Literature Society: Farrah Abraham's My Teenaged Dream Ended
I am not proud to admit that I know more about the complicated and overwhelmingly sad personal and romantic life of 16 & Pregnant, Teen Mom and Couples Therapy reality “superstar” Farrah Abraham than I do about many of my blood relations.
Like the rest of the survivors of 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom, Abraham initially rocketed to fame as an ordinary Midwestern girl in the extraordinary position of having her teenaged pregnancy, the unplanned birth of daughter Sophia and her complicated grieving process following the violent, unexpected death of Derek, Sophia’s father, documented for posterity in a series of hit reality shows.
By the time Abraham popped up on the deeply loathsome, morally indefensible and utterly riveting reality show Couples Therapy by herself—a somewhat glaring violation of the show’s title and conceit— to explain that she was going to use the show as a tool to work on her most important relationship—with herself—there was absolutely nothing ordinary or normal about Abraham or her curious fame.
Abraham morphed rapidly into a Warholian celebrity, a real-life Joyce Carol Oates or Bret Easton Ellis character pushing the limits of her tabloid fame, most notably by making a “private” sex tape with porn star James Deen that unsurprisingly became public in a way that netted its star a small fortune and launched a career in pornography with a pair of hit titles, Farrah Superstar: Backdoor Teen Mom and its achingly essential follow-up, Farrah 2: Backdoor and More.
As part of a pre-pornography promotional blitz, in 2012 Abraham took time out of her busy schedule of doing whatever it is that people like her do to release a memoir accompanied by her debut album, both entitled My Teenage Dream Ended.
The dream of the title is her poignantly deluded belief that, had the Grim Reaper not intervened, she was destined for a happy ending for her fairy tale teen romance with Derek, the handsome, cocky, insanely endowed man of her dreams.
Yes, Farrah Abraham and Derek are like Romeo and Juliet if Romeo was a cross between Beavis, Butthead, Ronnie from the Jersey Shore and a sentient bottle of Axe body spray and Juliet was a cold, self-pitying, dishonest and manipulative mean girl who comes off as the villain even when telling her own story.
Nobody ever professes to be popular in high school. No, everyone pretends they were an outcast, an outsider, someone who didn’t fit in even if they were famous, the star football player or the Homecoming Queen. Well, everyone except Abraham. She will have you know that she was very popular, being a pretty, athletic cheerleader and all, and when she started dating a popular hunk like Derek, they amplified each other’s popularity and in-crowd status that made other girls seethe with jealousy.
Derek was her Prince until their seemingly charmed relationship ran into an endless series of obstacles. When he wasn’t making Farrah happy with what is described as his enormous penis, Derek was breaking Farrah’s heart by compulsively lying, chasing every woman in his path, getting into the kinds of fights that result in the police getting called and generally behaving like human garbage.
Reading My Teenage Dream Ended I kept thinking about Abraham’s daughter eventually reading the book to find out what kind of a man her father was and being confronted with the following passage, about Derek's less than civil response to learning that his ex-girlfriend had slept with an African-American basketball player after they'd broken up:
“Derek started yelling, I loved you and you went and had sex with a n*****. I fucking hate black people.
I let him vent and get all of his anger out. He was devastated and crying. Derek wasn’t a racist. He had black friends and I had never heard him say anything racist before. I think he was just so angry at the thought that I had slept with another guy that he was lashing out and trying to say the most awful, hurtful thing he could think of. This sounds crazy, but it showed me how much he really cared about me.”’
I was legitimately gobsmacked by this paragraph.
