Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer
To be published by Dutton on February 6, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 4.15
Spoiler-free review of an eARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
From Girls to Parks and Recreation to Bridesmaids, the female friendship has taken an undeniable front seat in pop culture. Text Me When You Get Home is a personal and sociological perspective – and ultimately a celebration – of the evolution of the modern female friendship.
Kayleen Schaefer has experienced (and occasionally, narrowly survived) most every iteration of the modern female friendship. First there was the mean girl cliques of the ’90s; then the teenage friendships that revolved around constant discussion of romantic interests and which slowly morphed into Sex and the City spin-offs; the disheartening loneliness of “I’m not like other girls” friendships with only men; the discovery of a platonic soul mate; and finally, the overwhelming love of a supportive female squad (#squad).
And over the course of these friendships, Schaefer made a startling discovery: girls make the best friends. And she isn’t the only one to realize this. Through interviews with friends, mothers, authors, celebrities, businesswomen, doctors, screenwriters, and historians (a list that includes Judy Blume, Megan Abbott, The Fug Girls, and Kay Cannon), Schaefer shows a remarkable portrait of what female friendships can help modern women accomplish in their social, personal, and work lives.
A validation of female friendship unlike any that’s ever existed before, this book is a mix of historical research, the author’s own personal experience, and conversations about friendships across the country. Everything Schaefer uncovers leads to – and makes the case for – the eventual conclusion that these ties among women are making us (both as individuals and as society as a whole) stronger than ever before.
I was stoked when I saw this book on NetGalley, a feminist book about how important female friendships are? It was right up my alley. Unfortunately, I ended up being somewhat disappointed by the content. Overall, the book is well-written and makes a lot of important points. But these points are surrounded by a meandering narrative that ultimately seemed without purpose.
This is because women who say, “Text me when you get home,” aren’t just asking for reassurance that you’ve made it to your bed unharmed. It’s not only about safety. It’s about solidarity. It’s about knowing how unsettling it can feel when you’ve been surrounded by friends and then are suddenly by yourself again.
There were also a couple of points made that I didn’t agree with. First and foremost was the idea that a woman could not have a man as a best friend, “it just doesn’t work that way.” I disagree wholeheartedly. While I see where the author is coming from, I have several male best friends who I’m just as close to as my non-male best friends. There’s nothing I don’t feel comfortable sharing with them, and while they may not have gone through all the same experiences as me, they’re still my best friends.
For something so widely believed, the idea that girls are mean is relatively new.
The majority of the book is anecdotal, with references to pop culture. There’s a bit of historical research mixed in and very little, if any, current research. It’s the author talking about her friendships with women, and interviewing other women about their friendships. All these stories seem to come from a very limited subset of women — upper-middle class straight women. At least, that was the vibe I got. I didn’t mark down details about every single woman she interviewed, but this seemed to be the pattern I saw.
There were a few other things that gave me some serious “yikes” vibes. The author made jokes about strokes, and put in jokes about stalking quotes from an interviewee. There was also one line that really irritated me. The author is talking about a pair of best friends, one straight and one gay. She shared that the friends would go to gay bars together, which is fine, but that “Susanna liked being the only straight girl.” Being queer myself, I’m pretty sick of straight women co-opting gay spaces as their own and I found this inclusion completely unnecessary.
Additionally, the author shared that she didn’t really care about feminism at all until Trump was elected. I think this goes to show the kind of privilege she has lived with, and that she isn’t really qualified to speak for women at large. I was surprised that she even admitted to this, but I think that just means that she doesn’t see any issue with it.
I will note again that I am reading an unfinished copy, so it would be interesting to know if any of these things were left out of the final copy.
Overall, Text Me When You Get Home was an enjoyable read. It was nice reading about relationships between women, but I didn’t feel like I was learning anything. I would be interested in seeing a book written about relationships between women that goes more in depth than this one, and that discusses women from different backgrounds. I won’t tell anyone not to read this book, but I think it’s good to go into it not expecting it to be a gamechanger.
All quotes have been taken from an unfinished copy and may be changed prior to publication.