Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Are Two Turtles Okay?

My favorite part of Amy Sedaris’ book, I Like You, was the lists. I went on the Women’s Retreat this past weekend, and literally, I would proclaim the lists for the world to hear. They were that funny. I think one of the main reasons I was drawn to them was that they displayed Amy’s authenticity. Of course every page, every paragraph, every picture was full of her creativity, her personality, her ridiculous and extreme humor, but the lists were an opportunity for her to showcase her utter absurdity, aka her authentic (and might I say fun!) self.

The section that sticks out most in my memory is the section of gift ideas, organized by generalized groups of people. Most gift ideas were at least slightly understandable—even if they were understandable due to the existence of stereotypes, generalizations, or assumptions—I could at very least understand the humor; but, in the case of some of the gift ideas, I didn’t even know what she was talking about! For example, she writes, “For a Single Man: Shiitake log” (188). What is that? I Googled it, and, in case you were wondering, it’s a log on which shiitake mushrooms grow. Why would a single man, specifically, want or need this particular gift? He doesn’t. My conclusion is that Amy Sedaris is just weird, but authentically so. As Martha Stewart implied, she does not attempt to be anything other than what she is. Humor, for Amy Sedaris is an expression of self, an art form through which she can unapologetically represent herself. We have thought so much about the implications humor has for the audience—either the individual or society at large, but I have never thought about what humor can mean to the person creating it. I do think that it is a form of catharsis, but I think in the case of Amy Sedaris, humor functions as more than an emotional release. I honestly think her creativity and her personality compel her to express herself in this authentic, unique way.

Here were some other examples of gift ideas (or gifts to avoid) that I loved:

“Gifts for a Divorced Man Who Works in an Office: The Holy Bible” (188). “For Preteen Girls: Animal pin, Colored cotton balls, Apron with turtles on it” (189). “For a High School Graduation: Potted plants, Wristband” (189). “For a College Graduation: Evening scarf or Fuck It Bucket” (189). “For a Priest: Color TV or Calf Stretcher” (189). “For a Nun: Cheese, Soap, Sausage Links, Shower caps, Raisins” (189). “Single Girl in Her Mid-Forties Living Alone: Stamps” (189). “For Early Menopause: Drapes or curlers” (189). “Never Give These: Sterling silver pinecones to struggling newlyweds, Tan colored socks, 3 turtles, sexy lingerie for your son’s girlfriend” (191).

Why is a divorced man working in an office any different than a divorced man working anywhere else? Why are all divorced men in an office comparable to one another? Does she choose “The Holy Bible” to juxtapose Christianity with divorce? Who the heck would want “colored cotton balls” as a gift? There are those turtles again. Wouldn’t “potted plants” be impractical for someone who might be moving into a dorm room? A “wristband” to what? Why must a gift-giver chose between an “evening scarf” and a “fuck it bucket”? Why does Sedaris find it necessary to include gift ideas for priests and nuns in her book? Are a priest’s calves tighter than the average person’s? Is Sedaris implying that nuns need to wash more frequently? Why is a person in her “mid-forties” referred to as a “girl”? And why does she need stamps? Why is “for early menopause” the only title that does not refer to a human being? What do “sterling silver pinecones” have to do with marriage? What does she have against the color “tan”? Are two turtles okay? What about four? Why would anyone get her son’s girlfriend “sexy lingerie”?

My reactions are mostly in the form of questions. I want to know. I want to talk to Sedaris and find out why she specifies three turtles. Her expression definitely has bits and pieces that have implications for society, for each reader, for the world at large, but they also have implications for Amy Sedaris. In reading I Like You, I learn a lot more about who Amy Sedaris truly is.

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