What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding is Kristin Newman's memoir about how she spent her time from her mid-twenties through her thirties while many of her friends were off getting engaged, getting married, and having babies. A television writer, Newman spent much of her free time in between writing jobs traveling to destinations far and near. Okay, mostly far. She went to Paris, Amsterdam, Russia, London, Argentina (multiple times), Brazil, the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, Israel, and Jordan. In every port, or at least most of them, there was a boy to help her pass the time, sometimes multiple boys in the same port.
Basically what Kristin was doing while her friends were breeding was trying to figure out her complicated feelings about marriage, kids, independence and "settling down" while traveling around the world and meeting lots of interesting people, a number of which she ended up in bed with. This is a memoir about being in one's thirties and not having a husband or kids, or even a potential prospect for either and wondering (a) why don't I have those things and (b) do I even want those things? It's about loving one's life but also half wanting a different one. There is a great passage in the book where Newman writes that often life isn't about choosing between a really great thing and a really horrible thing. More often it is about choosing between one really great thing and another really great thing. Whichever one you choose, you both win and lose. Throughout this book Newman is in equal parts hopeful, desperate, funny and fun loving, lonely, and above all filled with a sense of adventure and willingness to try new things.
A great travel memoir reveals something about the place traveled to and person traveling. Newman's book excels at the second task but falls a little short on the first. After reading this I feel I know a lot about Newman and just a little about Argentina, Amsterdam and the other places Newman traveled. The exception is New Zealand which is incidentally the place where Newman had the least sex, or at least the place where sex wasn't the primary focus of the chapter about the trip.
I feel like I've read multiple versions of books like this one over the few years: Wild, Wanderlust, All Over the Map, Eat Pray Love. With the exception of Cheryl Strayed's Wild, they general involve women contemplating the state of the their romantic lives as they travel around the world in an effort to run away from a relationship or find a new one. As I read What I Was Doing I kept thinking of new genre categories for books like these. Single blonde women who like to travel, travel sex memoir, and romantic crisis travel memoir are three that came to mind. Nothing against blondes, but I would love to read a travel memoir by a woman of color, or at least by a brunette.
An ex tells Newman with disdain that the hallmark of spinster (my words, not hers) used to be a house full of cats. Now it is a house full of souvenirs from around the world. Newman chose to take that as a compliment. So do I.