Q&A with Tracy McMillan
What inspired you to write the Huffington Post essay that eventually landed you a book deal?
One of my TV writer friends suggested I write and perform an essay for this popular Los Angeles staged-reading series called Sit-n-Spin. I was trying to figure out what to write about, and I went back to the old writer's maxim: write what you know. It's always suggested that you write something that only you could write. So I asked myself, what can only I write about? And the answer was: Well, you've been married three times, you could write about that.
And it was true. I know all about choosing and building the kind of relationship that leads to marriage. And I saw a bazillion girls who seemed to HAVE NO IDEA how to do that. So I wrote a funny, biting, satirical, tongue-in-cheek, but super-true breakdown of why I felt chicks weren't getting married. And I called it Why You're Not Married. Eventually, I decided to publish it in the Huffington Post. I was shocked--and not shocked--when it went massively viral. I'm just saying what millions of people--including chicks who aren't married--already know.
Why do you believe in marriage?
I think relationships in general--and marriage in particular--is the ultimate yoga. Nothing challenges a person to expand like being asked to love an actual, real-live, totally flawed human being. And marriage makes you do that. (It's what makes parenting so challenging, and valuable, as well.) But, just to be clear, this book could just as easily be called WHY YOU'RE NOT IN A LONG-TERM, COMMITTED RELATIONSHIP… YET. I don't think there is necessarily anything more awesome about marriage per se. I'm not a fundamentalist in any way.
What I'm talking about when I talk about marriage, and the thing I really believe in, is that something psychological that happens--for better or for worse, depending on the character of the people involved--when you take away the "outs" in a situation. People are tested. And there is something about commitment itself that actually creates the possibility of success against very tall odds. It's the difference between, say, swimming in a pool and swimming in the ocean with a shark after you. In the shark scenario, you're going to try a teensy bit harder.
You say that you wrote this book while you lived this book--can you explain?
I got into a new relationship shortly after the piece in the Huffington Post appeared. I hadn't been in a relationship in more than a year and what I got to see first-hand is that no one is just "finished" being a bitch, or crazy, or shallow, or anything else I talk about in this book. It's more like each chapter is about a different pitfall that most women will face in their relationships--yes, some chapters apply more than others, but still. We all have all of this stuff. A person has to practice not being a bitch--I have to wake up and practice it again today just like I have to brush my teeth again today. And tonight. That's also why this book is not about being mean to women--it's about being honest with ourselves about the kinds of attitudes and behaviors that block our ability to love ourselves and other people more fully.
What do you think is the #1 thing women do wrong out in the dating world?
Probably the number one thing women do wrong in the dating world is lie to themselves about what they really want from a man and whether they can really date a guy casually. In my experience, about 93% of the women over say, 27 who are having sex with a guy would actually like to be in a relationship with that guy. But if there's a sense that the guy is not open to that, they'll often just jump in now and hope he'll eventually commit later. I don't see this happen very often. In the process, the woman often ends up getting really hurt--though it can be hard to admit that. We wish we could just date and have sex casually, but many many of us just can't. It has nothing to do with morality, we just don't seem to be able to. And there's nothing wrong with that.
What's the best dating advice you ever received?
No one really told me much about dating. I sort of figured out a lot by trial and error. But probably the thing that has helped me the most is when I started being really honest with men. Especially about the friends-with-benefits situation. I learned how to say, I would LOVE to just be friends with benefits. But I've come to the conclusion that I can't. I will be drunk-dialing you for sure about three weeks after I start having sex with you. So if you're not interested in that, you should probably pass. Of course, some dudes PASS. And that was painful, especially in the beginning. But the good news is that a lot of them don't. And the ones who don't, you know are at least somewhat willing to entertain the notion of a committed relationship. It's like getting pre-qualified for a mortgage. Not approved. No one's actually giving out the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars. But you know that, somewhere down the line, you might.
If women take away one thing from Why You're Not Married... Yet, what would you want it to be?
Hope. I think a lot of women feel upset and a little hopeless about why it is they haven't been able to create the partnership they desire. I can guarantee this book will give you insight into what's going on in your relationships. Whether you're single, married, or a man! But even more importantly, I'll give you a way to get from where you are, at least one or two or seventy baby steps toward where you're going. Because I really believe that every woman who wants to can start building a wonderful relationship from where she is right now. That's what this book is all about.
“Very wise . . . Give this book to every single girlfriend [you] have.”—Marie Claire
“Hilariously irreverant . . . a shrewd guide to relationships.”—Elle
“Turns the stereotype of the find-a-man book on its booty.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Why You’re Not Married . . . Yet
is funny, smart, and so, so true. Equal parts BFF, boot-camp instructor, and relationship guru, Tracy McMillan will change the way you think about yourself and your relationships. This book is for every woman out there who wants to have a great marriage.”—Ricki Lake
“Tracy McMillan is a hero and visionary. Through her book I realized about myself things people I pay a lot of money have been trying to tell me for years: that I’m a bitch, a slut, a mess, and that I hate myself. She gives solutions on how to heal, grow, and get what you want in life in a funny, inspiring, personal and very rare way. This book is an empowering way to take control of your life and become the person you want to be. So basically, she shows you how to be the opposite of me.”—Actress and comedian Whitney Cummings
“As someone who has been married for twelve years, I love to give advice to my single girlfriends. Now, thanks to having read this book, I’m actually qualified to give it.”—Heather McDonald, regular on Chelsea Lately
and bestselling author of You’ll Never Blue Ball in This Town AgainFrom the Hardcover edition.