I’ll Show You Mine, If…

Editor Tommy Dean, Fiction, November 27th, 2013

“That was better than therapy.”

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Greg Gerding, in his latest work I’ll Show You Mine, does what is nearly impossible for prose writers—he shuts up. Instead of indulging introspective platitudes, the underground author trains his focus outward, capturing the voices of modern America to map out the human condition in its raw form. I’ll Show You Mine is a collection of individuals candidly detailing their experiences and perspectives regarding intimacy.

Gerding works in the shadows, masterfully drawing the stories out of each speaker. He then knits their sentiments and anecdotes into a narrative while preserving their unique voices. Despite the suggestive title, I’ll Show You Mine is not voyeur eroticism, but a tell-all medley of romantic pitfalls, victories, innocuous experiences, and juicy details—from one night stands to longstanding relationships, from first kisses to failed marriages.

Humans are bonded by the fact that they all love, and love is no fairytale, but a messy and complicated ideal that everyone grapples with, hopefully improving on after numerous screw-ups and unfortunate experiences. This is the most engaging aspect of Gerding’s book: the details that everyone can relate to, the meant-to-be relationship that wasn’t meant to be, the petty emotional discrepancies between partners, regretful hook-ups, and grave misjudgments that allow us to enter into damaging relationships.

The greatest limitation of I’ll Show You Mine is the lack of interviewee diversity; most are heterosexual women, some with bi-sexual tendencies, who range from late twenty-year-olds to early forty-year-olds. Nevertheless, the book is revealing and compelling. In the introduction Gerding notes that many subjects said, “That was better than therapy,” after they finished speaking. As the characters flip through the scrapbooks of their lives, you feel them empty themselves, eager to share the potent experiences that shaped them.

Each subject is a casualty in his or her own right. Some undergo haunting experiences such as rape and childhood trauma, while others suffer the ineluctable perils that come with putting one’s heart in someone else’s hands. Yet each character is his or her own brand of survivor, because they’re all still here telling their story. The common thread that connects most of the 29 chapters is a feeling of optimism. Many of the book’s participants have found love in the right places, sometimes after looking in the all the wrong ones, and those who haven’t found it, persist, which is victory in itself.

I’ll Show You Mine’s bite-sized installments are easily digestible and can be enjoyed intermittently, or all at once. The book is heavy, light-hearted, hopeful, and dispiriting, but always entertaining, filled with universal insights and memorable one-liners that can only come from someone speaking off the cuff:

If I could send a message to all the insecure teenage girls out there, it would be this: Just say no to rough and inept fingerbang sessions. Better things await. Don’t lose faith.

—Penelope

We ended up in his room. So the first time I get high is also the first time I get a penis in me.

—Alice

I dated tall guys, short guys, and a black guy. I had threesomes and played with women. I was a show heifer. I made younger, inexperienced men come before they could even get their boxers off. I was treated like shit. I was worshipped.

—Mysti

Regardless of the fact that it might burn the shit out of you, you keep going back to it because you want something better, you want something deeper. And that goodness you feel is actually a chemical reaction, like a drug. And when you’re in the absence of that chemical you withdraw.

—Ferro

I’ll Show You Mine is recommended for anyone with a heartbeat. Give it to your girlfriend, give it to your ex-husband, give to your parents who’ve been married for 50 years, but by all means, read it first.

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Tommy Dean

Tommy Dean is a New England native, one-time Bay Area denizen, and a current Midwest resident. He’s worked as an assistant editor and content writer to pay the bills, but likes to spend his afternoons crafting his caffeine high at the local coffee shop while typing madly about whatever enters his mind. Follow him on Twitter @tommymdean or check out his misadventures here.