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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Mean Baby: A Memoir of Growing Up by Selma Blair

In Mean Baby, actress Selma Blair is candid about the alcoholism that developed in early elementary school, her relationship with her mother, her diagnosis of and experience with multiple sclerosis, her love for her son, and more.

Decades before she appeared in Cruel Intentions, years before Legally Blonde, and long before she was diagnosed with and became an advocate for those with multiple sclerosis, Selma Blair was a Mean Baby.

In her memoir, Blair takes the reader through her childhood, where she is steadily called Mean Baby--and she wonders if the name could possibly have been apt for a days-old baby, or if she grew to fit these expectations. She bit a chunk out of her sister's back, steadily lied for attention, and was willing to go to great, dramatic lengths to get her smart, emotionally unavailable, critical, passionate mother to show her love.

In Mean Baby, Selma digs into her lifelong, haunting feeling that something dark was looming in her future as well as her fascination with fortune tellers and the concept of fate or fulfilling prophesies.

She shares her decades-long daily reliance on drinking small amounts of alcohol--a reliance that began in early elementary school--in order to feel calm and settled, and she explores the confusing combination of what turned out to be undiagnosed MS symptoms that led others to believe she was frequently drinking to impairment. She shares that because of the gloomy mystery of years of suffering, her multiple sclerosis diagnosis, when it finally came, was something of a relief.

Blair also lays bare her experiences with depression and her attempted suicides after heartbreaks; her long-term, mysterious physical challenges and symptoms; and the multiple rapes she suffered in her life.

I listened to Mean Baby as an audiobook, and some of these harrowing, traumatic experiences are delivered in what felt like a somewhat practical, calm tone. On the other hand, other instances--such as a disturbing movie seen too young and the long-term fright she and her sister experienced afterward; or her deep love and affection for others--are described with significant emotion.

Blair notes that the disease has affected her voice, and I'm not sure whether it is affected to the point that I was misinterpreting the emotions behind her narration, or whether this is a case of an outsider misunderstanding the level of importance and weight of various factors on another person and their unique life, but I had somewhat of a hard time following the emotional arcs and ups and downs.

Blair's MS is a significant shaping force in her life, and she speaks with grace and openness about the disease, her challenges, the varied experiences of those with multiple sclerosis, and the various ways in which it has shifted her thinking and perspective. Her love for her son and the peace she has found in parenting him with her ex are lovely to read about.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?


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