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Late is Better than Never: A Belated Review of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please

As usual, I was late to the party with this one, but I thought it was worth a post. I recently read Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. In case you’re like me and never got around grabbing a copy of this gem, let me give you the run-down.

This book is a memoir in the form of a collection of short, provocative and meaningful anecdotes and insights broken down into three appropriately titled sections: Say Whatever You Want, Do What Ever You Like and Be Whoever You Are. Amy Poehler is just as hilarious as one would expect her to be, but still able to come down hard on important issues. While I thought some of her arguments were contradictory or perhaps a bit misguided, her book was ultimately victorious. Her writing style is sharp, funny and wise in a way that only Amy Poehler could be, and the ultimate message is one of self-acceptance.

While my ultimate favorite part of this book was her chapter on apologizing (which I’ll get to in a moment), there were some honorable mentions, such as her discussions of body image, sexism and motherhood. She hilariously but also very accurately describes self-doubt and body-insecurity as a “demon.” In this section she is not only completely relatable and candid about the reality of low-self esteem, but she offers solid advice for dealing with said demon, all the while remaining realistic that nobody is perfectly confident in themselves 100 percent of the time.

She discusses the sexism she’s faced both in high school and in show business, recognizing that she is lucky only to have faced microagressions. Her accurate portrayal of the double-bind that women face in high school, being labeled either “slut” or “prude,” is perfectly executed, garnering a good laugh but also genuine sadness at the reality of the impossible standards society has for women.

The last runner-up for best chapter would be her discussion of motherhood. Amy Poehler is the mother of two boys, and she talks about the judgment that all mothers inevitably face, and even ‘fesses up to judging other mothers herself. She advocates for a judgment free attitude when it comes to mothering, coining the phrase “Good for her, but not for me,” as a way to remind herself that she is not in competition with other mothers.

Okay – time for the big kahuna: apologizing. While Poehler may have been discussing a singular incident, her commentary on apology is so important. Those of us who are privileged have probably stepped on the toes of a minority at some point without even realizing it. Whether it was dressing up as an Indian Squaw for Halloween or using a phrase like, “that’s so gay,” we’ve all made insensitive mistakes. Instead of defending ourselves with the all-too-familiar, “What, it’s not like I’m racist,” or “Oh c’mon, it was just a joke,” we should all learn to be vulnerable and willing to admit our mistakes, i.e. “You’re right, that was insensitive of me and I deeply apologize for carelessly mocking your culture. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.”

In doing this we don’t “win” the argument nor do we protect our pride – what we do is even more powerful. We apologize and we grow. Indeed, this was Poehler’s strongest point in the book, and something I (clearly) can’t stop thinking about. Apologizing isn’t weak – it’s strong.

The one section that I thought seemed to work against her overall feminist message was a small section entitled “plastic surgery haikus” in which she essentially makes fun of women who’ve had plastic surgery. While they were, to some extent, clever, and her over-all point was that you don’t need surgery to be beautiful, to me, body shaming is body shaming, whether the body you’re making fun of is biological or bought. It’s never okay to make fun of other women for how they look. Period.

Other than this slight misstep, Poehler’s book is a must-read. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend checking it out. 4 stars from me, Amy.

Feature image: Flickr Creative Commons

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