Tim Gunn Needs to Move to Kansas! A Review of Gunn’s Golden Rules.

September 23rd, 2010

I read Tim Gunn’s new book, Gunn’s Golden Rules, Life’s Little Lessons For Making It Work over the weekend. It’s a spirited account of Tim’s slow rise to success and what he learned along the way plus there is enough celebrity misbehavior stories in this book to keep the attention of even the most inane pop culture junkies.  At the same time, Gunn manages to authentically eyeball his own life, his own failings, and how he has managed to climb on top of many of them and attempt to control the rest.  It is a very enjoyable book.  PLUS!  Jay Edgar Hoover CROSS DRESSING to look like Vivian Vance!  How can you not want to hear that story!




Jay Edgar Hoover…

Vivian Vance…

Tim is especially incensed in this book about the level of rudeness in society today.  He talks about rude behavior on the subways, rude behavior of children, of parents, of movie stars, of the general public.  I have to say that I had trouble relating to his tales of rude behavior.  I live in Kansas.  We don’t do rude.  We might be insanely religious, rigorously right wing, fail to believe in global warming, think that evolution is a fairy tale and regularly consume enough calories for three humans in one day, but we are not rude.  We are unfailingly polite.  All. The. Time.  Rudeness is the exception around these parts, not the rule. So if Tim is willing to give up ethnic cuisine, neighborhood grocery stores, good public transportation and diverse cultural experiences – he could certainly gain the heartland’s penchant for politeness!  I wonder if he would be interested in the exchange?

Tim also talks a lot about his family of origin in this book. He clearly is devoted to his niece, loves his sister, has a committed but strained relationship with his mother and manages to salvage a few worthwhile tidbits from what seemed to be a cold and remote relationship with his father.

His ruminations about his family life made me think about Ayelet Waldman’s book Bad Mother which I finished a few weeks ago.  Waldman’s book is an extremely candid look at motherhood and what it costs women.  She unflinchingly examines the harshest realities of being a mom, decides that she loves her spouse more than her kids, has an abortion because the four month old fetus she is carrying has a genetic defect, fights depression and is one of the bravest writers I have ever read.   Her book was hard and it sent me into a spiral of negative emotion over several things I have been dealing with for a long time.  One of the biggest themes of her book is how much we expect from our mothers.  Ayelet tells the story of her husband standing in line at a coffee shop with their baby strapped to his chest in a front pack.  A perfect stranger comes up to him and compliments him for being a wonderful father, yet ALL HE WAS DOING WAS STANDING IN LINE HOLDING THE BABY!  He wasn’t even using his ARMS for chrissake!  The front pack was doing all the work!  Think about it.  What does a woman have to do for a perfect stranger to call her a wonderful mother?  She would have to be making a homemade triceratops Halloween costume from an old quilt and found sheet metal, while baking bread over an open fire, while helping a child with trigonometry homework, while volunteering as a playground attendant for the kindergarten classroom while scrubbing the wood floors in the living room with a toothbrush ALL AT THE SAME TIME!  And EVEN THAT MIGHT NOT BE ENOUGH!  We are so much harder on moms than we are on dads!

So when Tim Gunn nitpicked his mom throughout the book and gave his dad lot more leeway even though his mom was there for him EVERY DAY OF HIS LIFE and his dad was NOT, I found myself getting just a teensy bit enraged.  We are far too accustomed to giving our mothers the blame for screwing up our lives and totally letting our dads off the hook.  MAYBE MOM SCREWED UP MORE BECAUSE SHE WAS AROUND MORE!!!!

Moms are only human Tim!



But other than that very aggravating detail – Tim’s book is great and a lot of fun to read while Ayelet’s book is painful and heart wrenching to read – but also good – just in a very different way.  Maybe read both books at the same time so when you start to fall apart from Waldman’s Bad Mother, you can cheer yourself back up with Gunn’s Golden Rules.

I found a few videos that show a designer from season two of Project Runway (Santino) imitating Tim Gunn.  I wasn’t watching the show back then, but if you are familiar with Tim Gunn at all – these clips are freakin’ hilarious!   Project Runway finds the most creative people.  As I watched these clips, I kept thinking back to the idea of the androgynous mind being the most brilliant mind.  In the case of Project Runway, it certainly seems to be true.


  • susan:

    I have been watching Project Runway from the beginning and I just love it. I have been very curious about the real Tim Gunn and plan to read the book. I recall the imitation and it was spot on.

    Another book you might want to read is Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. He is a badboy chef that is extremely witty and his writing is hilarious and brilliant. Being an avid cook I read this a few years ago and his writing illuminated what goes on behind the scenes in restaurants.

  • Ahhh, I have to read this. I love Tim and all of his no-nonsense…ness.

  • km:

    Regarding mothers and women,
    I read a book based on Frank Llyold Wright last year. In it his new love is speaking with an old friend. I think the discussion was suffrage. The old friend wonders at women’s lack of power. She comments, “maybe we spent too much time making crepe paper flowers”. That sentence stopped me in my tracks.

    I also appreciate this cartoon.

    • km:

      In our version of the cartoon it has “I wish I didn’t have to ….help with school crafts, cook, clean, etc.

  • LucyJoy:

    Oh lord…Those clips are priceless. I nearly peed my pants!

  • Jennifer:

    Not really a comment on your post (which I enjoyed) but I have to say I LOVED season 2 of project runway. Some excellent talent that season–and Santino’s mimicry!

  • A friend of mine had a new baby and took her to the grocery store for the first time and the baby screamed and cried, and my friend noticed many sidelong, disapproving looks from the other shopping mothers.

    She felt terrible, figured she was a bad mom.

    I asked her how she thought the women would have looked if it had been her husband there with the crying baby. I could just hear them cooing over him, trying to help, telling him what a great guy he is for being in public with his baby. The mere thought send me into a rage.