It takes a great deal of courage to expose your innermost thoughts to close friends, let alone to transcribe those thoughts onto paper for any number of strangers to read. First-time author Jennifer Lehr throws caution to the wind and makes this process seem effortless as she pens Ill-Equipped for a Life of Sex: A Memoir. In it, Lehr selflessly welcomes readers into her mind---and the only missing element is the guilt normally associated with peering into the diary of a stranger.
At age twenty-eight, Lehr determines her life is unfilled. She is still in school, has no viable career, lacks financial stability and, even worse, has yet to find a soulmate eager to share it all with her. In short, this memoir is a tell-all book of a seemingly ordinary woman who discovers true love. On her journey, she learns to accept the reality that finding a soulmate may be a long, winding (and even tortuous) road, but the end result is worth the heartache. Lehr is forthright in providing even the most intimate details of her coming of age, and the result is a refreshing, poignant and entertaining story chronicling the impact her past relationships had on her courtship and eventual marriage to John, an unemployed recovering alcoholic actor who, she says, resembles a “troll.”
Lehr explores all of the events leading up her marriage, including her lack of initial attraction to John, her family’s reaction to him, their shared insecurities, their sex life (or, more accurately, the absence of it), and all else that comes in between. She explains how she overcomes (or at least learns to accept) all of these supposed shortcomings and ends up with a satisfying relationship with a man she learns to cherish and love. She makes it clear that her husband shares the same apprehensions about the viability of the union, but, in the end, her adoration appears to be reciprocated. Her detailed re-creations of their arguments, therapy sessions and familial conversations are so spirited you cannot help but laugh out loud, despite the fact you are keenly aware that these exchanges caused a great deal of heartache as they struggled to make their relationship work.
In case you are wondering, yes, in some instances Lehr is so honest you feel badly for John, whose raw emotion and sexual inadequacies (at least as far as Lehr is concerned) are just as exposed (if not more so) than those of the author herself. However, one can guiltlessly flip through her tale rationalizing that if John allows for this uncensored exposure (which Lehr makes clear in her acknowledgements) then who is the reader the object to its inclusion.
Although I am usually not a fan of memoirs, particularly those of seemingly ordinary people, Lehr’s story holds its own. This is so mainly because she holds nothing back. She even reveals the emotional, overbearing and nagging elements of her personality that she readily admits contributed to the failure of her past relationships. She behaves so erratically at some points, it leads one to wonder why John (not Lehr) remained so committed to making things work.
There is no doubt that Lehr (and her husband) took a great risk in exposing so much of their lives. However the end result of their decision, this gem of a memoir, certainly falls into the category of those worth taking.