In this self-help age, people write lists of personal affirmations, keep weekly journals of gratitude, and even offer hugs to strangers. Humorist Valerie Frankel had heard all the talk about toxic emotions, but when she was hit by health problems and a career crisis, she knew that she had had enough. With feelings of rage coming to a boil, she decided to express all the negative emotions that she had been working so hard (and so ineffectively) to suppress. Out came the emotions; jealousy, envy, impatience, greed, unbridled hate. It's Hard Not to Hate You might not cure you of all the bad things in your life, but it should make you less uptight about dealing with them.
It's Hard Not to Hate Youby Valerie Frankel
From the author of Thin Is the New Happy comes a hilarious memoir about embracing your Inner Hater
"The hate in you has got to come out." The day her doctor gave her this advice, Valerie Frankel realized the biggest source of pressure in her life was maintaining an unflappable easygoing persona. So she decides to go on a mission of emotional honesty,/i>
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From the author of Thin Is the New Happy comes a hilarious memoir about embracing your Inner Hater
"The hate in you has got to come out." The day her doctor gave her this advice, Valerie Frankel realized the biggest source of pressure in her life was maintaining an unflappable easygoing persona. So she decides to go on a mission of emotional honesty, vowing to let herself feel and express all the toxic emotions she'd long suppressed or denied: jealousy, rage, greed, envy, impatience, regret. She reveals her personal History of Hate, from mean girls in junior high to selfish boyfriends in her twenties and old professional rivals. Hate stomps through her life, too, with snobby neighbors, rude cell phone talkers, scary doctors, and helicopter moms. Regarding her husband, she asks, "How Do I Hate You? Let Me Count The Ways." (FYI: There are three.) Can it be that toxic emotions are actually good for you? That the positive thinkers, aka The Secret crowd, have it backward? It's Hard Not To Hate You explores the concept that there are no wrong emotionsonly wrong ways of dealing with them.
Prolific chick-lit novelist and funny girl Frankel (Thin Is the New Happy: A Memoir, 2008, etc.) dishes about what there is to love about hatred.
In her latest, the author explores the more unseemly side of her nature. The resulting string of essays on negativity and its pursuits includes a number of hilarious moments alongside helpful, hard-won insights into parenting and the nature of complaining. When presented with the grim news that she and most of her family are genetically predisposed to a variety of abdominal cancers, Frankel opted to look within to see whether a change of attitude might improve her state: "My doctor told me the hate in me just had to come out. I followed his orders, fessing up to jealousy, phoniness, coldness, bitterness, insecurity, envy, distrust, impatience, revulsion, pettiness, bitchiness. Name the hate, I let it out. The big question: Was I happier for it?" Answer: not entirely. "I'd say that I was generally more 'er' about all of my emotions," writes Frankel, "which (bonus) made me deeper." Though longing for the critical acclaim afforded select other members of the chick literati, the author confesses an unwillingness to dispense with her self-professed shallowness: "If misery were required for depth, I'd rather be a lesser artist. In fact, Iwasa lesser artist." Frankel admits having been born into a family of "kvetchperts," and she looks to her youth, when she was rejected by the "in" crowd and criticized by her mother because of her weight. Though this loosely chronological account exhibits the vague arc of plot development and emotional growth, the memoir lacks the narrative cohesion and relevance needed to give it theje ne sais quoiof a bestseller.
With humor, Frankel shrewdly probes her darkly shallow places.
“With humor, Frankel shrewdly probes her darkly shallow places.” Kirkus Reviews
“Fans ... will especially enjoy learning more about what makes the funny, warm Frankel tick.” Publishers Weekly
“Fast and funny, tart and taut, in your face and genuinely helpful for anyone who's felt tense, fat, overmanaged, underloved, or just plain human.” Library Journal
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It's Hard Not to Hate You
By Valerie Frankel
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2011 Valerie Frankel
All rights reserved.
I might've broken the official Guinness World Record for longest sulk in history. It started at 3:30 PM on Friday, as soon as I stepped off the schoolbus on the corner by my house in Short Hills, New Jersey. I dragged myself home and sank into the couch in what we called the den. The epic mope continued, unabated, until Sunday afternoon.
"Why don't you call someone?" asked Judy, my mom.
She didn't know that I had attempted to scrounge up plans.
"Hello, Mrs. Allen," I said when I'd called. "It's Valerie. Is Amy there?"
Muffled sound of the mouthpiece being palmed. Then Amy's mom came back on the line. "I'm sorry, she's at her cousin's in Connecticut for the weekend."
