Book Review: Settle for More
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Settle For More, by Megyn Kelly, 320 pages
This book has me torn. On the one hand, I admire Megyn Kelly and her willingness to not apologize for what she says and thinks. She does not feel the need to precede opinions with qualifying statements, which is something I do too often. She is smart. Really smart. Her list of achievements make me feel like I need to go run a marathon while giving birth (to twins, no epidural, full make up on) and writing a novel. All that to say—she works really hard. And (this is where I begin to feel torn ) she doesn't want us to forget it. She does NOT come from a privileged background, ok? Which is why, on the other hand, I found this book somewhat annoying and left me feeling vaguely like a loser. Partly inspired, but mostly a loser. Well, if you can't run a marathon while birthing, you probably ARE a loser. Says the person with blinders on.
She begins the book detailing the days before the first Republican Debate in Cleveland, Ohio. The one where she opened up the debate asking Trump about his treatment of women. That opening chapter had me intrigued. It sets the scene for what she comes back to later, which is the very public, very unsettling way in which Trump targeted and set out to destroy her. The "blood coming out of her wherever" comment comes to mind immediately. But before that, she goes through her history and how she became who she is, what shaped her, etc. I found most of that just "eh." It was not very narrative, it was fairly dry and read like a list, almost—this happened, then x happened and then y happened, imbued with attempts at humor that were not very funny.
The biggest problem, however, is what I alluded to in the opening: for the most part, she comes across as out of touch and not relatable. There are glimmers of humanity (some of her attempts to appear accessible fall flat), but the overwhelming sense I got was: this feels like a person trying to convince her readers how put together she is. Great kids, handsome husband, successful career. Check, check, and check. There is nothing wrong with being successful and happy with your life, that's not what I'm getting at. However, something just felt off in the way she presented herself and her life and her story. It read and felt surface, lacking in nuance and depth and honesty, if I'm being honest. There was a good amount of eye rolling as I read.
I kept thinking about this idea she kept pushing that is also synonymous with the American Dream and work ethic: if we just work really hard, we can achieve our dreams. Hashtag no excuses. And I'm not sure I buy that anymore. Megyn Kelly would like us to believe that she was born underprivileged and without money, but the truth is, being born into a white, middle class family, she was already lightyears ahead of many. I realize this doesn't really give me any excuses, because I am also white, and was born into a middle class family. And I clearly do not have Megyn Kelly's lifestyle or money. My kids also annoy me sometimes, and it's not uncommon for me to try to communicate my irritation with my husband through the slamming of various cabinet doors and drawers. The silverware one is great if I really want to make a point. Lots of clashing metal.
Not that she'll ever see this, but it's always in the back of my head to never write what I wouldn't say to someone in person. But the point of this is not to trash talk Megyn Kelly or to root for her failure. It's just to point out that this book, to me, felt forced and inauthentic. It was not a piece of work that left me feeling connected with her humanity, with the core of who she is. And maybe that wasn't the goal of the book. But that is what I hope to get out of memoirs.
She's obviously very talented at her job, she seems like a good, attentive mother and partner. I just kind of want to know that maybe once she's thrown a dirty diaper in with the wash. It's not so much that I think that we have to present ourselves as chaotic messes to be authentic. Only pointing out one's own weaknesses is also not the whole picture. It seems like in the age of social media, if a woman (a mother in particular) ever presents themselves as having done something particularly well or is proud of an achievement, whether it's work or home or otherwise related, there is sometimes a backlash for not portraying "real life." Well, real life is successes and achievements just as much as it is setbacks and failures. But the problem is when all nuance is lacking, as if we live in a world of clear cut options and decisions. And yet, I can't help but wonder if one doesn't rise to her level of success without foregoing nuance and blazing ahead. Can't win 'em all, I guess (unless you're Megyn Kelly, then it seems you do win them all).
Despite all that, I do appreciate that she values herself, her opinions, her work. She writes: "I think it's good for them [her kids] to see their mother in a powerful position where she's clearly in control. I'm glad they will grow up to understand—inherently—that women loving their work is a natural thing in this world." (p 219)
I couldn't agree more. I aspire to give the gift to my kids of them being able to see their mother love and take pride in her work, too, but interspersed with the occasional drawer slam, followed, hopefully, by an apology. They need the whole picture, messy as it really is.