June 2004

Jen Crispin


Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy

After my request for book recommendations in my last column, I should be busy for the next year and a half, especially considering the 100 Books list books I am supposed to be reading, along with my backlog of review books. Maybe I should have been going for my Ph.D. in literature. Or women's studies. Or any subject for which all of this reading would be helping, not hindering, my research.

Oh well. If I'd had that much foresight, I probably would have taken a pass on reading Jenny McCarthy's Belly Laughs. But surprisingly, her book was much less awful than I anticipated. In fact, I even found myself giggling furtively, hoping not to catch Jessa's attention while she was checking her email on my computer, lest she think I actually liked it.

I suppose we should clear the air on one issue before I go on. I can't stand Jenny McCarthy. Being one of about a billion Jennifers, Jennys, and Jens in the world, I am very protective of our collective image and get hostile when someone portrays us badly. And Jenny on MTV was obnoxious. Worse, in college I was forced (by my own inertia really, being too lazy to get off of the couch and leave the room) to watch some Jenny McCarthy soft-porn special on the Playboy Channel. (Ummm, I was in a co-ed fraternity in college. But that's a whole other column.) As a result I can say with authority: Those boobs ain't real.

Which actually is the most unique thing about Jenny's book. She doesn't give a damn about real. Which is almost refreshing, given that everything you read these days in modern maternity magazines is all about natural childbirth. You have to have a midwife. You shouldn't get an epidural. You have to breastfeed. From reading Jenny's book, it's clear she never gave any of this very authoritative advice a second's thought. There are no midwives in sight, she never seems to even contemplate a drug-free child-birth, and she unapologetically does not breastfeed. But on the other hand, her book is so sparse that you never know if this is a result of a conscious choice. Did she just wake up one morning, throw her copy of Fit Pregnancy against the wall, and scream "Screw this hippie shit! I want the good drugs!", or was she just kind of floating along, going with the flow?

At 165 pages, there isn't a lot of depth or introspection on any topic. Which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I was so tired of reading this book by about page 100, but a curse because some of her chapters are actually really funny. Any chapter dealing with hormonally induced emotional changes, especially if it involves fights with her husband, is quite humorous. Chapters dealing with complete strangers feeling like they could tell her how to live her life just because she was pregnant made me fall over laughing. Also, perhaps predictably, all chapters dealing with bodily functions such as puking, peeing, farting or pooping merited reading aloud to whoever was nearby.

In fact, given her reputation for obnoxiousness, and her disclaimer in the introduction to the book about how frank she is, how open she is, and the fact that she was 99% naked on the freaking Playboy channel, her downright prudishness in talking about sex was shocking. See, apparently Jenny can't bring herself to say the word masturbation. Talking about hemorrhoids? Fine. Constipation? Great! The m-word? Oh no. We'll stick with charming phrases like "going at it alone."

I think that not too far in the future, some graduate student somewhere could write a thesis on all the neuroses and issues revealed by Jenny in her little book, but until I can figure out a way to relate it all to environmental science, that student will not be me. In the meantime, unless you're a really big fan of Jenny McCarthy, or are just craving some cotton candy for your brain after reading mammoth tomes on maternity, go ahead and pass on this book. Although she promises to reveal all the dirty secrets of pregnancy in her book, only two of her chapters covered anything I hadn't heard 10,000 times before. (Did you know that women usually poop on the table during childbirth? Great. I'm so glad I have to look forward to that now.) And those I probably could have lived without anyway. She writes as if she wants to be your main source of information for pregnancy side effects, but treats each subject so briefly (a typical chapter is about four pages long) that not much real information is imparted. The book is mainly a delivery system for about a dozen genuinely funny anecdotes about her pregnancy, most of which occur in the first quarter of the book, so that by the last quarter, you'd almost rather poop on yourself than keep reading.

That was a little scatological. That damn Jenny must be rubbing off on me.

Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy
DaCapo Press
ISBN: 073820949X
208 Pages