"Hello, Mrs. Bernstein," I tried next. "Is Brenda there?"
"One second," she said. The white noise of being put on hold filled my ear. Then, crackle, she came back on the line and said, "Sorry, Brenda went to the movies with her dad."
I could almost see Brenda standing next to her mother, nodding approvingly while they conspired to lie to me. In all fairness, Amy and Brenda weren't really my "friends" anyway (anymore). Once, we'd pricked our fingers with a pin and declared ourselves blood sisters. But that was forever ago, back in sixth grade. We were in seventh grade now. Sixth-grade graduates from the five elementary schools across Short Hills and Millburn Township converged at the bigger, tougher junior high. Old loyalties suddenly irrelevant, the friendship deck was reshuffled. Amy and Brenda — skinny, cute, with shiny hair and clear skin — were among the queens of the new social strata.
I used to be cute. Then, the summer between sixth and seventh grade, my clear skin sprouted spots. My shiny hair frizzed. If I'd ever been slender, I was now plump. I saw the changes in the mirror, and hoped no one would notice. They did. Amy and Brenda, fearing contagion, took one look at me in September and froze me out. In the hallways, when I said hi, their eyes turned to glass. It was as if they'd never known me, like we hadn't spent countless sleepovers at each other's houses, mingled finger blood, and flashed our incoming pubic hair.
While twisting in the precarious social state of "between cliques," I hadn't yet convinced a new crew of like-minded teen misanthropes to take me in. Calling Amy and Brenda that Sunday was an act of masochistic desperation. But the only thing worse than being snubbed by girls who hated me was hanging around at home.
My epic sulk tableau — girl flung on a couch, arm draped over face to hide the sorrow — didn't inspire Mom's pathos. If she'd had her way, I'd be dropping and giving her twenty, or on the exercise bike, or chased up a tree by wild dogs, anything that burned calories.
"What are Brenda and Amy doing today?" she asked, looking down at me on the couch.
As far as she knew, my social standing was the same as last year, when I'd been popular. I didn't dare tell her that my perilous fall from grace had been like stepping off the Empire State Building blindfolded. I'd have sooner appeared on the cover of Seventeen magazine than tell Mom how right she was, that being ten pounds overweight had made me lonely and miserable, just as she predicted. Mom had been sounding the alarm for a while already, putting me on diets, weighing me weekly, yelling when I stole into the pantry for junk food that my scrawny older sister and athletic younger brother could scarf at will.
Even in her bleakest visions, Mom couldn't have dreamed just how bad things were for me at school. Not only had I been rendered invisible by my former friends, but a cabal of boys had chosen me as their favorite target of abuse. They circled me in the halls, knocked my books to the floor, snarled "beast" in my face. They oinked and mooed at my back. The bus trip to and from school? A hell ride of ridicule during which one or two boys could rally thirty kids to chant "pig" at me in unison. I swear sometimes the bus driver joined in. No wonder Amy and Brenda had dumped me. Associating with me would be a case of beast by association.
"I can't take another minute of you sulking on the couch," said Mom, her impatience escalating by the minute. "Do something! Go run around the block." When Mom reached the apex of frustration and flew into a rage that would have her screaming and crying for hours, my dad, Howie, called her Judy Black. By Sunday afternoon, two full days into my mope, Mom had reached Judy Gray levels. And the storm clouds were darkening.
"What's this?" she asked, spotting the cellophane wrapper of a Twinkie I'd stashed under a couch pillow. Crinkling it in her hand, she said, "Is this what you've been doing all day? Sneaking food?"
For her information, I had been very busy, actually, attending to important matters. If only steamy fantasizing melted fat. In my mind, adorable Carlo had been slipping his hot pink tongue between my parted lips for hours. Carlo was a new kid at school, still an outsider. Despite his golden nimbus of curls, his long tan legs and dimples, he was, like me, in need of friends. Maybe he hadn't sorted out yet that I was a total pariah. Or, if he had, maybe he'd see beyond the Godzilla label and notice me, maybe like-like me, or even better, French kiss the bejeez out of me.
It was lust at first sight — and a geographically convenient one at that. I'd seen the moving truck in front of the white house at the end of my block in late August. Carlo appeared on the street on his ten-speed later, like Apollo on a sun chariot, riding to New Jersey to choose a mortal mate. Even though I'd barely spoken to him, I felt a rightful claim. Carlo lived so close. He'd practically been delivered to my doorstep. He was my reward, a taste of bliss to counterbalance the steady diet of humiliation I dealt with at school, and at home from Mom.
