Big Bang The­ory star shares her wis­dom in ‘Gir­ling Up’

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - LYNN ELBER

LOS AN­GE­LES — Mayim Bia­lik plays smart on TV’s “The Big Bang The­ory” and is smart in real life, with a PhD in neu­ro­science as ev­i­dence.

She joins her in­tel­li­gence with ex­pe­ri­ence in “Gir­ling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spec­tac­u­lar,” a wide-rang­ing hand­book on nav­i­gat­ing the emo­tional and phys­i­cal hur­dles of grow­ing up. It’s as forth­right as Bia­lik her­self is in con­ver­sa­tion, with comic book-style graph­ics adding a lively touch.

The book’s roots stem from “The Big Bang The­ory” episode in which her char­ac­ter, Amy, and boyfriend, Shel­don (Jim Par­sons), lose their vir­gin­ity. That prompted Bia­lik to write an es­say for her web­site, Grok Na­tion, on what it’s like to be a late bloomer and “how com­pli­cated in­ti­macy can be on TV and in real life,” she said.

Her dis­cus­sion of mod­esty, ab­sent re­li­gion or pol­i­tics, caught the eye of pub­lisher Philomel Books and “Gir­ling Up” fol­lowed, said Bia­lik, who re­cently signed for two more years of “Big Bang The­ory.” She’s also a mother of two boys, ages 8 and 11.

In an in­ter­view, Bia­lik dis­cussed what’s cov­ered in the book, which was re­viewed by a school coun­sel­lor, an ob­ste­tri­cian and a neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist.

The AP: In “Gir­ling Up,” you write that you con­sid­ered it im­por­tant to write a holis­tic guide. Be­yond call­ing on your own ex­pe­ri­ence, what re­search was re­quired?

Bia­lik: I don’t mean to sound ar­ro­gant at all, but there wasn’t a lot of re­search be­cause I lit­er­ally wrote the book of my life. The science and the nutri­tion, all that stuff, all the stuff about learn­ing and cop­ing, that was gath­ered from the per­spec­tive of some­one who’s been in ther­apy a long time and has had to do a lot of in­tro­spec­tion. And I was trained as a sci­en­tist. AP: What ages is it in­tended for? Bia­lik: We’re say­ing 11 to 18, and any­one who loves some­one in that age bracket.

AP: When you were that age, where did you get in­for­ma­tion such as this?

Bia­lik: I didn’t. My mother was raised in a very re­li­gious house­hold, her par­ents were im­mi­grants from Eastern Europe. We didn’t talk about these things. I learned about it as I got older. I was an ex­cep­tion­ally late bloomer. I don’t nec­es­sar­ily think there was a prob­lem with that, but I didn’t want to present that as the only way to be in this book. But it took me a long time to un­der­stand and come to terms with a lot of as­pects of be­ing fe­male.

AP: The book tells readers there are dif­fer­ent ways to look, to be ed­u­cated, to get jobs, even how one’s breasts may de­velop. Why was it im­por­tant to you to present such a range of pos­si­bil­i­ties?

Bia­lik: Be­cause I’ve al­ways been the one that’s dif­fer­ent. I al­ways felt a tremen­dous sense of shame around it. I’m still dif­fer­ent as an adult. My sons know that I’m a boy­ish fe­male. They know that I like boxing and sports cars more than their fa­ther (laughs). ... I want girls who are like that to know that it’s OK. And I want girls who are not like that to know it’s OK.

AP: What do you con­sider the key take-aways from your book?

Bia­lik: The first thing is know­ing the ba­sics of how your body works and how the brain works. You are in charge of your body. ... The no­tion of un­der­stand­ing the broader con­cept of what is be­ing fe­male is very im­por­tant. And a re­al­is­tic set of ex­pec­ta­tions of what your life can look like. This is not a book that’s very sparkly and shiny and says you can do any­thing you want as long as you put your mind to it. I didn’t like those books when I was 14 and I don’t like those books now as a woman. You don’t get to do ev­ery­thing — you get to choose what your ev­ery­thing is.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

DAMIAN DOVARGANES, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mayim Bia­lik’s “Gir­ling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spec­tac­u­lar” is a wide-rang­ing hand­book on nav­i­gat­ing the emo­tional and phys­i­cal hur­dles of grow­ing up.

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