Gina Barreca Keeps ’em Laughing & Learning at Sun

story & photo by Anna Maria Trusky

Gina Barreca of Storrs, a popular University of Connecticut professor, author, and speaker, signs copies of her latest book It’s Not that I’m Bitter at the Winning Authors event at Mohegan Sun.

The Winning Authors event at Mohegan Sun, part of the annual Connecticut Author’s Trail, featured a lively interchange and book-signing on September 13 by the state’s own Gina Barreca, professor of English and Feminist Theory at the University of Connecticut. A bestselling author of eight books, Gina discussed her most recent book, It’s Not That I’m Bitter: How I Learned To Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World, a collection of essays about what it’s like to be a woman of “a certain age” in today’s society. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Gina kept the audience in hysterics with her trademark blend of warmth and wisdom wrapped in a crisp cannoli shell of crackling wit.
She started with a discussion of how, when women reach middle age, they find themselves obsessing about not only their own age, weight, and size but fixating on the vital statistics of other women, too. “Okay, I am 55 years old and I weigh 154 pounds. That’s what you all want to know, right?” Gina said, eliciting knowing screams of laughter from the predominately female audience. “Women ask each other the most intimate questions on contact. Men don’t do this!”
“And I bet you’re wondering what size I am. In Armani, I’m a 12. At Dot’s Dress Barn, I’m a 22W. You know—the more expensive the clothes, the smaller the size we take. We obsess about our size, but you’ll never hear a man say, ‘I’m going to be a 42 short by Christmas.’ Men don’t care about these things—they just buy the clothes that fit them and wear their size on their rear end.
“We women are like the UFO observers in Utah—we want to believe,” Gina continued, pausing for the guffaws of recognition to die down. “We want to believe it’s possible to erase the fine lines around our eye area using placenta extract. We just don’t want to know whose placenta it was!”
Gina read passages from her book, which contains plenty of saucy humor but also much loving wisdom for middle-aged women who find themselves struggling with self-esteem, relationship, and personal-growth issues. “They say you should grow where you’re planted. Instead, I say, you don’t have to grow where you’re planted. You get to shake the dirt off your feet and go where you need to be in order to grow,” Gina said.
“I’m so glad to be part of Author’s Trail. It’s so important to talk about books and celebrate local authors, and to connect writers with readers. I also love libraries. For me, the library has always felt like a safe haven. The library is also the center of the community. It’s a place people can go to get the stories, connect with others, and make sense out of life,” she concludes.
Gina’s earlier books include the bestselling They Used to Call Me Snow White…But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor and Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Co-education in the Ivy League. Her columns from The Hartford Courant are distributed worldwide by McClatchy-Tribune. Gina has appeared on 20/20, the Today Show, CNN, Dr. Phil, and The Oprah Show. For more information, visit www.ginabarreca.com.