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She Keeps Moët et Chandon in Her Pretty Cabinet

April 15, 2010

Authors of Queen of Your Own Life - Cindy Ratzlaff, Kathy Kinney

Kathy Kinney (best known as Mimi on The Drew Carey Show) has co-authored a book with a publishing exec I’ve never heard of named Cindy Ratzlaff – the book’s website states: Ratzlaff is a publishing executive, who created marketing campaigns for more than 100 New York Times best-selling books, including The South Beach Diet, as though that’s something to proud of – entitled Queen of Your Own Life due out in late Spring.

On the surface it appears as nothing more than another vaguely prescriptive tome of the “You Go, Girl” variety, but closely examining some of the text I actually found its premise – though not the actions prescribed – not entirely terrible, but ultimately not worth reading. Still I did manage to snag a copy through various channels and stand by my assessment.

From the book:

By letting go of things like self-doubt, fear of being judged and worry about how to look younger, we were setting ourselves free to admire who we were right now. We were overjoyed to discover that we did admire the women we had become. We were two strong women, who brought with them to the second half of life courage, wisdom and, most of all, the knowledge that they could survive anything with their dignity and humor intact.

Now on the surface this appears all well and good; finding the path towards self acceptance. However, it’s a bit presumptive and problematic to flatten various life experiences so the blues that results are somehow now analogous.

Since Ratzlaff is in fact a marketing maven, she has taken the message to Oprah. Take notes, kids – 90% of effective marketing is targeting the right audience for your product, and well she’s hit the jackpot.

Even the seemingly altruistic article posted on Oprah’s site reads like a thinly veiled infomercial for the book, which is certainly their prerogative, but I mean we can all be the queen of our lives if we’ve got access to Oprah’s powerful platform!

The list, which I opted to rearrange in 1 – 10 order rather than utilize the Casey Kasem top ten format seen in the article. Mostly to illustrate there’s nothing new here, even if one hasn’t read the slew of happiness related books blanketing the market, from The Happiness Project to The How of Happiness and every other appropriation of the word “happy” that hasn’t already been used.

  • 1. Pass it on. “Hear ye, hear ye,” says the queen.
  • 2. Place the crown firmly on your head. You queen up well.
  • 3. Learn the simple trick to finally being happy. As we say in the Midwest, “It’s time to poop or get off the pot.”
  • 4. Set strong boundaries. Mean what you say and say what you mean.
  • 5. Build and nurture trusting friendships. Face life’s joys and challenges with a friend by your side.
  • 6. Admire yourself. Give yourself a Windy Mountain Moment so you can appreciate who you’ve become.
  • 7. Language matters. The words we choose to speak to ourselves and about ourselves are important.
  • 8. Claim your beauty and power. End the mirror’s reign of terror.
  • 9. Keep. What do you really like about yourself? Identify your strengths and decide what you want to keep from the first half of your life that’s still working for you.
  • 10. Banish. Let go of a thought or action from the first half of your life that is no longer working for you.

My problem with the book or others of this burgeoning genre is not with the idea there are action steps folks can take to better their outlook on life, but rather the faithful application of said action steps ought to result in finally getting all the things one believes they so richly deserved. These books are all framed from the premise-behind-the-premise that folks have the right to be “happy” and “fulfilled” – a worldview I simply do not support. I don’t even wish to open the can of worms these books present from a privilege/oppression standpoint, but suffice to say, that is chief among my quibbles.

And before you jump in to tell me maybe I could use a little “happiness” literature in my life, I should tell you I am quite satisfied with my life. Is it perfect? HELL NO. Do I expect it to be? HELL NO. I am dazzled each day by the things in my life that are going well. I am grateful for the wonderful family, great friends and loving partner I have. Do I feel entitled to any of this?

No.

I believe you do the best you can, you get what you get, and it’s all fine to work to dismantle systems of oppression, but in the meantime you have to live your LIFE in the here and now. Hmmm, maybe I should write a book and get mine on the shelves in time to profit from the inevitable happiness lit backlash.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2010 2:26 pm

    Hmmm, maybe I should write a book and get mine on the shelves in time to profit from the inevitable happiness lit backlash.

    You should definitely write this book. Something along the lines of the old bumper sticker from the Bush era, “if you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention.”

  2. April 15, 2010 2:50 pm

    Giving yourself a “windy mountain moment” sounds like you’re giving yourself a dutch oven.

    But I’m also 12 years old mentally so…

  3. April 15, 2010 2:53 pm

    @spoon – left cheek sneak!

  4. April 15, 2010 2:53 pm

    In the serious dept.

