Ten Reasons I Hate Emily Giffin’s SOMETHING BORROWED (St. Martin’s Press)

Here is my deep, shameful secret: I’m addicted to drugstore paperbacks.

I even sometimes fantasize about wanting to write them.

Now, let me clarify: I really only like the ones about neurotic career gals living in New York City, usually in their late twenties or early thirties, who keep fucking up and self-sabotaging their love lives. (Meanwhile, of course, their careers are on the right track, even if those careers are making them miserable.)

Why do I like these New York Times bestsellers? These newspaper-print $7.99 books blurbed by Entertainment Weekly and Glamour? Because they’re fun and light and easy . . . but, sometimes, I really hate the fact that I read (I mean buy) these books. And Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed is no exception.

The #1 Reason I Hate This Book

I’m just going to come out and say it: This book is anti-gay.

I mean, forget about all the hetero-normative societal conventions and stereotypes that the entire book is based on, to start with, and just go with this:

p. 53: “Annalise was upset too, for her own reasons. ‘How come you two get to be twins and I’m left out? My bag is gay.’”

Context: 30-year old narrator, Rachel, is remembering how she and her best friend, Darcy, wound up with the same backpacks on the first day of fourth grade. This book’s copyright is 2004, so let’s assume Rachel is 30 years old in 2004. Fourth graders tend to be nine or ten years old. Let’s make her ten for easier math. 2004 minus twenty years = 1984. People were not using the word “gay” as an insult in 1984. Google search results say this phenomenon cropped up post-2008. So not only is this a glaring error, it’s just tacky and insensitive and gross.
The #2 Reason I Hate This Book

p. 74: “‘All right then. I’ll wing it,’ he says, flashing me his ‘I never skipped a night wearing my retainer’ smile.

Ha. It’s terrible.

(So terrible it’s awesome? Yes. So, to clarify: because I will never allow myself to write a line as awesome as this, I hate this book.)

The #3 Reason I Hate This Book

p. 129: “Darcy and I had been friends forever, but I think it was the first time that I realized the influence I have over her. I picked her wedding dress, the most important garment that she will ever wear.”

Ridiculous.

(But this book knows it. And does not care. And because I am probably the only person on the planet who cares about how this book does not care, I hate this book. Fuck wedding dresses, that’s what I say.)

The #4 Reason I Hate This Book

p. 270: Darcy “takes a bite and continues to talk with her mouth full. ‘I’m not dyking out or anything. I’m just saying you really are always here for me.’”

Seriously? (See #1.)

The #5 Reason I Hate This Book

Darcy hits on this guy Ethan, who rejects her, and from that point forward in her mind he’s gay–”it must be the only explanation” (p. 324).

Right.

Okay, some might argue that Darcy, the character we’re not supposed to like very much, is the gay-hating racist (yes, racist. See #6). Some might argue that she is these things because she’s the bad guy in this book. But this isn’t really the case. First, Rachel never calls her out. Nobody ever does. And, second, the author, Emily Giffin, wrote a sequel, Something Blue, which provides Darcy’s side of the story (how her backstabbing maid of honor, Rachel, stole her fiance). What this means is Darcy, in the end, is supposed to be likable, the victim of her best friend’s treachery. But this doesn’t change the fact that she hates gays (See #1 and #4) and is racist (See #6).

The #6 Reason I Hate This Book

p. 282: “‘She doesn’t speak English very well. She just kept saying that she ‘didn’t see no ring.’” Darcy imitates the maid’s accent. ‘I even took the phone. I told her I would give her a big, big reward if she finds it. The bitch isn’t stupid. She knows that two carats are worth about twenty million dirty toilets.’”

The only people of color in this book are maids and doormen.

But at least Rachel’s doorman, Jose, speaks English. For all the good it does anyone. The guy’s so stupid he–SPOILER ALERT–lets Darcy go up to Rachel’s apartment even though Darcy’s fiance, Dex, is upstairs in Rachel’s apartment, because Dex and Rachel have been having an affair behind Darcy’s back all summer long. Jose, who, all along seems to get it, apparently fucks it all up for everyone at the end of the book. Thanks a lot, Jose.

