Tell-All

06.21.11

Bristol Palin’s Memoir: The Juiciest Bits

Bristol Palin’s new book, "Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far," just hit shelves. From her early brushes with sex and alcohol to her drama with Meghan McCain, The Daily Beast speed reads.

First Brush With Alcohol

Bristol lies to her mother, Sarah Palin, telling her she’s “going to stay the night at Ema’s house,” (Pg. 2) but instead goes off on a camping trip in Point MacKenzie with her “ruggedly handsome boyfriend,” Levi Johnston. In the back of Levi’s red pickup truck are “firearms for protection against wildlife, and lots of alcohol.” At this point, young Bristol hadn’t had a sip of alcohol, and especially “didn’t know that the girly flavored wine coolers were just as likely to get you drunk as the hard stuff.” (Pg. 2) Bristol proceeds to down wine cooler after wine cooler, as she “slowly surrendered to their woozy charms.” (Pg. 3) Levi keeps replacing her finished wine coolers with new ones, and soon Bristol hits “that awful wall” that takes her from a “happy buzz” into “the dark abyss of drunkenness.” (Pg. 3) The last thing she remembers is sitting by the fire and laughing with friends, and doesn’t remember waking up in her tent the next morning “with something obviously askew.”

Levi Takes Advantage of Her

Bristol awakens in her tent, with no recollection of the night before. She looks over and sees Levi’s empty sleeping bag right beside hers, and hears Levi and his friends “outside the tent laughing.” (Pg. 3) Bristol quickly texts her friend to get over to the tent, and she immediately pops over and tells her, “You definitely had sex with Levi.” (Pg. 4) Despite being brought up in a Christian household determined to save herself until marriage, Bristol laments the fact that her virginity had been “stolen,” and as she surveys the evidence in the tent, soon realizes that “all of my plans, my promises, and my moral standards had disappeared in one awful night in a series of bad decisions.” Bristol also regrets that Levi wasn’t even there to comfort her, and instead of waking up in his arms—like they do in the movies—she came to “in a cold tent alone as he talked with his friends on the other side of the canvas.” (Pg. 5) Bristol soon reaches the inevitable conclusion: “I was going to marry Levi. I had to now.”

Meeting Levi Johnston

In seventh grade, Bristol’s locker is conveniently right next to Levi Johnston’s, and she soon succumbed to his good looks and cockiness. When her English teacher assigned her a letter to be inserted into a time capsule, Bristol wrote about her desire to own 50 pairs of jeans, to have her own pig, to go to a Lakers game, meeting President Bush, and, last but not least, wrote, “I have a crush on Levi Johnston.” (Pg. 30) Despite running into trouble with her teacher for shooting spitballs and punching kids in class, and running afoul of Sarah Palin for bragging about beating older brother Track in hockey, Levi and Bristol began passing notes, when one day he passed her a note that read, “Will u be my gurl?” (Pg. 31) Bristol hurriedly scribbled back, “No! You’re supposed to ask me in person.”

not-afraid-of-life-cover
Not Afraid of Life by Bristol Palin. William Morrow. 272 p. $14.29 ()

Crazy Uncle Mike

Bristol’s Uncle Mike, a burly state trooper standing six foot four and weighing in at 250 pounds, was the cause of some early drama in her life. First, back in 2003, Bristol witnessed Uncle Mike shoot a Taser gun at her cousin, Payton. As Payton was recovering from the shock, Uncle Mike looked over at Bristol and said, “Bristol, you’re next.” (Pg. 25) Bristol screams, and tells her mother about the incident. Later, it’s revealed that there were a bunch of citizen complaints against Mike, ranging from boozing in his patrol car to people claiming they witnessed him illegally kill an animal on a hunting trip. Later on, Uncle Mike carries out a very public affair with the mother of Bristol’s friend Jenna. The affair results in Bristol’s Aunt Molly divorcing Uncle Mike, Jenna’s mom getting kicked out of the Mormon church, and Bristol losing all her friends, as kids at school chose sides between Bristol’s family and Jenna’s, a la “Team Jolie or Team Aniston.” (Pg. 39) Bristol also thought, “It was the first time—but not the last—that I realized how someone’s sexual sin could rock everyone around him or her.” (Pg. 40) Later, Mike confronts Bristol in the hallway of her high school—where he is an assistant coach—and calls her a “fucking bitch” under his breath. (Pg. 43)

