Book Review: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better by Monica Heisey (Red Deer Press, out now.)
Whether or not you need a guide for getting on with the rest of your life, or figuring out what the heck you’re doing right now, you’ll enjoy Monica Heisey’s I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better. Monica, a Toronto writer/comedian, has published what I hope to be her first book of essays and stories, full of hilarious bits, blobs and blergs. Monica treats you to memories of barfing all over an airplane washroom and how people talk to her about writing about sex. There are poems for boys, shopping while busty, sleepovers and the shared fridge at work. There are loads of quizzes to find out answers you’ve always been looking for, like should you text them back or not.
Monica owns this identity and has a lot to say about it. She writes in the kind of young, accessible voice of the internet, that kind of ironic kind of jokey self-deprecating ‘I’m so gross but I’m beautiful DEAL WITH IT’ kind of thing, but I find that enjoyable and relatable. It speaks to a lot of people on their level, which is what you want when you read a book (most of the time). At least when I read, I don’t want to feel like I’m being talked down to. No, in I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better, Monica looks you in the face, shrugs, pinches your cheeks and just starts talking.
Here are five ways that Monica gets us, why we’re all the same and wonderful:
Burritos and pizza are our life partners.
Think about it: our lives were forever changed once we had them. We have very personal mouth contact. It can add dressings and try new things but it’s still always its true self underneath. We keep coming back for more. We look forward to seeing it at the end of the day. Sometimes we spend time in bed. I can go on…
In the book’s first essay, Monica describes her reaction to eating her first burrito, minutes after being dumped by her first love (human, not burrito). “Sure, my chest cavity felt like someone had pooped in it (a phrase I actually used in one of our later terrible, melodramatic emails), but how bad could the world be, really, if this sheer amount of sour cream could exist as part of a single meal for one person? I was fine, he was fine, it would all be fine.”
In another chapter, Monica describes some of the pizzas she has loved. “I met Roger when I was seven, at a school-wide pizza lunch. He was $2 and came with a ginger ale, and the whole thing felt special from the start.”
We know there’s a certain way to leave a party.
A lot of us (or, I’m guessing a lot of my readers) generally get anxiety when at a party, or even at the thought of going to a party. (That doesn’t mean we don’t want to be invited though!) So if we make it to said party, that’s quite impressive, if I do say so myself. But then you realize after a while, okay, my time’s up, I don’t need to be here anymore. But there are so many friendly people around! How is one to leave? Monica offers up some helpful tips, including “FOMO is a lie someone invented to sell beer and taxi chits” and “whip the party into a chaotic frenzy so no one notices when you ghost,” but when it comes down to it, the advice is clear: “Leave the younger people and the older ones you’re kind of worried about to their late-night fun and go gentle into that good night. Send the host a thank you message the next day and don’t even worry about it. You did great!”
We will eat in bed, damnit
I don’t care what you say, I’m gonna do it anyway. I’ve never found any bugs on my sheets nomming on crumbs… yet. Monica writes: “‘Should I eat in my bed or not?’ is as rhetorical a question as, ‘Should I starve to death in the comfiest place on earth,’ or ‘Should I just let Netflix keep on rolling now that’s already queued up the next eppy to play in three seconds.'” Not only does Monica make you feel accepted for wanting to eat in bed, she tells you how to do it right.
We all make mistakes
Like the good ones: “putting yourself out there even though it turned out very embarrassing; trying a new food only to discover you are not really ready for the vegan lifestyle; leaving your phone at home; basically anything you chose to wear in the early 2000s”
And the bad ones: “unprotected sex with strangers; capri pants; getting too intense about bicycles; doing something ‘so you can write about it later’; being quietly jealous of a cool girl instead of friending the shit out of her”
Sometimes we need help about living with other people
I have yet to live on my own, and because I live in a big expensive city, it’s next to impossible. (Seriously, basement apartments are over a grand a month now. We’re ants!) So I’ve had my fair share of roommates since I moved here almost ten years ago. Once you’ve lived with people that long, you start to pick up on stuff you should and shouldn’t be doing. But just in case, Monica comes in for the clencher: “Do Not Cut Up Someone’s Loofah and Strew It Among Their Bedsheets Without Saying Anything Just Because the Person Whose Bed it Is Threw Out Your Gross Old Washcloth That Had een Festering in a Corner of the Shower Forever And They Were Trying To Do Something Nice by Cleaning the Bathroom FOR ONCE. Just don’t do that.”