There are many things to like about Tina Fey’s book Bossypants, not least of which is Tina Fey herself. She’s funny, she’s smart, she’s an excellent writer (not always a given from funny, smart, likable people), and she’s very relatable — even for those of us who don’t have a critically acclaimed TV show on our resumes.
If you know one thing about Fey, it’s that she’s all about valuing girls and women for their talents and contributions and not their looks. That’s not just a recurring theme on her show “30 Rock,” but something she cares about enough to go changing the lexicon around her daughter — among other loving, daughter-protecting acts revealed in her book.
I’ve condensed the text into a skeletal outline of eleven ways to raise a girl in the art of Tina Fey. Who knows if it works — her daughter’s only five. Which is why I’ve included “The Mother’s Prayer for Its Daughter,” Fey’s hail-Mary pass for getting it right.
1. Call Sleeping Beauty’s hair “yellow” not “blond.”
“Blond” is a fancy French word; brown isn’t. Yet both are used to describe hair color. When Fey reads to her daughter, Alice, she says “yellow” whenever the text reads “blond” so her girl doesn’t think that blond hair is somehow better.
2. Strong father figure
She admits her own child gets away with too much. But the secret to her own success is having had a strong father figure. Fellow writer at Saturday Night Live, Colin Quinn, summed it up best, she writes, when he said this after meeting Fey’s father, Don:
You would never come home with a shamrock tattoo in that house.
3. On career, she said girls and women need to know that when they’re up for a promotion and another female is being considered for the job, we shouldn’t be fooled: we’re not in competition with other women, we’re in competition with everyone. Your female classmates and co-workers aren’t the ones in your way, everyone is!
4. On dressing for success:
I encourage them to always wear a bra. Even if you don’t think you need it, just … you know what? You’re never going to regret it.
5. On workplace sexism, Fey suggests not wasting energy trying to change opinions. Instead, she says when women face sexism (or ageism or “lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism,”) she should ask herself whether the sexist person is in between you and what you want to do. If the answer is no, move on. If yes, find someone above your boss who is not a jerk. And when you’re the boss, don’t hire jerky people.
6. More on school, art, workplace: do your thing and don’t care if they like it.
7. On Photoshop, she thinks only people over 70 can’t spot when it’s used — so why all the scorn? Fey summarizes her Photoshop feelings thusly, like abortion, “[Photoshop] is appalling and a tragic reflection on the moral decay of our society … unless I need it, in which case, everybody be cool.”
8. Fey struggled with breastfeeding, switched to formula, felt crappy about it for a minute, and then went on with raising her daughter.
9. Among her great tips on carving out “me time”: say you’re going to look for the diaper cream, then go into your child’s room and just stand there until your spouse comes in and curtly says, “What are you doing?”
10. Stop beating yourself up for valuing career and motherhood (but spending more hands-on time on the former). Work is not going away: “There was no prolonged stretch of time in sight when it would just be the baby and me.” Instead, Fey sobs three times a year over that reality (while her stay-at-home moms have their own triannual sobs over the opposite).
11. Regarding 10, she concludes: some of your best moments as a mother “will happen around the toilet at six a.m. while you’re holding a pile of fingernail clippings like a Santeria princess.” Go with that. Remember that.
12. Finally, if all else fails, a prayer:
First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.
May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.
When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.
Guide her, protect her
When crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.
Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels.
What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.
May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.
Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.
O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.
And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.
And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.
“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.
Amen is right!