The #7 Reason I Hate This Book

Can you believe it? It’s a movie! Starring Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin, and John Krasinski. I feel like, you know, only shitbooks like this get made into movies starring Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin, and John Krasinski.

(Will I see it? You know it. Just as soon as it’s on-demand at Netflix. For the record, I hate this book.)

The #8 Reason I Hate This Book

If I cared more, this would be potentially interesting: Jose’s character doesn’t make the cut for the film version.

The #9 Reason I Hate This Book

Someone out there is probably thinking: Why is this bitch taking this so seriously? To this person, I say: You’re probably missing the point of this post.

The #10 Reason I Hate This Book

I’m going to get hate mail over this post. I know it.

(And when I do, I’m going to post it here publicly.)

* * * UPDATE / CORRECTION * * *

Using the word “gay” as an insult was, in fact, common practice in the ’80s. According to the first result that pops up in the Google search that I linked (this BBC article), “By the 1980s it was finding its way into schools as a playground insult.”

So, I eat my words.

Way to be historically accurate!

Guess I’m the asshole!

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50 thoughts on “Ten Reasons I Hate Emily Giffin’s SOMETHING BORROWED (St. Martin’s Press)

  1. >The only people of color in this book are maids and doormen.

    oh man that reminds me of American Psycho, and I love that book. Maybe I’ll read this and enjoy it in the same way (“same way” being understanding that all the characters are terrible, terrible people).

  2. No hate mail from me. I don’t tend to read such books, but I’m somewhat fascinated by them nonetheless, and I especially love seeing them deconstructed. :) I know “gay” wasn’t used as an insult in 1984, but it was certainly used regularly in my high school in the late 90′s. I wonder if Phoenix kids were somehow ahead of the trend…

    • I think what I love/hate most is how these books/movies further the idea that women are really unhappy with and unfulfilled by their careers because what they’re really looking for is rich husbands. And until they find a rich husband, they just have to keep being miserable (in their penthouse apartments, in their Jimmy Choos, etc.).

      But that stuff is tolerable. Because it’s so goofy.

      What’s not tolerable is a main character/narrator who does not call out her nasty best friend when she makes ignorant and insensitive remarks. I expect at least this much from mass market paperbacks that tend to have larger contemporary audiences than some of the literature we discuss on this site. I expect at least this much from the editors of presses/publishers as large and important as St. Martin’s/MacMillan.

    • I definitely remember “gay” being used as an insult in middle school, which would have been the mid to late 80s for me, and possibly elementary school. And I don’t think anyone would accuse Mobile, Alabama, of being ahead of its time.

  3. Oooooooh, man. You’re so mean. Did you even see that diamond on the front? That’s class. I wanna drink the cover, it looks like a strawberry milkshake. I think you should read it again. Kate Hudson doesn’t pick movie adaptations of bad books. Point-settia-match.

  4. Actually, people were using the word “gay” as an insult in 1984….I was 14. I don’t think it was used in the same way exactly as now – but was certainly used as an insult from one individual to another.

    • Using the word “gay” as insult or inferring something was lame was huge in the 80′s. I was in 6th grade in 1984 and came home crying because someone said to me, “You’re so gay.” I had no idea what it meant, but I knew she was trying to hurt my feelings.

      But I know in the early 2000′s, it was definitely known that it was not okay to use that word that way. I was having a dinner with some friends when one of the girls said, “That’s so gay.” and our Lesbian friend said, “No it’s not. But I am.”

      It’s just taken a while for some 80′s children to stop saying it.

  5. I am totally not defending this book but…kids used “gay” as an insult when I was in grade school. I was in grade school in the mid- to late-1980s. Yes, we were all assholes.

      • I would like to say that in the bible it says that Man should not lie with another man. It man and women for life not man and man or women with women. When evil becomes good and good becomes evil, doesn’t this say how backwards our country is becoming. Life is not meant to be backwards. If everyone on this earth were to become Gay or Lesbian than there would be no more creating new life. Think about how backwards the world is getting with all this craziness and distortion going on.

        This book was an awesome display of how not telling the love of your life can turn into making bad decisions. The best friend Darcy literally forced herself into Dex’s life and ruined the chance for Rachael and Dex to move forward.

