Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sex And the Single Girl 2012

'Falling For Me' author Anna David on retro advice for a modern world and the so-called "rise" of the single woman.

Author Anna David on retro advice for the modern women and why the “rise” of the single women isn’t all it’s chalked up to be.

In 2009, when Anna David set out to follow the advice of 60s icon—and Cosmopolitan editor—Helen Gurley Brown’s legendary book Sex And the Single Girl, she did so with one thing in mind: to land herself a husband.

Author Anna David on retro advice for the modern women and why the “rise” of the single women isn’t all it’s chalked up to be.

In 2009, when Anna David set out to follow the advice of 60s icon—and Cosmopolitan editor—Helen Gurley Brown’s legendary book Sex And the Single Girl, she did so with one thing in mind: to land herself a husband.

Gurley Brown’s advice, which ranged from shallow (revamping her wardrobe and apartment) to character-building (travelling solo and learning how to cook), seemed just what she need to become the woman she dreams she should be: the one with the high-earning job, the perfect man and the two and a half kids. “I thought, ’I’m going to be so perfect, I’m definitely going to attract the perfect man,’” she says. “And that didn’t happen.”

Instead, and as is chronicled in David’s memoir-meets-self-helpish Falling For Me, something much more remarkable happened: at 41 and single, Anna David grew up.

It should come as no surprise to ForbesWoman readers that Single Women are on the rise as the most buzzed-about demographic for marketers, media members and economists. David’s book rides that wave with all the bells and whistles; its cover bears the tag line: “How I hung curtains, learned to cook, traveled to Seville and fell in love.”

It’s a cultural moment that’s lasted several years and it looks as if it’s here to stay. We all point to Hanna Rosin’s “The End of Men” and Kate Bolick’s “All The Single Ladies,” both published by the Atlantic, and more recently Janelle Nanos’ “Single By Choice,” but the message, by now, is clear. As a result of a perfect storm of social and economic reasons, women are waiting longer and longer to get married, leaving a cohort of upwardly mobile, educated, single, childless and—at least we’re meant to believe—confident women.

Marketers (who love to throw around the whole “women control 80% of consumer spending” number) have responded gleefully with targeted campaigns, as laid out by both the New York Times and HuffPo in recent weeks. You know, the Citibank ad featuring a mountain climbing enthusiast opting to climb a rock rather than bejewel her finger with one. Or the Honda CRV spot in which a woman tears through her “to-do” list before she says “I Do.”

The trouble is, even with all this attention, is that while the idealized woman spun out by the media is strong, confident and oh-so-pleased with herself, real life singles still have much to struggle with. David takes a different tact than the Rosins of the world:

“I think it’s good that single women are seeing more and more attention,” she told me recently while in town from Los Angeles on a NYC book tour, “But there’s still so much misunderstanding about it.” Despite being told that, as a singleton, she was a part of a new and exciting demographic, David concedes she still felt incomplete, saying “Somehow I internalized that I am single, and so I’m therefore half a person.” As a result, all through her twenties and into her thirties, David says she skimped on critical life steps: “I never took the time to make [my apartment] a space I loved because subconsciously—and it kills me to say this—I was just waiting for a man to come along so our lives would start.”

With no man, no kids and no prescribed life path, David posits that the path is more challenging than it was for the women that came before us. Why? It just might be that we’re crippled by choices. “What has happened is this,” she says. “My mother’s generation went from parent’s house to husband’s house. They got their plate wear from their wedding registry and they learned to cook because suddenly there’s a man and a kid. They had no choice.”

In contrast, today’s twenty- and thirty-something women have more choices than ever before. The choice to marry or not marry. The choice to become teachers, doctors, lawyers or CIA agents. The choice to climb the corporate ladder or travel the world building medical clinics in blighted countries. The choice to have children or have abortions. The choice to grocery shop and—gasp!—learn to cook, or to order take-out every night.

There’s just something easier, David says, without all that choice.

Before you jump down David’s throat though, be aware that she’s ready for the criticism. A September essay she wrote for HuffPo, titled “Why Women Had It Better In The Sixties,” took major heat (and over 600 comments) for being anti-feminist, offensive, clueless and ungrateful. “Listen,” says David, “I am grateful for the work that the Gloria Steinems and the Helen Gurley Browns have done. But there’s this idea out there that the work has been done and that modern women are just reaping all of the benefits. I’m grateful for the choices I’ve been given, but it remains that one of the after-effect of women’s lib is that there are so many choices that we all feel like we’ve made the wrong ones.”

David’s choices, like many of her peers, led her down a path that left her in her late thirties, living solo in Manhattan with a toolset she didn’t know how to use and fresh out of a relationship with a married man when she began the project of following the advice of Gurley Brown’s 1962 Sex And The Single Girl. Gurley Brown herself didn’t marry until she was 39, and extols the notion that one’s single years are a time of freedom (and, conversely, that husbands are “for the worst years of your life”). The lessons David learned wrenched her from what she calls delayed adulthood, an epidemic seen not only in single women but much-hyped in the dialogue around single men. (See: “The End of Men,” Manning Up! How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys and “Where Have All The Good Men Gone?”)

Under Gurley Brown’s retro tutelage, David learned to cook (well, a little) and traded her sweatpants for clothes that fit. She started taking vitamins and learned that not being good at something is not a valid reason for not doing it (A.K.A., she learned to roller blade). She traveled to Seville and overcame a life-long fear of water. But more importantly she stopped waiting for her life to begin.

Falling For Me is available on Amazon. Anna David is executive editor for the website The Fix and a has written for Playboy, Vanity Fair and the New York Times.

1 comment:

Darcy Denzil said...

Making her wait will increase her desire for you, but making her beg will ruin the mood.
Sex chat lines