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lip lit: the anti-cool girl

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Rosie Waterland’s The Anti-Cool Girl is the Australian antidote to Lena Dunham’s controversial memoirs but with much more bite.

Waterland, a writer for the Mamamia Women’s Network, is most commonly known for her hilarious recaps of The Bachelor. In the The Anti-Cool Girl Waterland smoothly takes us through her life, from birth to the present day, and it has been eventful to say the least. Growing up in commission housing, her mother was a sex worker and her father an addict. Waterland and her sisters lived in and out of foster care, were shuffled from relative to relative and even spent some time in a family rehab clinic. Feeling like a nerdy outcast from age four, and once wetting her pants in front of her older sister’s friends, as a child Waterland tried and failed to fit in.

As a teenager, Waterland settled in with a wealthy uncle who sent her to an elite Sydney private school. Things didn’t get easier there: she faced severe bullying and began to develop social anxiety and depression, which followed her into adulthood

Loneliness and isolation are major themes of The Anti-Cool Girl; Waterland not only recounts her own experiences with depression but also writes about her parents, who both suffered from mental illness. As her parent’s illnesses went largely untreated, Waterland’s childhood lacked stable parental figures. Waterland’s desperation for acceptance, not only from others but also from herself, pervades her writing.

Although Waterland experienced a tragic turn of events in her young life, her ability to laugh at herself and inject humour into some of her darkest situations makes her autobiography  an enjoyable read.

Waterland does not shy away from the topic of female sexuality, beginning with her early experiences of finding her ‘special place’ to her adult realisation that sex has hitherto been largely dissatisfying. She wittily expresses concerns about previous sexual relationships and how they were in no way focussed on her enjoyment: ‘There seems to be a general feeling,’ she writes, ‘that one must pretend to enjoy performing oral sex or risk a life of loneliness, listening to Taylor Swift while getting into Twitter fights with people about Jennifer Aniston’s romantic future.’

Waterland highlights the sexual pressures women face, particularly in heterosexual relationships, where the primary focus is on the male ejaculating, and urges readers to move away from tired sexual stereotypes and embrace a sexual experience that is fulfilling for both parties.

The Anti-Cool Girl is a perfect mix of tragedy, comedy and pop culture references, but it’s Waterland’s honest account of her struggle with depression that  is most memorable. The Anti-Cool Girl speaks to all those people who feel they don’t quite fit in—and honestly, hasn’t everyone felt this way at some stage? Written with sharp wit and a black sense of humour, Waterland’s autobiography will shock, entertain and sadden you all at once.

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The Anti-Cool Girl by Rosie Waterland

HarperCollins, 2015

PB, 304pp

RRP $27.99

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