A while back, before I started this blog and was only posting in my personal blog (a sort of public online journal – because I am, at heart, a classic oversharer) I wrote about feminism, personal growth, and Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman. (Please note, the post at the end of that link is four years old, and I was still a baby feminist… as I have aged, I have grown more strident and the tone of the post, were I to write it today, would be somewhat different!)
Aaaanyway, I refer to HTBAW in that post, and others, because for me it was a pretty identity-building read. I lvoe the book, and have become evangelical about recommending it, and reading it (again, and again, and again) has helped shape the woman I am today. So, when I say that How to be a Grown Up is very much like How to be a Woman, I want to be clear what I mean… to me, that’s a huge compliment!
How to be a Grown Up was a loan from my best work mate, who took one look at me in the throes of a post-break-up self-pity wallow and decided that this book would make me feel better. She was dead right – thanks, lovely! – and the subtitle of the book may explain why – You’re Doing Fine and Let Me Tell You Why. Like Moran’s book, the tone is incredibly personal, very non-judgemental and accepting. Along with some genuinely useful practical tips, it is mainly focused around a collection of personal anecdotes of life lessons learned, taken both from Buchanan herself and interviews with other women from a variety of ages and experiences. The cumulative effect is one of hearing “You’re not weird, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there, we’ve felt how you’ve felt and we made it out. Here’s what helped us, what might help you… but it’s ok if these things aren’t for you, because it’s ok to figure out what does work by getting it wrong a bunch of times. Be kind to yourself.”
Essentially, reading this book was like going to a book club/dinner party with a bunch of lovely girlfriends, getting juuust tipsy enough to be really honest about our regrets, fears, and self-loathing… and being swarmed with hugs, understanding and kindness.
Practically speaking, as a reading experience it’s great – a personable tone and writing style, but very clearly and cleanly organised into chapters. Each chapter has a focus – how to get dressed, how to survive at work, how to have sex – and is closed with some tips, tools, or practical takeaways that the reader could – if she wished – try for herself. (This, of course, is also what makes it different from Moran’s book. Although the book is filled with anecdotes, it’s much less of a memoir and much more designed towards practical application).
If you are female and between the ages of around fifteen and … I don’t know? Forty?! … give this a read, it’s lovely. After all – the great secret of adulthood is that none of us have got adulthood sorted!