Reviewing the memoir of a 20 year-old

Say goodbye to these, Levi, because it's the last time you'll ever...

This morning, Mike Sebba alerted me to a looming public health crisis. It seems that Bachmania, previously believed by doctors and Combat! blog’s traffic numbers to be limited to my apartment, has reached epidemic proportions. Even Bristol Palin, normally isolated from disease by geography and her traumatic experiences with all types of human affection, suffered a Bachmaniacal episode during her interview with Rob Shuter:

I think [Bachmann] dresses a lot like my mom. But a lot, a lot of women have done that the last few years. I do think it’s odd, you know, seeing people with red blazers with their hair up with glasses. I don’t know if she’s wearing glasses but you want to be hummmm, do you think that people don’t notice you’re dressing like my mom?

It is possible that people do not notice the glasses-like absence of glasses that makes other adult women reminiscent of your own personal mom, Bristol Palin, yes. But she can be forgiven her airtight watertight bricktight logic. She has a memoir to promote. And if Stephen Lowman’s review at the Washington Post is anything to go by, it’s amazing.

In case you are not yet angry, the memoir is called Not Afraid of Life. That’s like if Proust had called his memoir Not Afraid of the Large Hadron Collider, but it’s possible that Bristol Palin meant “life” in the political, have-a-baby-even-though-you-don’t-want-to sense, and not in the sense of, you know, lived experience. To be fair, they are kind of the same thing for her. For example, they’re both beyond the scope of what she considers her own responsibility.

Bristol Palin’s account of the night she lost her virginity to Levi Johnston is, um, unsettling. It begins with her telling her mother, a then-unfamous Sarah Palin whom I like to imagine struggling through the whole scene with her hand stuck in a toaster, that she is spending the night at a friend’s house. Really, she is going camping with Levi, and they are drinking wine coolers. The twin daemons Bartyylz and Ja’ames first make her feel “young and carefree,” before gradually easing her into a dreamless sleep. Then she wakes up in Levi’s tent. The intervening period, according to BP, is basically a blackout:

What I don’t remember is what transpired between the moment when I was sitting there by the fire talking and the moment I awakened the next morning. Suddenly, I wondered why it was called “losing your virginity,” because it felt more like it had been stolen.

So, um, Levi Johnston raped you? There are a lot of problems with this story of nonconsensual sex between a drunk 17 year-old and the man she would briefly intend to marry, not the least of which is her subsequent claim that, okay, she “barely remembered” what happened. If she woke with no memory of the previous night, how did she “suddenly” meditate on having lost her virginity? Did Levi the Virginity Bandit leave his calling card?* And how did we get from what appears to be a sex crime to the long-term relationship that resulted in Bristol’s pregnancy?

If we were dealing with the experiences of a normal 20 year-old, such vagueness might be forgiven. But Bristol Palin’s memoir is called Not Afraid of Life and has a picture of a freaking baby on the cover, and the author is a professional teen abstinence advocate. Given that the consequences of her own personal teen pregnancy were that she had to do Dancing With the Stars instead of college, I think BP owes it to her constituents to take some responsibility for doing the thing she constantly warns them not to do.

As it is, Bristol Palin has taken a hard look at her life thus far and decided that she drank too many wine coolers. She centers the account of her pregnancy on a night when she definitely didn’t get pregnant, and she reduces her role in that account to the absolute minimum of personal agency. Her memoir is about stuff she doesn’t remember. Don’t have premarital sex, Bristol Palin says, even though I did, and nothing seriously bad happened, and it wasn’t really my fault.

Anyway, this is a book. You can put it on your coffee table next to Going Rogue by that lady who got victimized by the media even though she reads all the magazines. Like her mother, Bristol Palin is a person whose mistakes were foisted upon her by others and—despite very little experience—has built her new life around telling other people what to do. She will still be famous for a few years after we are all dead.

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  1. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be picturing a bass guitar or a fish, but I enjoy both options.

  2. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be picturing a bass guitar or a fish, but it works both ways.

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