First off, my apologies to Gretchen’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Carlson – they seem like awesome parents and my take-away message from this book is the power of family. I, like Gretchen, consider myself an Independent voter, so please, before people jump on me for thinking I’m giving this book one star because of politics, this has nothing to do with politics. I adore Dana Perino and watch Red Eye and listen to Brian Kilmeade – this has nothing to do with politics but does have to do with people who live life as if they are striving to be significant or those that live life as if they are superior. After reading “Getting Real” Gretchen falls into the “I am Superior” category.
I started off loving Getting Real. The book opens with stories about Gretchen’s family – her grandparents, her mother and father and how they met. Her small town family life growing up.
Then, we get into THE Violin.
Oh boy. This is where the book takes a nose dive.
Gretchen speaks about humility all through the book, yet it’s ironic because she totally lacks humility.
There are so many contradictions in this book I don’t know where to begin.
She reminds the reader often how she SACRIFICED her social life but she was an EXCEPTIONAL violinist. I’m not even sure if she is aware, but she often backhands and diminishes “common” people…while her friends were going to football games, she had talent that she had to nurture, implying they did not.
She spends the whole book reminding us how SMART she is and how women shouldn’t be judged on looks – yet…she admits she lost 30 pounds because a boy didn’t want to date her. There is a section in the book where she just gloats about being able to fit into her Miss America gown many years later. So, here she is, all through the book whining people don’t see her as being smart and that people should stop concentrating on looks and beauty, yet she is ecstatic and brags that she was able to fit into her old Miss America gown that she wore to give a speech.
The Miss America Pageant is a great example of being dismissive and putting down other women and also, contradictions. Gretchen went to college at Stanford and said she was thrilled because no one knew her. She loved the anonymity. She states, “I did everything in my power to remain anonymous.” (Oh really?) But then she tells a story of how, even though she was sick of the violin, she couldn’t quite stop herself from trying out for a music teacher at the school. “When I finished, I looked up to find him staring at me dumbfounded. “Why have I not heard of you?”
So, she tried desperately to remain anonymous (for 2 whole weeks) but then she just couldn’t resist showing off and making it well known who she was.
She tells the story of how a professor disliked her for NO REASON and gave her a C. She’d never got a C in her LIFE! She states she didn’t think she deserved it, but then states perhaps she did…
Then we get to the Miss American pagent.
Her mom called her at Stanford to tell her the director announced he wants Ivy League contestants and people with talent. Gretchen goes on to say that she was just going to be herself – she wasn’t going to be like the contestants who had gone before her – she would be natural. And then she goes on to tell us she quit Stanford and spent the months leading up to the pageant studying tapes of previous pageants, taking notes, going to coaches. She was advised she should play the fiddle. She dismisses “fiddle” players. GRETCHEN had been playing CLASSICAL music her whole life (except when she ditched it at Stanford) – that’s a WHOLE different craft than fiddling (get that fiddlers, you aren’t as great).
Gretchen constantly did mock interviews in preparation for the pageant. I admire her tenacity and dedication, but do NOT tell us that you were the first person to be “yourself” and “natural” when you spent months studying tapes, going to coaches, learning how to sit properly, changing the way you talk and use your arms…that is NOT being yourself.
Then Gretchen, who talks about the importance of morals and family values tells us (after she GLOATS about her wining the MAP – as the first SMART contestant (you hear that former winners…you were stupid, based on looks, Gretchen was the FIRST with REAL talent and intelligence) that after she won – she (all of 22 years old) dated a 45 year old man. Everyone was horrified. As they SHOULD BE. Here is a ‘role model’ of young women dating a man old enough to be her father. But Gretchen explained this as if it was no big deal because SHE WAS WORLDLY, because she had an exceptional life and was so talented, she knew better than every other 22 year old girl. And that, really, is the theme of the book. How much better and smarter she is than everyone else – there is no humility though she claims she is very humble. But here are some excerpts of the book, you tell me if these are humble statements: “I appreciated the benefits of being unique and exceptional.” “get away from the burdens imposed by my talent” “I was used to getting perfect grades” “when I walked out on the stage the whole room gasped and applauded” “I was having experiences that my schoolmates in Minnesota could not grasp.” “Everyone should be pitching stories LIKE GRETCHEN.” Those are just few examples, there are many veiled ‘I am superior” statements throughout.
