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It's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You're Single Paperback – January 7, 2014
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"In this comforting love letter to single women, journalist Eckel tackles 27 common criticisms trotted out to unmarried ladies of a certain age—and sets each of those chestnuts on its ear. Advocating for the women who want to marry but haven’t yet found their match, the author picks apart clichéd observations such as “you’re too picky,” “you should have married that guy,” “you have low self-esteem,” and “you’re too desperate,” offering sensible responses for when these questions inevitably come up. Eckel sagely points out that “when you stop picking apart your personality and endlessly replaying the game tapes of your previous relationships, you clear a lot of mental space,” and she rationally discusses why each of these “truisms” are utterly wrong, funneling many through a Buddhist viewpoint while sharing her adventures with meditation and her own stories about dates gone wrong. Eckel also encourages women to examine what’s right with their lives, rather than what’s wrong—something very difficult to do when society is passing judgment, she acknowledges, but a necessary step nonetheless. A must for any single woman’s personal library, this book will lend hope to the millions of unattached women who want to believe love is on the horizon." --Publishers Weekly
"What makes It’s Not You stand out amid myriad dating guides is Eckel’s tone: devoid of sass for sass’s sake, calm without preaching." –Elle
“It’s Not You masquerades as self-help, but it’s really a manifesto, a radical declaration of truths that shouldn’t be all that radical but somehow are nonetheless. Sara Eckel does what no one writing about singleness has yet had the guts to do. She points out that coupling up is often nothing more than a matter of luck and that conventional wisdom about love is no substitute for real wisdom about life—something she has in spades.”
—Meghan Daum, author of My Misspent Youth
“Finally! Someone said it: Being single does not mean you’re broken. Thank you, Sara Eckel, for speaking up and turning the tables on anyone who dared point their needling finger at poor old singletons negotiating the process of looking for love. It’s Not You is a smart and sane respite from the incessant chatter of relationship self-help that places the single person in the middle of a perpetual makeover project. Eckel deftly argues why you don’t need any of it, and she’ll make you think about dating in an entirely new light. Her book is fresh, relatable, funny, and empowering, and I’m only one percent mad at her for not writing it sooner. Mostly, I just want to hug her and so will you.”
—Rachel Machacek, author of The Science of Single
“Debunking the myths and well-meaning advice lobbed onto single women today, Sara Eckel’s It’s Not You is like soothing guidance from a best friend in book form. Fearless, funny, and wise, it’s a reminder to single women everywhere that the best antidote to the overwhelmingly negative dating feedback that prevails is self-compassion.”
—Ava Chin, “Urban Forager” columnist and author of Eating Wildly
“Sara Eckel has composed an electrically charged response to a world still eager to tie a woman’s value to her marital status. It’s Not You is a thorough and thoughtful debunking of the myths of blame routinely foisted on women who have not (yet or ever) found mates. Eckel is funny, compassionate, and righteously resistant to the lies women are told about how personal shortcomings have damned them to singlehood, while smartly standing up to assumptions that there’s anything wrong with unmarried life to begin with.”
—Rebecca Traister, author of Big Girls Don’t Cry
“It’s Not You is a funny, thoughtful, and long-overdue response to every well-intentioned tool who insists single women are single because they’re ‘too’ something: picky, available, desperate, intimidating, nice, negative, attractive, or, I don’t know, averse to clog dancing. Instead, she assures us we’re fine. The only problem? We simply haven’t met the guy of our dreams yet.”
—Diane Mapes, author of How to Date in a Post-Dating World
“Sara Eckel counters prevailing myths about dating and marriage, and offers solace and very helpful advice to those who feel pained by prolonged singlehood. Above all, this book will resonate with readers because of the way she shares her own struggling, vulnerable heart.”
—Gabriel Cohen, author of Storms Can’t Hurt the Sky
“Part Buddhist teacher and part social critic, Sara Eckel tells single women what we older-to-marry folks wish we could go back to say to our own younger self-doubting unmarried selves.. . . This book is a refreshing study of women realizing the best potential of feminism: to realistically accept both the challenges, and the triumphs, of living life on one’s own terms.”
