'How To Be A Woman’ is beautifully, dangerously funny. How Moran manages to reference Rilke and Chris Rock, Bowie and Bold, Greggs and Gregory's Girl, The Wonder Stuff and The Wasteland, ecstasy and oxytocin, The Magician's Nephew and Gonzo from the Muppets in one book is a work of genius. Slavoj Žižek will love it. It could, and should, incite a revolution. If, as Moran hints at, every woman in England used their credit card to buy and digest this book next weekend instead of “that new bag” it might well happen.
I am a freakishly slow reader but this was un-put-down-able. I devoured it in one sitting, something I don’t think I’ve done since ‘Matilda’. I have spent almost thirty years trying and failing to fully understand women - my wife has helped me out immensely - but there are a great many mysteries solved in this book; light shone in the strangest of corners. I pored over this like it was some sort of anthropological tome - like it was the new Desmond Morris. The sheer honesty of this “opposite-sex-person” writing about the opposite sex was astounding; it felt a bit like I was being allowed to listen in on the conversations that must go on in the women’s toilets […don’t they…?] It is hysterically brilliant to read as a man; it’s not an angry, embittered “anti-man” rant but a powerful call-to-arms against the forces of absurdity; it’s a proud proclamation of shortcomings, sisterhood and the quest for dresses with sleeves.
There is throughout an inherent recognition that the man-made scales of “fitness” or “hotness” have been wildly confused with those of beauty, having been developed out of all recognition by adolescent [often male] chimps with their wallets in their heads and their brains in their pants - and that such scales will never satisfy neither man nor woman. This is the book that frustrated boyfriends have wanted someone - some woman - to write for decades. Darling, you are beautiful, I love you, and by the way true Beauty lies with the easy-going woman who can smile at life and at herself; it lies with the woman who might accompany you on a long walk since she’s ditched the high heels for the day; it lies with the woman who might make you a mix-tape in return for the one you once spent three days making for her; it lies with the woman who sees how silly the whole business (and it is a business) is and turns round to it and says, in a manner becoming of a lady, “Fuck Off”.
As an actor you constantly see the ridiculous additional pressures heaped upon actresses to “look right”, when actually what the camera sees when it spies the “great actress” - what distinguishes them and indeed the “great woman” - is not on the surface at all. It’s what illuminates the love-light in every man, whether he knows it or not - it’s that little spark behind the eyes; an intellectual curiosity, an erotic imagination, and maybe, just maybe, a knowledge of early 90s indie and dance music.
'How To Be A Woman' could easily be a handbook for the husband, the man who surfs the day-to-day yet lifelong journey with the woman of his dreams, his choosing and potentially his undoing if he fails to understand her. It is terrifying to read as a father to a daughter as the revelation dawns that the quirky, strong-willed “bundle of joy” you have spawned will only get quirkier and more strong-willed; that she will become a woman. Apart from anything else it is a fantastic account of growing up in the latter part of the 20th century and the beginning of this 21st one and realising that quite a lot of the “bullshit” doesn't seem to apply to you. It's a beautiful account of becoming a spouse [I hate that word, but I needed a gender-neutral one] and then a parent. I can't wait for my missus to read it now. She will love it. And one day – all too soon – I will make my daughter read it too.