Her latest memoir, Untamed, metabolises her experience of falling in love with Wambach, divorcing her husband and father of her three children and coming out as a gay woman. It is a fervent cry for women everywhere to “stop pleasing and start living”.
Picked for Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club, the memoir has been praised by everyone from Emma Watson to Oprah Winfrey. In fact it was Winfrey who encouraged Doyle to go public about her relationship with Wambach days before she went on tour to promote her 2016 book, Love Warrior, ironically a memoir about marriage redemption.
Her publicity team advised her against speaking out, and despite the risk of becoming the punchline for her largely Christian fanbase (she is the founder of popular parenting blog Momastery) Doyle did what she does best; told the truth, unashamedly.
Doyle describes Untamed as the book she was born to write. It explores motherhood, body image, friendship and her journey to understanding racism as a white woman. But Doyle, who has built a community of more than a million women on social media, laughs at any suggestion it is a self-help book.
“It’s amazing to me that it gets put in the self-help [category] because my only rule is that I don’t really give advice,” she says.
That’s not to say her fans don’t turn to her for life guidance.
“After a decade and a half of listening to women the one thing I know is that we always know what to do,” Doyle says. “If we get quiet enough, if we get still enough we know exactly what the thing is that we need to do to free ourselves, it’s just usually scary so we don’t want to do it.”
The concept of freedom and finding your inner cheetah (more on this later) is central to Untamed and operates on the premise the reader is somewhat discontent in life whether in her marriage, career or an unhealed relationship, only she probably doesn’t know it yet.
“After a decade and a half of listening to women the one thing I know is that we always know what to do… it’s just usually scary so we don’t want to do it.”
GLENNON DOYLE, AUTHOR AND ACTIVIST
Doyle counts Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame as one of her closest confidantes. Gilbert’s post-divorce memoir sold a phenomenal 10 million copies and was made into a film starring Julia Roberts. Like Doyle, Gilbert has also built a community of devotees who hail her as a kind of spiritual teacher.
Gilbert was one of the first to learn of Doyle’s relationship with Wambach and that after meeting only once they began to exchange letters. At the time, Wambach was struggling with addiction, a failed marriage and an identity crisis after losing her decorated soccer career.
“It’s funny because we’re all trying to make people like us by acting perfect and talking about our strength and successes all the time and that’s not why people like us at all,” says Doyle, reflecting on some of her first conversations with Wambach. “The more vulnerable we get, the more we share about the other stuff and that is really what causes connection.”
Untamed’s modus operandi is to provide women with a toolkit for letting go of the world’s expectations in order to find your “truest self”. It also explores the enjoyment of sex or lack thereof.
Doyle reaches her crescendo for frankness early on in the book when she recounts her therapist’s advice after divulging her disdain for making love to her husband: “Glennon, have you tried just giving him blow jobs instead? Many women find blow jobs to be less intimate.”
Enter the cheetah metaphor. In the prologue, we meet zoo animals Minnie the golden labrador and Tabitha the cheetah. Best friends in captivity, Minnie was introduced to Tabitha from birth in an effort to tame the wild cheetah. Each day, they both chase the same dirty pink bunny to the applause of spectators and the patting on the heads from zookeepers.
“We are always chasing what our culture trains us to chase. You’re supposed to have this kind of marriage, this kind of body, this kind of personality, this kind of hair, this kind of house… it’s constant and that’s why we’re tired all the time,” Doyle says.
An obsession with aesthetics was something she fell victim to from a young age in her pursuit for perfection. “I spent thirty years covering and injecting my face with potions and poison trying to fix my skin… I binged and purged and dieted for decades trying to control my body,” she writes.
In her first memoir, Carry On, Warrior, Doyle details the severe bulimia she developed when she was 10 years old. Her addiction, as she describes it, later morphed into alcoholism and drugs. It wasn’t until she was 26 years old, staring at a positive pregnancy test on the bathroom floor that she decided to get sober. The next day, she attended her first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. That was 18 years ago. She hasn’t had a drink since.
Early sobriety was, she says, the beginning of her lifelong practice of trusting her own intuition and “honouring her discontent”. It is also what she inevitably goes back to in every speaking gig or podcast appearance. This, after all, is what her brand is built on.
“Most women who have been honest with me will tell me while they are pleasing the world and smiling and acting like everything is perfect, they do have a discontent swirling inside of them that every once in a while raises its head and says ‘I’m not happy… isn’t my relationship supposed to be truer than this, isn’t my job supposed to be truer than this,’” Doyle says.
“We are trained to believe that we’re supposed to be grateful all the time and if we can imagine more that means we’re not grateful enough, when really if we can imagine more that might mean that we were meant for more.”
Untamed by Glennon Doyle (Penguin, $35) is out now
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Julia Naughton is the National Lifestyle Editor.