First Kiss

Right after spring break in 2006, with a million thoughts swirling in her head related to her mother’s gubernatorial campaign and her uncle’s infidelity, Levi approaches Bristol and invites her to go check out his hockey game seven hours away. A few days later, he invites her to the movies, and after the film, leans in to kiss Bristol. Afterward, he looks her in the eye and says, “I just had to do that.” “Why?” she asked. “So I can sleep tonight,” said Levi. (Pg. 48) Despite the cheesiness of the line, Levi’s words “melted my heart”—that is, until the very next day, when Bristol confronts Levi about a girl he’s texting. “Of course, he was texting a girl—because he was with that girl when I wasn’t around,” recalls Bristol. It would be the first of several lies Levi allegedly told, including lying about owning a truck, saying he’d catch fish when he didn’t catch any, bragging about having money when he didn’t, etc. Despite mounting evidence, Bristol “ignored his lies, mesmerized by what I thought was love.” (Pg. 49)

The Abstinence Backlash

After the aforementioned deflowering at Point MacKenzie, Bristol’s friend calls her house to chat. Unbeknownst to Bristol, her older brother Track—Levi’s hockey teammate—is listening in on the call. When her friend says, “Bristol and Levi had sex last night!” they hear the loud thud of Track slamming the phone down in the other room, and see an angry Track pacing around in his room, yelling, “I’m gonna fucking kick his ass!” (Pg. 51) Track then drives straight over to Levi’s house and, according to Bristol, “let’s just say Track was an ‘abstinence only’ advocate when it came to his sisters, and he was ready to enforce that philosophy with his fists.” Bristol immediately texts her brother to not tell their parents about her having sex, and Track replies, “Only if you promise to never do that again!” (Pg. 52) Bristol agrees, and that was that.

Bullying at School

After moving into the Alaska governor’s mansion in Juneau, Bristol falls in with a new group of friends, and is courted by a gentleman named Hunter Wolfe, who sends her flowers after they share their first kiss (the relationship soon fizzles out because Bristol has trouble reacting to such chivalrous treatment). However, some of the other kids at school begin giving Bristol a hard time. They began by threatening Bristol and telling her to stay away from their boyfriends, and then, things got serious when some of Bristol’s classmates posted an Internet threat against Willow. “An eight-grade girl told 12-year-old Willow that her Samoan brothers were going to gang-rape her,” said Bristol. (Pg. 67) Later, a boy posted on MySpace: “Bristol’s a slut when she’s drunk and a slut when she’s sober.” Bristol says these early bullying incidents helped her develop a tough exterior and handle all of the gossip about her family.

Sleeping With Levi

When the school year ends in Juneau, Bristol returns to her hometown of Wasilla in the summer of 2007, and immediately reconnects with Levi. He treats her like a princess and showers her with gifts, including “Coach purses, nice rings, Abercrombie clothes, as well as Coach and Juicy rain boots.” (Pg. 77) The two have sex again that summer, since she felt Levi had needs and, “If I wasn’t going to fill them, I feared he’d go back to his old ways.” The couple uses condoms. When summer ends, Bristol convinces her parents to let her stay in Wasilla, and despite Levi’s unfaithfulness—she witnesses his jacket on another girl—is soon prescribed birth control, which “meant Levi and I could stop using condoms, and I could make sure I wouldn’t get pregnant.” (Pg. 85)