In case you’re keeping score. These are things Abraham holds against the dead father of her daughter:
*Working at Burger King
*Having unflattering blonde tips
*Flirting with ugly girls
*Flirting with pretty girls
*Sleeping with pretty girls
*Cheating on her on her birthday
*Giving her a ring in an unsatisfactorily romantic fashion that made her feel like she had to reject it
*Getting arrested for unsuccessfully trying to pull a Gas-and-Go
*Lying about the severity of the Gas-and-Go incident
*Getting her dad arrested when he confronted him with a knife during a scuffle
*Doing pills that he gets from weird girls at college parties
*Having loser stoner friends
*Getting killed in an irresponsible and careless manner that was almost assuredly his fault (in Abraham's mind, at least)
*Lying about his beloved uncle being dead
*Lying about pretty much everything
These, in sharp contrast, are things Abraham sees as ways Derek showed how much he cared about her
*Dropping an N bomb
*Saying “I fucking hate black people” in a fit of rage
*Wearing one of Farrah’s shirts the last time she saw him, even if he was, unsurprisingly, in the company of a girl who, Abraham feels duty-bound to inform us, both “got around” and “smoked weed”
*Signing a letter "Cheese Nuts", after Abraham's pet name for him
Now if I were Abraham’s editor, or her ghostwriter, I would never let that paragraph make it into the book. I would warn her that if reflects terribly on the dead father of her daughter but it also reflects terribly on her as well. In another context, this might qualify as bold, refreshing candor. Instead, it makes Abraham seem perversely shallow but also fine with racism and racial slurs as long as they feed her ego and need to feel not just desired or wanted but lusted after in an unhealthy, pathological fashion.
Honestly, Farrah is the one person on earth who I could imagine saying something like, “I wish I had devoted more time to playing mind games with Derek to make him jealous. When we were being cruel to each other and flirting with people we didn’t even like just to make each other jealous, that’s when we felt most alive and were most ourselves.”
I don’t want to speak ill of the dead. For better or worse, Abraham feels strongly otherwise so My Teenage Dream Ended is, on some level, an endless catalogue of Derek’s bottomless shortcomings as a boyfriend and human being. Here’s a typical paragraph where a mortified Abraham gazes sadly at her soulmate’s grim personal downward spiral from a place of utterly unearned superiority:
“I went home and that night I thought about whether or not I should talk to Derek and give him another chance. I knew I should never take a guy back who smoked, did drugs and worked at Burger King, especially after he tried to make me jealous with some other girl. That all screamed, “Loser!” to me. But I still loved him and I couldn’t help wanting things to work out between us.”
Abraham never stops loving Derek or wanting things to work out between them but when she gets pregnant and MTV cameras start following her around school she actively lied to Derek about being pregnant and him being the father of her child. With the exquisitely myopic logic of a self-absorbed teenager, she reckons that she won’t tell Derek that he’s going to be a father until he illustrates that he’s ready for that responsibilities ahead by, I dunno, showing up on her front door with a real promise ring in a button-up shirt and recites a long monologue on how he will forego all skanks and temptations of the party life and devote himself to going to college and being a good dad and getting married and finally giving her the fairy tale ending she so richly deserves.
The author doesn’t seem to understand that continuously lying to the father of your unborn child about your pregnancy, and his role in it, might be seen as deeply wrong because to her it makes perfect sense.
Needless to say, this last minute turn-around doesn’t happen for Derek. Oh sweet lord does that not happen. I am a little ashamed to admit that reading My Teenage Dream Ended I was reminded throughout of another recent Literature Society entry, Randy! That was a delightful satirical character study of the Great American Male Dumbass in his Natural Habitat. My Teenaged Dream Ended is non-fiction but Derek comes off as a scathing, hilarious satire of a horny, lying, mindlessly teen knucklehead all the same. If Farrah Superstar is a Bret Easton Ellis or Joyce Carol Oates character, Derek is something out of John Waters.
Abraham’s romantic life is unmistakably a tragedy. I wouldn’t wish what happened to her upon anybody. But like so many of the books I’ve written about here and in my Silly Little Show-Biz Book Club column over at The A.V Club, it’s also unintentionally a very dark comedy about a pair of teenaged nightmares who could not have been more wrong, or more right for each other. On that level, and that level alone, it’s a voyeuristic guilty pleasure, heavy on the guilt.
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