Category Archives: Jennifer Gwyneth and Me

I Can Cook For My Husband and Still Be a Feminist

As a writer, you learn quickly to develop a thick skin. People on the Internet will comment about, for example, how you can’t write, or how your husband is inevitably going to leave you, or how your particular style of writing is entirely responsible for any man leaving any woman, ever. And you take it, and eventually learn to laugh at it, because it’s part of the gig. You will get rejections, you will get bad reviews, you might even get nasty emails. It comes with the territory. If you want to write for a living, you better learn to accept it or get out of the game.

So it takes a lot, these days, for a review or reporter to rattle me. I can shrug off nastiness quickly. I usually share any particularly harsh feedback with my family, because if we can’t all laugh together, where’s the fun?

But a reporter asked a question recently that really irked me. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and I know I got pretty defensive when it first came up. I tried to keep a reasonable tone, to answer the question thoughtfully, but that the question would even be asked, well, pisses me off.

It was an interview for my new book, Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time, in which I write about trying to make my life a little bit more fabulous by emulating some of the stars who seem to have it all. Jennifer Aniston. Sarah Jessica Parker. Jennifer Garner. Tina Fey. In one of the chapters, I talk extensively about trying to cook like Gwyneth Paltrow. I mention that my husband—not much of a cook himself—especially enjoyed the home-cooked meals. I also write throughout the book about my longing for a baby, and about my infertility struggles.

So here was the question: “How can you write about wanting to cook for your husband, and wanting to have a baby, and still be a part of the feminist discourse?”

I was so taken aback that I had to ask the reporter to repeat the question, and even then I had to repeat it back to her to be sure I understood it correctly.

I am a feminist. I believe that women are equal to men, and that all women should have the right to choose and live the life we want. I believe that whatever decision we make—whether it is to have a family or not, to cook for a romantic partner or not, to work or not, to shave our armpits or not, whatever—is valid as long as we’ve made it for ourselves. Our lives should not be chosen for us. Other people’s ideas of what makes a woman should not dictate what our rights look like.

The idea that you can only be a feminist if you reject the notions of starting a family or wanting to cook for someone else or wanting to feel better about your body, is ludicrous. My daughter brings me joy. Putting a meal that I’ve created in front of my husband every now and then makes me proud. I am a feminist because those are choices I’ve made. No one made them for me. My husband has never demanded a home-cooked meal. I didn’t have my daughter because someone said, “you better start popping out kids soon.” These are choices that make me happy. My career also makes me happy. And so does playing sports. And so does leaving my daughter with my husband for a weekend so I can get some much needed me-time.

If another woman chooses to eschew kids and marriage and pursue a different path, I support that, too.

Women shouldn’t have to apologize for not wanting to get married or for choosing career over kids.

But I shouldn’t have to apologize for wanting the cooking and the kids, either. I am a feminist—home cooking, baby and all.

 

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Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: On Sale Now (Also, GMA!)

JenniferGwyneth_1217-1I have three babies. My actual baby, and then two books. Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me—baby number three—is on stands… today! I can’t believe it. This book feels like it’s been such a long time in the making. When I first handed it in, I thought it would be in stores in January 2014. Then I was told March. Then June. Then July.

If you ask me, there couldn’t be a better pub date for this book than July 1. It’s light, fun beach reading (don’t believe me? Self, Cosmo and Shape.com all say so!) and out just in time for the holiday weekend. I couldn’t be happier.

I hope you will grab a copy today. Throw it in your purse (at only 256 pages, it’s light, I promise) and by the time you finish reading you’ll be channeling your inner Beyonce.

Also! I’ll be on Good Morning America this morning talking about the book and what it was like to live like a celeb for eight months (or, at least, try to). It’s my first national TV appearance and there should even be an 11-month-old special guest. I’d be so grateful if you’d tune in, or set your DVR.

Finally, in case I don’t say it enough: THANK YOU all for your unwavering support of this blog, MWF Seeking BFF, and now, Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me. It means the world to me. Thank you. Seriously.

Today, you can:
order Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me
check out the press (there’s even a picture of me in my SJP-inspired tutu)
see what readers are saying

 

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Is Gwyneth Paltrow the Most Divisive Celebrity?

 

Lunchtime poll: Is there any celeb as loved, hated, and love-to-hated as Gwyneth?

I think not.

For my upcoming book, Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me, I set out to adopt the lifestyles of the celebrities I most admired. I tried to emulate Jennifer Aniston’s workout routine (I want those legs!), Jennifer Garner’s marriage, Sarah Jessica Parker’s style, Tine Fey’s work ethic, and more. Armed with My Father’s Daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow’s first cookbook, I also tried to achieve Gwynnie’s kitchen prowess. There were some hiccups (cleanses are not my friend) but overall I thought it went pretty well. I mean, I roasted a duck. So there.

Of all the celebrities I write about, Gwyneth is definitely the most controversial. Some people adore her. Her website Goop.com, has more than a million subscribers and her more recent cookbook, It’s All Good, debuted at number 1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List. My BFF Mindy is trying to cook all of Gwyneth’s recipes in an attempt at self-improvement.

Other people hate her. Hate. Her. A reporter once told me Gwyneth should be “outlawed.” Websites write about her most irritating quotes and then more irritating quotes. And of course we all had a field day with the now infamous uncoupling.

I go back and forth. Do I think it’s absurdly out of touch to recommend that us regular women buy a $90 white T-shirt? Of course. But do I still subscribe to Goop? Of course of course.

I’m trying to think if there is any celebrity who inspires as much simultaneous rage and admiration as our Gwyneth. (This is someone who was named  People’s Most Beautiful Woman and Star’s Most Hated Celebrity in the same week.) Maybe Beyonce, but I think we all mostly love her, no? I’ve heard conflicting reactions to Jennifer Garner but how can you not want to go to lunch with this lady? Jennifer Lopez? I just don’t know.

You tell me: Love Gwyneth? Hate her? Is there anyone else nearly as polarizing?

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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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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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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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