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Here’s a conversation I have pretty much every day
—Guy: What do you do?
Me: I’m writing a book for women in their 20s.
Guy (suddenly very interested): Oooh, is it about sex?
Me: Um, no. I mean, yeah, sure, it’s about sex. But it’s also about a trillion other things like
—Guy: So what can you tell me?
Me: About what?
—Guy: You know, about women in their 20s, what do I need to know? I like women in their 20s.
Me: I’m not writing a dating manual.
—Guy: Then what else is there to write about?
Well, actually quite a bit.
There’s this asinine rumor going around that the majority of our time is spent teetering about in stilettos, trying not to spill our very pink cocktails on our very tight frocks, lest we embarrass ourselves adorably in front of the smoldering hunk smiling at us over on the banquette.
You and I both know there’s little truth in that tableau outside of a romantic comedy. But for all the complexity of our lives, insulting stereotypes persist. There seems to be no end to knowing aunts, cheeky advice columnists and plucky sitcom heroines peddling conflicting messages about how you can “survive and thrive” during your quarterlife odyssey. But somewhere between the overplayed “you go girl!” cheering and the outdated “find a man and settle down” guidance, the important questions aren’t being answered. How do you say “no” without feeling guilty? Where can you find a bra that fits? Why do some of yourgirlfriends turn into paper dolls when they’re around guys? Should you take “Dry Clean Only” tags seriously? What are you going to do with the rest of your life? Girl, meet World. World, play nicely. Oh, if only it were that simple!
In 2002, I was 27, working as an editor for a women’s media company. Every week, books for review would arrive on my desk, each marketed squarely at me. These glittering tomes had witty titles and flashy covers that promised to explain how to snare a man, how to order a cocktail, how to land that corner office before I turned 30. Most of these “guides to life” bored me to pinkbubble- letter distraction—they proffered little more than retrograde flirting tactics and shopworn clichés. I wearied of saying “I could do this so much better” and decided it was time I did.
My first order of business was to contact all the wise, brilliant, hilarious women I knew in their late 20s, 30s and 40s and ask them: “What do you know now that you wish you’d known right after college and in your 20s that would have made your life a lot less difficult, spared you heartache, generally made the transition to life on your own a heck of a lot easier? What do you still not know that you wish someone would tell you?”
The results of my poll were staggering. All the responses were enthusiastic, passionate, soul-searching. Certain subjects came up repeatedly—it seems not one of the women had been given solid advice about how to avoid debt or how to unleash herself from the yoke of her college major. The women described still not knowing how to apologize with grace, what to spend on wedding presents, how to explain their job and dating choices to their parents or how to find a good gynecologist. All the women expressed a desire for a “cheat sheet,” a volume of intelligence that would have helped them avoid a lot of the mishaps they encountered in their 20s. The urgent need for meaningful, compelling advice for young women was cast in bold relief. I had my work cut out for me.
In this book, you’ll find all the wisdom that I gleaned from that first, innocent query—plus all the additional, juicy, hilarious, scary, real stuff I discovered once I set out to put together a colossal cheat sheet to a woman’s 20s and 30s.When I couldn’t figure out the answers for myself, I sought the know-how of experts in different fields; you’ll find counsel from experts— physicians, psychotherapists, a nutritionist, sex advice mavens, a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, a real estate agent, an image consultant and lots of women’s moms—all of whom pop up in different chapters throughout the book. For example, every time you see a box entitled “A Quick Trip to the Couch,”we’ll hear one of our resident psychotherapists’ take on the subject at hand.
I also checked in again with my cohort of wise women. For every chapter, I carried on extensive e-mail surveys, wrangled small focus groups and conducted oneon- one interviews with about sixty women, from 22 on up.What emerges is a collaborative effort, some hard-and-fast factual stuff, some opinions and philosophizing, lots of different voices, discussions and options. Any time I had more to say on a particular topic but had to move on, there are suggestions of books and Web sites to check out for deeper investigation. You’ll also find an extensive resource list at the back of the book.
Some of what you find in here you may already know. You might disagree with a few things here and there. That’s all very fine by me— if anyone were to swallow every piece of advice in this book wholesale, I’d doubt their sanity. I’d also beg them to stop because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my experience (it’s pretty vast: I’m 31 now. But I only look 30.) it’s that all the advice in the world isn’t going to do you a whit of good if you don’t, ultimately, make up your own mind, if you don’t think for yourself. That’s it, my best piece of advice. Wait, could I have just written three measly words and you’d be good to go? Okay, fine, there’s a little more to it than that—about 500 pages’ worth. But take what’s here with a grain of salt— take it with a giant, deer-sized salt lick—process it, then decide for yourself how you’re going to live your life.
This is the book I wish someone had given me when I finished college. Or when I got my first job. Or when I turned 30. I’m glad that someone had the good sense to give it to you (or you brilliantly plucked it off the shelf of your local bookstore). Your 20s are so frequently treated as the waiting room to the rest of your life. But why should you wither away in anticipation of real life beginning? To hell with putting Baby in a corner—you’ve got a lot of living to do! Good luck. I’m here if you need me.
Posted December 24, 2007
Bought this for my neice who graduated college and moved to Chicago. She thanks me every time I see her. She told me it is indispensable for a girl like her starting out. I read through it before giving it to her and thought it was fun with great information.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 15, 2007
I read it in the bookstore this week and ended up reading the entire thing and learned so much in such a short time. I even went to the author blog. She really knows her stuff and gives good advice that you don't learn in school, in college, or even from your parents 'sorry mom'. Seriously, I recommend it. It covers everything from Finances, Style, Beauty, Relationships, Body Image, Health, and even Home Life. She even breaks down the family of Sallie Mae and how to deal with the other annoying family of common household pest. If you're in need for a good laugh and to be educated about how to live this life, you won't be disappoint.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 17, 2007
My parents gave me this book for college graduation. Unlike so many books for new grads, this one is actually fun to read 'wait until you read the etiquette chapter!!' and useful. I've literally consulted it on everything from what to make for dinner to what to wear on a first date. I highly recommend it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 6, 2009
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Posted November 28, 2008
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