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The Genius and the Absurdity
Foreword by Mayim Bialik
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 7, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Have you ever been pissed because you’re not pretty enough, and then gotten even more pissed that someone didn’t find you as pretty as you think you are? Have you ever obsessed over the size of your thighs while eating dessert, all the while saying you’ll work out extra tomorrow? Or spent endless hours wondering why you have to bear the brunt of other people’s insecurities? I mean, after all, I’m pretty great. Why cope with insecurities I don’t already have?
That last one’s just me? All right, then.
But if the rest sounds familiar, you are experiencing Girl Logic: a characteristically female way of thinking that appears contradictory and circuitous but is actually a complicated and highly evolved way of looking at the world. You end up considering every repercussion of every choice (about dating, career, clothes, lunch) before making a move toward what you really want. And why do we attempt these mental hurdles? Well, that’s what this book is all about.
The fact is, whether you’re obsessing over his last text or the most important meeting of your career, your Girl Logic serves a purpose: It helps push you, question what you want, and clarify what will make you a happier, better person. Girl Logic can be every confident woman’s secret weapon, and this book shows you how to wield it.
It’s hard to know where to begin when you talk about Iliza Shlesinger. It’s hard to describe her. It’s harder still to be the woman writing a foreword in a book written by Iliza Shlesinger.
Let’s start with what we see on the outside. As a character actress who has struggled with my appearance and others’ judgments about my appearance since I was nine years old, I know that Iliza is a stunner. It doesn’t take but a glance to see it: her eyes, her cheekbones, her skin, her lips, and that sweet nose—she is pretty and cute and gorgeous all at once. Her body is fiercely strong and sexy, and her clothing choices on and off stage convey a confidence and an eccentricity that is enviable. She isn’t afraid to be called hot, because she totally is.
But the outside of Iliza is not the only way I think or talk about her; and it’s no longer even one of the first things I think about. Iliza is a comedian, a philosopher, a performer, and a business force to be reckoned with. She is a girl with logic that defies logic, and she is a woman who breaks rules I didn’t even know existed. Iliza is devoted and loving and kind and she is generous and tender and protective. That’s who she is and that’s what she brings to life.
What struck me most about Iliza when I first found her on a weepy lonely night in my living room—I had recently had a break up from a significantly fantastic man I was still in love with—was that she was smart as a whip. She possesses a wisdom and a self-reflection that is rarely seen in any comedian; and I certainly was not used to a female comedian speaking the way she does and breaking the universe down the way she does.
Iliza is a fearless comedian because she is a fearless woman. Her brain does not work the way your brain or mine works—and you can trust me on this: I’m a doctor. Iliza’s brain doesn’t just see a “thing”: she sees all the things that made the thing the thing and she simultaneously sees all the reasons the thing should be something else but isn’t and she simultaneously sees the ways the thing could be better and she manages to communicate incredibly clearly and directly everything you need to know—and some things you may not need to know—about that thing. She sees deeply, she thinks deeply, and she feels deeply. She leaves no stone unturned. Ever.
It would be enough in the world of comedy if Iliza Shlesinger simply did what she does so well once; if she told one joke or one story with her wisdom and her insight and her skill, it would be dayenu, as we Jews say—it would be enough. If she did this in one set, in one bar, in one Netflix special, it would be dayenu.
But that’s not how she does it. Iliza does this night after night, week after week, month after month and year after year. She does it in more than one Netflix special, and she brings herself to late night, and she has brought you the book you are now holding in your hand.
Girl Logic feels like a book by a comedian plenty of times. There are gems from her funny brain that had me laughing out loud again and again. But Girl Logic is also a guide for girls and women. Because Iliza doesn’t live to make you laugh; she lives and writes to make you think. And consider. And weigh your options. Heels versus flats or fake tits (her words!) versus real, speak up or stay silent are decisions many women will encounter in their lives. She knows this, and she has lived inside of her brilliant brain for a long time while observing the lives of girls and women. She knows better than us in most cases, I promise.