Pregnancy Shocker

Not long after her mother gives birth to Trig Palin, a child diagnosed with Down syndrome—and a pregnancy she hid from the public until she was seven months pregnant—Bristol realizes that, despite being on birth control, she is over a month pregnant when she starts experiencing terrible cramps. Bristol and her friend Lauden immediately purchase a bunch of home pregnancy tests, and Bristol tests positive eight times. Two days later is Levi’s 18th birthday, and Bristol goes to tell him about the pregnancy. His only response is, “Better be a fucking boy.” (Pg. 97) Bristol thinks that the pregnancy will be “the kick in the pants that would cause [Levi] to be different,” despite the fact that he cheated on her all the time, didn’t have a job, didn’t go to school, and generally treated her terribly. Levi assures Bristol, “We can make this work,” and promises to get a job to support her and the child. Willow soon finds the eight positive pregnancy tests in Bristol’s car, and threatens to tell their mother. Bristol then invites Levi over, and the two break the news to Sarah and Todd Palin. “You’re joking?” is Sarah’s immediate response, but then she composes herself, and asks questions about Bristol’s future, which comforts her. [Pg. 102]

Meghan McCain Drama

After Sarah Palin is chosen as John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential race, Bristol has her first run-in with McCain’s daughter, Meghan. In the green room at the Ervin J. Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio, Meghan first ignores the Palins, and then, after being prompted by an aide, goes over and introduces herself. “I’m a big fan of your mother’s, and we’re about to go on a fun journey together,” she says. Bristol, however, is immediately cautious, tucking away “the sneaking suspicion that I might need to watch my back.” (Pg. 113) Bristol recalls an aide going up to Meghan on the campaign trail and complimenting her looks, to which Meghan replies, “I should. This dress cost a thousand dollars.” (Pg. 119) Bristol adds, “Every time we saw Meghan, she seemed to constantly be checking us out, comparing my family to hers, and complaining. Oh, the complaining.” (Pg. 125) On September 3, Bristol recalls how Meghan threw a fit when she enters the dressing room to find the three Palin girls getting their hair done, and there’s no one to do hers. They stylists tell her to wait, to which she responds, “If anyone had told me that I had to do my own hair and makeup, I would’ve done my own fucking hair and makeup!” and storms out. (Pg. 12) (Meghan responded by linking to this video on her Twitter feed on Tuesday.)

Cindy McCain’s Strategic Pregnancy Advice

After the public catches wind of the fact that Bristol is pregnant, Cindy McCain approaches Bristol on a tarmac and pulls her aside to dispense some advice. Despite the fact that Bristol feels the two have little in common, since Mrs. McCain “looks like a queen and holds herself like royalty,” she listens. McCain says, “Bristol, I have three things I want to tell you. I just want you to know that I want to be one of the first people to hold your baby. Also, I want to go to your wedding when it comes together, and lastly, John and I want to be godparents of your child.” (Pg. 125) Bristol recalls, “I had just met her, and I wondered why she wanted any type of guardianship over my child. I was nice to her, but I was left speechless by her comment.”

Young Sarah Palin Finds God… and Boys


Although Sarah Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, wasn’t that into “organized religion,” he made the children go to church with their mother. And, at a Bible camp one summer, “Mom gave her life to Jesus.” Soon after, Sarah Palin and her siblings were baptized near Big Lake, and not long after that, young Sarah “started to pray about finding the right guy to date.” (Pg. 11) Although Sarah wasn’t overly concerned with boys in high school, when Chuck caught Sarah writing a boy’s name on her hand, he gave her some advice: “You have to choose between boys and sports,” he said. Sarah was a dedicated athlete, and even hit the game-winning free throws in her high-school championship basketball game, all while playing with a stress fracture in her ankle. However, she soon realized that “she could have sports and boys,” and was drawn to Todd Palin’s basketball skills and his toys, including “a Mustang, a truck, and two snowmachines.” (Pg. 12).