With a heroic grunt, I got off the couch. Mom asked, "Where are you going?"
"For a jog," I announced. All the way to Carlo's house. Maybe he'd be hanging around outside. Maybe he'd wave at me. I'd stop to say hello, and we could have an actual conversation. Maybe he'd invite me in for a Tab. Or whatever.
I changed into my tube socks with three bar stripes, navy gym shorts with white piping along the sides, a T-shirt from the Club Med in Guadalupe where my family had gone on vacation, and a pair of Pumas. In the late 1970s, America had fallen passionately in love with running. Alas, the innovators at Nike had not yet invented a sports bra. I was already stacked, so I could have used the support. Where Carlo was concerned, I thought my bust would be a boon. I imagined him ogling me as I ran toward him on the street, my feathered wings and boobs bouncing in sync, braces gleaming in the afternoon sun, his eyes popping, jaw dropping with dumb desire.
I hit the road, and was winded and gasping within half a block. But still, I pushed on. Dad, a Jim Fixx devotee, told me that running-related pain could be overcome. "It's mind over matter," he said. "If you focus, you can train yourself to ignore the pain, or pretend it isn't there."
Rounding the bend, I could see the post-and-rail fence that enclosed Carlo's yard. I sensed him before I saw him. Just as I'd hoped, he was outside, sitting on the fence, his long legs dangling temptingly. But he wasn't alone. Two girls were with him. Their three heads turned in my direction. Amy was on the fence to his right. Brenda sat on his left. Apparently, they were not in Connecticut or at the movies, but together, at the house of the beautiful boy who'd arrived via golden chariot to my doorstep. A hitch in my bouncing breast, I realized with defeat that I hadn't been the only girl at school to notice Carlo's blond lanky dimpled adorableness.
They'd seen me. I couldn't turn back, run home, and hide. I had to keep moving forward. The adrenaline rush of seeing Carlo, and then the flood of cortisol — the fight-or-flight hormone — upon seeing Amy and Brenda, fired my pace to double time. Since I couldn't get away fast enough, I needed the speed, which, granted, was a relative crawl.
Feeling their eyes on me, I clenched my stomach muscles and wished I could hold my boobs to keep them from flopping. Carlo cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled at me, "Keep running!" The peal of Amy and Brenda's laughter rang in my ears — red hot with mortification — far longer than I could actually hear it.
Huffing and puffing, I made a loop on the next block and ran straight home, up the stairs, and into my room. Mom was there, sitting on my bed, a pile of Hostess wrappers — some of them weeks old — on my blanket. I'd been outside for all of ten minutes. She must have come up to my room the second I left and begun her search. She'd found my detritus quickly. Not gifted (yet) at subterfuge, I'd merely crammed the wrappers into the back corner of my desk drawer.
She was crying, in Judy Black mode. "Why are you doing this to me?" she asked, crinkling the wrappers. Mom believed my weight was her problem, and that my stealing food was a crime I perpetrated against her. The truth? It totally was. I was a spiteful little sprite, every bite was a fuck-you aimed at her. But I still didn't want to get caught! That would mean a marathon session of accusations, ranting, raving, with Mom asking, "Do you want to be fat and miserable your whole life?"
Which was exactly what I got. All the while, I stood there in my shorts and tube socks staring at the daisy-shaped rug on the floor. When she finally left, I barricaded my bedroom door with a wicker armchair loaded down with stuffed animals. The door had no lock, sadly. I was terrified she'd barge back in (" ... and another thing!") to serve me a second helping. I could hear her crying downstairs in the kitchen. Dad was comforting her, assuring her that she was a good mother. He would have said anything — and often did — to get her to stop crying. Managing Mom's erratic emotions was a big job. Dad quickly ran out of comforting words, none left over for me.
I sat at my desk and found my red corduroy journal in the top drawer, right next to where the wrappers had been wedged. Instead of rummaging for trash, Mom could have opened the journal. If she had, she'd have known exactly how much I appreciated her efforts to make me thinner/happier.
As an adolescent diarist, my anger was too raw and intense to own (in an Oprah sense), so I filtered the hate through an alter-ego character named Sal. She was the author of gloomy free-verse poetry and first-person howls of throbbing black angst. Lately Sal had branched out into third-person narrative, curdling stories of revenge against the boys who teased her and the girls who laughed along. Sal was bloodthirsty and savage. Nemeses were decapitated, defenestrated, eaten by zombies, vaporized by toilet bombs.
