The nineties were a time of constant dating advice and “how to catch yourself a man”-isms. The pre-9/11 dating culture that permeated the American culture in those days is what gave birth to the man-obsessed “feminism” of Sex & The City, empowered strippers, and millions of self-help books. Actress and comedienne Julie Klauser explains all of this to us early on in her book I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned From Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I’ve Dated. She criticizes the mindlessness of a life centered entirely around men and trapping one into your clutches. And then she spends 200+ pages telling us all the ways she’s given it a shot and failed.
It’d be an interesting premise if Ms. Klausner didn’t do everything in her power to make herself so damn unlikable.
It’s a real shame, because from what I’ve garnered from reading between the lines in many of these passages (this book is, admittedly, the extent of my knowledge of Klausner’s work), I don’t think she’s trying to be that way. She’s encouraging of her fellow woman–she’s charming.
So why did I just give her book the finger?
It’s possible that it comes from her need to be funny. A book filled with the romantic mishaps of a modern American woman can be a pretty depressing endeavor if it isn’t approached in the right way. And in the process of being funny, one tends to paint in broad strokes for the sake of a universal humor that everyone can appreciate. And instead of these stories coming off and colorful and hilarious anecdotes, they mostly come off as spoiled and a little mean. And as I said, I think this is unfortunate because I truly want to like Julie Klausner. It takes a lot of guts to talk about a lot of the sexual indiscretions she cops to–she isn’t coy with the details of her experiences with men. But in the process of “putting it all out there”, she falls into the same clichés that she accuses her ex-beaus of.
The problem seems to be the men. Not her. Never once in this book does Klausner explain exactly what it was that she learned from these various men beyond all the things that they are terrible for. Every man she dates is either too vapid or too ugly or too unavailable or too weird. And the only men she seems truly interested in are the ones that fall into the 9 and 10 scale of attractiveness. When a man is unattractive, it’s practically the first thing she brings up. She takes a moment to explain that it’s science: that we’re naturally meant to want a good-looking partner, and while that may be true to a certain extent, it doesn’t stop her from looking like the vapid bimbos that she decries. More than once, she wonders why we don’t learn that attractive doesn’t automatically mean a person is great. And then she makes a point to never learn that lesson. The book’s very cover points out that Julie Klausner is a curvy, beautiful redhead, so perhaps she needs to stop telling us about how much of an outcast she has always been and actually take a minute to walk the walk.
Everything is an ultra-simplified cut and dry experience in I Don’t Care About Your Band. She doles out the same sort of carpet-bomb snobbery that made Carrie Bradshaw the most morally repugnant fictional New Yorker since the Joker. Vegans are all weirdoes! Brooklyn is awful! Musicians are all completely talentless jerks and women should take up an instrument to see how easy writing music is! She unironically judges the judgmental tastes of judgmental hipsters. And it seems to be true that she knows some lousy musicians, and slept with some weirdo hipster vegans who lived in Brooklyn. And none of them worked out. But never once does she take a minute to think, “Hmm. What’s the least common denominator here?” I’m not trying to suggest that all the problems stem directly from Klausner. But there’s nearly no moments of self-reflection. The men she dates are just plain coincidentally too ugly or too selfish or too poor. That was another measurement for suitability–wealth. More than once an unsuitable man’s “poverty” was brought to discussion. And not the poverty of a person living on food stamps with their power turned off. Nah–this was the poverty of white, male artists in their twenties (which is to suggest not poverty at all).
In Julie Klausner’s mind, every woman is a golden goddess deserving of only men who are a willing to worship them as long as a breath remains in their body. Women are all awesome–women deserve nothing but the best. I’m not misinterpreting her word: she literally says this. And this is the part where I’m supposed to say “Now, don’t get me wrong: I love women”. But I’m not going to. And do you know why? For the same reason I won’t say, “I love men”.
Because I don’t.
I love some women, and I love some men. But some men and women do not deserve to be worshipped and adored. Because some women and men are assholes. And we need to nip that “you are all beautiful” fortune cookie logic bullshit in the bud right now. It’s making all the wrong people feel good about themselves, while wonderful people who need more than a bumper sticker phrase stare into the middle distance and sigh themselves to sleep.
“I don’t want to be mean,” Klauser writes in the final page of her book. “And I’ve never been a bully.”
And I want to believe her. Through it all, I honestly want to believe that Julie Klauser isn’t superficial and judgmental. Call it a gut feeling. But in the meantime, this is what we a get. A book which has a subtitle that starts with “what I learned”. What did Ms. Klausner learn? I can’t say. I honestly don’t know. Some of her ideas are clever enough, like the notion that certain sorts of men want a woman who only they find attractive. And she’s definitely a humorous read. But by treating her failures as chapters and her successes as footnotes, I came away with fewer chuckles and more shouts of, “Oh, get the hell over yourself!” I sincerely hope that we hear more from her in the literary department. Preferably some time in the future when she’s actually learned something.
I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned From Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I’ve Dated was written by Julie Klausner and is available in paperback, audiobook and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.