Well, everyone, it's that time! We are finally getting to discuss the first ever book in the Book Babe Book Club, I'll Drink to That by Betty Halbreich! First of all, I want to thank each and every one of you who joined the book club! I'm so thrilled at the positive response we've had towards the book club, and I can only hope that the enthusiasm grows!
Since this is the first ever discussion, I just want to basically lay out how I think this should go....
I am going write up my thoughts on the book here in the blog portion of the post. I want you all to then write out your thoughts in the comments section! Please feel free to comment on the book, things I mentioned in my own discussion (agreements/disagreements/general comments), as well as the comments of your fellow book club members. I want this to be an open discussion (with people commenting on other comments, etc), and most of all I want it to be a boss babe bonding experience! Use this book club to not only build yourself up, but to build your peers up! Let's use this to openly hear what others have to say, learn something, grow, and become total boss babes! :)
I know I probably don't have to tell you guys this, but I am going to since I feel very strongly about it... keep it civil. No meanies. You can disagree, of course, but please do it with respect and kindness.
Onward with the discussion....
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I'm not going to lie...it took me a little while to really get into it, but once I did (towards the later years), I found it really enjoyable! On an interesting side note, I actually lived in Hyde Park (the neighborhood she grew up in) last year since I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, so it was really interesting for me to hear about the neighborhood then - knowing what it's like now (which is not a very nice area today with lots of gang violence and crime).
I'm not sure about you, but I really struggled with the beginning of the book (her youth and marriage to Sonny) because I just couldn't relate to it. I'm not an only child. I grew up in a family that didn't have money. I've been working since I was 14 years old, and moved far away (from TX to Chicago) and loved it! So it was hard for me to really relate to her character sometimes and to understand exactly what she was going through - especially in the beginning when she was (for lack of a better word) "weak". I found it a bit whiny, and often want to shout "oh just get over it" during the beginning chapters. I understand that it was a different time...but it's still always hard for me to get through books that start off that way because I've never been able to relate to it. I've always worked. My mother still works. Both of my grandmothers worked. So it's just a little hard to really understand her beginning years...However, I also understand that those chapters and that lifestyle were vital to becoming the boss lady she is today. As a former psychology major (and mental illness stigma researcher), I felt for her and her battle with loneliness, anxiety, and depression. It took these chapters for me to see her issues as "real", and not the whining of an over-privileged spoiled woman. I admired the way she was able to pull herself up from the bottom through routine, by admitting she needed help. Too many people are ashamed at the stigma of mental illness to seek help, so I found her admitting she needed to be in a hospital and seeing a psychologist incredibly courageous. She wanted to be better and stronger, but she just didn't know how.
Onward to the later years... something I really identified with! I worked retail for a long time during high school and undergrad. I, too, became known for my "blunt" way of selling. I never sugarcoated, and if something was ugly on the girl...I told her. I figured I would want to know if something looked bad on me before I wasted my money, time, and a good night out in it...so I wanted to let them know! I think Betty really highlighted something in her book...that there is beauty in the truth. We act like we don't want to hear the truth, but it's often what's best for us. Her truthful way of selling created lasting relationships with her customers. I did the same thing...I might have lost out on a big sales day because something a girl was looking for we just didn't really have in a way that looked good on her or made her feel special...but you know what? She always came back, and always asked for me personally...because she wanted the truth. I feel like Betty became the boss babe she is today because she stayed true to herself without being rigid. She knew when to bend and adapt to changing times (love her talking about dressing the 13 yr old), while all the time saying true to who she is as a person and as a saleswomen. As a business owner myself, I think people sometimes focus too much on sales and profits. People are so desperate to make money that they hound people to buy things, cheapen products to increase profits, and forget about the romance of selling. For example, I'm often told that I spend way too much time and money on my packaging. (If you have anything from my store...you know why, haha!) Yes, I spend more than the average business owner on making sure my items arrive adorably packaged...and yes, that means I lose out on extra money by not shipping in standard plain packaging....but that isn't the point. The point of my pretty packaging is to create an experience. To make the person receiving it feel special and happy! I was once asked..."Why do you gift package everything the same way, even if it's not being given as a gift?" Because...the person who bought it for themselves still deserves a gift, don't they? I think Betty really understood what it meant to create an experience out of buying clothes. It's about more than the money -- it's about the magic. Hearing her talk about walking through the store, knowing every detail of the products, and finding new ways to see everything really spoke to me. Sometimes I worry I get too settled in my ways with my shop, but Betty helped me to remember that it's important to take the time to look at what you do with fresh eyes.
I also loved her rants about decorum and clothes these days! I can absolutely relate to that! I grew up in a home where it was "yes ma'am" and "yes sir" to EVERYONE. I was told to open doors, respect my elders, and always say please and thank you. I feel like a lot of that is lost these days. I always dress nicely for an interview and for work. I don't think people should wear flip flops to work, and tights are NOT PANTS! I was once told by an interviewer, who hired me on the spot, that I was the 8th person she interviewed and I was the first not dressed in jeans and had manners. Even though I'm 25, I get where Betty is coming from....I wish we all had a little more of that old world charm and decorum around us, too. It's why I like having "fancy nights" with my friends because we dress up, and have a good old fashioned cocktail hour, and chat about books and music and life. More, please!
Things I learned from the book:
1) There is beauty in the truth.
2) Trust your instincts.
3) People still appreciate manners and decorum...please have them.
4) It's okay to ask for help (even boss ladies need help, too).
5) Be yourself...not everyone will like you, but at least the one's that do love you for who you are.
6) Not everyone is a boss lady right from the get go...encourage others and support them. Everyone you know is fighting their own battles.
7) Super duper fun fact!!!!! Lena Dunham is working on creating an HBO series about Betty :)
So...those are my thoughts on the book! Now let's hear your's! Comment them below and let's have a chat! :)
Don't forget to snag May's books, The Glitter Plan & By Invitation Only! We will be discussing the books on May 29th. Remember, you don't have to read both! But they are both very quick reads! I will have 2 blog posts on May 29th (one for each book), so don't worry...if you can only read one for now, but want the other one for later, I will have 2 separate posts so as not to spoil any of the details for you!
Also, don't forget to tag pictures of you participating in the boss babe book club on Instagram using the hashtag #bossbabebookclub and #readlikeaboss!
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Thanks for reading, dolls! Come back for more!