Imagine that you were going through a huge pile of books and you find a diary. When you begin reading the diary, you find that it’s written by someone who is just like you, attitude-wise. In discussing his or her flaws, the diarist is describing you. Likes and dislikes? You. Bad habits, bad behaviors? You. Might you begin to wonder if this was a diary you kept and forgot about?
In reading It Could Be Worse,You Could Be Me, I could not believe that I had found the musings of a kindred spirit. Since the author is twenty years younger than I, it was like being reincarnated without the bother of dying. There are major differences between Ariel Leve and me. She’s a successful author and columnist, she’s young, she’s Jewish, she’s single, she has lots of friends, and she lives in New York and London. I’m not and I don’t. The really bad part about all of that is she writes about how miserable her life is; what does that say about mine?
Ariel Leve is a woman who purports to spend most of her time in her pajamas (or pyjamas) or bathrobe, enjoys sleeping, and doesn’t particularly like sharing or listening. It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me is an anthology of complaints about life. Leve apparently has bad experiences at everything she attempts and is convinced that everyone—given enough time—will hate her.
Anyone who thinks that Dickens is the master of bleakness, or Poe the crowned chronicler of the unfortunate, has not read Leve’s work. The major difference is that she is writing about her own life and her own failures. Totally pessimistic and a confirmed hypochondriac, she details the character flaws that prevent her from being happy.
Does It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me sound depressing? It’s not. It’s very funny. Although Leve has traveled the globe, she claims she doesn’t do anything. Big events that require massive planning include getting a mani-pedi and having lunch with friends. You know it’s not easy to fit all these things in when you’ve got a full schedule of doing nothing.
Leve is a true neurotic in the way that only metro-dwellers can be. To translate that for people who live non-neurotic lives in exurbia and rural areas: think Woody Allen. She prevents herself from having enjoyable experiences by self-talking herself out of them, remembering similar experiences that went horribly wrong. If she hasn’t had a similar experience, she devises a litany of all the things that could possibly go wrong.
Everything that is right in Ariel Leve’s friends’ lives is wrong in hers. Every one of them, on both continents, is more socially adept and emotionally well adjusted. According to Leve, that is.
It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me is a worst case scenario of what could happen to a city-dwelling, germ-fearing, Atlantic-crossing, self-loathing, coffee-addicted, fortyish, single woman, without providing any solutions. While men may enjoy it, women will identify with it. We may not have faced all the devils Leve faces, but we’ve faced enough of them. Her informal style and wit allow us to laugh in commiseration.
In writing about relationships, social functions, people, food, travel, real estate, personality defects, and dating, Leve presents herself as the poster child for unfortunate circumstances. Although she may suffer one mini-tragedy after another, she maintains the knowledge that she deserves better. She just doesn’t know if anything better is actually out there.
Bottom Line: Would I buy It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me? Yes. It’s a humorous dissection of urban womanhood, both amusing and bathetic.