Saying Goodbye to (Fictional) Friends

Last night was the finale of How I Met Your Mother, which, you may know, has long been a favorite of mine. The finale itself was pretty divisive. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.) I was satisfied with the ending—I liked the closure, I appreciated that they didn’t dwell on the mother’s death, I was glad they set the story-telling six years after her death, so we could see that Ted turned out ok and I didn’t have to cry for him too much. I didn’t love that Barney and Robin got divorced after approximately two minutes. I HATED her old lady hair in the final scene. But when those closing credits rolled, I was smiling.

Episode specifics aside,  I did go to sleep with a sense of sadness. It was as if I’d said goodbye to old friends. I’ve been watching How I Met Your Mother since 2005. I’ve known Marshall and Lily and Barney longer than I’ve known most of my Chicago pals, and it’s amazing how much I truly feel like I get these people who, I have to remind myself, aren’t even real people.

While researching Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me, I learned about a scientific concept called “parasocial interactions”: one-sided relationships where one party knows a lot about the second party, but the second party knows nothing, or next to nothing, about the first. It is most commonly observed between celebrities and their followers—I , for example, feel like Mindy Kaling is my BFF; she, on the other hand, doesn’t know I’m alive. A study out of Kansas State even found that one of the most common parasocial relationships people have is with the characters from Friends. Guilty. Could I be any tighter with Chandler? 

Parasocial interactions aren’t bad for you, provided you have enough self-awareness to recognize you don’t actually know these people. (Stalker territory, folks.) Research has shown that, when kept in check, we can reap the same benefits from an imagined relationship, like mine with the HIMYM gang, as we do from the real-life kind. We might feel more connected, less isolated, and more confident. If we identify with someone, and also think highly of her, we might even by association think more highly of ourselves.

So I’ll miss the slap bets and Robin Sparkles and the reminders that nothing good happens after 2 am. I’ll miss MacLaren’s and Puzzles and all the Interventions. But most of all, I’ll miss my (parasocial) pals.

Ever had a parasocial relationship of your own? Ever miss the fictional characters of a TV show or a book as if they were your real-life friends? Or am I just too committed to my TV?

My new book, Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me, comes out three months from today! (The release date was changed to July 1.) You can preorder it here and I’d be so grateful if you did. Publisher’s Weekly said readers will “alternately laugh and cringe” and “examine their outlook on perfection, self-acceptance, and aspiring to be one’s very best self.” Who doesn’t want that?!?

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Crisis Mode: America’s Friendships

I don’t know how it’s possible that I just discovered Lifeboat, a “movement of people rediscovering friendships,” but apparently I’m off my game. The site, which posts the latest news, advice and science of friendship, released their State of Friendship in America report last year, and the findings are fascinating. (Random tidbits: Married people are 18% more likely to donate a kidney to a friend; city folk put more emphasis on attractive friends; liberals are less satisfied with friendships than conservatives.) Check out their key findings below.

And if you’re curious how I dealt with my own friendship crisis, have I got the book for you.

Seventy-five percent of Americans aren’t happy with their friendships? That’s depressing. Do you see yourself in these stats? Find them surprising? Sound off below!

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Notes on the Oscars

Live tweeting the Oscars was more fun than even I expected. When I first decided to do it, I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to say. As it turned out, I talk to myself more than I realize while watching TV. A lot of Sunday went something like this:

Me, to no one: Um, what did John Travolta just call her?!?!

Me, to me: Tweet that!

So instead of enumerating my Oscar notes (as I did the Golden Globes) I figured I’ll just annotate (in the fancy brackets) the “greatest hits” of my Twitter feed from the evening. No 140 character limit here, friends.

Ready? Let’s relive a night from less than 48 hours ago!

