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Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine handed me a copy of a book and said something like, “This made me think of you and your book.”  Having now read the memoir, what I think he meant to say was, “This is what you might sound like if you were Mennonite, could construct coherent sentences, cursed less, and Rocco wanted to sleep with Bob, the guy from gay.com.”

“You marry your pothead if you like,” she said generously, “as long as you wait a while.  Let’s say two years.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

“Hey!” I said indignant.  “How do you know the pothead doesn’t serve the Lord?  As a matter of fact, this pothead does serve the Lord!  He’s more religious than I am!”  (I felt safe in asserting this because I had once heard the pothead softly singing “Amazing Grace.”)

“I think the Lord appreciates a man on a tractor more than a man smoking marijuana in his pajamas, ” Mom said earnestly.  “I know I do.”

Do I even have to say I loved this book?  I mean, it’s sort of a given, right?  The author, Rhoda Janzen, talks about using her uterus as a storage device in the first five pages.  What’s not to love?

I bet she has a non-sexual crush on Neil Patrick Harris and is easily confused by toenails, too.  Ok, maybe not the toenail part.

And she loves people, despite all the heartache she’s survived.  I love people that love people.  And I love people that notice the tiny beautiful details of other people.  And I love Barbra Streisand singing “People Who Need People,” but that’s a bit off topic.

He had sunrise eyes, the kind that smile in a little fan of laugh lines.

Rhoda’s story (and you really have to call her by her first name because three pages in you feel like you’ve shared a Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag with her after a horrifying ghost story while on a ill-fated camping trip) should be soul crushing and depressing.  Yet somehow in her telling, the story becomes a joyful celebration of life – and not in a schmaltzy, saccharine, made-for-a-Lifetime-Movie-marathon kind of way.   But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t occasionally tear your heart out and Riverdance on it.

I always assumed that bipolar folks were missing some crucial fuse in their anger-management system – that their inner thermometer was set a shade too high.  Two years out from my marriage, I now have a more useful perspective.  After Nick left, I eventually began dating a man I liked but didn’t love, and I finally have firsthand experience in those little sparks of irritation that ignite impatience.  I’d never even noticed them.  It was after Nick had left me that I learned the lesson: it’s when you don’t love somebody that you do notice the little things.  Then you mind them.  You mind them terribly.

Her dry wit permeates each page.  And she’s smart as a whip.  (That saying makes no sense, bee tee dubs.  I’ve never met a whip that understood fractions.)  I think every teenage girl should have the following passage tattooed on their forearm.

In my opinion, sexiness comes down to three things: chemistry, sense of humor, and treatment of waitstaff at restaurants.  If the sparks don’t fly from the beginning, they never will.  If he doesn’t get your sense of humor from the first conversation, you’ll always secretly be looking for someone who does.  And if a guy can’t see restaurant servers as real people, with need and dreams and crappy jobs, then I don’t want to be with him, even if he just won the Pulitzer Prize.

I laughed, I cried, it was better than Barbra Streisand singing “Memories” from Cats.  (See how I brought that back full circle?  You thought I quit paying attention, didn’t you?)  But seriously, I sort of want to make out with this girl.  After reading Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, so will you.

42 comments to Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

  • I LOVED that book too! I agree, she totally makes the reader feel like a lifetime bff.

    [Reply]

    She’s the kinda gal you want to be trapped in a fox hole with. If you were into fox holes. Which I’m not. So never mind.

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  • Filing away on Goodreads…

    [Reply]

    Yay! And then tell me if you love it!

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  • Funny, I keep looking for things to make me feel like a better person but nothing is working. I’m trying spaghetti and meatballs right now.

    Maybe this book would help, if I new how to read books at this point.

    [Reply]

    Want me to drive up there and we can do a little motor boating? Would that help? I’ll bring wine.

    Say, shouldn’t the ice giant be making an appearance soon? At least his leg?

    [Reply]

    He’s a little less than a giant these days…I will try to capture his essence for you tomorrow, in the light of day. When I stay home because of the snow.

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  • J

    Those quotes made me want to go out and buy this IMMEDIATELY. And the waitstaff thing…SO right on.

    [Reply]

    Right? It’s called common human decency and most people ain’t never heard of it.

    [Reply]

  • Holy shit yes, that paragraph (the tattooing one!) makes total sense. I think we all take the wrong route sometimes and tell ourselves it’s ok and one day well…it isn’t. It happens. And the thing about waitstaff is one of MY philosophies too. If someone’s rude or dismissive of waiters, it’s a big NO in my book.