        With all the different personalities in the world and the people who are pushy, possessive and destructive; it’s no wonder why the people in it are always so mixed up. When you know someone cares for someone else why should a person get involved like Darcy to push a gentle man that is not her type into marrying her. A marriage will not work if people try to force things to happen. Like Rachael said “I would rather be Dex’s first choice rather than by default. Marriage will last forever if you are with the right person and by being 1st instead of 2nd or even 3rd choice.

  6. This post is hilarious and yes, that cover makes me want a strawberry milkshake something fierce. :)

    It saddens me to see that Ginnifer Goodwin is involved in the Something Borrowed adaptation. She was fabulous in Big Love, a show I was/am obsessed with. It’s like I’m sixteen and I’m seeing an ex out on a date with someone I hate.

  7. Pingback: » Ten Reasons I Hate Emily Giffin’s SOMETHING BORROWED (St. Martin’s Press) « BIG OTHER » Books about the world

  8. Molly-are u 12? Not all on google (internet) is true. OMG! I was 17 in 1983 and we were using gay as a joke, harmless insult since I was a kid. ‘Got BenGay? How long?’ That was huge to those of us on the playground in the 70′s. What we didnt have was using the F word in every format -verbal or written, like ur blog or article, whatever this is but WHY? No other word intelligently expressed ur thoughts? But back to the topic of ‘Something Borrowed’, really dude? Really? WTF? (if u are 12, I thought you would get that question in the most basic and pop culture-like terms!

  9. Oh dear. Hope you realize the main point you’ve missed to follow is that Emily Giffin writes from the character’s POV. And in literature, ideally, there is no restriction to thoughts. There are many other fiction books you may come across – even the classic ones, yes – that are going to upset or offend you. But think first before getting all defensive about it.

    If you say the book is anti-gay, then you’re saying the author is anti-gay. But first, Annalise is an all-(typical)-American “redneck” girl (sorry if my diction offends anyone), and it is common for them to insult gay people. Second, it’s clear that you have not read “Love the One You’re With” also by Emily Giffin because her leading character has gay friends and insinuates her pro-gay stance.

    Because I’m lazy, I’m only going to address your other problem, the racism in the book. Just because Giffin does not make any other character besides those that do services minorities doesn’t make the book racist. Darcy is supposedly a shallow character who has no idea what offense or off-the-tange means. And most likely, she only associates with other upperclass white people! And we all have to be honest here that the upperclass in this country – in this world are occupied predominately by whites! And the working class is usually the minority, sadly.

    I do agree with you in the notion that the book does present some “problems”, and the self-centerness of Giffen’s female leads really do annoy me at times even though I am a big fan of her work. It’s just that all those whiny rich little stay-at-home house-wives think their lives are horrible blah blah blah but there are refugees in the Middle East waiting to be saved and children in Africa are starving to death! All these women can ever think about is the difficulties they face in romance when they can use their money for the better and make donations to charities, etc. Yet, if we stand in their shoes, they are living in a different world from the war zone. It’s almost impossible for them to feel what those unfortunately people who worry about their chances of survival on a daily basis feel. It’s hard for ME to feel. And when people are living in different worlds, we can’t compare their lives to the lives of people in other different worlds. Besides their own emotional trauma, hat else is there left for them to think about then? It is unwise to starve yourself just because people are starving in North Korea because they aren’t going to get your rice regardless. So I think Giffen does a great job at interpreting the world she’s lived in and let her voice be heard through the writing of her characters. I think Giffin’s characters’ candid words, beside bringing offense to some people, also evokes us into thinking about these issues.

  10. I would say that rather than hating on the author and saying that she’s anti-gay or racist, I’d say hate on the characters. The characters are fictional people. In case you don’t get it, I’m going to say it again. THEY ARE FICTIONAL.

  11. No hate mail, everyone is entitled to their opinion-

    I honestly don’t think the author was trying to be racist when she wrote up her fictional characters… I read both books and I enjoyed them a lot for the simple fact that they are a light and entertaining read.

    I honestly believe that some places are not so diverse in culture and ethnicity. I grew up in Toronto, where most of my friends came from around the world including myself. In my school there were tons of “groups” that stuck with their own race. I find it’s because you feel more comfortable since you have your background in common. so in this novel, their group of friends might not been diverse.

    Just a thought.

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