    There is nothing wrong with being sad. Sometimes it’s a symptom of something. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes for me, it’s a sign that I’m not paying attention to myself. Or that I’m too invested in things outside of the circle of what’s important to me. Being unhappy sometimes makes me work harder, make more art, play harder, love like it’s my job.

    Here’s to it.

  5. April 15, 2010 2:54 pm

    Also, Moet sucks.

  6. April 15, 2010 2:57 pm

    As Frank Pembleton said, “Virtue is not virtue unless it’s pushing up against vice.”

    the same probably can be said of happiness.

    “Moet sucks”

    Is that with or without the pretty cabinet?

  7. April 15, 2010 3:01 pm

    Now that we sufficiently paid lip service to the important stuffs can we get to the Queen part of the program?

  8. April 15, 2010 3:03 pm

    This was my jammy jam in 1989!

    Breakthru:

  9. msjacks permalink
    April 15, 2010 3:55 pm

    Does the book have any mention of how these women look like they are doin’ it?

  10. badhedgehog permalink
    April 16, 2010 6:14 am

    My big problem with these self-help happiness manuals is the counterfactual. Do this and be happy. So if you’re not happy? Then you must not be doing it right.

  11. April 16, 2010 1:02 pm

    @badhedgehog – Seriously. These books should come with a warning letting folks know that even after reading the book they still may not be happy.

  12. April 16, 2010 1:04 pm

    I f-ing love Queen. YOU WANNA HAVE A GOOD TIME? JUST GIVE ME A CALL!

    Anyway, I hate books like this. I don’t want to have to remember a list of shit to do to be happy. This reminds me of that book Barbara Ehrenreich wrote called “Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America”.

  13. Regina permalink
    April 16, 2010 4:46 pm

    In keeping with the assertion that there is nothing new in this new book of happy: The pull quote totally puts me in mind of Nora Ephron meets Erica Jong. (I inadvertently commented on this in another thread, whoops, sorry.)

  14. April 16, 2010 5:52 pm

    This post made me think about how in so many areas in America people feel entitled:
    from marriage, to the type of partner they want, to possible future wealth, illness.

    But if you don’t believe that you get what you deserve, that things happen to you no matter how good a person you are essentially….people are very troubled by these types of thoughts.

  15. April 16, 2010 5:56 pm

    This reminds me of that book Barbara Ehrenreich wrote called “Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America”.

    Yes! It’s an amazing book. She wrote it during her own struggle with cancer. I think she provides effective analysis of the whole “happiness pop-psych” industry and its efforts to rid us all of any unpleasant or ambiguous feelings by training us to believe those feelings are the cause of all our problems rather than a side effect of those problems.

  16. hsofia permalink
    April 16, 2010 6:11 pm

    I have never even heard of that book – Ehrenreich is prolific! I will have to add that to my list. I am a naturally optimistic person (doesn’t mean I’m happy all the time or have never had serious problems) so it is hard for me to understand it when people seem to persist in pessimism or negative thinking. Maybe it will help me ….

  17. April 16, 2010 6:17 pm

    hsofia I am similar – believe it or not! I don’t attribute my own generally optimistic outlook on any mental acuity but ADD. I just seriously can’t keep my attention on any kind of thought pattern for very long – optimistic or pessimistic.

    That said I understand it since like any mood default/set point comes naturally to them and probably doesn’t have much to do with the circumstances of their lives. I have a friend from grad school who I COMPLETELY ADORE who makes me look like Pollyanna! She is cynical like whoa, but at the same time she’s a fiercely perceptive person, possessing self awareness unlike anyone I have ever met.

    I have no idea how to reconcile all the facets of her personality, but I do find it fascinating.

    I should also note she’s a social worker – one of the few who finds the field rewarding for the right reasons – and she almost NEVER complains about her job. She has a great partner, nice comfortable life and is the first person to tell you attitude has NOTHING to do with her charmed existence.

    Trust her, she’s done the legwork!

  18. hsofia permalink
    April 16, 2010 6:28 pm

    @SM – That’s very interesting! Over time I’ve come to the conclusion that it is simply a matter of orientation – not something I have any more control over than, say, my sexual orientation. But that was as far as I’d gotten. Oh, and also getting over my need to “fix” things for people – so when hearing someone snark about something, not trying to smooth it all out or make it “better” somehow, helped a lot. Pessimism no longer sets off Do Something, Quick! alarms for me. I will def get the book.

  19. badhedgehog permalink
    April 17, 2010 5:12 am

    I’ve read an extract from the Barbara Ehrenreich book, and it was very good. I must read the whole thing.

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