    Yes I DO HAVE PHILOSOPHIES.

    This sounds nicely inspirational. Like a lemon cake on a sunny day.

    [Reply]

    “Like a lemon cake on a sunny day.” That line seriously made me smell lavender and smile. You’re magic.

    [Reply]

  • Damn, my list of books I want to read is growing ever longer. I may need to take a day off just to get to work on that. I love the “sunrise eyes” description! I can see that perfectly.

    [Reply]

    *swoon* She’s a regular painter, that one.

    [Reply]

  • I heard great things about this book but I have yet to pick it up, so that is the first thing on my “to do” list for tomorrow.
    Secondly, a man smoking pot in his pajamas WHILE driving a tractor could also be great.
    Not sure what kind of farm it would be though.

    [Reply]

    Pineapple. Duh.

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  • i can’t decide which i like better, your descriptions of this author and her impact on the reader or the passages from her book. anyhussy: sold!

    [Reply]

    Veg’s comment. That’s the best part. For sure. And I don’t even LIKE lemon cake.

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  • “it’s when you don’t love somebody that you do notice the little things. Then you mind them. You mind them terribly.” ~ Perfection!

    New to the blog and I love this post. So much so, that I immediately ordered the book before commenting. Thanks!!

    [Reply]

    Well hi! Welcome! Don’t mind all those vaginas I leave laying about. Just try not to step on any of them. :)

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  • I love this book! She is so well spoken (or is it written? literate? As if I would know.).

    But it made me even more leary of dating, much less getting married.

    [Reply]

    Just don’t marry any gay men and you’ll probably be ok.

    [Reply]

  • Wow, I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book review that had me wanting to read the book more than this one.

    [Reply]

    DO it! It’s delicious.

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  • another one for the list, and this one is saucy to boot! danka!

    [Reply]

    Sadly there was no reference to lederhosen. *sigh*

    [Reply]

  • Sarah T

    But…but…I’ve already GOT a pile of books I want to read next!!!

    [Reply]

    This one’s really quick if that helps at all!

    [Reply]

  • I’m really trying not to read good books lately. It makes me feel like I haven’t done anything with my life. So, I’m rereading Twilight.

    [Reply]

    You can’t read that too many times. No really. Please tell me I can’t read it too many times.

    [Reply]

  • Okay, I would totally go buy this book if I wasn’t at the point in my life in which I…

    1. Get into bed
    2. Get comfy
    3. Excitedly open book
    4. Start reading
    5. Get to page 2
    6. Fall asleep
    7. Wake up five hours later with a cat on my head

    [Reply]

    Now that I just saw Black Swan I’m going to assume you’re Mila Kunis in this scenario.

    [Reply]

  • Wait, your crush on NPH is non-sexual? You don’t wanna at least make out with him a little bit? While he sings?

    [Reply]

    Oh I still want to lick him! Just nowhere dirty. Only the places you’d lick your own mother.

    [Reply]

  • This is a very well done review: adroit and inventive.

    [Reply]

    No one has ever called me adroit before. *does a little dance* I liked it.

    [Reply]

  • I really need this book. Because if I read one more parenting book I am going to need even more therapy.

    [Reply]

    This book is so good it’s LIKE therapy. Do it.

    [Reply]

  • Mo

    I loved this book. Not only did I read it straight through without putting it down, it made me laugh out loud (aks “snort”).

    PS: I followed A Vapid Blonde over here. LOVE your blog!

    [Reply]

  • Good review. I saw that title somewhere and thought it was about a Mennonite who wore sexy clothes under her Mennonite garb, like when I see women in the full tilt boogie Muslim garb, shopping for stilettos and sexy lingerie in Marshalls. So I guess it isn’t, and I will check it out.

    [Reply]

  • abigail

    Alright, I’ll reserve it from the library. They MAIL me my reserved books, which is the most amazing thing ever.

    [Reply]

  • Sorry honey that it took me so long to come over and leave a comment on this one. I do read all your posts…

    “it’s when you don’t love somebody that you do notice the little things. Then you mind them. You mind them terribly.”

    This took my breath away and I could not say anything about it without having to deal with whatever is going on in my life. So I chose to ignore it…

    [Reply]

  • Ahhh sorry for messing up the Mojo of your blog by leaving something so depressing… I plead CUI!

    [Reply]

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