Staying Sane When You’re Planning Your Wedding; Staying Sane When You’re Buying or Selling Your Home; Staying Sane When You’re Going Through Menopause. By Pam Brodowsky and Evelyn Fazio. Da Capo. $12.95 each.
Life threatens your sanity. At every major life event, something (or some group of somethings) can drive you crazy. But have no fear: the Staying Sane series is here to help you (what else?) stay sane.
Literary agents Pamela Brodowsky and Evelyn Fazio (Brodowsky is founder of International Literary Arts) have come up with a series of 200-or-so-page books focusing on individual life crises and packed with true stories (so they tell us) of people who have gone through those life events and survived, presumably with their sanity more or less intact. Play your cards right (credit cards, that is – for buying the books) and you can work your way through multiple stages and ages of life with the sure guidance of Brodowsky, Fazio and the people whose tales they place within these pages.
Start with Staying Sane When You’re Planning Your Wedding, where you will find out that “many wedding dresses are outrageously priced, cheap, tacky, and downright ugly,” and go on from there. The contributors talk about pre-wedding planning, unconventional weddings (overseas, Renaissance, etc.), interfaith and intercultural weddings, vows, flower dogs, bridesmaids, the Bridezilla complex, friends and family, letdowns and no-shows, and even – how thrilling for someone about to tie the knot – what may happen when you are getting married for a second time. If you didn’t already realize that weddings are fraught with hideous expenses, hideous clothing, hideous relatives, hideous vendors and hideous things for which a name may not have been invented yet, you’ll know it when you finish this book. If, that is, you finish it and don’t decide simply to cohabit instead. What keeps the book interesting rather than dismal is the (relatively) lighthearted tone that many of the contributors take in sections with such titles as “The Unconscious Bride” (a diabetic who overdoes it and passes out), “The Bachelor Party” (talk your guy out of a raunchy guys’ night out by having your friends make it clear that if he gets one, you get a raunchy girls’ night out), and “The Wedding Cake Catastrophe” (a waiter falls on the box). After each short item, the authors toss out a couple of “Survival Hints,” along the lines of, “Things can sometimes go wrong [so] try to ignore something you can’t change.”
If you make it into wedded bliss – or wedded life, anyway – you may one day need Staying Sane When You’re Buying or Selling Your Home, which is more of the same approach to more of the same sorts of everything-that-can-go-wrong problems: “Termite Voodoo,” “When Your Seller Isn’t Sane,” “Seven Steps to Surviving Realtors,” and so on. Again, the leavening of humor helps the really-not-funny-at-all situations seem at least bearable; but again, the whole thing may be enough to make you decide to rent. Whatever you decide, as you move along in life, you can look forward to Staying Sane When You’re Going Through Menopause, with such chapters as “The Anticurse,” “Meno-Hair,” “Men on Pause” and “How Come Everything Bad Begins with Men?” That last has less to do with human males than with letter sequences in words: menstruation, menopause, mental illness. Ha ha. It’s questionable just how helpful the “Survival Hints” are in this volume: “If you’re experiencing diminished desire, check out various books and Internet Web sites that focus on menopause.” But in fact, although those hints represent the major authorial contribution in the Staying Sane series, they are not really the point of these books. These are shared-experience works, designed to make you feel better not because of any solid advice they contain but because they show that others have been through what you’re going through and have…well…stayed sane. That reassuring, if largely unspoken, message pervades this series and gives it considerable value. But you may not want to read any of these books straight through when you’re in crisis mode – they can make sanity seem farther away than ever.