Getting the Pretty Back
Friendship, Family, and
Finding the Perfect Lipstick
by Molly Ringwald
It Books, 240 pp., $25.99
Molly Ringwald turned 40 a couple of years ago and realized, much to her dismay, that there just wasn’t a book out there to bring her through this uncharted land.
She searched high and low, and behold, there was no sufficient manual on how to feel truly pretty. Molly was looking for a helpful guide that focused on embracing fun and style, a book “about being a woman, rather than a girl.” Her solution to this conundrum? She would write that guidebook! In Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family, and Finding the Perfect Lipstick, Molly Ringwald does her best to pack all her wit and wisdom into a fully illustrated book which (in the author’s words) is “about everything [she’s] learned, thus far, and how to put it together and incorporate it all.”
This slender volume is narrated in a way that makes the reader feel as though she has sat down for a chat with Molly herself. Molly liberally shares stories from her personal experiences while tactfully avoiding celebrity gossip: That’s not what being pretty is all about. While Molly does well at staying on the lighter side of life with her comfortable conversational tone, her narrative does feel scattered at times, as though it’s trying to be everything at once. Much like a collection of special edition Hallmark cards, each chapter touches on a different aspect of prettiness, and before getting too deep or personal, flits on to the next topic.
The advice may be slightly disjointed but the motive is pure: Molly just wants to help her girlfriends out there. The hope is that, somehow through the assortment of advice, anecdotes, and lists, each reader will return to the inner pretty Molly herself has regained. What is this inner pretty? Do not confuse it with the more familiar concept of inner beauty: Pretty is “an attitude towards life . . . a sense of self that never entirely leaves.” A little vague, maybe, but let us move on to how we can acquire this elusive “pretty.”
“Getting the pretty back is about getting back in touch with your essential self: the part of you that knows what you really want.” How do you get in touch with that essential self? Step one: Be pretty on the outside. From hairstyles to handbags, Molly shares all the fashion wisdom she has gleaned over the years. Of course, we should not judge Molly too harshly for starting with outer rather than inner pretty; any woman picking up a book with “pretty” in the title should expect some Top Ten lists of generic beauty and styling tips. (Molly’s tips are not necessarily new revelations but they are practical and reasonable.) She also gives a little insight to style choices in her film career, such as mentioning the infamous pink prom dress from Pretty in Pink and claiming that she must have been “tired that day” when she made that decision. Movie wardrobes aside, Molly doesn’t want us to forget that she is pretty much “just like the rest of us” and, therefore, avoids devoting too many words that dwell on the celebrity aspects of her person. We are quickly ushered on to find our pretty in our individuality and common experiences.
In addition to fashion and beauty, Molly explores the complexities and joys of friendship, dating, marriage, and singleness. After pages of lists describing the best friend-date places, things to do when you break up, top reasons it can be fabulous to be single, and play lists for the soundtrack of life, it’s hard to gauge if you should be feeling pretty yet or just pouring yourself a glass of wine and calling it a day. No worries on that front: Molly is ready to dispense her knowledge of wine and cheese and bread. Using her time spent living and working in France, she highlights her culinary expertise with recipes and hostessing tips. At this point, the reader may wonder why Molly didn’t write a book solely on this topic since she clearly has a passion for food. She tells us outright: “When I die, I don’t intend to have it written on my grave ‘She was skinny.’ I would much prefer ‘She mastered the soufflé.’ ”
Molly nears the end of the journey back to pretty by discussing motherhood. This, her most entertaining chapter, is positioned well as one of the final chapters since it focuses on her newest and expanding role, now as a mother of three. Molly clearly loves being a mom, and playing one on TV, and her anecdotes from adventures in mommyhood show a colorful, new facet of the grown up Brat Pack alum. As Molly herself would remind us, this parental slice of life is just another part of “embracing [her] essential self,” and regardless of what she does next on her journey, Molly will presumably search deep inside and reach for what truly makes her pretty.
Kari Barbic is an assistant editor at The Weekly Standard.