March 2011

Heather Clitheroe

scarlet woman of self-help

How I Learned to Get Fresh to Death and Love the Grenade: Jenni Farley's “The Rules According to JWOWW”

"Just because I have chosen to live this lifestyle doesn't mean that readers should -- I am not a role model! The publisher and author advocate safety when it comes to drinking and sex and specifically disclaim any and all liability for any outcomes, consequences, and damages (including property damage, physical injury, or death) that may occur as a result of attempting any of the activities described in this book."

I'm not sure if the disclaimer covers the irreparable and lasting harm incurred as a result of reading the book, but Bookslut's lawyers haven't returned my calls yet. Suffice it to say that after an hour and a half of poring over her The Rules According to JWOWW, Farley's most salient advice filters down into a few points:


Now, it's true that the people most likely to pick up Jenni Farley's book will know her as “JWoww,” a cast member of MTV's Jersey Shore, a reality show following the often-drunken adventures of young Italian-American men and women in aimless pursuit of... well, of getting drunk and having sex, I think. With the success of the show comes the spawning of celebrity lines: a novel, perfume, a self-help book, clothing, diet supplements, and self-tanner.

Fortunately, Bookslut only asked me to review the self-help book.

Farley's book on “landing a mint guy, staying fresh to death, and kicking the competition to the curb” are laid out over nine chapters, and further broken down into sixty “rules” for what amounts to questionable at best practices. Co-written with Sheryl Berk (who, no doubt, is responsible for the proper use of semicolons in the book), Farley hopes to elevate fine art of courtship and love-play because:

Women need dating rules like they need bras. Sure, you can go without them, but if you do -- and you're sporting a nice boob job like I am -- you are gonna be flopping out there in the wind.

It must be hard to be a Jersey Shore girl. They're always being criticized for their hair, their portrayals of cultural stereotypes, their hook-ups, their arrests for public intoxication, or their bouts on celebrity boxing matches. It's so, like, unfair and stuff, you know? But Farley has learned much from her time on the show, and in true celebrity fashion, she's willing to share what she knows. And she knows a lot.

When hitting the club or bar, she says, take protection. Not condoms. A couple of girlfriends who will help you "repel the losers and reel in the hotties." Learn to distinguish from your typical man-whore and the cocky asshole (and all this time, I thought they were the same guy!). Stop drinking if you vomit (this is part of rule #8 -- “sloppy drunk is not a good look on anyone”). Vomiting, she says, is a signal that your body "can't take the amount of alcohol that you have consumed." The Mayo Clinic says that it can be a sign of alcohol poisoning, but what do they know? They're just like stage-five clingers, vibing with the books and all, yo. They're such grenades (also a term for a “large, ugly chick who's friends with a hot chick.” Oh, snap!

Although Farley does not advocate “hooking up” with a man on the first date/drunken encounter -- possibly acknowledging that alcohol clouds even the freshest to death, most mint mind -- she does suggest that saying no is an excellent way to make a man want a girl even more:

Here's the thing: guys appreciate a challenge. So every time you say no, it's like pouring gasoline on the fire. It will drive him wild, and he'll be even more determined to get you back in his bed. He will say anything to get you to come back with him. Don't cave in, even if he whines, begs, or assures you he's a perfect gentleman.

What is somewhat terrifying is the possibility that scores of young women are reading this book and thinking that “no” is less about refusing unwanted sexual advances and more about a technique for seduction on the path to a Mr. Perfection to “wife-me-up.” It calls into question whether the plan to “drive him wild” with refusals is a safe way for a young woman to handle herself in a charged setting -- not to say that to do so could bring down a consequence to be answered with "she poured gasoline on that fire" and deserved it, but that there is no distinction between sexual foreplay and what happens when a girl says no, means it, and isn't listened to.

The word “rape” does not appear once in the book (and yes, I checked). Though Farley is concerned that women not get sloppy drunk and have an emergency twenty dollar bill with them, she is curiously silent on the dangers of GHB and date-rape drugs, on how a woman cannot consent to sex if she is too intoxicated, and how “hooking up” can leave her in danger of sexually transmitted disease. Instead, she says, a girl should never leave home without an extra set of panties, because "hey, they could come in handy."

This is not a book about sexual assault -- nor was it intended as one. But self-help books that stem from the premise that the club scene is a good way to finally meet the guy that you want to “smush” ought to surely have a mention -- even in passing -- that sometimes bad things happen very quickly.

But maybe I'm just hating on the fresh to death lifestyle.

There's not much to be found in the book that can't best be described by JWoww's recipe for Caesar salad (part of rule 29: “when you're sure he's the one, slap on the cuffs”). Ingredients: one head romaine lettuce. 1 cup “lite” Caesar dressing. 1 1/2 cups croutons. Grated Parmesan. The directions? I quote:

  1. Chop romaine lettuce into bite-size pieces.
  2. In a large bowl, mix romaine, dressing, and croutons.
  3. Sprinkle Parmesan on top.

Good lord. Martha Stewart will be SO MAD that her patented secret Caesar salad recipe is out there.

As advice books go, it's fairly standard. Farley suggests that women should be confident and assertive, though they should always have their pubic hair waxed. There are some odd pieces of editing, too: a section on “six ways to survive a breakup” only has two points, while “how to get over a breakup (in three easy steps)” has six. It's at this point that I imagine some poor copyeditor at HarperCollins either spontaneously combusting or dropping their head to desk, sobbing. I giggled madly.

In the spirit of the disorganized, free-flowing and sometimes nonsensical rules, I offer three more:

  1. Admit that several seasons on a reality television show does not an expert make.
  2. Come to the realization that if you're over sixteen and still referring sexual intercourse as “smushing,” you've got a problem.
  3. Refrain from thanking your plastic surgeon in your acknowledgements. It's a little weird.