Andreana Konstantina Tantaros (better known as Andrea) is a nationally-recognized, Pennsylvania-born thirtysomething political analyst, a product of a traditional Greek household for which she is grateful in shaping her to be the woman that she is today, as she discloses in her first book, Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What We Wanted Made Women Miserable (Broadside Books, 2016) which was published in April.
The book’s cover, much like Tantaros herself, is not meek, not subtle, and not understated. It shows the author bound by ropes at the wrists, forearms, and upper arms, with her limbs stretched high above her head, but with a facial expression exuding calm and confidence, hardly what one might expect from a person “tied up in knots.”
Her name adorns the front cover in considerably larger font than the title, and so my own first impressions were that in the book’s pages I would find and enjoy a treasure trove of this political analysist’s best ideas about how to make our country better.
I first became aware of Tantaros when I saw her on a segment on The O’Reilly Factor and I confess that like most Greek-Americans, my “Greek Radar Detector” is finely tuned and well-trained insofar as when I see a Greek-sounding name on the screen, I utter, with interest: “she must be Greek!” After listening to what Tantaros had to say, my interest in our common ethnic heritage as the reason I watched quickly gave way to the content of her ideas. I heard her comments in broadcast after broadcast over the ensuing months, admiring her razor-sharp mind and uncanny ability to pinpoint the essence of an issue, and to use every precious second of available airtime masterfully.
So, after reading through the first few pages of Tied Up in Knots, what should have been clear to me from the book’s subtitle finally hit home: this was not going to be a book about the biggest political issues – from the economy, to illegal aliens, to terrorism – facing our times. And, so, I was disappointed.
But as I came to grips with all of that, something funny happened along the way: I realized I had already devoured a third of a book about a topic – women in America today – that admittedly I wouldn’t have intentionally proceeded to read about (not because I don’t find it interesting and relevant, but because as a presidential political junkie, the limited time I have to read books is almost exclusively limited to that topic).
My disappointment quickly dissipated, and I became absorbed in the book. It caused me to reflect on what it must be like to be a woman in 21st century America, and it also taught me a great deal about Tantaros that I never gleaned from watching her on television.
HONESTY AND HELLENISM
For one thing, Tantaros comes across in the book as brutally honest. She is not afraid to talk about vulnerability: her failed relationships and broken hearts, the death of her younger brother, Dan, who had special needs, and that her professional success only partially fills her dreams, which include getting married and having children.
Her description of working hard in the family diner, with a very loving but typically old-school Greek father, Kosta, is one of countless similar phenomena experienced by young Greek-American women, the stuff of which makes for great stories on the big screen (i.e., My Big Fat Greek Wedding). But in the Tantaros family, there is also a strong matriarch, Barbara, who encouraged her daughter Andrea to go to Paris and Washington and live her dream – despite Kosta’s grumbling.
Tantaros makes clear that while she comes across as strong (to some people, too prickly), she has a very caring, nurturing, sensitive side.
I noticed in some of her more recent Fox News segments that she’s been smiling more. “I bet someone told her to smile more,” I thought to myself. Sure enough, in Tied Up in Knots, Tantaros reveals which well-known Fox personality told her exactly that!
VENUS AIN’T MARS
Tantaros writes extensively about how in wanting to be treated like men, women got more than they bargained for. She explains how, from the boardroom to the bedroom, women are not wired like men. They are more emotional, and yet they are expected to be as detached as the typical alpha male. Tantaros references popular culture in supporting her theme, including how the HBO hit series Sex and the City brought many of these issues to light.
She also calls out feminists for having sat by idly while Angelina Jolie moved in on Brad Pitt, a married man, essentially stealing him from his wife, Jennifer Aniston. Why weren’t the feminists furious with Jolie, who broke up a marriage, Tantaros asks.
Again referring to her own matters of the heart, Tantaros discusses a time when she thought a boyfriend was cheating on her, and how today’s women are conditioned not to even bring it up, because it would seem like an emotional response.
In the latter stages of Tied Up in Knots, Tantaros recalls an exchange with Bill O’Reilly, and the generation gap effect with the top-rated political commentator who is almost 30 years her senior: “this is a Tinder nation,” Tantaros remarked, to which O’Reilly responded: “what’s Tinder?”
I have a confession to make: though I am closer in age to Tantaros than to O’Reilly, I, too, had no idea what Tinder was until I read Tantaros’ compelling description and critique.
That alone is good reason to read Tied Up in Knots, but there are many others – not least of which a refreshingly candid discussion about women in America today, from a woman who at least in this book has taken a break from commenting on the political scene (though I think, and hope, that she has many more books left in her).