Monday, October 30, 2017

Reposted review of Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? A Catholic Girl's Memoir

Here's another old Epinions review I am reposting for posterity.  I actually remember enjoying this book by Marie Simas, although it's not a particularly funny read.

Pros: Well-written, fascinating, heartbreaking, poignant...
Cons: Not really a humor book.  Simas is not always likeable.
I love a good memoir.  I also like profanity.  And I was probably attracted to Marie Simas' 2010 book Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? A Catholic Girl's Memoir because of the provocative title, which told me that the author was probably going to be very irreverent.  The price was right, too.  Amazon.com was selling this e-book for 99 cents, though a paperback version is also available for $9.75.  I decided to take the plunge when I saw that the book was supposed to be funny.

Who is Marie Simas and what is her book about?

Born in 1973 and raised in California, Marie Simas grew up Catholic with a super strict father and kindly mother.  She has a younger brother, Johnny, who is apparently the favored child.  Her parents are from The Azores, so she takes family trips to Portugal, both to the mainland and The Azores.  Do Tampons Take Your Virginity is a collection of memories from Simas' upbringing.  Each story is prefaced with a title, a year, and the age Simas was when the incident happened.  She covers her life from childhood until young adulthood.

Not that funny, but very interesting...

I mentioned earlier that this book is supposed to be funny.  It's listed as a "humor" book.  I want to caution prospective readers that this book is mostly not at all funny. Marie Simas grew up with a very abusive father who was overly strict and behaved like a tyrant toward her and her mother.  She describes several heartbreaking incidents that no sane reader would ever find laugh-worthy, scenes that involve physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.  However, Simas does have a very irreverent writing style and uses a lot of profanity.  I like profanity, but even I was getting tired of Simas' constant use of the "f-word".

That being said, I have to admit I was very fascinated by many of Simas' stories about her youth.  Because she presents her life in chronological order, I could see her progress from being a frightened child who was bullied into obeying her father at all times to a defiant young woman who had developed the courage to stand up to her abuser.  I didn't always agree with the way she handled her problems or the way she treated other people, but I will admit that her methods were mostly effective on some level.

Overall, Simas comes across as an understandably angry person who could probably use some intensive therapy.  Sometimes, I empathized with Simas, even as I occasionally thought she came across as obnoxious.  I am myself an obnoxious person who grew up in an abusive environment.  I think I partially understand the anger behind Simas' words and the reasons why she's obnoxious and irreverent.  Every once in awhile, I also saw a softer side of Simas, a side that revealed humility and sadness rather than over-the-top anger and excessive profanity.


Not really that much about being Catholic...

Another thing I want to address is this book's premise of being a "Catholic memoir".  While Simas does mention some things about Catholicism and her father's strictness, I didn't get the sense that this book really had that much to do with religion.  There was one section in which Simas writes about one of her cousins not wanting to divorce her abusive husband because she's Catholic, but overall, this book seemed to be more about a girl growing up with a very abusive father than anything else.  I didn't feel the Catholic religion always had that much to do with her father's propensity toward violence.  In fact, I felt like the family's Old World Portuguese heritage could have had more to do with Simas' father's old school attitudes than anything else.

Simas describes her father's homeland, The Azores, as a very rustic place where people didn't have running water or other modern conveniences and everyone's provincial and backwards and lives in a rural village.  In my mind, even the fact that Simas' dad is from The Azores and had a provincial upbringing shouldn't really have that much to do with the fact that he was an abusive man who repeatedly raped his dying, bedridden wife and beat on his daughter.  I think the man was probably just a criminal.  But, he did seem to have a lot of hang ups about sex and women being attractive or independent.  Maybe that has to do with Catholicism or being Portuguese, but I don't think Simas made that abundantly clear.


Simas is rebellious 


One thing I took from this memoir is that it doesn't pay to be overly strict with children.  It only teaches them to be deceptive and manipulative.  It gives them a reason to be rebellious.  Marie Simas writes that her father used to refer to her as a wh*re, especially when she wore makeup.  He didn't want her to use tampons because he felt they would take her virginity.  He demanded that she follow his every order to the letter or risk being beaten, and he had to approve of all of her friends.

 And so, when Simas became a teenager, she started wearing makeup when her father wasn't around.  She used tampons.  She stayed up after midnight to create art and she used her friends to get her out of the house.  Simas writes that at least one of her friends "cleaned up nice", but was actually a pretty nasty person who was not a good role model.  Simas' father was all about his daughter not being a wh*re, but Simas admits to being very promiscuous and actually being really mean to some of her boyfriends.  She writes about these incidents as if the reader should be cheering her on, but to me, it just seemed like she projected her father onto a lot of the men in her life.  I felt sorry for the guys instead of identifying with Simas.


Simas apparently has issues with fat women


Several times in this book, Simas describes women as chubby or fat.  Her tone regarding these women is generally somewhat derisive and dismissive.  The only heavyset woman Simas doesn't seem to have a significant issue with is her doctor, who helps her decide what to do when she unexpectedly becomes pregnant.  I did think it was telling, though, that Simas referred to so many women she didn't seem to like as "fat", "chubby", and "ugly".  I don't happen to think that fat people are necessarily ugly or unlikeable, nor do I think that thin people are always attractive or appealing, but Simas seems to think the conditions are not mutually exclusive.


Anyway, to wrap this up...

I'm of a mixed mind about Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?.  I think this book is well-written, occasionally poignant, and overall, very interesting reading.  Parts of this book are also suprisingly funny.  I wish Simas had written more about The Azores, which is a place that a lot of Americans never get to see.  And I wish she had written more about her life as an adult.  She describes how her son was born and mentions she has two kids, but she never writes about her second child.

I don't think this book is really that much about Catholicism, nor do I think this book should be considered "humor".  I don't think abuse is particularly funny and a good portion of this book is about child abuse.  While I wasn't offended by the stories about abuse, I want to caution prospective readers that they may be disturbed by some of Simas' childhood memories.  No one should pick this book up and expect to laugh all the way through it.


Overall 

I give this book three stars and my recommendation.  I think it's worth reading, if you can stomach the language and stories of abuse.  Just don't expect a million laughs.  Amazon.com really ought to reclassify this book as just a memoir so that people looking for humor won't be disappointed.

I will probably read Simas' next book, Douchebag Roulette, because I have a morbid curiosity about it, despite the three star rating I'm giving to Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?.  I think there's a lot to like about Simas as an author, even if I didn't always find her as likeable as a person-- at least not as she comes across in her writing.

www.mariesimas.com


2 comments:

  1. It lives! I should resurrect some reviews too. I’ve got them all, why not use them?

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    1. My last computer died right after I downloaded all my reviews. So now, when I find one I posted on Facebook or elsewhere, I repost it here for posterity. I mostly only do it for book reviews, though, because I think my book reviews were some of my best work. I also wrote pretty good travel reviews, but they don't tend to be as evergreen as book reviews are.

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