Having heard the good reviews, I finally got around to reading Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close. I was intrigued by the premise:
The post-college years can be a relationship minefield. You begin to drift away from the friends who marry and have children significantly before – or after – you do; finding new friends and lovers becomes more difficult as you are no longer routinely thrown together in school with people in a similar age bracket and with similar interests. It is this limbo in which Isabella, Mary, and Lauren are firmly stuck. They are out of college and on their own: in nice apartments in Chicago and crummy shoebox ‘apartments’ in New York; in good relationships and dating idiots who cannot spell their names correctly; in nice, stable jobs and the worst of the worst waitressing jobs. In the middle of all this, they are scraping up cash for bridesmaids dresses, wedding shower presents, wedding presents, and baby shower presents, as it seems that everyone they know seems to be moving into that settled state of coupledom and familydom.
Having recently finished the book, I am feeling particularly ranty. To be fair, despite being derivative of similar books and TV shows, the book did believably capture the confusion and envy of those years well and the writing itself is solid and often touching. The ending, however, completely pissed me off and, I felt, betrayed the book’s readership.
I had an inkling that I would be left feeling angry when Isabel, the central character, a woman who works as a lowly publishing assistant, casually mentions, as an aside, that her cute, loving boyfriend, the one she is unsure about because of minor personality differences, is a HEDGE FUND MANAGER. I wanted to fling the book down and stomp on it at that point. She brings up his profession only to mention that it’s “boring” and then never mentions it again. I imagine that even the least mercenary woman in the world would take into consideration the MILLIONS he is likely to make. I guess we’ve gotten to the point that class issues are verboten in literature. I haven’t, as yet, found a single review that mentions the ludicrousness of this scenario. If this is what passes for a good book today, Jane Austen must be rolling in her grave.
On the other hand, I do recall having a few clueless friends who, although working in altruistic, low-paying professions in some of the most expensive cities in the world, never seemed to think much about their lack of savings or pursue relationships for financial gain. I still think they assumed, although perhaps entirely unconsciously, that a man would come along and save them financially, which is usually what happened.
Isabella later grows tired of the stress of NYC and then gets laid off from her job and is unable to find another. Despite all that, when her boyfriend, hedge fund Harrison, conveniently (for her) finds himself facing the fact that he must accept a transfer to Boston or lose his job, she balks at the idea of leaving her life and friends in New York and moving to Boston with him, even when he tells her he will float her expenses. Her mother informs her that life is made of “really hard choices.” REALLY HARD CHOICES. As if he is asking her to move across the country to Gallup, New Mexico or the wilds of Alaska without a job in hand. I don’t think any of these characters would recognize a “really hard choice” if it bit them in the ass.
So at this point, dear readers, you must have gathered how the book ends. At the ripe old age of 32, all three main characters have been partnered off (one married with babies, one moving to a new city with her boyfriend, one moving in with a boyfriend and discussing marriage). It’s even hinted at that the one character who seems “childfree” might change her mind. They have all escaped the dire fate of being mid-thirties and still single, just like the author herself has. For a book that midway through has the characters discussing their fears of never finding Mr. Right and ruminating over the likelihood that such a thing might happen, this ending, to me, felt like a betrayal of single readers. I only read it to the end because I thought maybe– just maybe!– there would be some radical twist and one of them would soldier on solo.
Also. When baby names are floated in the book, they are of course “Ava” and “Lola.” Alas, this book is not a satire.
So ladies, we got one TV show– Sex and The City— that gave it’s characters an extra decade before pairing them off in marriage, and now we are back to shows like Girls, about twentysomething singles again, and books that assume it’s radical to wait until thirty to tie the knot. Are we in the fifties?