The Last Single Woman in America
Cindy Guidry is a single woman in her forties living in Los Angeles. The people in her life insist on reacting to her lack of husband and children as though it were a catastrophe. She begins writing a series of personal essays after losing her job as a Hollywood studio executive. She finds herself questioning her choices, her motives, and her identity. The essays span several years, detailing failed relationships and other fiascos. Her life is populated with bizarre personalities—her bleak Canadian neighbor Tomas, an obsessive compulsive pseudo-boyfriend she refers to as “The Viking,” and her parents, who have been separated for twenty years, but who are too close to ever consider an actual divorce. There’s plenty of dating-related humiliation, sex talk, and of course, Hollywood-bashing.
Two of the best essays deal with Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Guidry grew up in New Orleans, and her parents are still living there when disaster strikes. The first floor of her mother’s house floods, and Guidry invites her mother to stay with her temporarily. Guidry has always suspected that she is not her mother’s favorite child, and living in close quarters eventually leads her to ask her mother point blank, “Did you or did you not have sex with a leprechaun in 1967?” There’s a delicate balance at work in these personal narratives between realism and absurdity that produces laugh-out-loud hilarity. Guidry seems to be fully aware of her own ridiculousness while writing about her veterinarian (“The Cat Whisperer”) or trying to kick Dave Matthews out of her car before he discovers that her CD changer contains nothing but Dave Matthews CDs.
Guidry invites her readers to laugh at her neuroses and her tendencies toward self-sabotage. Unfortunately, her self-criticism lacks bite, and the comedy occasionally gets lost in pages of overwrought abstract analysis. In essays like “Men Are the New Women,” and “Future Ex-Husband,” she reveals her ambivalence about changing gender roles and claims feminism is at least partially responsible for her inability to find a life partner. These remarks feel tired, and certainly don’t add anything new to the discussion of the supposed “gender wars.” Ultimately, her book is like her obsessive love for Dave Matthews—there’s nothing wrong with it, per se, but it’s not exactly unique.