—Paula Kamen, author of Her Way, All in My Head, and Finding Iris Chang
About the Author
Sara Eckel has been a freelance writer for more than fifteen years. Her essays and reported pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Salon, Forbes, Time Out New York, the Shambhala Sun, GOOD, Martha Stewart Living, Self, Glamour, Working Mother, Woman’s Day, Cosmopolitan, and other publications. Her short fiction has appeared in Speakeasy and Sanskrit. She lives in Kingston, New York, with her husband.
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Dating books are NOT the places to turn if you're not feeling great-- they make you feel worse. The homework those books gave me just made me feel MORE hopeless.
Enter this book, just in time. It is not "scientifically proven," it's not a groundbreaking technique-- it's just a woman who could be your friend talking to you in a really clear, honest way about WHAT IS NOT WRONG WITH YOU. Seriously, why does everyone tell us there's something wrong? Why do we tell OURSELVES?
I think the most useful thing a book can do-- of any kind, actually-- is make you feel connected to the world, and therefore less alone. That is exactly what this book has done. Sara Eckel describes many exact thoughts and feelings that I have had and even just by doing that makes me feel less crazy, or broken, or deficient in some way.
I don't need homework. I needed this book to remind me of some really clear truths-- that being single is not evidence of being broken, and that wanting a relationship is not evidence of being pathetic.
I am right square in Sara Eckel's demographic-- a 35-year-old, professional Brooklynite-- but I have a feeling there is a lot of universality to what she's saying, based on what I know of friends in other parts of the country and of the world.
The point being-- if you are single and you feel like there's some code that all the married people have that you never figured out, read this book.
I guess I don't regret trying to improve myself. Maybe I do. I don't know. But seriously, why do I have to become some expert at being a human being, when as the author puts it, the married girl next door met her husband at 22 while puking in a bush after a frat party at 3am?
The author tells a hard truth: that life is just unfair, some people met "the one" and got a ring, and I have not yet. That's it. That's what happened to those married people you know. Your married friends got married with their daddy issues and bad shoes and paper plate dinners in front of the tv. You didn't. They didn't analyze feminism for 10 years to become just the right balance of "career-oriented", "damsel-in-distress", "unintimidating" and "just liberated enough" "with great shoes in only black or brown." They were just lucky. To date, I have not experienced that same luck. Life sucks. Life is unfair. Tomorrow might be different. The end.
My favorite part is the one about how "I'm not happy enough with being alone." At what point have I proven to the great Boyfriend Gods that I truly am soooo in love being alone I'm perpetually ecstatic and have therefore earned the right to Love? 5 years in a 1-bedroom with tearful dinners by myself? Or 10? And why did my married friends only need to tough this "alone test" out for a year when they were 24 in order to qualify? Or, in some cases, they never had to take the test at all? Now, I know we all have to have a degree of independence about us. Then again, do we? Seriously, navigating the world all alone every day is absolutely miserable. Just ask married people (or people in solitary confinement). You don't see them packing it all in and heading to their own studio apartments because being alone is so fantastic. Human beings were not meant to live life by themselves. The human race would die out now if that were really true. I'm sick to death of hearing it, I've been hearing it my whole life. Be happy with yourself! Be happy being alone! When am I finally alone enough to have love?? Oh that's right, when I'm finally married! Because then I will have succeeded at being the best, most contentedly alone human being alive. Because only when you truly love being alone does he turn up! That's the secret they knew and you didn't! Ugh! For the record: being alone is scary, heartbreaking, exhausting and meaningless. Most of us are trying to avoid it all the time. It can be enjoyable, but only if you experience it as "me time" in the context of a good friend group, community, fulfilling work life, and yes a partnership. That misery of truly being alone in the world is what propels us humans to seek each other. They're called human needs, and we all have them. They are not to be conquered, they are to be met.
I also like how she described our lives as sort of a broken record of what was going on when we were in our early 20s. Life moved on into "real adulthood" for married people, yet we are still kind of living the same lives. I have tried to put my finger on why I feel like I still just got out of college, on why I feel so jealous and resentful of the 25 year olds I know who are getting married instead of writing their online dating profiles. On why I really am starting to hate holidays where my family members seem to be doing nothing but moving ahead on the marriage/kid/wealth/house track, and I have nothing new to report, just like the last 10 Christmases. You do begin to feel like everyone knows some secret you don't know, and you do feel like you just don't know how to be "an adult." Yo don't feel like you've really grown up, and everybody else did. They know the secret, you don't. So get to reading!
