Ali Wong, comedienne and author of Dear Girls, Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life falls into the same category as the writing of many other smart women I admire. Like Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler and Broad City’s Ilana Glazer, Wong is totally without fear and without filters. Is it a generational thing that these women are so comfortable expressing themselves in such an uninhibited way? Perhaps because boomers were raised with different societal and moral standards, I can’t imagine writing with the lack of inhibition and total abandon these women do. What would our parents think?
Dear Girls is a series of letters Wong has written to her young daughters to explain her life and provide advice to theoretically help smooth the way as they grow into adulthood. It’s definitely not recommended for everyone and I find myself thinking that her daughters will probably cringe at many of the revelations their mother makes. The material is graphic, raunchy and X-rated so if that doesn’t concern you, then give it a go. I absolutely loved it.
Ali Wong was the surprise late-in-life addition to her Asian-American family living in San Francisco. With ten years between her and the next youngest sibling, Wong hero-worshiped her two older sisters and one brother. As happens with many born-late children, by the time she came along her parents were past the point of agonizing or even concerning themselves about her behaviour and lifestyle. Her siblings were all ten to fifteen years older than she was and had lived a whole different life as a family of five before she was born. According to Wong, “By the time I was born, my parents weren’t hitting the slopes; they were hitting the Metamucil.” Consequently, she was given a great deal of latitude and took full advantage of it.
The family was proud of their Asian culture and heritage. Despite inevitable racist comments along the way, Wong embraced her family’s background and even studied (and misbehaved) for a while in Vietnam. She always knew she wanted to be a stand-up comedienne and spent many years playing in small clubs to build her reputation and repertoire. Sometimes she soared, but often she bombed. It’s all part of learning a trade and paying your dues. She wrote material for television and had performed minor roles in a few programs. She lived, loved and played with total abandon.
By the time she met her husband who was the only other Asian-American guest at a wedding they both attended, she was committed to her career in entertainment. And, I must say, I agree with her stand on weddings. She’s also not a fan of the huge, expensive extravaganzas staged by bridezillas today. “A wedding is not a marriage,” and she preferred to save their money for more important later expenses like a house and children. In fact, after her own quickie ceremony, she and her husband drove to a club where she was scheduled to perform.
Wong’s advice to her two young daughters is prefaced with the warning that there isn’t a thing they’re going to do or say that she hasn’t already done herself. She is unshockable. As often happens, perhaps her daughters will totally reject their mother’s lifestyle and walk a straight and narrow path. Some of her more innocuous advice includes:
“I feel very strongly that men should have to pay, at least for the first date. Paying for the first date is to compensate for all the time and money women are expected to spend on themselves just to get ready for that date.”
“I’ve saved a box of my dresses, in hopes that you girls will take an interest in them one day, and because since we all grew up eating cheese and croissants from Costco, you’ll probably fit into them.”
As I said earlier, this book may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I thought it was well-written and absolutely hilarious. It also makes me glad I’m no longer young, out in the dating world and trying to build a career. It’s nice to have all that stress and angst behind me. If you can handle it, this book is laugh-out-loud funny.
(Disclosure: If you order from this link, I may receive a teeny, tiny commission. Thank you.)