About the Book
From comedian and journalist Faith Salie, of NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and CBS News Sunday Morning, a collection of daring, funny essays chronicling the author’s adventures during her lifelong quest for approval
Faith Salie has done it all in the name of validation. Whether it’s trying to impress her parents with a perfect GPA, undergoing an exorcism in the hopes of saving her toxic marriage, or maintaining the BMI of “a flapper with a touch of dysentery,” Salie is the ultimate approval seeker—an “approval junkie,” if you will.
In “Miss Aphrodite,” she recounts her strategy for winning the high school beauty pageant. (“Not to brag or anything, but no one stood a chance against my emaciated, spastic resolve.”) “What I Wore to My Divorce” describes Salie’s struggle to pick the perfect outfit to wear to the courthouse to divorce her “wasband.” (“I envisioned a look that said, ‘Yo, THIS is what you’ll be missing…even though you’ve introduced your new girlfriend to our mutual friends, and she’s a decade younger than I am and is also a fit model.”) In “Ovary Achiever,” she shares tips on how to ace your egg retrieval. (“Thank your fertility doctor when she announces you have ‘amazing ovaries.’ Try to be humble about it [‘Oh,these old things?’].”) And in “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me About Batman’s Nipples” she reveals the secrets behind Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! (“I study for this show like Tracy Flick on Adderall”).
With thoughtful irreverence, Salie reflects on why she tries so hard to please others, and herself, highlighting a phenomenon that many people—especially women—experience at home and in the workplace. Equal parts laugh-out loud funny and poignant, Approval Junkie is one woman’s journey to realizing that seeking approval from others is more than just getting them to like you—it’s challenging yourself to achieve, and survive, more than you ever thought you could.
I totally saw the proposal coming, because, well, it was simply time. We’d talked about getting married, explicitly and erosively, for so long that it wasn’t worth talking about anymore. We’d been dating for five years, which is also known as a “lustrum.” But even that rococo word doesn’t romanticize that half a decade is a long time to wait, and everyone in our lives was sick of it. There was an unspoken feeling of Let’s get this over with, so we can see if it will make things better. Please buckle up, because here comes some caps lock: YES I TOTALLY KNOW THAT GETTING MARRIED IS NEVER THE WAY TO FIX A CRAPPY RELATIONSHIP BUT I ALSO KNOW I SHOULD FLOSS MY TEETH EVERY DAY BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH THANKS.
I really didn’t think it would happen this one particular afternoon. This explains why I had no makeup on and had decked myself out in an Old Navy shirt, comfy jeans, and boots that supplied no flattering heel height. The wasband had gone into the Lighthouse Museum, because his great-grandfather or someone had had something to do with the building of the village lighthouse. I was exhausted (from anticipation) so I stayed in the rental car, reclined my seat, and napped. He woke me up with a knock on the window and an enthusiastic grin. “You’ve got to see this view!”
If you’ve watched Braveheart, you know that Scotland doesn’t really give a shite that it’s late May or that you’re about to get proposed to, so it was wildly windy and chilly. My hair was flying everywhere. Poised on the precipice, we admired the vibrant indigo of the North Sea and the wasband’s cultural provenance.
When he told me to sit on the lone bench surrounded by wildflowers, I knew. His fist was clenched, and he began to kneel. My heart started beating faster.
I shook my head. “Oh my God . . . no. Stop.” That is what I said. Something deep inside me, beyond ego and beyond heart, knew this thing for which I’d been yearning wasn’t what was best for us.
He paused midkneel, his blue-gray eyes full of hurt. Uncharacteristically, transparently, vulnerably surprised and hurt. I’d never seen that look on his face before, and I would never see it again. It lasted maybe “one Mississippi, two Mississippi,” and I couldn’t bear it.
“Go ahead,” I said. “I’m sorry, go ahead.”
He knelt down and asked me to marry him. He kept it simple. Perhaps that was a bold choice suggestive of a rebirth of our relationship, or maybe it was head-in-sandy not to acknowledge how rough our journey to this moment had been. Or, quite likely, I wasn’t much of a muse after ordering him to stop proposing.
When he asked, “Will you marry me?,” I looked at him through my shades, coolly. His question, like his first “I love you,” created such a panoply of emotions that the best course seemed to be to try to keep my face neutral. I didn’t smile or cry or gasp. I waited a few moments, my heart beating out of my chest, while I tried to relish the return of that ephemeral taste of power.
The man I deeply loved and resented, in whom I’d deeply invested, was on one knee, asking me the question I’d longed to hear since our first date. It was, in theory, the ultimate gesture of approval, but it didn’t feel that way. It was too hard-earned, and that made me feel hollow. The Scottish winds carried any “power” I had out to sea. I said only, “Yes,” quietly, because I wanted to. I wanted to marry him.
You don’t have to believe in karma to understand this: he and I were meant to be, well, not meant to be. We had to live through the first part to realize the last part.
I couldn’t wear his grandmother’s ring, because it was too small. Way to feel fat at your betrothal.
Excerpted from Approval Junkie by Faith Salie. Copyright © 2016 by Faith Salie. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About the Author
FAITH SALIE is an Emmy-winning contributor to CBS News Sunday Morning and a panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! She also hosts the PBS show, Science Goes To The Movies. As a commentator on politics and pop culture, she’s been interviewed by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Bill O’Reilly, and Anderson Cooper. As a television and public radio host, she herself has interviewed newsmakers from Lorne Michaels to President Carter to Robert Redford, who invited her to call him “Bob.” Faith attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship, and while her fellow scholars went on to become governors and mayors, she landed on a Star Trek collectible trading card worth hundreds of cents. She lives in New York City with her husband, two children, and her husband’s dog.