Kelly Valen is the author of The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships, a book she wrote after initially penning a 2007 essay for the New York Times. In both, Valen tackles the idea that some women are their own worst enemies – from sabotaging their own friendships to undermining and criticising each other. Valen surveyed over 3,000 American women about their female friendships and the result formed the basis of her fascinating book. In a recent Irish Times interview, she spoke about the dangers of “mean-girling” and how we should raise our daughters to be respectful of other girls. She lives in Bangkok with her husband and four children.
What’s the first record you ever bought?
Steely Dan’s Aja.
What’s your favourite smell?
Lilacs – reminds me of my grandmother’s house in Minnesota.
Have you ever had a nickname?
Unfortunately, yes: Smelly. (Rhymes with Kelly. Very creative.)
What is your favourite room in your house?
The kitchen. Always.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Enjoying a probably-too-generous pour of fine wine in an appropriately large Riedel glass.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
That I used to hang out with Prince’s bass guitarist and can be seen in the crowd in the Purple Rain movie. It was all very innocent and fun. Being from Minnesota has its perks.
Who is your closest female friend?
Tie between Mary Kay and Teri, both of whom I mention in my book, The Twisted Sisterhood. Funny, wacky, brilliant and creative women who love me despite my many flaws.
Do you have any tattoos or piercings?
My right ear has three piercings, two of which filled in decades ago. It was all the rebellion this suburban Midwestern, Catholic girl living in the 80s could muster.
Where would you most like to live?
I dream of splitting time between a cottage in Maine and pied a terre in Paris. Cliché, but true.
Who was your first kiss and where did it happen?
John McKenney, 9th grade, in the back of an older sibling’s car. Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust was playing on the radio.
What’s the most unusual question you’ve ever been asked?
Well, a Brazilian journalist recently asked if in fact it was I who was the “Meanest Girl of All” for writing a book about women (a book that aims to encourage girls and women to behave with more civility). I’m still wondering if something was lost in translation!
What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?
My son, Jack, who was born on Christmas day in 1996. Bonus: he was an easy delivery.
What is your favourite word?
Who was your first love?
Can’t tell – the truth would wreak unnecessary havoc.
If you weren’t doing what you do, what might you have become?
I wish I’d pushed myself harder as an athlete and become an Olympic-caliber downhill skier. Fantasy, of course.
Is there a book you’ve bought several times as a gift for someone?
Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky. Gives me chills every time and I love to share that sensation with others. Of course, some just find it depressing.
What happens after we die?
It would be nice to know, but I couldn’t deign to say. I can be patient in this instance.
What female historical figure do you admire most?
It’s probably due to my age, but I’m going to go with Madonna. I find it amazing that she was just another Midwestern, middle-class girl with dreams who clawed her way up and accomplished what she did with the skill set she was born with — on her own terms, through sheer will and hard work. She’s a true icon. I also love Antigone — a strong-willed, loyal, principled woman unafraid to stand up to powerful men and the State for what she believed and knew was right.
Sum yourself up in three words: Honest, Impulsive, Irreverent.
And finally… What are you anti? What are you pro? I am anti-bullshit and pro-authenticity — in all contexts!