Girl Logic surprised me most because it also feels like a memoir. But not in the sappy annoying way. And Iliza is the first to tell us she doesn’t want to write a memoir. Her childhood was not tragic—it was not without its complexity, but she makes it clear that she is not an angry comic whose life led her to a world of laughter so that she wouldn’t cry. What Iliza has done is to draw strength from her challenges and come out on top of every obstacle intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally.
Girl Logic opens up a part of Iliza’s brain that I didn’t know she was ready to share: it’s the part that has been hurt. It’s the part that is sometimes afraid. It’s the part that wants very badly to be loved and sometimes doesn’t know how. And it’s the part that proves what a warrior she is in an industry which can take your sword, your shield, and your faith daily.
Iliza Shlesinger is someone you may not always agree with. You may not always like her. And you may not always want to hear what she has to say, but God help you if you can’t find yourself in the pages of this book. Your hurt, your fear, and your loneliness will be remedied time and again with the laughter and the wisdom of a woman who will teach you to fight for your self-identification as a warrior, and your destiny as a woman.
It Doesn’t Mean You’re “Crazy”—It Just Means You’re a Girl
Women aren’t crazy. We are not crazy. We are conflicted. Crazy implies an impracticality to our thoughts when, in actuality, we are processing so many dichotomic thoughts that we get frustrated. Then others perceive that as “crazy.” Women want to be appreciated for their mind, but they won’t stop obsessing over the size of their ass. We tell you what we want, then get mad because you didn’t realize that what we said isn’t actually what we meant. We spend hours rehashing details or distinctions that men fail to notice, much less care about. (“I used a peach gold highlighter, not rose gold!”) In any given day—hell, in the span of a few hours—we might want to be worshipped, sexualized, respected, dominated, held, or simply left alone. Depends on who’s around, what we ate, temperature on Venus, all kinds of factors.
Are women crazy? Or stupid? No. (Well, don’t get me wrong—some women are fucking crazy. And, OK, some are a little stupid—as are some men.) On the contrary, women are both afflicted and empowered by something I call Girl Logic. GL is a characteristically female way of thinking that appears to be contradictory and circuitous but is actually a complicated and highly evolved way of considering every choice and its repercussions before we make a move toward what we want.
What we want could be a great job, a hot dude, world domination, or a chicken sandwich—doesn’t matter. Girl Logic kicks in and makes us ponder the past, present, and future all at the same time: “Well, maybe I could like this guy. But he’s wearing a fedora and has a snaggletooth. But the last three good-looking guys I dated were horrible. But what if he’d be a great dad? But I’m not interested in having kids right now. I’m definitely not into him. But I might be later? OK, I’m giving him my number and texting him when I’m bored or drunk.” All this internal back-and-forth might sound maddening, but what Girl Logic is truly doing is helping to prioritize our needs and values in both the short and long term. It’s anything but crazy.
At its best, Girl Logic is a critical asset: an internal guidance system that helps women stay on track toward the thing—or person—they want most, or the woman they most want to be. It can admittedly also kick in at the weirdest moments as we try to sort out what we want right now versus what we want later. For instance, let’s say some less-than-savory guy you’ve been trying to decide whether to go out with FINALLY texts you back after six hours of ignoring you. Let’s say you put aside that six hours of silent rage you just experienced and you agree to go to the movies with him. Then… what about snacks? Girl Logic kicks in to help suss out your desires (Sour Patch Kids dumped in buttered popcorn, duh) and measure them against how you’ll feel once that desire is met (like a pigeon who ate too much wedding rice). Then it weighs that outcome with how you feel that day (tired and bloated) against how you want to feel (like Gwyneth Paltrow* on a juice cleanse), against reality (you’re gonna feel gross, so maybe just a few pieces? Or have all of it, but with bottled water, and promise to work out extra hard for the next three days but won’t).
While I believe Girl Logic is ultimately designed to help us, it can sometimes feel like a curse. GL can go a little haywire when forced to reconcile the sheer volume of expectations society places on women. See, being a woman is hard. (And to that one guy who bought this to try to “expand his mind,” don’t you DARE set this book down now. Adjust your sack, hunker down, and at least read a few more pages before you go back to your fantasy draft.)
