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.


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42 thoughts on “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

  1. 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.

    1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. “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!!

  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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…

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