  • I LOVE that Jennifer Lawrence is dating the About a Boy boy. {Did you all know this? Not the guy from the new sitcom, obviously, but the one from the Hugh Grant movie! If he’s anything like his character, and I like to think he is, this is a perfect match.)
  • My mother-in-law calls “Her” “She” by mistake. Amazing. {Feminine pronouns, same diff. I love her.}
  • Is short hair the biggest trend of the night? {Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway, Portia de Rossi}
  • I’m fine with the red bow tie, but why the ombre hair, Jared? {Still, gotta love Jordan Catalano. He was a star of the night.)
  • I feel like I’m watching a Glee performance. And I’m not complaining. {This regarding Pharrell’s performance of “Happy,” which was fab.}
  • It makes me sad when the winners of the “small” awards have to walk a mile to get to the stage. {I mean, the people taking home Best Animated Short are probably more excited than, say, Cate Blanchett, who probably puts her latest Oscar on top of her awards heap at home. Give the poor folks better seats.}
  • Since when do the Oscars have themes? This isn’t, like, the prom. {I wasn’t feeling the “hero” vibe.}
  • Is this just a commercial for that Zach Morris tablet Ellen is holding? {Re: The selfie that broke Twitter.}
  • Oh. My. Gosh. My two best-dressed predictions are presenting together. VERONICA MARS & VINCE HOWARD. I can die now. {This needs no annotation.}
  • I usually don’t love what Charlize Theron wears (I know, I’m the only one) but wow. {Wow wow wow wow wow.}
  • Lupita Lupita Lupita! Fingers crossed. {Yay!}
  • Her Willy Wonka playoff music translates to more tears. {An acceptance speech for the books, and then they have to go play Lupita Nyong’o off to “Pure Imagination.” Consider my heartstrings pulled.}
  • What did John Travolta just call Idina Menzel? What did I miss? {We all know what became of this}
  • I really like Jennifer Lawrence but I worry she is about to tip. That opening bit {where she, like, heckled someone in the audience}  felt like she was maybe trying too hard? {Am I alone in this one?}

Okay, folks. Now you. Agree with my general sentiments? What were your favorite moments of the night? And who was your best dressed?

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The Oscars are Sunday… I’m Live Tweeting!

The closest I'll get to an Oscar...

The closest I’ll get to an Oscar…

The Oscars are my Super Bowl. Which means I’ll be glued to my TV screen on Sunday. First, to see all the dresses, celebrity air kisses, Ryan Seacrest puns and mani-cam bird flips on E! and then, of course, to see the big show itself. What I’m most excited about? Ellen, obvs, and Idina Menzel singing “Let It Go.” (I still haven’t seen the movie but it’s just a matter of time before I’m on the train, big time. Also, I love everything Idina.) And whatever Lupita Nyong’o wears. 

My Oscar viewing experience usually involves texting my mom and some friends with outraged comments about so-and-so’s dress or what’s-his-face’s awkward/hilarious/tearjerker speech. But this time instead of texting, I’ll be tweeting! If Jennifer Lawrence is self-deprecating, or Anne Hathaway riles her haters, or Matthew McConaughey says “all right, all right, all right”—all guarantees, really—I’ll be there with 140 characters on the subject. I hope you’ll all follow along and let me know what you’re thinking of the show, too.

I’m @rberch. Can’t wait for our viewing party!

Oh, and that pic above? That’s me at the Kodak Theatre in 2010, the morning after the ceremony. Definite life highlight.

Will you be tuning in? Have any Oscar watching rituals?

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I Want To Be…. Harriet The Spy

Harriet the Spy

My upcoming book, Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me, is largely about role models. Celebrity role models, yes, but also the idea of emulating others: Is it ok to live by another person’s example? Or are we  better off blazing our own trails?

I’m always observing other people, trying to incorporate the traits I admire into my own life. Celebrities, or athletes (especially around Olympics time! Mikaela Shiffrin, I heart you.), or politicians, whoever. No one is off limits.

It started, though, with fictional characters. Before I even knew what a “role model” was, I was reading about girls  I wanted to be just like. Matilda. Cassie Logan. Stacey McGill, Treasurer.

Harriet the Spy might have been my  first “I want to be her.” She was an aspiring writer in New York. was an aspiring writer in New York! She loved eavesdropping. loved eavesdropping! (Still do.)  She was named Harriet. I.. well, my mom was (is) named Harriet! 

Twinsies.

Except Harriet overheard much more interesting stuff than I did. She caught on to tensions  between the adults around her and, in her green composition spy notebook (a copy of which I bought for myself), reminded herself to “CHECK ON THIS.” She was tough and independent and smart.

I wanted to be her.

If you can believe it–I cannot–Harriet the Spy celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. What’s even more amazing is how well it holds up. Like this:

They walked to Eighty-sixth Street,  took the cross-town bus, and soon were whizzing along in  the subway, sitting in a line – Ole Golly, then Harriet, then Sport. Ole Golly stared straight ahead. Harriet was scribbling furiously in her notebook.

“What are you writing?” Sport asked.

“I’m taking notes on all those people who are sitting over there.”

“Why?”

“Aw, Sport” – Harriet was exasperated – “because I’ve seen them and I want to remember them.” She turned back  to her book and continued her notes:

MAN WITH ROLLED WHITE SOCKS, FAT LEGS. WOMAN WITH ONE CROSS-EYE AND A LONG NOSE. HORRIBLE LOOKING LITTLE BOY AND A FAT BLONDE MOTHER WHO KEEPS WIPING HIS NOSE off. Funny lady looks like a teacher and is reading. I don’t think I’d like to live where any of these people live or do the things they do. i bet that little boy is  sad and cries a lot. i bet that lady with the cross-eye looks in the mirror and just feels terrible.

