Toronto
3 min

A party guest who gets grating

But she makes great bathroom reading

Credit: Xtra files

What’s a nice Catholic girl thinking by writing essays that reveal just about everything? Everything important, anyway. Kim Ficera’s collection of essays (for lack of a better word) does tell an awful lot about her life – at least the important things.



Like how, when she was a child, her father’s idea of a good father-daughter outing was a weekend hunting trip with a special side visit to a slaughterhouse. Or her grandfather’s obsession with positioning his car exactly between the lines in the parking lot because, “without lines people would just park wherever the hell they feel like it, and the whole town would look sloppy!” Important stuff.



But Sex, Lies And Stereotypes is not a memoir as such; it’s more a series of pieces teasing out ideas or events in such a way to reveal some aspect of Ficera’s sensibility. Certainly the overriding goal is to be funny, with an added emphasis on being provocative. She succeeds in doing both more often than not.



Ficera does a great riff on lesbian personal ads. “Call me cynical, but I find it hard to believe that all of the single lesbians who say they ‘enjoy taking long walks on the beach’ actually do. If this were true, there would be more attractive lifeguards with tattoos.”



Pondering the absence of lesbians on the beach, she continues her speculation: “If you believe the personals, a strong possibility is that they are enjoying ‘quiet times at home.’ This is evidently another huge lesbian activity, one that makes me wonder if I’m not busy enough.”



And there’s a great piece on cell phones, vibrators and customer service that is actually fresh. Having accidentally set her phone to vibrate mode, she observes: “That unexpected vibrating experience in the pocket of my jeans reminded me exactly how unlike my cell phone my favourite appliance is. My vibrator is either on or off. Simple. Functional. Enjoyable. No trauma. I appreciate that my vibrator has no locking code or voice mail feature. I like that I don’t have to program it to remember anything. It’s also nice to know that if I ever lose my vibrator, I don’t have to notify a customer service rep cheerfully named Cindy-How-May-I-Help-You? or something equally annoying.”



Other topics include dating younger women, flirting in Home Depot, faking orgasms (as in renouncing faking orgasms), feeling fat and a really snide piece on the prevalence of the names Donna, Linda and Sue among lesbians. Ficera will take an incident – running into an ex-girlfriend in the supermarket, for instance – and work it to evoke a couple of laughs and sometimes even a poignant but not overly sentimental observation. Or she will offer an opinionated meditation on topics like cloning, the ridiculousness of baby showers or Christmas letters and run away with it.



Less successful is an essay on the mullet, that classic lesbian hair choice we all love to hate. Perhaps it’s just because the topic has been done before – or at least it feels like it’s been done before, perhaps even at a dinner party with four of your best lesbo friends about six years ago – it lacks the edge marking most of the other pieces.



At its heart, the book is a great way to get to know a lot about Ficera, who in all likelihood would be a great addition to any cocktail party, wedding reception or, by her own admission, your next Super Bowl party.



But her tone can get slightly annoying. Phrases like “the ones who give CPR to the stereotype” work well in the context of a weekly column, the original form of the essays. Finding the same phrase two pages later makes the reading much less appealing.



It’s possible that this is not a book to be read from cover to cover. If you’re into reading in the bathroom, this is definitely the book for you and I mean that in the best sense. The pieces are mostly short and Ficera is a fine observer of the subtle and not so subtle aspects of lesbian customs.



She might bitch about being relegated to the bathroom, but in the end she’d come around to accepting the compliment.



SEX, LIES & STEREOTYPES: AN UNCONVENTIONAL LIFE UNCENSORED.

By Kim Ficera.

Kensington Books.

305 pages. $20.