Most of us don’t even realize all the social pressures that weigh on us from the second we wash our faces in the morning to the moment we scrape off our sunscreen, primer, concealer, cover-up, bronzer, and blush every night. The truth is that women are supposed to be everything to everyone. And guess what?
We’re expected to be continually kind to our fellow women, caring toward children, respectful of the elderly, supportive of our coworkers—while simultaneously making every dude around us super horny. Oh and we should always stand up for ourselves, while also being likeable. DON’T FORGET TO BE LIKEABLE!
We’re supposed to look eternally young while aging gracefully, and look hot while remaining “respectable.” We’re supposed to be open and vulnerable but without getting “too emotional,” be sexually empowered but not “slutty.” We’re encouraged to eat whatever we want while our bodies are scrutinized for unruly curves, because men like a woman who eats, not a woman who looks like she eats.
Without even meaning to, we’ve internalized these social expectations and let them shape everything we do, say, feel, and believe. And then we spend way too much time trying to live up to unrealistic standards that were put in place before anyone reading this book was even born. Being expected to be perfect in every conceivable way—from the things we think, to the amount of makeup we wear, to the way we parent, run a business, have sex, or recover after childbirth—can be mind numbing and cause our GL to blow a fuse (or, worse, cause us to cry in public or cut our own hair).
One simple way to illustrate Girl Logic is with the common mealtime question, “What do you want to eat?” Most men will, perhaps unthinkingly, perhaps out of an attempt to accommodate, blurt out whatever sounds good and easy. To them, most things are black and white: “Pizza sounds cool” (probably because they won’t have their worth be judged by how good they look in a fun top).
But women live in the gray, bathe in the gray, and summer in the gray. There are more than fifty shades of it, many of which don’t involve S&M. We invariably consider the past, present, and future when making any choice because for us the stakes are higher emotionally (because we care about consequences) or just logistically (because we are aware of consequences in the first place). If you pick the wrong shoes, your feet could end up killing you all night… and tomorrow. If you push back against a coworker, you could lose your job or be harassed, ostracized, or labeled a bitch. If you text a guy after not hearing back, he might start referring to you as a desperate psycho. All these possibilities are constantly floating through our heads when considering any situation, including dinner. So instead of saying “pizza,” we’ll take into account what we’re wearing at present (too tight for pizza?), what we might wear this evening, what we might be drinking, the potential messiness factor, and if the crust is made from wheat.
The pizza conundrum only highlights the ongoing battle between how we see ourselves, versus how we want to see ourselves, versus how everyone else sees us. All of these conflicting directives are exhausting to process and can leave women spinning in circles, headed in the wrong direction, or simply crashing and burning. (And by crashing and burning I mean that feeling where you’re like, “I’m gonna be so healthy this week,” and at the end of Monday you’re rationalizing, “If I don’t finish the whole pint now, I’ll just have to eat more of it tomorrow.”)
It’s no surprise that in so many woman-centered TV shows, books, and movies, the main character suffers from a multiple personality disorder: “a wife, mother, cop, alien… and trying to balance it all!” When the heroine doesn’t have kids, she’s still a mishmash of familiar stereotypes: “Chloe’s trying to find Mr. Right but is weird about commitment because she’s been hurt before! Can she carry an overflowing cup of coffee and maintain a high-powered career? Can she make it work? WILL LOVE FIND HER?!” I mean, can you think of any lead male character pitched as “ever-frazzled Scott is trying to balance work, fathering, marriage, and his exhausting recreational tennis team? Also, the poor thing is kind of a klutz!”
(Have you noticed that women are always klutzy when they are supposed to be adorable? Falling into boxes, knocking over food, walking while trying to look hot. Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway, Drew Barrymore… apparently men like a klutz. Not only because falling is funny but also I suspect because being clumsy makes you seem less powerful. Plus if they’re falling down they can’t emasculate you!)
This book is both a commiseration and a celebration of Girl Logic. I’ll discuss the way we collectively think but also give you some insight into my own personal experiences and how they connect to GL. I wrote it because I wanted to give women a break from the never-ending stream of nonsense in our mental in-box telling us we’re wrong for feeling how we feel. “Psycho bitch,” “bad feminist,” “single weirdo,” “mean girl,” “crazy ex-girlfriend,” “female comic”—these loaded labels are constantly applied to women as a way to write us off.
