Helen Ellis, rose to fame on Twitter as What I Do All Day. In addition to being a Twitter-phenom, she is also a pro poker player and housewife turned writer-author of Southern Lady Code, and American Housewife as well as an early novel. I fell in love when I encountered her essay in which she thinks her husband wants a divorce, but he just really wants the crap off the dining room table. I could relate. By the way, her husband sounds just this side of perfect–so much so that he’s a literary crush of mine now. I won’t ever Google him–it would spoil our relationship. I want him to have a cleft chin, Michael Middleton’s smile and his snazzy blue blazer, and a pair of really great Italian loafers. Swoon. It’s ok, Helen. He’s all yours. I swear.
This time around Helen has published more essays. I was pleased to see that her professional poker career was among the topics covered in this book. The first line hooked me:
“From the start of our grown-ass ladies trip to Panama City Beach, aka ‘The Redneck Riviera,’ Paige and I could see that Vicky was having a hard time.”
Never mind poor Vicky’s suddenly-empty nest, and I am truly sorry about her bad mammogram, but when it’s hot as hell here in Southern Ohio, folks head to a spot of even greater heat and denser humidity–Panama City Beach. My own [adult] kid has gone there on vacation and I have the t-shirt to prove it. So, Helen got my attention.
As she moves through the various essays, there were, as always, moments I could shake my head and say “Amen, sister.” Especially in “Are You There, Menopause? It’s Me, Helen,” which provided my favorite quote [the punctuation may be a little iffy here because I listened to the audio book]
You need “all the tampon sizes: mini golf pencil, dill pickle spear, rolled up newspaper, Nerf baseball bat.”
I love Helen’s humor, but this time she strayed into the crude a bit more than I’d like. It sells–I understand. I’m not dissing her or abandoning her. I just could have done with less of that, although the question she asks her husband after the guests leave is one I’ve discussed with my long, long, ago ex-husband, and various other guys with whom I have had a romantic relationship. Nonetheless, less is more.
I loved her take on the Greyhound bus to Atlantic City and her tales of the poker table. I’ve been curious about her poker career. Watching poker or watching bridge on t.v. is less exciting to me even than watching a foreign stock exchange ticker so I’ve never seen her if she’s been on any poker shows on t.v.
In spite of being disappointed in a couple of these essays, I am already looking forward to Helen’s next book–whether it is essays, short stories, a novel, a history of delis in Manhattan or Garage Sales in Alabama for Dummies.
Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light: Essays by Helen Ellis