I Don’t Want to be Her Big Sister.
Written by Duana
I was a Brenda Walsh fan. I wanted to be her. She was sassy, stand-up-to-parents-y, super hair and didn’t take crap. Plus it wasn’t just Brenda, it was so clearly Shannen Doherty herself. They were one and the same, and the fact that Doherty was intelligent and had graduated from Little House on the Prairie to 90210, much as I hoped metaphorically to do…I had a rock-solid girl crush from the age of 10.
Somewhere along the way, Shannen Doherty became, for me, the personification of what Madonna was selling. Girl power, in a more-palatable-to-my-tween-self package. As for her stumbles, well – they happen to all of us. I thought it best for our friendship, one-sided though it was, not to throw them in Shannen’s face. That would be rude. I took her side in every argument. Maybe Jennie Garth was a pain, or she just got sick of hanging out with Tori Spelling?
Then Lainey asked if I’d review Shannen’s new book, BADASS. YAY!
First thing that worried me? This book is thick, but coffee-table sized. Not conducive to toting and reading. Not un-put-down-able. A quick flip showed many pages with big print and only one thought on them, to wit; “A PIZZA AND A SIX PACK OF BEER CAN BE A PARTY AS LONG AS YOU ARE SURROUNDED BY YOUR FAVOURITE PEOPLE”. Thanks, Shan.
I read it cover-to-cover anyway. Here’s what you need to know. This is not a biography, and it is definitely not not NOT a tell-all. Doherty says until her 27th birthday she felt insecure and scared (due to family illnesses) and so was a brat at work and in love. There is virtually no mention of 90210, only stuff we know “Brenda was a bad girl, so I became a bad girl by association”. The closest thing to dirt I found is when she explains that she and her best friend ‘who was also on Charmed’ were in a fight due to a ‘misunderstanding’.
But OK. I get this. It’s not an autobiographical tell-all, it’s a how-to-be-a-fun-girl guide. I read another ‘celeb’ authored book with a similar premise a few years ago. It’s the
much more fun and better written now ‘bargain book’ Swerve by Aisha Tyler, which really is a good time. So I knew what I was getting into.
The first 75 pages or so explain that Shannen learned to be a badass after realizing that being angry and bratty wasn’t working for her. Fine. Then 40 pages on what a badass is. She speaks her mind, she is true to herself, she honors what she loves. Also fine, but Doherty doesn’t give any personal examples. She says she will ‘spare us the details’ of her two marriages, and though she admits to loving Rick Soloman, she doesn’t explain exactly what it was that made them so toxic. She also alludes to ‘wasted time’ in her dating life…but no dirt.
But hey, there are tips for us! Shannen thinks a man straying is the woman’s fault, because “how hard is it to go to the waxer once a month?” A few pages later, though, she explains in detail how to stalk a cheater. Like, in serious detail. She tells you where to park, you guys.
But the most disappointing part of this book is the last third, which devolves into “badass” decorating tips, party-throwing skills, recipes, and choosing wine. Really? Shopping tips?
I do get from this book, either from her writing or judicious editing, a sense of calm. She doesn’t seem like the barbed-wire woman she used to be. Which could work for or against her with readers. I know I’m not the only woman of a certain age who thought Doherty’s toughness, which I did not have, was cool.
But re: the ‘certain age’ thing. Let’s generously say Shannen, who’s 39, has a target audience of 25-45. My friends younger than that could care less about her, though Brenda had appeal. One said “I was always Brenda when we played 90210 at recess, which in retrospect was a strange game for 8 year olds. But Shannen saddens me. ”
So here’s the thing. She’s writing about cool wines and stalking boys and she’s almost 40? I kind of want to take her out for coffee and explain gently what’s up.
That’s what makes this book heartbreaking. I wanted Shannen Doherty to be my older sister, back in the day, because I lacked and needed one. I don’t want to be hers. It upsets the order of things.
Why do I have to be the one to tell her that “Mismatched chairs are masterpieces waiting to happen” is a lesson we all learned at 22? That “Do’s and Don’t at a restaurant” was much, much younger? And that she should be selling this advice to girls much younger than her fan base? But if they’re not in her fanbase, they won’t care about the book, so…..?? Guys, I feel bad.
Nothing in this book is actually offensive, save for the parts about men. (One of her pieces of advice is to ‘intentionally lose directions’ to somewhere you’re going, to see how your partner deals with it. UGH.)
But it just seems so misguided - though the personal pictures are neat - and the big-print pages just seem so overwrought – so very ‘Urban Outfitters poster’ – that, against my will, I feel like I’m suddenly the older, wiser one. Which makes me sad.