I’m back! (Yet again…)
So after a year of on-again, off-again blogging, I’ve discerned that I just can’t find the time to blog while I’m at college. BUT, I still love blogging, and I love having breaks from school so that I can get back to it.
It’s been a rough/tough semester/year, and I’ve found myself in a much different place (not location-wise, but mentally/emotionally/life-y) than where I was at the end of my freshman year of college. For the time being, I’m just decompressing from an emotional roller coaster of a year. I’ve only been home for two and a half days, but I’ve already recognized that something that really grounds me and makes me feel good about myself is reading.
So, here’s to my first book of the summer, Drinking with Men by Rosie Schaap!
During my fall semester of sophomore year, I took a creative writing class called “The Personal Essay,” in which I learned how to write about myself in the form of an essay (a collection of which could be considered a memoir). The creative writing department at my college brought in Rosie Schaap to do a reading from her memoir and have a Q & A with the students. After the reading (which was super entertaining), I bought a copy of her memoir and got to talk to her for a few seconds. She was totally cool and intimidating, and definitely had a free-spirited aura about her, which having read the book now, makes a whole lot of sense.
Drinking with Men is a collection of ten personal essays written by Schaap about her many, many experiences with bars throughout her life. Each chapter revolves around one particular bar, which serves as the frame for her stories about her remarkable life. Before she came for the reading, my personal essay class was assigned to read the first essay from the memoir, entitled “Bar Car Prophecy,” which details Schaap’s experience as a wayward, teenage stoner who discovers that she has a knack for performing tarot card readings in the bar car of the train that takes her to and from her shrink’s office weekly. If that isn’t enough to catch your attention, I don’t know what will.
The following essays follow Schaap through bars she discovered while following around the Grateful Dead, near her college in Vermont, abroad in Ireland, in Montreal while visiting for a friend’s wedding, and in her hometown of New York City. And with each bar, the reader learns a little bit more about the crazy life of Rosie Schaap.
I took a risk when buying this book. Though I have discovered the wonderful appeal of memoir as a genre, Rosie Schaap couldn’t be further from me personally, other than the fact that we’re two white ladies. As her bio says on the back of her book, “Rosie Schaap has been a bartender, a fortune-teller, a librarian at a paranormal society, an English teacher, an editor, a preacher, a community organizer, and a manager of homeless shelters.” That’s quite the résumé. Schaap has lived the crazy, rebellious life as a teenager (involving alcohol, pot, and not always knowing where she was going to sleep the next night), the high-falutin scholar life in college (involving lots of poetry and deep conversations with intelligent people), and the very stressful adult life (involving finding something resembling faith, her father’s death, and the 9/11 attacks). She has seen it all and more. And she has been drinking all the while.
Her life is so vastly different from mine, that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to identify with her memoir at all. I’m a pretty straight-edge, reserved nineteen-year-old. Fear drives a lot of what I do and don’t do (and trying to make that not the case can be anywhere from frustrating to agonizing), and the phrase “trying new things” has often been cause for anxiety rather than excitement for me. Though I do like doing “new things” and have found going out of my comfort zone more and more appealing as I’ve gotten older, I find a sense of security, comfort, and peace with routine. I do the right thing not always because I want to, but because I feel like I have to.
But what surprised me most about Drinking with Men was how much I identified with Rosie Schaap’s journey. Of course, I’m not married, my parents are both alive and still married, and I’ve only had two real jobs in my life. But I did identify with the emotions present in Schaap’s memoir. She often mentions her need to feel needed and a sense of belonging, which couldn’t be more applicable to my life as a young adult right now. She just searches for that feeling in bars, and I don’t. She discusses grief over the passing of friends and of her father, which is a feeling I have become all too familiar with, and I’ve even written about on this blog before. And toward the end of the memoir, she discusses the yearning to be really “doing something” with her life, the feeling that the world has so much to offer, and falling into complacency with the little you do know can be considered a failure. I have often felt this feeling before, as I’m sure so many have.
The greatest lesson I learned from Drinking with Men is that no matter how different you are from someone on the surface, there will still be innate, human things that you share. There is a certain level of universality that comes with being a person that will always allow you to find some way to connect with someone else, and your different choices don’t make you better or worse than anyone else. Though Rosie Schaap sought connection through her extroverted personality in bars across the western world, I seek connection, too, just in different, more introverted ways. We may be completely different people, but we are still just two people. And in our humanness, there is similarity and understanding. And in this similarity, I can see the possibility for me to lose some of my fear and take some chances. Rosie Schaap and I aren’t that different, after all.
Have you read Drinking with Men? What did you think about it? Have you read any other memoirs that had an impact on you? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading!