Bless Jessica Simpson’s heart.
A lot of folks on the internet think that “Bless you heart” means “F you.” But not once have I used it in that capacity. For me — born and raised in upstate SC — “Bless you heart” can mean any of the following things.
- Poor thing, she don’t know no better.
- Aw. She is doing her best.
- Let me help you.
- Thank you for being the sweetest.
So I say, “Bless your heart,” to Jessica Simpson, the meaning a mix of #2 and #4.
Simpson is a woman is doing her best, and she comes off the page of her new memoir, Open Book, as a genuinely sweet and good person, the kind we need more of. More Jessicas, fewer Johns (Mayer).
A good celebrity memoir is a present wrapped in a hardcover, especially one with good dish. If you haven’t read Tori Spelling’s sTori Telling and her weird/perfect anecdote about Terence Trent D’Arby, what are you even doing with your life.
The Simpson we see in Open Book is vulnerable and funny, dropping names like a Canada goose drops poo headed south for winter. If the book had an index, it would be a list of every pop culture name from the last twenty years, save Jenna Dewan. Simpson gives us Gosling being sweet! Timberlake being a dick! Tony Romo being a low-confidence man-baby!
My “I feel seen!” part of the book is Jessica talking about the knit shawl she wore all the time on Newlyweds. I was obsessed with it and found a knock-off somewhere in Lincoln Park Chicago. I wore it until it fell apart from wear, tear, and tomato sauce stains. The shawl helped Simpson to decide the price point for her highly successful Jessica Simpson Collection.
I had a shawl, a simple cream one, and girls constantly asked me about it. It was from Barney’s, and I felt bad telling them that because the price tag was out of reach for a lot of my fans. I wanted to give them the feeling of luxury without having the spend a lot of money.
Her Parents and Middle School Failed Her
The biggest revelation in the book is the childhood sexual abuse a young Simpson endured, inflicted by a family friend’s daughter. When Simpson finally tells her parents of the abuse, their answer is to just never visit the abuser again. While that is important, her parents, Joe and Tina, sweep the abuse under the rug with silence — and no counseling or therapy — and it’s a tragic disservice to Jessica. They believe her; they don’t help her.
This book does nothing to improve my opinion of show biz parents. I think Gabi Butlers’ family went to the Joe Simpson School for Damaging Your Child Who Is Also Your Check.
Later, middle school becomes a torture for Jessica, as she tells her best friend “Beetlejuice” of the abuse, but in a twisted Texas cheerleader way, the friend uses the news as currency against Jessica, telling the other popular cheerleaders that Jessica is a lesbian, subjecting Jessica to relentless bullying, even by other teams that chant “LESBIAN! LESBIAN!” at their basketball games.
The school says it can protect her, but it’s clear they only mean physically. And since Tina and Joe have shown they aren’t a soft place to land, Jessica can’t even admit why she is being harassed. Twitter lost its minds about Lizzie in #pencilgate, but I want to find this Beetlejuice. As the residents of King’s Landing say: shame.
Wookin’ Pa Nub in All the Wrong Places
It’s obvious Jessica wants love and acceptance, and our culture makes us women believe the one true way to be complete is through the romantic kind. At the age of 22, Simpson married boy-bander Nick Lachey, but quickly came to realize that was not her best choice, realizing that Lachey most likely hated her by the end of their marriage. You know how Planet Fitness has those Lunkhead commercials? Lachey is a lunkhead. But we have known this since we saw him pounding Bud Lites in front of Sports Center in his backwards Cincinnati Reds baseball cap on Newlyweds.
I had to change all my numbers and my email address so none of my exes had any hope of contact. It sounds dramatic, but I dated a guy who had a habit of showing up out of nowhere to mess with my mind.
That guys she dated is John Mayer, who used Simpson like an emotional succubus, to create relationship dramz for his own songwriting needs. And it was pretty easy for him to constantly find Simpson and fuck with her since he had weaseled his way into the lives of Joe and Tina. Close the voting. We have a winner! The dickwad of 2020 is John Mayer.
It’s Always 10-15 Pounds
By the time we got to the April release of the first single, “Irresistible,” I had managed to get myself down to 103 pounds. Everyone went on about how great I looked, but I couldn’t enjoy it because I was so freaking hungry.
Simpson’s battle against her body started when she sang in church, with male church elders being horrified by the size of her breasts while she sang about the love of Jesus. Women are always responsible for men’s boners, even when they get one in the pew as they sing “Just As I Am” from the Baptist hymnal.
Our bodies are never quite right. On the advice-cum-order of Tommy Mottola, Simpson started trying to lose 15 pounds right after her record contract with his label. The Simpson we saw on Newlyweds was the Atkins Diet Simpson, and Chicken-of-the-Sea would never even had been a thing if she weren’t doing an extreme diet, because who wants to eat cold dry, beige fish out of the can for a snack if they don’t have to. I say this as a pescatarian.
From those mom jeans to pregnancy weight, Simpson’s pant size has taken up a lot of her own mind share. When she says, “Give a girl an insult, she’ll feel bad for day, but teach her to hate her body, she’ll feel bad forever,” Simpson is speaking to herself as much as to the reader. Simpson’s two daughters, Maxwell and Birdie, are lucky to have her and this awareness.
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I do wish Simpson would acknowledge that her consistent weight loss partner Weight Watchers (or WW or Dub Dub, whatever they are calling themselves lately) is a part of the diet industrial complex and makes a lot of money in helping us believe in the judgment of the scale. But again, bless her heart; Simpson is doing the best she can here. Simpson has been treated horribly by the world about her body, and if her tummy tuck helped boost her emotional armor, then good. No one lives in a vacuum. But if they did, I would hope it be a Miele.
So Many of Us Have a Glittercup
I always had a glittercup in reach at home. That’s what I called my shiny tumblers filled with vodka and flavored Perrier.
Alcohol. It’s so ingrained in our culture and social interactions, and I feel like many of us have our own glittercups. Simpson’s openness about her use of alcohol really hit me hard. Dry January or Sober October come from our knowing we might be need liquid something a little too often. I find it very hard to not end my day without a glass of wine — or two or three — , and the struggle for me is that not having it feels like I’m denying myself something. And as a recovered anorexic/bulimic, I bristle at the idea of denying myself anything, which I conflate with dieting. I don’t do well with diets.
All this is to say, I’m proud and envious of Simpson admitting her problem and getting sober in 2017, and I’m proud of her husband, Eric Johnson, for agreeing to stop drinking along with her. Simpson is very candid about her drunken, cringeworthy foibles throughout her career and even into motherhood. But I learned one thing: if you are going to be tipsy and foolish in front of one person, choose Dolly Parton.
“Smile!” Dolly said. And I did. Because you do what Dolly Parton tells you to, even if it’s hard.
Amy takes pride in being a grumpy optimist. Want to talk sports ball? Amy is your girl. Her favorite New York Times crossword puzzle day is Tuesday. If your book is set in the former Soviet Union or World War 2, Amy will read it. As a recovered Southern Baptist, she is raising her daughter to be happy.