When I first heard the title of Kristen Newman’s memoir, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, I immediately thought, “ugh, what kind of book is this with a title like that?” Only after reading it did I come to realize what an utterly ingenious title it is. If you’re still having doubts, stay with me and keep reading; it will make sense.
Last year I read a travel memoir by Elisabeth Eaves with a much less creative title (Wanderlust). As I wrote in my review of it, I really couldn’t stand Eaves. She had a lot of sex and came across as too self-deprecating, woe is me in her writing even though she was having experiences many of us would kill for (interning abroad with the State Department, having a boyfriend who worked for the State Department in which his first posting sent him to Paris, France of all places). In short, she whined and whined and completely turned me off from even remotely liking her memoir.
Well, at first glance Newman has a lot in common with Eaves-they’re both blonds (yes, I know this is a cheap shot), and both seemed to have had a lot of sex all over the world. But the major difference between the two women is that Newman’s writing includes copious numbers of fun stories, witty dialogue, and unlikely experiences you wouldn’t think could possibly happened and yet they did. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that Newman has been a television writer for over 20 years for popular American television shows like How I Met Your Mother and That 70’s Show. My eyes initially rolled a lot with her recounts of all the “coupling” she was having (I like hearing more about the destination), but as the memoir progressed, so did her writing and her self-awareness as both an adult and a woman.
Each chapter takes place in a different location, a recounting of the experiences (and men) that Newman had there. Her incredible passport filling journey takes you everywhere from Buenos Aires and Patagonia to New Zealand, where she laments that there are no sexy men due to inbreeding centuries ago (I’m sure she’s exaggerating a bit about the lack of sexy men but let’s not forget that at one time New Zealand was sparsely populated for the “white male and female demographic” and so inbreeding probably did occur…a bit), to Israel (I loved this chapter the most, her experiences there completely reaffirming my ardent desire to visit) to Iceland, a country whose men in her opinion were just the epitome of sexiness. I also thought that Iceland presented the funniest parts featuring such lines as, “In a country of 320,000 people the odds of kissing your cousin are far higher than you might like and so an enterprising Icelander recently invented the ‘Accidental Incest’ app.” (The app has you bump phones with someone and it tells you if you’re related).
All the while Newman’s globe trotting adventures are taking place, the topic of love, relationships, babies, marriage, is always there. She watches her once proclaimed “single girls for life” friends break down and get married, have babies (happily, of their own choosing) and wonders what’s wrong with her that she neither wants nor has those things. She goes through serious and non-serious relationships, most of which never pan out. Initially in her early, sowing wild oats years, she’s fine doing her “thing”, having random sex (e.g. the Brazil chapter) but as the book progresses into more recent years, she lets you know that she has finally grown too. So as for the “breeding” part she’s of course talking about what many men and women do in their 20s and 30s…
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding is a hilarious and delightful read and I only hope that Newman writes again sometime since I’m sure she has many more tales to tell.
DISCLOSURE: Random House provided me with a copy of the novel in exchange for a review. They in no way requested I give a favorable review.