This book is my effort to help you tune out all that unnecessary chatter from within and without, and keep your GL working for you instead of against you. I wrote this book to let all girls know that whatever “psycho” thoughts you’ve had, I’ve had them, too. Sometimes my GL causes me to suffer a break with reality. I’ve been paralyzed between two outfits because one is sexy and one is comfortable, which leads to a fit of heavy scrutinizing (of both my clothes and my life choices).
I’ve censored myself in a conversation for fear of not being liked, only to replay it over and over, acting out different witty retorts should that exact conversation ever occur again. I’ve wolfed down a ham steak while thinking, “Whatever, I can just work out harder tomorrow.” And then when tomorrow came and I was tired, I rationalized, “Whatever, I’ll just eat less today.” What a fun cycle of delusion!
And thanks to GL, nothing will send me into a mad rage more than texting a boy who doesn’t write back. WE MADE OUT ONCE, AND I ASKED IF YOU WANTED TO GET COFFEE—THIS DOESN’T HAVE TO BE COMPLICATED! I SEE THE THREE DOTS MOVING, SCOTT, I KNOW YOU’RE THERE!
But there is a method to the madness, as I’ll show you in this book. See, GL can also work in positive ways. Yes GL will sometimes fill your head with exhausting thoughts and options. (“Do I really want to buy that, do that, eat that, date that?” A thousand reasons why “that” might not be a good idea to start from.…) But it can also be a rallying cry to take on the world. (“I’ve got this. I’ve totally got this. I’ve done it before, I can do it again, I will regret it forever if I don’t DO IT RIGHT NOW!”)
That’s the great part of Girl Logic: it nudges us to push ourselves, question what we want, and refine our own ideas about what will make us happier, better people.
It’s GL that keeps us engaged in sooooo many more things than men could even dream of doing. Just imagine your mom, or your aunt, or your best friend’s mom. You know, all those real-life sixtysomething women taking a Spanish class on Monday night, a pottery class on Tuesday, attending a lecture on Wednesday, seeing the opera on Thursday, an art opening on Friday, and doing educational yoga retreats each summer. Sometimes their GL is working overtime trying to help them figure out what would make them happy: “I’m Sheryl! I’m taking an earthenware formation class while learning about mushroom whispering. I’m flirting with bead making, but cooking with sustainable thoughts is my new passion.” (And just because you took on Oprah and Deepak’s Twenty-One-Day Meditation Experience and only got through Day 3 doesn’t mean you failed; it means you are three days closer to being the person you wanted to be… or thought you wanted to be.)
Now, think of your dad. He’s probably had the same one or two hobbies all his life, right? OK, fine, maybe some dads eventually get into motorcycles or dating Asian women; my point exactly.
Understanding Girl Logic is a way of embracing both our aspirations and our contradictions. GL is the desire to be both strong and vulnerable. It’s wanting to be curvy but rail thin at the same time. It’s striving to kick ass in a man’s world while still being loved by the women around you. Your GL is that little voice in your head that makes you aware of the practicality of your everyday choices, and how they’ll shape your reality tomorrow: “If you don’t read the Washington Post tonight, you will be left out of the conversation tomorrow.” Of course there’s always the dangling carrot of instant gratification: “But what I really need to do is unwind with some Instagram cake-decorating videos; I’ve earned it!” And… here comes GL again, swooping in to remind you how you felt last time you did that: “Didn’t you say your New Year’s resolution was being more informed?” It’s your job to consider the options from every angle; your GL presents them all to you, and the one that weighs heaviest wins. “OK, I’ll read a Washington Post tweet, THEN I can, unencumbered by guilt, watch these Snapchats of regional cheerleading competitions.”
So why am I talking about this? Me, of all the people out there? No, I don’t have a sociology degree, and I’m certainly not a psychologist. I’m a stand-up comic who has spent a lifetime obsessed with questioning things and observing people—especially fellow women—and calling out the humor and pathos in their/our contradictory behavior. I’ve collected a lot of data, and now I get to put it in a book. I wanted to do a baking cookbook, but it would have been all blank pages; the last page would just say, “I don’t like chocolate, sorry.”
