Not many kids become exactly what they wanted to be when they were small, but that is what happened for bestselling author and journalist Jennifer Weiner.
Weiner, whose latest novel, Mrs. Everything, was published in June, says, “I was a book-loving nerd who always loved to write. When anything went wrong for me growing up, my mother would say, ‘It’s all material for the book you are going to write,’ and she was right. I have incorporated much of my real-life experiences into my books and articles.”
Readers saw the similarities between Weiner and the protagonist in her debut novel, Good in Bed. The story revolves around an overweight Jewish female journalist who writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Weiner says that throughout her childhood and young adult years, weight was often a source of shame and stress. “Throughout my teens and 20s, I spent a lot of time trying to get to a certain number on the scale. Even when I had success as a writer, I still sometimes felt less than because of my weight. It was hard going to morning talk shows to discuss the book knowing that I didn’t meet that ideal beauty standard of people on television.”
Like many of us, Weiner found that as she got older, she was better able to let go of the pressures she put on herself to be a certain weight. “I try to do some form of exercise every day, either yoga, a run or just a long walk,” she says. “I find I am happier and better equipped to handle the rest of the day. It’s no longer about the scale for me, it’s about feeling good.” It’s not that Weiner doesn’t care about appearances, it’s just not her top priority. It’s also not what she wants her daughters, 16 and 11, to value about themselves. “I’m going on a press tour this summer and I’ll pack a few nice dresses, but I am done with high heels,” she says. “I no longer want to suffer for beauty, and I don’t want to set that kind of example for my girls, that they need to do something painful just to look good.”
“Today’s world has so many distractions and a zillion television channels. I prefer to get lost in a book and a great story.”
The message she was sending her daughters played a strong role in her decision to get divorced from their father. Remarried since 2016, Weiner says, “As women, we tend to put ourselves last. We put the needs of our kids, our parents, our house, all ahead of our own. I didn’t want my daughters to see me putting myself last. I had to ask myself, ‘What type of marriage do I want my daughters to see?’ and although it was hard, getting divorced was the right thing, and I think it did show our kids about love, including self-love and taking care of yourself.”
In addition to exercising, other ways Weiner takes care of herself is by hanging out with her dog, meditating, and reading. Recently she read The Farm and Red Clocks. “Today’s world has so many distractions and a zillion television channels,” she says. “I prefer to get lost in a book and a great story. There is so much you can learn about the world, about where we are and where we are going from reading.” Weiner has also started taking piano lessons after a 30-year hiatus. “I try to play for 45 minutes a day. It’s a good way to quiet my mind and challenge a different part of my brain.”
In addition to being a novelist, Weiner is a regular contributor to The New York Times, using topical news, especially news about gender and culture issues, as prompts for her op-ed pieces. “Writing is still my favorite thing to do,” she says. “It doesn’t feel like work.” Although unafraid to write candidly about her views, Weiner is cautious about what she writes about her kids. She says, “I have to find a balance between being authentic and open but also protecting my children’s privacy. I try to avoid reading the comments about my writing on social media. I can’t worry, ‘Are readers going to like this?’ and instead, my focus has to be on me and the page and filtering out any other voices.”
Turning 50 in March made Weiner a bit reflective. “It’s a big number, and it looms large,” she says. “My 20s were all about if I would get a guy and get married. My 30s focused on having kids, and then my 40s were just so damn busy. I feel like I spent the last two years of my life driving carpool. [At 50], I realize I’m almost halfway done, and I’m thinking about what I want to do next.”
We like that she plans to live to be more than 100 and have a feeling Weiner’s story will have many more exciting chapters.
To learn more about Jennifer Weiner, go to jenniferweiner.com.