Review: I Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern
Author: Justin Halpern
Genre/Pages: Memoir; Humor Essays
Publisher: !T Books/HarperCollins
Publish Date: May 15, 2012
Rating: 4 bookmarks
Source: courtesy of the publisher
Natalie’s 1-Sentence Synopsis: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Justin Halpern, comes a hilarious collection of essays about navigating the choppy waters of love.
In 2008, Justin Halpern is struggling to make ends meet when his girlfriend of nearly three years dumps him. Halpern packs his bags and leaves LA, returning home to his parents’ house near San Diego. His father, a frank man with a penchant for profanity and pithiness, inspires Justin to start a Twitter feed called Sh*t My Dad Says. Justin’s meteoric rise to fame, book deals, and even a television show follow in short order.
When I Suck at Girls was pitched to me, I downloaded a sample on my iPad to give it a look-see. Three pages in, I was howling with laughter, and Anthony wanted to stab me with a rusty fork if I said, “Listen to this line!” one more time. By page five, I was reading entire paragraphs aloud, and he’d given up all hope of watching Netflix in peace.
Justin recounts his youthful misadventures and misconceptions about love, sex, and marriage, and his father’s wit is never far behind. While in grammar school, Justin learns that his wife will someday see him sans clothing. He goes to his father for clarification:
“All right. Here’s the deal. You’re eight,” he said.
“I’m nine,” I said.
“Do I look like I carry an abacus with your name on it? Cut me some slack here, son.” He took another deep breath and started over. “What I’m trying to tell you is, you’re just a little kid. I’m going to make you a promise. On your wedding night, you are not going to be able to wait until your wife sees you…[naked]. Half a tuxedo on, no tuxedo on, socks, shoes, you won’t f—ing care…”
And so the essays go, chronicling Justin’s coming of age. Some might dismiss Justin’s dad as crude or uncaring, but his father’s aphorisms, while laced with profanity, are actually incontrovertible and wise. Dr. Halpern is an erudite man with sage wisdom for his son(s). Though his delivery is a bit unconventional, he’s insightful, sharp, and loves his kids and wife.
When Justin announces that he intends to ask his girlfriend to marry him, his father doesn’t offer much in the way of exuberance. Justin probes a bit, hoping for some enthusiasm or validation:
“You really like Amanda,” I said to my dad, unsure if I was making a statement or asking a question.
“I mean, we haven’t sat in a foxhole shooting at f—ing Germans, but from what I know of her, yes, I like her a whole lot. But who gives a sh*t if I like her?” he said.
“Bullsh*t. You don’t give a rat’s a**, and you know why?” he said, cocking his head and raising an eyebrow.
“Because no one in the history of relationships has ever given a flying f*** about what other people think about their relationships–until they’re over,” he said.
The childhood essays are stronger than the late adolescent and adult years, but I attributed that to the fact that Justin’s dad plays more of a supporting role as Justin ages. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the memoir and found it a highly entertaining, quick read. I’d recommend I Suck at Girls to anyone who enjoys humor essayists in the vein of Sedaris, Burroughs, Lancaster, or Notaro. Profanity might make this one unpalatable to some, but if you don’t mind the f-bomb flying on every page or two and love humor essays, this would be a great addition to the beach bag!