This book is my attempt to continue that conversation, to rip open my girl brain and spill it out for you, so you can say, “Hey, wait—hers kinda looks like mine!” The truth is, all women sometimes feel misunderstood, including me. I, too, want thinner thighs. I, too, have freaked out at THAT BITCH STACY after she got the promotion/gig/part I wanted. I, too, have gotten pissed about not being pretty enough and then, in the next breath, gotten even more pissed about the idea that I have to look pretty at all.
But I love that I got to write this book for you. It’s for all the young girls who think they’ve figured it out (which is adorable, but, because you’re still shopping at LF, you… haven’t). It’s for frustrated women in their twenties and thirties who thought they had it all figured out until life was like, “WAIT ’TIL YOU SEE MY DICK!” It’s for older women, too, who might reminisce about the good ol’ confusing days as they give a throaty laugh in their flowy Chico’s pants.
And this book is also for me because apparently expounding on stage for two hours a night wasn’t enough. (Trust me, if I could start a cult I would, but I hate the idea of deliberately dying in a group.)
This book is a celebration of women in all our gray and all our glory. It’s meant to remind you that no matter how kooky, conflicted, or off-kilter your Girl Logic may sometimes skew, that very same thinking bonds you with countless other women across the globe—and it serves a purpose. I promise.
* FYI, I picked a white woman because it’s harder for us to stay young looking. Also I have a better shot at looking like G.P. than I do of looking like Beyoncé.
You’re a Woman—Be Confident!
(“But Not So Confident That It Makes Anyone Else Insecure” Is Actually What They Mean)
I wasn’t always so… aware. In my early stand-up years, I was known for making fun of women, specifically the way some of us behave when we’re desperate, hungry, or drunk. I felt I had license to do it because I’d lived it; I was in my midtwenties, so my Girl Logic was a little less informed and a lot less evolved than it is today. I thought I had a monopoly on describing nights out that start with aimlessly wandering, jacketless, through the cold to find a bar, sharing a flatbread (so we don’t feel too fat); crying Lemon Drop–and-chemical-imbalance-fueled tears; eating terrible 3 a.m. tacos; then waking up for work with last night’s makeup still looking sort of good and thinking, “Hey, I can pull this off.” This was my life, and the life of most women my age.
But, when I look back, I can’t help but question my own harshness. I remember doing one joke where I called a line of drunk girls holding hands to walk through a crowded dance floor a “chain of whores.” Surprisingly, women loved it. Fans have even put that joke on T-shirts and worn them to my shows. But if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have used that word; I was playing on lazy stereotypes. It may pack a punch, but as a constantly evolving woman and comedian, it’s my job to look beyond the humor and ask myself if I want to be part of making a derogatory word commonplace. I don’t.
Something clicked in April 2015. I was watching television as a male comic publicly shamed a female comic I knew and liked. He called her out by name and made fun of everything from her looks to her personality. His jokes were brutal and unabashed, and the insult to the injury was that they weren’t even funny. I found myself growing seriously pissed at his antiwoman labeling and judging and feeling so righteously steadfast that what he was doing was, well, wrong, that I decided to write a rebuttal piece for a popular website. It was like I was on a literary schoolyard, a classmate had been pushed down, and I was the only one who could help her back up. I’ve had a front-row seat to the constant verbal backlash, write-offs, rumors, and never-ending pissing contests women are subjected to in comedy. It just so happened on that day, for that girl, I could help. Did I change her life, or his? Doubtful, but sometimes you see something shitty happen, and life asks, “Are you gonna stay silent or stand up for what you think is right, even if not everyone hears?”
After my piece went up, my small act of protest lit a fire in me. I realized, as a woman in my thirties, that it was no longer acceptable to use my platform to talk solely about drunk mistakes, nor was that the totality of my existence. It was time to say things onstage that were both funny and meaningful. So I used that perspective to write and shape my Netflix special, Confirmed Kills. I wanted—and still want—women to arm themselves with confidence, so they’ll be that much more prepared the next time someone decides to publicly question why they exist.
