For comedian and writer Jessi Klein, women are divided into two distinct categories: poodles and wolves.
Poodles, she explains, are effortless in the way they simply glide gracefully through life. Audrey Hepburn comes to mind: nary a hair out of place, each nail filed and polished to perfection, nary a fashion faux pas made. Then there’s the wolf: A woman who, try as she might, never quite gets the whole “acting like a lady” thing figured out.
“A poodle and wolf are both technically dogs, but based on appearances, it doesn’t make any conceivable sense that they share a common ancestor... no matter what a wolf does (puts on makeup or a thong), it will still be a wolf, and no matter what a poodle does (puts on sweatpants), it will always be a poodle,” Klein observes.
Klein’s You’ll Grow Out of It is a rallying cry (or a howl, if you will) to the millions of women who are wolves.
“My wolf upbringing is responsible for my personality, for my compassion for the rest of the pack. As a wolf, I’m a diamond in the rough... my whole life is about trying, about speaking up in order to be seen, about howling with laughter or howling out how I see the world,” she writes.
The New York native begins her series of personal essays by drawing on her own ugly-duckling experiences as a preteen.
But unlike the fairy tale where a miraculous transformation into a swan occurs, Klein (like most women) never really grew out of her awkward phase – she just learned how to manage and conceal the so-called imperfections.
The essays run the gamut of every unglamorous act of womanhood – nasty breakups, dating men who don’t meet even the lowest of standards, trying not to act like a crazy person when a boyfriend consistently postpones proposing and the pains of childbirth are all touched on in the most raw and honest way imaginable.
Klein’s observations never come off as forced or pedantic, likely thanks to her decades of experience in comedy, first as a writer for Saturday Night Live, and then as the head writer for Inside Amy Schumer.
Without a hint of self-consciousness, she goes into painstaking and hilarious detail about her love life and the long-winding path to finding her now-husband. Of her usual (pre-husband) type, she writes that she used to love schlubby Jews.
“Sometimes they’re not fat, they’re just doughy, and sometimes they just look like Jews despite being on Jesus’s team,” Klein, who is Jewish herself, reveals. “I need the kind of nose that suggests some sort of Jewish/Italian/Greek/African influence.
The kind of nose that says, ‘At some point in the history of my people, we were forced to flee,’” she adds.
As such, the book is peppered with unexpected Jewish references. For example, she explains, before the Internet, pornographic magazines were “surreptitiously stashed in hiding places by fathers and brothers, like so many filthy afikomen [piece of the middle matza eaten at the end of the Passover meal],” she writes.
The breezy, laugh-out-loud read also manages to relay one seminal message to every reader who may be unlucky in love and confused by the complications of life: You are not alone.
And it is Klein’s effortless humor that is the driving force of the book. Not once does the reader feel compelled to laugh at a joke or judge her when she engages in ill-advised behavior (like having unprotected sex with a man she barely knew).
Klein demonstrates, with all the mixed messages tossed at women about how to behave, how to dress and how to date, even the act of possessing a vagina means one is doomed to walk a tightrope through life.
“I want to be sexy and comfortable and I want men to want to unwrap me like I’m a Christmas gift, but I also want to be left alone and take a nap,” she writes of the horrifying experience of trying to slither oneself into what is essentially two patches of material tied by a string.
Perhaps it is because her series of misadventures, which finally culminate into her ‘having it all’’ (a kind husband, a booming career and a family), but for every cringe-worthy anecdote and misstep, Klein shows that it’s okay to stumble through life, as long as one stumbles with a sense of humor.