You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

Although I’ve never seen Jessi Klein’s stand-up comedy, nor have I watched Inside Amy Schumer, a show for which Klein won an Emmy as lead writer, I am familiar with her work on the Netflix show Big Mouth. Klein provides the voice for 6th grade girl “Jessi,” who is basically Klein.

Klein shines as a funny writer, and in her memoir, You’ll Grow Out of It, the evidence is on the page. Each essay takes on a different topic, such as how women have been forced to love baths because there is no where else for them to retreat, or what it’s like to coerce your boyfriend into engagement. She writes about the lululemon-wearing rich white ladies who go to a spa. Klein becomes one of these women, finding herself paying $200 for an hour-long one-one-one session with a guy who repeatedly tells her to breathe in for four seconds and out for four seconds.

The writing is over-the-top for the sake of humor. You find yourself laughing that Klein describes her experience trying on a thong that made her look “like a groundhog wearing a tiny belt” only to discover she is quite pretty when you Google her. Biscuit and I read this book together, and we both realized that Googling the author’s image sort of ruined all the essays that made Klein seem like one of us. Before that, in an essay titled “Poodle vs. Wolf,” we highly related to the author. A poodle is a woman who looks flawlessly feminine , like Kiera Knightley. A wolf is a woman who puts a lot of work into it, like Sandra Bullock. Poodles, she writes, “Wear matching bras and underwear.” Wolves, on the other hand, “sweat a lot” and “usually own two bras total.”

One thing that irked me throughout You’ll Grow Out of It was Klein’s obsession with being a “real woman” or “feeling like a woman.” Her examples and language stick out in 2021 when readers are thinking more about transwomen and gender non-conforming people. For reference, the memoir was published in 2016. At one point I believe she even wrote that she thought having a vagina would make her a woman, but I can’t find the quote because I didn’t sticky-note it.

While Biscuit said she didn’t think about how Klein’s book is trans-exclusionary in the way it defines women, she did notice that the author’s obsession with being a “real” woman is tiresome, as if women present themselves the same way, or have ideal characteristics. How exhausting, we both agreed, to be so obsessed with gender, when what Klein really seems to be saying is she wants to be photo-perfect. Even poodle women say dumb things and fart on the couch, Jessi Klein!

Overall, I did catch myself laughing out loud many times, in the same way that I do when I read Samantha Irby’s books (Meaty; We Are Never Meeting in Real Life; and Wow, No Thank You).

18 comments

  1. I love Big Mouth, it’s hilarious. You almost had me wanting to read this but I don’t want to hear about her quest to be a ‘woman’. As if there is an actual definition of what a woman should be. By her description, I am definitely a wolf woman though lol.
    You know, in 25 years of friendship, I have never heard Dani fart. NEVER. I think she might be a creature from space. Me, on the other hand, she’s probably tired of hearing my farts. 😛

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    • I wonder if Klein’s obsession with what a woman is stems from when she was born, her Jewish background, and working in a male-dominated field. Also, in the past several years there’s been the proliferation of the hot female comic, like Nikki Glaser, Katherine Ryan, and Iliza Shlesinger. We used to have “dumpy” women like Janeane Garofalo and Roseanne Barr.

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  2. I have noticed this before with female comedians where they seem to feel the need to denigrate their own looks or classify themselves versus supermodels and actresses, even when they are objectively beautiful women. They talk about themselves as if they’re hideous. Perhaps it’s a defensive thing to get ahead of jerks who are going to criticize their looks.

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    • Yeah, my mom and I both had moments when we laughed, but it felt a little try-hard in places, and the emphasis on gender was exhausting. I was also surprised by the essay with the boyfriend who doesn’t want to use condoms. It didn’t seem to fit the spirit of the book, though I suppose it fits the title.

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  3. This sounds like a thought-provoking look at what it means to be a woman. Definitely lots of points are discussion worthy especially how relevant some points are in today’s world. Excellent review!

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    • Thanks, Tessa. It is odd how we keep reinventing our conversations about gender. I do believe social media has sped this up. Now that I’m back in school and interacting with people 18-22, I’m learning that students will reinvent themselves from one year to the next. More are going by gender neutral pronouns, or are identify with a gender but accept neutral pronouns. Women Klein’s age and older still seem so obsessed with presenting gender that it just sounds shrill to my 2021 ears. Even my grandma, who is going to turn 80 in November, is still obsessed with losing weight and fitting into clothes she wore in the 1950s.

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  4. Hm, this does sound problematic with its self-denigration (I had this with the book I read by another comic writer, and I thought she was a complete weird-looking person from her self-description, only to find she looks completely normal!).

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  5. I have noticed this with female comedians as well, but I wonder if it might be the other way round – that people who are given a hard time at school over their appearance (which, as we all know, has nothing to do with what they actually look like) become “the funny one” so that they can compete with all the “pretty” girls. Then they grow up and learn how to pick clothes that suit them etc, but that self-consciousness from adolescence lingers.

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    • That is an astute observation, Lou. Humor does seem to be a way of redirecting negative attention. I hadn’t thought about how Klein might still be scrappy in the same way, though I might have guessed based on the haircut she had in the cover photo.

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  6. No one will ever beat Samantha Irby’s essays – no one! I do enjoy reading these self-deprecating essay collections by semi-famous women, but I see what you mean when you look them up and they are gorgeous, and rich, and and and LOL

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