I admit I used to make my own negative judgments (“chain of whores”) about other women because one of the trickier aspects of Girl Logic is that it affects both how we see ourselves and how we see other women. It can destabilize our sense of self, making us compare ourselves to and dismiss other women (more on female competition later in the book). Girl Logic dictates that we should all be confident and empowered, but not too vain or full of ourselves. Otherwise, people will “talk.” If you’re pretty, you must be stupid; if you’re fat, you must not be pretty; but if you lose the weight and show off your body, then you’re slutty, showy, annoying, too in shape. (Really, there is an endless list of shitty superlatives that can be applied to anything positive you do.) It’s hard to win, either in the real world or inside our heads. But women need to find solidarity in our similarity—to recognize that we’re all making sense, even when we aren’t making sense.
When I was growing up in Texas and playing lacrosse in high school, there was a fanatical emphasis on “acting like ladies” when we were representing our school. As if the entire perception of our institution rested on how we conducted ourselves on the field for a sport no one was watching anyway. “Act like ladies”—what does that mean? Be nice? Cordial? Quiet? Faint on a nearby couch? Acting like a man means taking charge and often being tough. Why would I want to be delicate during sports? You see it in professional sports, too—male athletes get paid more, but they also get into fights, yell at refs, and occasionally rape or kill someone. Frankly, I think part of Ronda Rousey’s appeal, at the height of her career, was that she broke away from the “shake hands and smile at your opponent,” knee-length-skirt model of athleticism that she and other female athletes have been taught to emulate. Instead she was straight-up aggressive; she said what was on her mind, and she could back it up. She was our Dennis Rodman. Serena Williams, too—she’s fierce as fuck, and when she isn’t happy, she lets it rip, like when she smashed that racket at Wimbledon. Pretty awesome if you ask me.
People don’t know how to process female aggression, though. They often mislabel it as negativity. I’ve definitely been called negative. But… why? Because I pace onstage, yell in my jokes, and use my body? Because when I don’t like things I call them out? Because I don’t back down when it upsets someone who shouldn’t have come at me in the first place? To me, negativity is a powerful tool. It reminds us never to get too comfortable. I call myself a realist, though—or maybe a pessimistic optimist. I believe in good, that it will all work out, but I refuse to blindly bump into unnecessary hurdles along the way.
Anyway, point is? More women should be like Ms. Rousey and Ms. Williams: not only strong and indomitable, but also unapologetic and able to back it up. Thankfully there are role models in every field. In comedy we’ve got Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and, hell, all the women of SNL.
"Iliza is a fearless comedian because she is a fearless woman... She sees deeply, she thinks deeply, and she feels deeply . . [F]ind yourself in the pages of this book. Your hurt, your fear, and your loneliness will be remedied time and again with the laughter and the wisdom of a woman who will teach you to fight for your self-identification as a warrior and your destiny as a woman."
—Mayim Bialik, star of CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" and NYT bestselling author of "Girling Up!"
"'Iliza not only has a way with words, she also has an observational intensity that pushes those words into your brain with comedic fury."
—Marc Maron, comedian, actor, author, and host of the popular podcast WTF with Marc Maron
"Iliza is funny, fierce, and lightning fast, but don't let all that wit and beauty fool you - she's a feminist with the heart of a mommy, a truth teller who just wants us all to feel better so we can get what we want, dammit! She's thought long and hard about why women are so hard on themselves, and she's not afraid to say she's been there herself, which has endeared her already to millions of fans. Take my advice: take her advice. Iliza is a comedian wrapped in social critic wrapped in the good friend you need."
—Robbie Myers, Editor-in-Chief ELLE Magazine
- "Iliza Shlesinger's brand of feminist comedy is quick, smart and doesn't suffer fools . . . [Girl Logic] is a call for women to celebrate themselves."—Los Angeles Times
"The takeaway messages of the book are important: cultivate confidence, develop the courage to be different, refuse catty competition with other women."
- "Hilarious."—Star Magazine
"The stand-up comic expertly explores the 'secret genius of irrational behavior' in this irreverent and insightful collection."
- On Sale
- Nov 7, 2017
- Page Count
- 264 pages
- Hachette Books