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Book Review: Falling For Me: How I Hung Curtains, Learned to Cook, Traveled to Seville, and Fell in Love by Anna David

January 31, 2012 9 comments

Polka-dot book coverSummary:
Anna David is a successful writer in her mid 30s living in NYC when an overwhelming depression hits her.  She’s still single.  What’s wrong with her?  While fighting off tears in the self-help section, she finds a copy of Sex and the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown, which was a bestseller in the 1960s.  Essentially a guide to being happy single while still keeping an eye open for Mr. Right, Anna instantly connects with Helen Gurley Brown and decides to spend the next year challenging herself and taking advantage of everything being single has to offer.

Review:
It should really need no explaining why I picked this book up.  I’ve always been the relationship type (even when I tried not to be), but I also won’t settle for just anybody, and sometimes that combination leads to some ennui.  I was hoping I would find a connection to and insight from Anna, and I was certainly right about that.

The very first chapter has Anna breaking down in line for food in her head, basically saying, “I’m going to be alone forever,” and going on from there adding that she’ll be the crazy old maid cat lady and going further and further on into ridiculousness that really doesn’t seem that ridiculous when it’s your brain saying it to yourself.  I knew instantly that Anna and I would get along.

As opposed to a lot of other single gal memoirs, the focus is neither just love yourself the way you are nor fake everything to land a man.  It’s more like….Do you have any idea how lucky you are to even have this phase in your life?  You’re single!  You can do anything, go anywhere, decorate however you want, and etc…  Anna realizes that she hasn’t been taking full advantage of the things being single affords to her.  Things like deciding to house swap and live for a month in Seville (try doing that with a baby) or taking French classes in the evening or spending the day rollerblading and winding up in a park in the sun.  So Anna isn’t just trudging along being herself.  She’s pushing herself to try new things, go new places, and yes the future Mr. Anna may be there, but even if he’s not, she’s still having a fun time doing it.

The book also addresses another common issue among single women and, well, people in general–grass is always greener syndrome.  Anna eventually realizes that she seems to think all of her problems will just disappear if and when she gets married, when that is really not the case at all if you pay an iota of attention to married couples.

One specific line in S&SG that I keep thinking of—“I’ve never met a completely happy single girl or a completely happy married one”—and how it’s helped me to see that I’m somehow convinced that getting to the next stage will make me instantly joyous.  (page 36)

The other thing that is sooo relatable that Anna talks about is how it’s so easy to become so desperate for a partner that you start trying to change yourself for him or worry constantly about whether or not you’re good enough for him, when that’s not how dating is supposed to work!

You spend all your time trying to manipulate a guy into wanting you to be his girlfriend when what you should be doing is enjoying yourself and then later figuring out if you even want him as a boyfriend.  (page 205)

There are definitely things about Anna that I don’t like or I disagree with (for instance, she eats veal and foie gras, ahem, the book almost got thrown across the room at that point), but even though we’re different, we’re also the same.  We’re two single gals who are wondering why everyone else seems to be coupling up but me?  What Anna slowly realizes over her year-long experiment is that there is no timeline for love and marriage.  It’s not like it’s a game of musical chairs and she’ll be left the only one without one.  Maybe her music is just playing at a different speed.  I think that’s a really important thing to remember and touching to see someone else struggling with, because it’s far too easy to start pressuring ourselves and the men we date into situations that just aren’t right for either of us.  It’ll happen when it happens.

This is a rare instance when I feel the need to sort of reveal the ending.  I was worried the book would end with Anna abundantly happy in a relationship, kind of like Eat, Pray, Love, which honestly would only have made me more depressed.  Like the book was all about yay singlehood but I still landed a man, right?  But no.  Who Anna falls in love with is not a man, but herself.

Here’s what I’ve come to understand: I used to not really believe I deserved thick, gorgeous panels for my windows or to pull books from a bookshelf specifically selected for my apartment. It didn’t occur to me that I was worth cooking homemade chicken soup for or dressing in beautiful clothes. I thought I was half a person because I didn’t have a partner but that when I had one, I’d do those things for him. Now I see that I’m entirely whole so that if and when I find him, we can be two whole people together, not the person and a half we would have been.  (page 305)

Yes, yes, yes!  Finally.  A book about being single and loving yourself and taking care of yourself and being a whole person as just you.  Sure, the professionals tell us that, but it’s super-nice to get to hear it from a gal who could easily be somebody I have bimonthly cocktails with.

I highly recommend this book to any single ladies in their 20s and up.  It’s a nice reminder that we’re not the only ones learning to love ourselves and be patient for the right person.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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