The other thing I loved is she got honest about the so called "greatness" of these married people. I have to say, I have one single friend in my life in my age group (there is only one) who is going through a breakup right now, and she dang near tops the list in terms of awesomeness. I'm not kidding. When you spend your time reading, developing yourself, doing exactly what you love, making good money, spending your money on yourself, and learning tough life lessons rather than getting what you want all the time or running the kids to soccer, you become REALLY fabulous. Her emotional capability, wisdom, and breadth of life experience are absolutely amazing. She's wonderful to talk to, she understand so many situations in life. Nothing really shocks her, so she's really understanding when sh%^ hits the fan too. How many 6-figure soccer moms do you lean on when the going gets really tough in life? When you're in a crazy situation and life has brought you to your knees? Who do you call? Now that I think about it, the married friends I really connect with all had windy, rocky roads in life too. The people who slid into the 6-figure, husband and 2 kids-home base at 26 or earlier and haven't had a problem since aren't generally who I rely on for emotional support or advice when I really need it.
I appreciate this book very much. I don't know what to say about all the other ones I've read out there. Be more bitchy, have a career, dress better, be more French, if you've read this review chances are you've read the ones I'm talking about, you know what I mean. Maybe they will end up helping me, maybe not. I don't know. Maybe they have all made me into a fake projection of self-help advice and French scarf styles and I don't know who I'd be if I wasn't that. Who knows. But, maybe I can do as she suggests and enjoy all the things I improved about myself, and just drop the whole "will this get me a man" part of it all. Anyway, I wish luck and good fortune to all my single sisters out there. I know you're sick of being single, you want to find your soulmate and fall in love, And I know you're awesome even if you're lonely, eating off paper plates alone tonight in the "wrong" shoes.
As a woman who owns practically every major relationship bestseller out there i.e. The Rules, He is Just Not that into You, Why Men Marry Bitches, Books by Steve Harvey and Steven A Carter, A Return to Love, Books to Attract your Soulmate, Law of Attraction books, Christian relationship books and tons, tons more, this book gave me PEACE. It comforted me and assured me that there was nothing wrong with me and that more importantly, finding the right person is mostly LUCK and nothing to do with fixing yourself.
Most of the relationship books operate with the premise that something is WRONG with the woman (it is rarely the guy) and I have put myself through so much in trying to become that ideal woman, ignoring the fact that most of the advice in these books:
-Contradict themselves (One book will say don’t flirt with guys, let them chase you. Another will say, flirt, give men signals that it’s okay to approach)
-Some of the women writers have divorced or had multiple divorces. Some never married or had very few relationships or had relationships riddled with problems and yet they were "relationship experts".
-Some of the men giving advice had dating histories that were nothing to be proud of. Yet they were "relationship experts".
-Some books -which shall not be named- actually turned out to be mumbo jumbo, splicing new age thought, with Law of Attraction to give you advice that is simplistic or just doesn't make sense.
Some of the books have extremely lengthy instructions on what to do to get your mate, that I've often wondered if the authors themselves went through all the steps they recommended (doubtful)
Furthermore, there are people who have committed the same faux pas denounced by these books, who still ended up getting married or in decent relationships.
Deep down, I always felt something was amiss, that dating was not supposed to be this hard. I have seen people who don't do any type of self improvement work but yet get decent people chasing after them. I, like the author, have wondered why I was doing the equivalent of studying extremely hard for an exam, while others aced it without cracking a book (page 109).
Sara debunks 27 such myths such as You are Picky, You Suck, You have Issues etc. I loved how she debunked these 2 very common myths that I hear constantly, specifically "You can't love another until you love yourself" (chapter on low self esteem) and "You need to treat the search for a husband like a job" (chapter on having an Action plan). I know people who don't love themselves, who ended up finding partners. You can love yourself to bits and still be single. You can go to 10,000 singles parties and still be single. I especially liked how she debunked the Law of Attraction-esque advice (chapter on putting your desire out to the Universe). People have gotten together for eons without even knowing about Law of Attraction.
