Maria Semple’s Today Will Be Different seems to be the most blogged book of 2017, at least in my circles. I think it’s because my circles mostly involve young mothers who are trying to balance raising kids, holding a job, not letting their house fall apart, and maybe spend a good 10 seconds a day talking to their husband, always waking up thinking: “Today will be different.”
We see ourselves in Eleanor. Ok, my upbringing was neither as glamourous nor as tragic as hers. Yes, I’m close with my sister (*waves* Hi Sister!) and while we may fight, I’m pretty sure her husband isn’t crazily controlling, and so I’m still in regular contact with her (plus, she lives in my neighbourhood so it would be awkward avoiding her at the local grocery store). We see ourselves struggling to pinpoint who we are and where we are going in this weird baby/career/life mess. We see ourselves as we are a little too hard on our kids, as we check our behaviour upon seeing another adult silently passing judgement, as we hand over our phones to silence them so we can just have one second to think. All of this I expected.
I’m not sure why seeing myself in Eleanor as she relates to her husband caught me off guard. I think it was the potato chips.
Let me explain. I was making a quick run to the grocery store (for the third time that day) to pick up the one item I forgot and the one item that was very necessary for that evening’s lettuce wraps: the lettuce. I couldn’t help but go down the chip aisle to see if they had ketchup Doritos… ketchup chips being my favourite (and Scott’s least) and Doritos being his favourite (and my least), thinking it would be a good 5 minutes entertainment as we both tried to choke some down, both likely hating it. But alas, they were sold out. Instead, I saw another brand was on sale if you bought two bags. Needing my ketchup chip fix, I bought myself a bag and scanned the shelves for one for Scott. I grabbed All Dressed. Arriving home, I hid the bags until C was out of the room (no junk food for her… just her parents, because we live by a different set of rules?), and then showed him the bags. A look of confusion crossed his face. After some prodding, he admitted he wasn’t a fan of All Dressed chips. He kind of hates them.
We will have been together 10 years this fall and I don’t even know his favourite kind of chips. Sure, it may not seem like a very important detail (as evidenced this weekend in our car buying experience, I do know important information like his work phone number, his salary, his preference of back-up cameras and his hatred of making left hand turns anywhere but at controlled intersections), but to suddenly be faced with the realization that you don’t know something as basic as favourite chip flavour (especially being so incredibly wrong about it), came as a shock.
Obviously, my husband isn’t lying to his wife and his work place about his whereabouts during the day. I’m not letting my imagination get away with itself and assuming he is performing surgeries on yachts for millionaires. But sometimes, it takes a book going a little overboard to make you realize “maybe I need to take a step back and focus on him for a while”. Maybe, the next time we’re in the chip aisle together, rather than just finding a bag of chips we both are willing to tolerate and then settling on ripple.again.I should actually listen to his preferences. And then spend some time talking with him as we eat them rather than sitting beside each other, staring at our respective screens.
Today Will Be Different is over-the-top in Eleanor’s reactions to the events of the day, hovering right around the line between real and ridiculous. As a result, Semple’s writing mixes some heavy subject matter with levity to keep you enrapt in the chaos without dragging you down with it. I highly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone who is trying to balance “it all” and maybe not always keeping it together.