30 May 2016
Approval Junkie: Adventures in Caring Too Much by Faith Salie
From comedian and journalist Faith Salie, of NPR's Wait Wait…Don't Tell Me! and CBS News Sunday Morning, a collection of daring, funny essays chronicling the author's adventures during her lifelong quest for approval
Faith Salie has done it all in the name of validation. Whether it’s trying to impress her parents with a perfect GPA, undergoing an exorsism in the hopes of saving her toxic marriage, or maintaining the BMI of “a flapper with a touch of dysentery,” Salie is the ultimate approval seeker—an “approval junkie,” if you will.
In “Miss Aphrodite,” she recounts her strategy for winning the high school beauty pageant. (“Not to brag or anything, but no one stood a chance against my emaciated, spastic resolve.”) “What I Wore to My Divorce” describes Salie’s struggle to pick the perfect outfit to wear to the courthouse to divorce her “wasband.” (“I envisioned a look that said, ‘Yo, THIS is what you’ll be missing…even though you’ve introduced your new girlfriend to our mutual friends, and she’s a decade younger than I am and is also a fit model.”) In "Ovary Achiever," she shares tips on how to ace your egg retrieval. (“Thank your fertility doctor when she announces you have ‘amazing ovaries.’ Try to be humble about it [‘Oh,these old things?’].”) And in “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me About Batman’s Nipples” she reveals the secrets behind Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! (“I study for this show like Tracy Flick on Adderall”).
With thoughtful irreverence, Salie reflects on why she tries so hard to please others, and herself, highlighting a phenomenon that many people—especially women—experience at home and in the workplace. Equal parts laugh-out loud funny and poignant, Approval Junkie is one woman’s journey to realizing that seeking approval from others is more than just getting them to like you—it's challenging yourself to achieve, and survive, more than you ever thought you could.
I really like Faith on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me so I was expecting Approval Junkie to be funny (and she got the room laughing at the Adult Author Breakfast at BEA) but I wasn't expecting this to be so poignant. Chapters on saying "I love you" first, or what she went through fertility-wise to have her kids, or about the books her father gave her son, these were all very moving. I think a lot of us can identify with that drive to get approval by "being the winner", by trying to be what is expected in middle America. Even as you're laughing about how she talks about her "wasband," you are also identifying with her on some level about a relationship you had that didn't go the way you wanted and in hindsight should have been avoided. Definitely a good summer read for those of us in the mid-life era.