Breaking Up With Levi

Problems with Levi first start brewing with his jealous sister, Sadie. A heavily pregnant Bristol comes over to deliver Christmas presents to the Johnston family, and Sadie screams, “If that bitch comes over here, I’m going to kick her ass.” (Pg. 149) When Levi got Bristol’s name tattooed on his ring finger, Sadie came back and got Levi’s name tattooed on the inside of her wrist. Then, the authorities arrest Levi’s mother for selling prescription drugs, which Bristol believes funded all the Coach bags that Levi showered upon her. However, Bristol finally has it with Levi when, a few days after she delivers their baby, Tripp—with Levi viewing the whole delivery process as “gross” and refusing to cut the umbilical chord—she checks his cellphone to find a text message at the top that reads: “She had fun and wants to hook up again with you.” (Pg. 160) Instead of defending himself, Levi walks out the door, and Bristol promises “to never open it back up for him.” Levi, who she says did not provide for his new family at all financially, soon begins dating a younger girl at school.

Back With Levi

Despite the fact that Levi allegedly showed up to their son’s birthday with hickeys all over his neck, and the revelation that he was dating a girl with a kid the same age as Tripp, and the fact that she was dating a guy named Ben who treated her like royalty, Bristol arranges for a meeting with Levi to hash out their custody agreement. Apparently, gone is “Ricky Hollywood,” as Levi enters in his usual camo gear, reminding Bristol of “the guy whose locker was beside mine in seventh grade.” (Pg. 192) Before long, the two have reconciled, and Bristol drafts a 16-point plan for Levi about what he has to do to make the relationship work, including: getting a job, getting his GED, not calling her a “bitch,” apologizing to the Palin family for all the damage he’s caused, controlling his anger, etc. (Pg. 195) Bristol comes home one day in July to find a heart made out of rose petals on her bed, and in the center of the heart is a little box. Levi then proposes, and despite her parents’ strong objections, she accepts his marriage proposal. (Pg. 200)

…Levi’s Betrayal

Just before Bristol’s exclusive “We’re Engaged” magazine issues are to hit newsstands, Levi confronts Bristol with some unforgivable news. “I think… I might’ve gotten someone pregnant,” he says. (Pg. 204) Bristol is floored, and even more outraged when she finds out that the girl in question is Lanesia, a girl who bullied Bristol in eighth grade, who has always hated her, and who Levi’s sister was pushing toward him in an effort to break the couple apart. Levi says that Lanesia is due in two weeks, and Bristol finally shows Levi the door. “Get out of my house. Don’t call me, don’t text me… I don’t want to see you again,” she says. (Pg. 205) Lanesia eventually names her boy “Bentley”—the original name that Bristol and Levi had chosen for Tripp.

Dancing With Bristol

Amid all of her personal drama, and the wrapping of the TLC reality series Sarah Palin’s Alaska, Bristol joins the cast of the ABC reality-TV series Dancing With the Stars. Her dancing partner is Mark Ballas, and despite some rumors to the contrary, Bristol says, “No, we didn’t date. We didn’t kiss, so get that out of your mind!” (Pg. 222) Although the Palins aren’t able to make Bristol’s debut DWTS performance due to prior commitments, they do manage to make it to her second one, and when Jennifer Grey and her partner, Derek Hough, receive solid 8s for their performance, the judges are booed by the crowd. However, when the camera suddenly cuts to cohost Tom Bergeron sitting by Sarah Palin, “This made it look like the boos were somehow directed at Mom,” says Bristol. (Pg. 228) Everyone picked up the story, but Bergeron would later clarify that the boos were meant for Jennifer and Derek’s low scores. Bristol is also perplexed by accusations that “Tea Party supporters” of her mother had conspired to keep her on the show as long she was, exclaiming, “I’d really improved over the course of the show, and no one was giving me credit for it!” (Pg. 235)

One Last Jab at Obama

Bristol visits Haiti, which opens her eyes to the true nature of human suffering and makes her “recommit to living for God and serving others.” (Pg. 252) She then thinks about her future. “Maybe I’ll go into politics, maybe I’ll write children’s books… or maybe I’ll help my mom become the first woman president!” She also vows that she will not have sex again until she is married, and although she’s no role model or preacher, says that “being afraid of life’s imperfections and complexity is the first step towards truly living it.” (Pg. 253) But before ending things, she can’t help but throw a jab the president’s way, concluding that there’s “only one who truly offers hope in this world. No, not President Obama,” Bristol says, but God.