The Grrl Genius Guide to Life
Cathryn Michon
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Get *The Grrl Genius Guide to Live* delivered to your door! The Grrl Genius Guide to Life Cathryn Michon
Cliff Street Books (Harpercollins)
July 2001
255 pages
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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As an established writer, actress, and stand-up comic, Cathryn Michon has had many interesting life experiences, and this book is full of them. Her experiences have prompted her to start "The Grrl Genius Club" and write the coinciding The Grrl Genius Guide to Life, set up in twelve steps to teach the reader how to become a Grrl Genius (or, in a male's case, to be an "Enlightened Male"). The twelve steps include, among others, admitting that you are a Grrl Genius, making a decision to love your Grrl Genius good looks, rejecting penis envy, and the final step: carrying the Grrl Genius message to others by practicing the principles in all of your affairs. Each step begins a new chapter, and at the end of each chapter are tid-bits of information the author calls "Grrl Genius Little Pink Curled Up With a Good Book Post-Its". The multiple appendices at the end of the book include recipes, a letter to Krispy Kreme doughnuts (the author's favorite food) pleading for expansion of the company, and a "dire warning" for Grrl Geniuses to not fall into "Miss America Thinking."

Michon writes with a humorous and almost cynical attitude towards her life, and the book is an enjoyable and easy read. In step two, "We're Entirely Ready to Embrace the Domestic Arts", she tells about her participation in the "Live Salad-Making Competition" at the Santa Barbara County Fair. For the past four years, she has come in third place every year, and she writes with a laughable bitterness about the politics involved in the contest. She continually blasts the judge, and writes of her plans for next year's competition when she will "concoct the most hideous salad ever made and force [the judge] to eat it." She calls it "Cathryn's Grrl Genius Lard-Stuffed Jalapeno Salad, Nestled on Tournedos of Domestic Dog Feces, with Grapefruit Skim Milk."

The Guide also contains many interesting and little-known facts about women in history. In two of her "Little Pink Post-Its", Michon tells about the women behind Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mileva Einstein, Albert's first wife, co-authored the E=MC2 paper, but as Albert's popularity grew, he had his former wife's name removed from the papers in later publications. Einstein is also quoted by his son and a live-in student as saying that Mileva "solved all my mathematical problems." Michon says "'Doing the math in physics' is like 'taking off the clothes in stripping'- it's everything." Mozart's sister, Nannerl, traveled and performed with Mozart until she was married off at fifteen, and musicologists have said that compositions attributed to Wolfgang may actually have been written by Nannerl. Michon also tells about certain "demeaning" terms given to women that actually have positive origins as titles of goddesses.

Admitting that you are a Grrl Genius means you must "acknowledge that you are beautiful, intelligent, and talented- and that you are the only person in the world who can decide just how great you are." However, the author and creator of this twelve step program still seems to be struggling with this issue even with her established "Grrl Geniushood." She contradicts herself in the book, especially when it comes to acknowledging beauty. In step six, "[We] Made a Decision to Love Our Grrl Genius Good Looks," Michon admits that she obsesses about her hair, but as a Grrl Genius, she has "finally accepted that what's inside my head is more important than what grows out of it." The reader may be a bit confused by this, considering the fact that in step three, "Boldly Accept[ing] our Grrl Genius Mortality", she tells that she has made her hairdresser promise to give her a color-touch up and blow dry before anyone sees her, saying, "To be dead is a drag, to be dead with roots is intolerable. I am further annoyed by the thought that hair continues growing after death, so when I'm six feet under, I will definitely have roots." When talking about loving her body, the author tells about how she has "cursed the two little poochy bulges of fat that rest on my strong outer thighs", which she had liposuctioned shortly before writing this book. She says, "Undergoing a surgical procedure in order to not despise my body may seem like a failure of the Grrl Genius philosophy, but it is not. If I could have loved my body in its natural state, well, then, yea for me, but after a while I just couldn't." She claims that she already doesn't live in her natural state, equating a natural state as "sleeping in the trees, swinging from vines" or "snagging trout bare-handed from mountain streams."

Michon talks about her past obsessions with dieting, calculating the calories of everything she ate, and looks at it as a sort of eating disorder, although it is not classified as one, saying, "However, because I have never forced myself to vomit, abused laxatives, been dangerously overweight or underweight (I wish), I am not considered to have an eating disorder." The "I wish" is particularly contradictory to an argument she makes later in the book about how "fat makes you sexy" and that scientific studies show that women with normal or above normal body fat are "way better in bed."

Beside these contradictions in the book, the twelve steps in general are not very clear. The author seems to have created the steps in accordance with her own particular life, and much of the book reflects that she is still struggling with the steps of her own program. The only clearly stated rule of becoming a Grrl Genius is simply telling yourself that you are one, and that doesn't seem to be enough to base any self-improvement program on. If you're looking for a strictly humorous book, The Grrl Genius Guide to Life is a suitable choice, but a woman looking for true self-improvement may be better off looking elsewhere.

© 2001 by Jennifer Galt for Curled Up With a Good Book

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