A fierce new memoir from the essayist and longtime New York Times contributor.
In her debut, Poser (2011), Dederer trained her keen eye and penchant for dry self-deprecation on yoga and motherhood. Here, the author turns to other topics, primarily sex and aging. It seems she had no choice. Ensconced in her apparently perfect life—comfortable house, kind husband, loving kids, career success and recognition—Dederer found herself intermittently and uncomfortably aware of her “chaotic past,” of the “disastrous pirate slut of a girl” who was “breathing down my neck.” One day when she was 44, for reasons not entirely clear, though maybe as simple as the encroachment of middle age or the scent of nostalgia in the air, the latent hungers and preoccupations of her sexually active youth came rushing back, “as if a switch is flipped,” and refused to disappear. A disruptive, unbidden kiss from a man who was not her husband widened the crevice in the wall between her libidinous past and relatively contained, conventional present. Informed by her own diaries—20 of them recovered from boxes scattered throughout the basement—the author dedicated herself to considering the “horrible girl” she once was, examining her from a variety of angles to face her head-on and bravely mulling disquieting questions of identity and purpose. With candor and humor, Dederer dives deeply into her sexual history, which began with an unwelcome encounter at age 13, continued through her teenage explorations based around Seattle’s University Avenue in the early 1980s, and into her unhappy time at Oberlin and beyond. Along the way, she contemplates power and victimhood and the battle, or balance, between freedom and safety. Dederer is unstintingly honest and unafraid as she excavates her motivations and reservations, her fantasies, and the implications of the choices she has made – and those she has yet to make.
Insightful, provocative, and fearlessly frank, Dederer seduces readers with her warmth, wit, and wisdom.