Alexis Stewart and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt use their colorful commentary and edgy common sense to address every aspect of life in “Whateverland: Learning to Live Here.” This dynamic duo suggests not worrying about being perfect and just learning to accept yourself! Here's an excerpt.
We’re Not Qualified to Give Advice, but We Give It Anyway
You’re not the only one who’s crazy and full of shame. We are, too.
Alexis lightens the blow of her caustic personality by presenting new acquaintances with baked goods. While the rest of the world sleeps, Alexis bakes, cleans, or organizes, but she rarely consumes the fruits of her labor. In addition to being an insomniac, Alexis is obsessive about nutrition and exercise and, in the eyes of some people, pathologically oversexualized. So far, all of these issues have worked in her favor. She is highly productive, is superfit, and has never wanted for an orgasm.
Although New York magazine accused Alexis of being Martha’s id, she is in reality much more than that: a voracious reader, a contentious cultural critic, and as much a devotee of Andy Rooney as of Andy Borowitz. Alexis has owned a series of businesses, all of which, unfortunately, eventually bored her. And although her mother’s television show used to bore her as well, she really likes lampooning it with Jennifer.
For a long time Jennifer wouldn’t look at her weight when she got on the scale—she paid a stranger to tell her whether she was down or up. Jennifer has a frighteningly comprehensive collection of Hello Kitty merchandise and an obsessive fear of flying. She is a self-congratulatory teetotaler who wears her emotions on her sleeve. When Jennifer doesn’t hear from her husband for an hour, she worries that he’s been hurt or incapacitated or that he’s dead. She is an attorney, a notary, and a full-time mother of two children whose faces she won’t allow to appear on the Internet. Jenny is brave enough to discuss her personal grief about losing her mother to pancreatic cancer in front of millions of people but is incapable of blow-drying her own hair (she can, however, rock a curling iron like the best of them).
Dolly Parton told Jennifer she’d be a star, Barbra Streisand was practically her aunt (Jennifer’s father has been in the music business for fifty years), and she can sing and dance almost as well as many on Broadway. But Jennifer’s best talent is her ability to connect with virtually anyone by using her charm, pathos, and self-deprecating humor. Everyone agrees that Jennifer would have been an excellent shrink, but who wants to deal with the proximity to blood and bodily fluids that medical school requires?
We’ve built careers on our neuroses. On our television and radio shows — Whatever, Martha!, Whatever with Alexis and Jennifer, and Whatever, You’re Wrong! — we went on and on (and on) about our insecurities, our childhoods, our relationships, and our bathroom habits. With us, there’s no such thing as TMI. Ever.
Even though technically we may not have been qualified to do so, we gave thoughtful, effective, just plain good advice to people every day, if we do say so ourselves. Between us we have an Ivy League degree, a law degree, a notary stamp, three children, one business, a hit radio show, and two phenomenal handbag collections — so that must count for something.
Why did we write this book, and why are you reading it? You’re not the only one who needs help but hates self-help books.
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We know that all of those other books tend to be written by established experts: industry leaders in the fields of organizational psychology, self-hypnosis, culinary mastery, home improvement, animal husbandry, or whatever. But we’ve yet to find one that is actually helpful. All they do is bring us face-to-face with our insecurities and inadequacies, presenting ridiculous solutions so bizarre they just lead to more problems. Craziest of all, they try to change people’s fundamental natures, and that’s just silly. People don’t really change, after all. They just become more of who they really are.
So we set out to come up with a self-help book that would have lasting effects. And we couldn’t think of a better way to make our suggestions last than to focus on the very things that people hate the most about themselves: their shameful behaviors, thoughts, feelings, failings, and insecurities. People’s issues — including ours — are funny and so not unique.
Just to prove that we mean business and to let readers know that they’re not alone, we’ve shared our own shameful behaviors, thoughts, feelings, failings, and insecurities. We’re not afraid to be our own worst critics or to show our Achilles’ heels. If we can thrive with our embarrassing, humiliating, shameful crap, then our readers can, too. Because you’re only as sick as your secrets.
While Alexis is sarcastic, Jennifer is sincere. And when Alexis is sincere, Jennifer is—really, really surprised. Sometimes we agree, most of the time we don’t, but we always have an opinion, and we
never shut up. In other words, this isn’t your mother’s self-help book.
And it’s not Alexis’s mother’s self-help book, either. It’s just two regular women (okay, who are we kidding, but whatever) talking about how coming to terms with who you really are—and who you’re never going to be—isn’t nearly as scary as you think.
Does Talking to Pop-Tarts Mean You’re Crazy?
Alexis and Jennifer on Food and Eating
When Martha eats baked beans out of a can, her favorite part is the cube of fat.
My mother knew that people preferred to eat chocolate alone somewhere. In secret. That’s why in our house she’d keep chocolate in a little bowl on the bathroom sink, as if they were guest soap.
Jennifer Koppelman Hutt
Have as many as you like. One is fine.
Martha Stewart, to children eating freshly baked cookies on her show
Alexis hasn’t eaten meat since I fed her Plantagenet Palliser.
To eat crap or not to eat crap: that’s another topic — food — on which Alexis and Jennifer often differ.
Alexis grew up on lemon sorbet and sunny fish (whatever sunny fish is), while Jennifer became a connoisseuse of Pop-Tarts and pizza.
Jennifer has recently radically changed her eating habits, but she still craves junk food. Alexis craves junk food, too—to her, junk food includes frozen peas and anything in a package.
If we could, we’d insert a little picture of Jennifer rolling her eyes right now and mouthing the word freak because really, who else but Alexis would consider frozen vegetables to be junk food? But that’s what we’re dealing with here: a radically bizarre childhood in which there wasn’t any prepackaged store-bought food in the house. Sometimes there wasn’t any food in Alexis’s house, but that’s another story (keep reading). In the meantime, Alexis and Jennifer compare notes on what they ate, what they hate, and family mishigas around eating and food.
Reprinted from "Whateverland: Learning to Live Here" by Alexis Stewart and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt © 2011 by Alexis Stewart and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive