The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir by Ariel Levy


“For the first time I can remember, I cannot locate my competent self- one more missing person.”

Ariel Levy tells us people told her all her life she was too much, but what does that mean? And why is a woman ever too much? I was surprised by how much I enjoyed spending time with her thoughts, past, grief, mistakes. We can find common ground in any life, regardless of how they differ from our own, maybe if we did that more often we’d be a hell of a lot more accepting of others. What struck me the hardest was the pain I felt reading about Caster Semenya, because Levy beautifully expressed how devastating it is to be a human being whose most intimate parts are ‘suspect’. For just that moment, I sunk into the shock of such a emotional ‘stoning’, and cannot imagine the humiliation of such accusations made public worldwide on top of all that horror. Levy’s writing in that chapter was visceral for me, I thought about it for days. Writing that can have such an effect on you, that can pull you out of your skin and into another’s is the gifted sort. There was so much to think about, to relate to, for any of us- this gutted me. “But throughout her childhood, her gender had been the subject of suspicion and curiosity wherever she went. ‘It looks like a boy’- that’s the right words,” Sako told me. “They used to say, ‘It looks like a boy.’ The very ideal, the IT, made me sick. Levy’s thoughts on the horrible incident exposes so much about the world and gender.

There was more that made me ache. Life can be beautiful, blessed but you never know what can go wrong, or worse- how you can do such stupid, human things that bring everything you built down around your ears. We hurt those we love, we lie, we get nostalgic or hungry and lose ourselves in a moment of greed and blow it all.  We don’t know what to do with our grief, so we leave it alone, poking at it, letting it fester until it consumes us. Do we carry our families fears, their relationship poison in our DNA? Is that it? Do we pass down the resentment brewing in our bitter hearts to our children, and their children and so on and so forth?

Even Levy’s own parents had a relationship different from the norm. Love is not a box we all live in, well defined and perfectly contained. Just when we have it, so many of us betray our lovers, or ourselves. Why? Why do we sometimes think we must have more? Is it something missing in ourselves? Just when she has everything, she suffers a devastating loss. In our world we’re pushed to brush ourselves off and get over it. (Doesn’t matter if it’s a divorce, a death, a miscarriage) in this vast world you are not the first to suffer and therefore you should move along, perk up, try again. You can just FIX all of it! But life isn’t that pliable. We can’t bring back what’s been lost. Blindness in love is universal. Needing someone there who is absent when we break is akin to falling into a black-hole. It’s so hard to be the rock for yourself when you need nurturing.

This memoir is intimate, tender, beautiful. Your gender doesn’t really matter, nor whether you are in a straight or gay marriage. The struggles are there for all of us, aren’t they? The joy as much as the disappointments. You may be living a grand life and just one event can alter everything you thought was real and true. None of us are safe from nature, nor others actions or worse- our own choices. There is beauty in that, and horror too.  Maybe the horrible things that happen to us, that we do to ourselves and each other have a lesson, maybe it’s all just chaos and chance but it’s the price we pay for being living flesh in this world. Maybe we should stand strong and not rely on another but that isn’t a guarantee from pain either. Either way, Levy’s memoir tells us all we aren’t alone in grief, loss.

Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Random House

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