth on a pickle, and the actor Richard Harris died, and he had cancer, and women who took the Pill in the sixties are more prone to breast cancer, and cancer charities are being given stock options as a new form of donation, and donations are up for Hillary Clinton, and so are polls, and a new poll suggests that more people in Europe are smoking pot, and pots are on sale at Wal-Mart.”

“I don’t suppose you remembered to buy cat food at the corner store,” my husband replied.

“No, I forgot,” I said. This is how conversations go in our house – I believe the term is nonlinear. “But,” I added, “it would help if the dog stopped gobbling the kitten kibble in addition to his own specially formulated Science Diet for Seniors.”

Of course, my husband likes to point out that our dog and three cats could subsist quite happily on an undifferentiated blend of sparrow corpses and wood chips, if I would just stop buying into the “science” and “expertise” of the pet food industry. But I cannot. I read the news. How, in good conscience, could I feed them dead birds when a “new study shows” that only specially formulated Science Diet for Seniors – or a similar competing brand – will ease digestion in older dogs? How, for that matter, could I, as a worried mother, wife, and woman who wants to reach a ripe old age, ignore what “a new book argues” or what “scientists now believe” about anything?

As I write, a new study shows that “three out of four mothers have no idea what should be in a balanced diet for their children. Food fads and health scares are so common, it has left most mums confused.”

Indeed. That is one way to put it. Addled, guilt-ridden, anxious, constantly at cross-purposes trying to keep up – those are other phrases that spring to mind.

But not to worry. If the news proves too vexing, you have choices. You may choose not to follow it, with the only real consequence being that you never know when the emergency evacuation orders are issued for your town or the cheese you’ve been feeding your children has been abruptly recalled from the shelves.

Alternatively, you may choose to follow select streams of news, pertaining for instance to global warming, the possibility of abrupt climate change, terrorism, and what’s up with Brad and Jennifer. Otherwise, ignore the headlines, and calm yourself down with therapy of some sort. I’ve tried this. It turns out that there are some challenging choices along that road, too. You find yourself whacking through a thicket of options in terms of retail, pharmaceutical, athletic, vacation, or talk therapy, and then have to select from all the vast bemusing subsets to be found therein. So you might skip therapy. Seek wisdom instead. Dabble in kabbalah and change your name to Esther, hire a pet psychic, have your palm read, audit every single course at the Learning Annex. There are so many contradictory possibilities, you could write a book about it. Certainly, I did.

But first, I confronted a basic choice, an A or B question that I highly recommend your answering: Stand in your kitchen clutching parenting books in one hand and credit card options in the other, while the cats eat the dog’s kibble and the phone rings off the hook, and decide whether to laugh or to cry.

News We Can’t Use

Hemp Waffles: Betcha Can’t Eat Just One

The other day, I bought some organic maple syrup, because I’d read something alarming in the paper about lead being present in ordinary maple syrup. I’m not sure if this was because the sap was being stirred with pencils or because the syrup was simmered in vats covered with heavy X-ray blankets. But all neurotic parents know that lead exposure will either kill their offspring or turn them into violent psychopaths. And it is my job, my calling, my necessity and pleasure, to guide my two children through the shoals of a childhood filled with fast-flowing traffic and pedophiles, pesticide residues, asbestos-lined walls, and lead-infused condiments to a safe footing on the shore of adulthood. So I purchased some organic syrup, and then I went home and poured it onto a pair of Eggo waffles.

After a few bites, I put down my fork and stared at my plate. This is sort of silly, I thought. What health advantage am I pursuing? Surely whatever lurks in ordinary maple syrup couldn’t be worse for my family than the unidentified substances that menace our bodies via frozen waffles. If I’m going to be a good mother, I should buy organic waffles.

Thus I went to my local health food store and immediately confronted the domino effect of one organic ingredient demanding another. Organic flax-seed blueberry waffles cry out for organic butter, which in turn demands to be spread on organic bread, or at least on English muffins crafted of spelt, which then require, as logic dictates, a container of organic jam. And so forth and so on, all the way across the food chain, until one has no money left to pay for the children’s shoes. Eventually, I drew the line at soybean potpie. People who won’t eat organic chicken in a potpie shouldn’t eat a potpie; they should eat something else. Like a tofu burger or a chickpea steak. Or really what I am saying – to myself, since I’m talking to myself in the health food store – is that vegetarians ought to get over their weird conceptual attachment to meat and stop eating pretend-meat products. Carnivores don’t try to make their meat taste like vegetables, after all. They don’t go to rib joints and ask for shredded pork slaw or salads made of giblets.

I also refused to buy vegan lip balm.

“What’s vegan about this lip balm?” I asked the proprietor, a handsome Asian man with a slicked-back ponytail and a white T-shirt pulled taut over his muscles.

“No beeswax,” he said, which failed to enlighten me.

“What’s wrong with beeswax? Is it bad for you, or are the bees being maltreated? They’re not free-range bees? Is that it?”

“It’s a vegan thing,” he said, mysteriously.

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Table of Contents


News We Can’t Use
Hemp Waffles: Betcha Can’t Eat Just One
The Doctor Will See You Now, Sir. Sir? (A Word About Men, Women, and Health News)
The Fastest Food in the West
To Market, to Market, ’Cause I’m a Fat Pig
Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk
How to Get Hives Trying to Follow News of Cancer

Choices We Don’t Care to Make
Top Ten Toys in the Pearson Household
Shop and Do Twenty
Beauty Shop Bullies
Shave and a Hair Cut
Buy Toothpaste, Call Dad, Plan Funeral for Self
To Be Mrs. or Not to Be Mrs.
The Illusion of Choice
Let It All Come Down

Consolations for the Neurotic Modern Parent
Shakespeare’s Nanny
Sleeping Beauties
Is That a Cheerio Stuck to My Pants, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
Penises and Pryin’ Eyes
My Lousy Job
Almost-Forgotten Rites of Passage
My Sunny Valentine
The Seven Circles of Heck

Some Thoughts on Grabbing Wisdom to Go
Brushes with Royalty
And What News of the King?
To Get Famous in America, You Must Set Your Alarm
Speak to Your Dog and Grow Rich
Ode to Doreen Virtue, Ph.D.
You Don’t Want to Know What Your Therapist Is Thinking
The Five-Minute Phobia Cure

Efforts at Escape
La Dentista
A Simpler Life at Casa Patsy
The Neighbours in the Shrubbery
Some Thoughts on Being an Immigrant
A Word About Ambition
Serenity with a Full Complement of Spies


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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2005

    It says the things we all are thinking

    A friend recommended this book to me and I found myself nodding my head saying 'that's so true' (in between bursts of laughter) at every section. Reminiscent of Jen LiMarzi's Fingers Crossed, Legs Uncrossed, it says everything we are or should be thinking but don't have the time to say! Great read.

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