When I first told my friend TJ that I had the opportunity to read and review Dominique Browning’s Slow Love, it was with serious hesitation. Having been someone who lost their job, put on their pajamas, and ended up seeking out divorce advice and feeling like a failure in life….I appreciated the opportunity but I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of hearing the story of someone whose unemployed struggle was obvious not as difficult as mine. TJ told me that she’d read the book and that Dominique’s struggle was real and that I’d be surprised.
TJ lied…well….she was incorrect (sounds better).
Let me be honest….the downward emotional spiral that Browning dealt with is something that I could definitely identify with but between the flowery fragrant composed sentences and her obsession with her married yet legally separated but living in the same house lover, it was hard to really tell what was going on.
In the four days we were given to pack up our belongings, I was overwhelmed with an urge to hoard, and began stufﬁng every House & Garden paper bag, pencil, and notepad I could get my hands on into a box, so that I would never run out of ofﬁce supplies. I salvaged enough to run a small corporation from my kitchen. I didn’t think of this as stealing. I thought of it as a twisted sort of recycling, for me, and for the stuff -— part of the strange new economy of severance into which I had been thrown. Everything with our logo on it was destined for the shredder anyway.
Even so, a few weeks later I realized I had some gaping holes in my inventory: I had no ink for my printer. The pages of my résumé looked faded, ghostly. You would have thought I was fading too, but I wasn’t. I was getting plump. All I could think about was food. This was the beginning of being hungry all the time. My addled brain was interpreting the white noise of unemployment to mean that I was going into hibernation, so I had to fatten up to get through the long winter ahead. After the closing of the magazine was announced, my public line was: “I had a great run; I took a magazine from zero to 950,000 readers in ten years, won awards, published four books … ” I was a zombie. “Great run … 950,000 readers … four books …”
But privately, I was in a whiplashing tailspin. My nightmare had ﬁnally come true. For years, I had had a profound dread of unemployment that went way beyond worrying about how to pay the bills. I would like to say that this was because of the insecure nature of magazine publishing in general, and life at Condé Nast speciﬁcally, where the backstabbing at the highest levels of management was elevated to an art form, an elaborate corporate kabuki. But actually my anxiety had more to do with my own neuroses. Work had become the scaffolding of my life. It was what I counted on. It supported the structure. Work held up the ﬂoor of my moods, kept the façade intact. I always worried that if I didn’t have a job, I would sink into abject torpor. I couldn’t imagine life without work — or, if I did, I went cold with fear. Not for me, those fantasies of sunny days at the beach.
I have always had a job. I have always supported myself. Everything I own — my house, my piano, my kayak, my trees — I purchased with money that I earned. For the thirty years I’ve been an adult, I have had an ofﬁce to go to and a time to show up there. I’ve always had a place to be, and you can read as much existential gravitas into that as you want; there’s plenty there. I had never even changed jobs without having another job lined up. It was probably compulsive not to spend a few days in between jobs quietly thinking about what I would like to do, rather than just leaping into what others offered me next — but this problem afﬂicts many of us, sort of like not leaving a bad boyfriend until you have a new boyfriend lined up. It feels safer. Without work, who was I? I do not mean that my title deﬁned me. Whatever status came with being an editor at Condé Nast didn’t mean much to me; it seemed silly, overblown, something that other people projected. What did deﬁne me was the plain old simple act of working. The loss of my job triggered a cascade of self-doubt and depression. I felt like a failure. Not that the magazine had failed, but that I had.
I WANTED to love this book. I WANTED to pump my fist in the air and say “YES! THAT’S HOW I FELT! THIS IS MY STORY!” Dominique Browning’s book leaves me with the impression that her successful career and frugal living left her with the ability to survive unemployment while at the same time not feeling the immediate pressure to rejoin the work force for survival. Oh, and that she’s a brat.
The most disappointing thing about Browning’s memoirs about losing her job, putting on her pajamas, and finding happiness is that she glosssed over losing her job and finding her happiness. She is as equally obsessed with pajamas as she is the unavailable lover and baking muffins. That much is clear. I am left not feeling any different than when I first received the book. Browning’s journey and her book are not something that us common folks can identify with.
There is some fierce discussion going on among us readers about whether Browning actually planned for her future or was simply lucky to have the position in life that she did which resulted in her lifestyle not being as affected by job loss as others. Please feel free to join us over at BlogHer.
Thanks for visiting Diva (in Demand). My blog escapades have followed me across 4 states, 3 jobs, a business venture, and a new husband. There are no mini divas yet but I have loads of nieces and nephews to slobber and wipe their dirty hands on me. I am an amateur pastry chef, certified cake decorator, and seasoned home cook who knows how to pair French cuiseine with fine wine, collard greens and cornbread. You'll find a little bit of everything around here.....where I take talking to myself to a whole new level.