Just now, while sprinting home, I had plotted Sal's revenge against Carlo. A massive sinkhole opened directly beneath his post-and-rail fence, swallowing him, along with poor, unlucky Amy and Brenda (they picked the wrong day to lie about being in Connecticut and at the movies). In her togs, Sal jogged to the crumbling edge of the hole and peered down to see the three of them clinging to exposed tree roots, screaming and begging for help. Sal fed a rope down to them, yard after yard, still out of their reach, until — oops! — the end slipped through her fingers. She watched it shimmy into the pit of endless darkness, cupped her hands around her mouth, and hollered, "Sorry about that ... that ... that ... that ..." The apology echoed and faded, just like Carlo, Amy, and Brenda's futile cries for help.
Heh. The tale of vengeance had put wings on my Pumas for the loop home. But when I took out my journal to write it down, I was inspired to draw a self-portrait instead. I studied my reflection in the mirror that hung on the wall in front of my desk and put ballpoint Bic to paper.
I drew a reasonable likeness, with the center-part hairstyle, oval face, braces, and spots. One eye was Picasso-esque, larger and lower than the other. My nose was just an open triangle. The lips tight and straight. I would not be winning any junior artist awards, for sure. But I managed to capture a striking blankness, a void of emotional expression. The flat, intentionally two-dimensional quality represented my new ideal, a goal, the face I vowed to show the world from that day forward.
Mind over matter. I would train myself to ignore the pain and/or pretend it didn't exist. That was, it seemed to me, the only way I could possibly lurch forward, take another single step. If, by force of will, I could somehow hide my hurt and anger from those who inflamed it, if I showed no weakness, I'd win. I'd best them all.
Mom, and her constant criticism.
Dad, for not defending me and giving all his attention to Mom.
My sister, for being thin and perfect.
My brother, for being my mom's obvious favorite.
The boys who tormented me.
The girls who rejected me.
None of them would ever know how deeply their words and actions cut. They'd never see me wince. I'd show nothing but blank ambiguity. My enemies would wonder, "Does she even care?" while I secretly wished them dead and dismembered. Years before Lady Gaga was born, I designed a poker face — cockeyed and two-dimensional — that would be my shield, protecting and preserving my dignity, which was all I thought I had left.
I made that vow as an adolescent in an emotional crisis. Upholding it for decades wasn't the brightest idea. But secreting my anger and hate became habitual, natural. I was good at it, too, and prided myself on being, for the most part, unflappable. That drawing was the foundation upon which I built my identity. I would be the girl, and then the woman, who played it cool.
I captioned the portrait, "Me, 12."
* * *
During a recent bout of insomnia, I caught Woody Allen's Manhattan on late-night cable and laughed at his classic line, "I can't express anger. That's my problem. I internalize everything. I just grow a tumor instead."
My psychic friend Mary T. Browne would probably say that it was no coincidence I happened to turn on the TV that night, at that hour, to that channel, to catch that line. It was prescient, to say the least.
My dad, Howie, a retired nephrologist, got tough with me in mid-April of 2009, telling me that I'd put off a colonoscopy for long enough. I was forty-four. He'd just had his every-five-year probe, which had yielded a precancerous polyp. Since his mother, and my grandmother, Edith Frankel, suffered four bouts of cancer in her life — including two colon cancers — Dad had been urging me for years to get my ass to a gastroenterologist. In a spring-cleaning fit of appointment making, I scheduled the screening.
Let me just say, my colonoscopy was a joy from beginning to end (as it were). The day before, I couldn't eat. In lieu of food, I had to down a gallon of "Nu-Litely," a sodium-flavored liquid best choked down with one hand holding the nose. This salty beverage made me "go," a polite euphemism. (Ladies don't like to type the words shit and storm.) The instructions were to chug eight ounces of Nu-Litely every ten minutes for three hours, which had me going, and going, all night long.
When I arrived at the hospital for the procedure, I was instructed to leave a urine sample, which they would test for pregnancy. But I couldn't. The Nu-Litely had completely dehydrated me. The anesthesiologist refused to treat me unless I squeezed out a few drops. See, if a pregnant woman receives a dose of the knockout drug Propofol, the growing fetus is in danger of turning into Michael Jackson. God forbid. I swore I was not pregnant. My husband, Steve, had had a vasectomy a few months before. The anesthesiologist didn't care if he'd had his dick cut clean off. If I couldn't pee in a cup, she said, the colonoscopy was off.