This is not just smart, it’s funny. And Harriet feels as real today as she did when I was reading about her 20 years ago. I wanted to be her then, and I want to be her now. (Note to self: Pay more attention to people around you, less attention to phone.)

There’s a special edition of Harriet the Spy coming out this month. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Who was your earliest role model? (I think I’ll turn this “I Want To Be…” into a series. The list is always growing.)

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Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me – In Stores June 3!

JenniferGwyneth_1217-1

My next book, Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time, comes out four months from today. Ahhhhhh!!!

I know I’ve mentioned the book on this blog, but I don’t feel like I’ve given you the full details yet. And now, suddenly, the release is around the corner. When did that happen?

I’m so so SO excited about this book. I’ve included the full jacket copy below, but let me just say that any of you out there who have ever read People, coveting Jennifer Aniston’s arms or Jennifer Garner’s seemingly perfect marriage or Beyonce’s, um, everything, will relate to it (I hope). My editor once called it The Happiness Project meets Us Weekly, and I’d say that’s the highest compliment there is.

I’m so excited to have a book coming out in June because I think this might be the ultimate beach read (sorry for the self-promotion but….). A self-improvement memoir with a dose of celebrity worship? Just what you’re looking for, right? I hope so!

A charming memoir brimming with wit and wisdom, Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me is a pointed look at our fascination with celebrities, as one woman strives to remake herself in the image of her favorite stars.

What woman hasn’t seen pictures of Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, or Beyoncé and wished she had their clothes, their abs, their seemingly flawless lives? For Rachel Bertsche, these celebrities are the epitome of perfection—self-assured and effortlessly cool. Yet lately, between juggling her career, her marriage, and her dream of becoming a mother, Bertsche feels anything but put together.

In Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me, Bertsche embarks on a quest to emulate her Hollywood role models—while sticking to a budget—to see if they really hold the keys to happiness. While trying to unlock the stars’ secrets, from Sarah Jessica Parker’s wardrobe to Julia Roberts’s sense of calm to—maybe one day—Jessica Alba’s chic pregnancy, Bertsche learns valuable lessons. A toned body doesn’t come easy or cheap, avoiding social media can do wonders for your peace of mind, and confidence is the key accessory for pulling off any outfit. But can she immerse herself in the A-list lifestyle and still stay true to herself? And will her pursuit of perfection really lead to happiness?

You can pre-order Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, iBooks, Google Play or Random House. I’d be so grateful if you would! And stay tuned for more info as the release gets closer.

In the meantime, I’m dying to know: What’s the one celebrity feature you’d most want for yourself? SJP’s wardrobe? Tina Fey’s career? Lena Dunham’s sense of humor? There are so many to choose from… (Also, Gwyneth Paltrow: love or hate? Discuss.)

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How to Escape a Polar Vortex (Or, In My Dreams I am Sarah Jessica Parker)

  

The polar vortex has me in a rut. Nothing too serious, but the past few days have definitely been an “it’s too cold to leave the house so why even change out of my pajamas?” situation.

Such are the dangers of working from home. In spending a year trying to channel my favorite celebrities for my upcoming book Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me, I was able get myself in the habit of getting dressed in the morning (I know this shouldn’t even need to be a habit and instead, like, common courtesy, but it’s surprisingly easy to find yourself at 4 pm still in PJs) but polar vortexes throw a wrench in that lifestyle. The temperature was something like -11 degrees yesterday. It hurt to breathe when I left the house to get my diet coke.

As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time daydreaming about vacations. For some reason I can’t stop thinking about Paris, which is strange because it isn’t especially warm there either (though it’s currently 42 degrees, which I’d take in a heartbeat). And my daydreams aren’t even of regular Paris, but specifically of Carrie-Bradshaw-at-the-end-of-Sex-and-the-City Paris. You know, when she’s wearing the striped top with the big rose, or meeting bookstore owners who want to throw her impromptu dinner parties with too much wine. In my daydreams,  I am the one carrying the red umbrella and wearing the polka-dot dress and heels, despite knowing that walking cobblestone streets in heels is difficult and painful and horribly un-graceful and I would most definitely sprain an ankle.

Am I the only one who does this? Does anyone else find themselves fantasizing not just of warmer climates, but of themselves as fictional characters IN those climates? Someone out there has daydreamed of being Audrey Hepburn outside Tiffany’s, right? Or in The Holiday’s version of LA, Kate Winslet-style? Maybe I should just put on some heels and walk around the house. It’s not Paris, but heels may be the lift (har har) I need.

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