What Women Want by Nellie Thomas

What do women want?

I can only speak for myself, although I suppose ‘What People Want’ wouldn’t have been as catchy a title, and as the cover of the book says, “According to a barmaid with a library card…”

Regardless of the title, I really enjoyed this book. Nellie Thomas is an Australian comedian whose book ‘What Women Want’ is funny and clever and talks about all sorts of topics in a common sense way. When Thomas believes something is wrong, she points it out (“That’s Bull****, Mate”). No room for confusion there.

The chapter about Thomas’ childhood speak to me. She and I are the same generation and the experiences she describes of growing up in a country town in Australia surrounded by her extended family, are very familiar to me. Legwarmers, tadpoling, rural racism…

Thomas continues with chapters covering her education at university, her work history and how she became a comedian. More seriously, and just as interestingly, she discusses contemporary problems in chapters about sex (issues in general, not necessarily her personal experiences), work, relationships, health and raising children in ways that made me laugh even as she made me think about these topics in new ways. To her credit, not only does Thomas point out problems, but she offers possible solutions.

My favourite example was her description of how frustrating she found working in the welfare sector, where according to Thomas, issues were talked over and over and over and over and over, reseach reports were requested and re-requested etc, and endless symposiums held. Thomas describes wanting to force an actual decision by saying, and I quote, “LET’S JUST IMPLEMENT THE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE LAST F***ING REPORT”.

If you have delicate ears, be warned that Thomas swears a lot in her book (it’s the Aussie way, mate) but a lot of her arguments make sense to me and made me laugh. And as someone who had her hair permed back in the day, I couldn’t agree more with the advice Nellie Thomas gives her daughter on the dedication page, “never get a spiral perm.”

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