I recently had the good fortune to discover a new memoir by an ex-expat turned author, Margaret Davis Ghielmetti.
From Chicago, her marriage to Patrick from Switzerland led her to live on several continents as a ‘trailing spouse’.
So far not so unusual, right? (Not for followers of Expatbookshop.com anyway.)
Only, Patrick works for the Four Seasons hotel chain and their life abroad was far from what may be your own normal.
As ‘wife of’ the man in charge Margaret accepted she was expected to be the hostess with the mostest and grace his arm at countless events. Oh yes, she was determined to be a credit to him.
She was also determined to be the perfect daughter to her ageing parents who needed her thousands of miles away and the perfect tour guide to a constant stream of visitors.
For a perfectionist and a people-pleaser this meant that she was forever caught in the dilemma of wanting to make everyone happy, often all at the same time and in different continents.
Meanwhile her own dreams of being a writer and performer were relegated to the back burner – for decades.
Here, the story gets familiar, right?
Brave(ish) a memoir of a recovering perfectionist is the result of the author’s eventual realisation that she could not be all things to all people all of the time and neglect herself any longer.
Late into middle age she began to take steps towards shedding herself of the chains of perfectionism, learned to be assertive, to set boundaries and to say no at last.
I may not be a hotel wife, blessed with room service and fabulous free accommodation all over the world, but I can relate to so much of Margaret’s story – the constant upheaval, the being torn in two, the desire to please everyone and putting myself last.
Any memoir needs to show the author being vulnerable and being less than perfect.
Who wants to read about a superwoman?
No, we want to see the cracks. We want to see ourselves in the protagonist and to be inspired by their journey.
This is exactly what Margaret has achieved in Brave(ish).
It’s brave to put yourself out there and show yourself with all your true imperfections. It’s brave to move abroad for the first time aged 40+, and to keep on moving countries, learning new languages and finding your feet in a foreign place. It’s brave to embark on a new and scary career path when you are approaching 60. But it’s also brave and, to me, incredibly scary to set boundaries and say no sometimes.
I’m glad that Brave(ish) fell into my hands and gladder still that Margaret has agreed to take part in my In Conversation panel of new memoirists on February 4th 2021 at 2pm UK time.