It was hard not to hate her. She was holding up the doctor's schedule and compounding my anxiety. I spent an hour in the restroom in my paper gown, my finger under warm water, thinking of babbling brooks and trickling streams. The nurses hooked me up to an IV with a saline drip. Three pints later, no go. I was so self-conscious about not being able to pee ("never seen this before," remarked a few of the nurses), my fear of the procedure, and what might be found that I'd put an emotional block on my bladder.
Luckily, the day before the procedure, I'd had some pretesting. According to the nurse's notes — which took an hour to locate — yesterday's preggers test had been negative. The anesthesiologist reluctantly agreed to proceed. Then she demanded to know if I'd done anything that could have resulted in a pregnancy the night before, when I'd been sequestered in the bathroom, weeping softly, for eight hours.
I'd already told her that Steve was shooting blanks. But I said, "My husband is very turned on by explosive diarrhea. Somehow, even in my weakened state, I managed to fend him off."
Excerpted from It's Hard Not to Hate You by Valerie Frankel. Copyright © 2011 Valerie Frankel. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Meet the Author
VALERIE FRANKEL is the author of Thin Is the New Happy and such chick lit favorites as The Accidental Virgin, The Girlfriend Curse, and Hex and the Single Girl. The former articles editor at Mademoiselle, Frankel has contributed to The New York Times, O, Glamour, Allure, Self, and Good Housekeeping, among many other publications.
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This is one of those books that wishes to 'harkens back' to the time of Erma Bombeck and her truly amazingly funny stories of friendship, love, and family. Although the beginning of this book doesn't deliver those types of laughs, readers should not give up on this memoir right away. In fact, readers will find themselves enjoying it more and more as the pages go by. "Satire in the extreme" doesn't really come to pass, but there are a whole lot of laughs when readers see what happens to the author when she has to face her suppressed feelings about life. Beginning with the seventh grade, the author's world took a complete turn, when her two best friends were no longer her two best friends. As she grows and develops her own personality she turns to writing, and has moderate success with her books and articles. Dealing with snobby neighbors she dislikes, and getting even with them in very amusing ways, is when the author begins to drop the more 'cynical voice,' and take readers on a more upbeat ride. Yes, there are aspects where readers receive a diatribe of hurt feelings, author envy, selfish boyfriends, etc. - but then the narrative changes into a truly fun story of a life that was stopped on a dime due to a medical problem, and getting told off by one of her friends who simply got sick of all the complaining. The author presents a very funny moment that many of us can relate to. The Subway Sandwich Shop story tells of a worker behind the counter who just doesn't listen when the author orders her daughter a plain tuna sandwich on un-toasted bread with no extras. It took many minutes to get her order, and the reason why is hysterical.and SO true! Upon arriving home, her daughter remarked to her Dad, "Mom had a tuna meltdown." Mom laughed about it, and as Mom begins to laugh so do the rest of her readers. Frankel and her husband also had a contest at home with their two children after reading a book called, A Complaint Free World. Deciding to try an experiment within the family, the children were told that if they could go a week without complaining, they would receive one hundred dollars at the end of the week (minus one dollar for each complaint). Since the kids were very good at complaining, Mom figured that, in seven days, she wouldn't owe them a dime. Not giving up on this book is exactly what all readers must do. There is some really funny stuff within these pages, and your heart will also go out to the author as she's faced with some very difficult life decisions. Like the great Bombeck, many readers will connect with some of these stories because most of them happen to us all. Quill Says: You'll discover your own "inner hater" but, in the end, we all learn that we need to be true to ourselves and let the chips fall where they may (even if they fall on your neighbor's lawn!).
Very, very real and funny. I havent enjoyed an author this much since Jennifer Weiner .
It was fine, but I didn't see the point to it all. The narrator is horribly negative, even about things that don't really matter, and it hardly changes by the end of the book. The writing is solid, but I felt mildly depressed by the end.
The memoir grabbed me at the cover--but it's so much more than a chic lit lite. It's not a story about hate but rather learning to love yourself so you can love others.
It was a good book, but not one that I would put in the Humor section.
Frankel does a great job addressing the hate and negativity in her life in an authentic and relatable (oh and did I say comical?!) manner.
although i enjoyed the comedic tone of the first pages i read on nook, i did not realize this was such a chick lit. my bad for not doing more research on the author. ended up returning it.
Quick read, quick wit. Valerie Frankel is very funny and her stories will ring true with any woman trying to sort out her life and her friendships. Wish I still lived in NYC and Valerie and I could hang out. Love her parenting chapters in particular.
Memoir. Funny, fast-paced, frank, and a bit horrifying. I hope all the people she hates read this.
I thought this was a fun book to read. I could relate to many things she said in it.