After winning the MAP, she returns after a year, to Stanford and no one knows who she is,which she claims to ‘love.’ She takes a feminist class and though she wants to remain anonymous, she just…can’t…help herself from writing a paper about her winning the MAP (Don’t look at me, HEY, WHY AREN’T YOU LOOKING AT ME!!!) and though she got an A on the paper, she’s obviously bothered by the fact her professor didn’t acknowledge to the class how there was a feminist STAR in their midst.
There is one part in the book where she states that working hard and being smart was not enough, she had to use humility and compassion and talk about WE not I – then she goes on and talks about herself, using I almost 20 times in two paragraphs.
The most troubling part of the book is the fact she professes to be champion of women in the workplace and to stop harassment of women in the work place.
She talks about speaking up and speaking out. Yet, she does NOT do this herself. Talk about a total hypocrite.
After winning the MAP, she tried to get into TV. She gives two examples of powerful men who forced themselves on her. She does not give us the names of these men. She did not report them when it happened. So, all of this talk of ‘going outside her comfort zone’ and speaking up for women and equal treatment is disingenuous. Hogwash. If you aren’t willing to stand up for yourself and allow men to intimidate you or put your career above the truth, nothing will ever change and you are NOT courageous. She tells of a story when a photographer came onto her – she almost didn’t tell her boss – he had to drag it out of her. Hello? That is not courageous! She tells the story of how she was stalked (very scary – and here she has my empathy) – however – she almost didn’t put the incident into the book because she was afraid he might come after her again. Then she found out he was dead – so she talked about it. Okay – if you WANT TO BRING ATTENTION to the stalking laws, you need to have the courage to speak up even if he was still alive. Look, I’ve got no problem if people are too intimidated to talk about it or decide they care more about safety and their peace of mind and go into hiding – but if you portray yourself as a warrior for women, then guess what, you need to live up to that and not simply SAY you are.
Gretchen wonders how many women were harassed (or worse) by the TV executives who harassed her. Hello? Yes, how many, Gretchen? You could have STOPPED that behavior but chose to remain silent because your career was more important. You are no champion of women.
And all the mentions of her “sacrificing” and killing herself working so hard – guess what…most women do that. It is NOT unique to you.
I have a feeling Gretchen is surrounded by people who are too intimated to tell her that she does indeed, lack humility, and her book “Getting Real” is a slap in the face of all those ‘common’ winners of the MAP, the “common” people of Anoka.
On a POSITIVE NOTE – (there are a few) – I read this in a day. It was compelling. This is a great testament to parents who encourage their children and give them a firm family foundation built on values. I’m not religious but I do admire those families that are and do believe that there is an unjust, unwarranted attack on Christians in this day and age. I do admire and fully appreciate one of the other themes of this book: Always Strive For A Goal. Always have a purpose. That is what life is about.
I’d suggest if Gretchen really wants to understand true humility (the line is very fine, I do understand that) – she read “I’ll Drink To That” by Betty Halbreich. A woman born with a silver spoon in her mouth, who learns the true value of grace, hard work, and purpose.
Gretchen ends the book talking about all the volunteer work her and her family do; great, I applaud that. However, again, for all the times she talks about ‘stepping outside her comfort zone’ and being an ‘outspoken’ advocate for women – she could have made a REAL difference and possibly save(d) many women from being the sexual victims of some powerful TV executives – but she chose the easy way. When one of these men visited Fox Studios, what did Gretchen do? She quietly sat in her office, hiding out, and when he walked by, she shut the door. She hid. And let us not mistake her writing about these incidents as being courageous. It’s like knowing who robbed your neighbors house, but refusing to tell the police.
If Gretchen wants to “Get Real” she needs to expose those who tried to take advantage of her so that the other victims have validation, to send the message to men (or women) that it will NOT be tolerated and we will not be intimated. Now THAT would be “Getting Real” – otherwise, this book is about “Getting Hoodwinked.”