Sara Eckel’s book makes you consider the premise that NOTHING is WRONG with you. That it’s actually LUCK and not something lacking in you that's the reason for one's loneliness. She does this using compassion, humor and Buddhist advice. TRUST ME, there is nothing you have felt as a single person which Sara does not mention. She gets it. She advocates self compassion and also taking the view that perhaps you know what you're doing and that you have more wisdom than you/others give yourself credit for.
She also points out some things that I didn’t even know, backed up by research data that made me look at singleness in a whole new light such as:
-The fact that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to marry and STAY married (page 25)
-The fact that single people devote more time to their extended family, friends and communities than their married cohorts (73)
-The fact that single people struggle with work life balance, just like everyone else and actually do a lot of work without having someone else to split the load with e.g. cooking, cleaning, retirement planning, tax filing, furniture shopping, food shopping, home fixing, travel research, paying mortgage, electricity, health insurance etc (page 67). A lot of people think that being a single person is easy. I used to wonder why I was so exhausted all the time. I do all these things while working full time with a 2 hour commute each way and then still have to plan time to socialize and exercise. We are hard pressed for time too.
She gets the many emotions singles face such as self-doubt, pain, loneliness, frustration, bitterness, envy, self-consciousness, the constant thoughts of “Why am I still alone?” or “What is wrong with me?” the constant hope that perhaps this trip to the grocery store or singles party, will be the one where you meet The One, the disappointment (we go through disappointment after disappointment after disappointment and still pick ourselves up to try again). Saying NO to prospects you realize are not a good fit (which is not as easy as many people think).
You deal with a lot of things ALONE. You go to a lot of things ALONE.
Her book makes me want to hug myself, to forgive myself for beating myself up, thinking there was something wrong with me, thinking girls who got married were somehow better than me (while ignoring all the problems that married people face). It makes me focus instead on what's right with me.
I refer to this book often, to reset me when dating gets too frustrating (Online dating anyone?) or when I get really down about my future.
It feels right to my soul. The person that will love you will fall in love with you as you are. No changes needed. He will not care if you have low self-esteem, kids/no kids, are older than him, slept with him on the first date, are dealing with an illness, promiscuous, have a temper, is overweight, has more education than him, is bossy, needy, comes from a bonkers family, can’t cook, been to jail and much more. All you just need to do is to look around and see men in relationships with women who have these same exact issues and vice versa. Perfection is not a requirement to have a relationship/get married. Love just doesn't work that way.
At the moment, I am leaving myself alone. No more “working on myself” in order to “catch” a man or running myself ragged trying to attend every singles function out there, just in case it might be the place where I meet the love of my life. I still want a relationship, but I want to date in a way that's organic, not forced or feels like an inquisition. I want a relationship that's full of love and respect. My past dating forays have taught me the importance of knowing my values and boundaries. I am just not going to run out there and pick up any ‘ol person just to have a man.
I am working on not second guessing myself but trusting in my own wisdom.
I am grateful for Sara’s openness and willingness to write this book. I wish Sara Eckel much success in her life. I hope this book sells for decades to come.
Some of my favorite passages:
“Dating is an act of outrageous vulnerability. You’re leaving the comfort of your home and friends to subject yourself to the scrutiny of strangers…. It doesn’t get more optimistic than that”
“We are all, married or no, at risk of discovering that the person we chose to love will betray us”
“Now I see that all those years alone forced me to develop muscles that I never would have fired if I’d married at twenty-six…… In many ways, I was never more adult than I was when I was single”
“Here’s a thought: Maybe you’ve remained single well into adulthood because… you know what you’re doing. Because there is something right with you”
“Little credit is given to the person who has the sensitivity and intelligence to avoid the near-engagement or divorce- who takes months, rather than years, to realize the partnership isn’t working. No due is given the person who refuses to be jerked around-thus compelling the jerks to move on to easier prey. It is assumed there is some love gene that you lack”
“... it’s extremely important to recognize the unique wisdom of a solitary life- a wisdom that develops slowly over many years…”
“… the very act of being single provides enough hard-core strength training to put anyone’s psyche into fighting shape”