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Book Review: Seeking Happily Ever After October 4, 2010

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews.
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Michelle Cove. Seeking Happily Ever After–Navigating the Ups and Downs of Being Single Without Losing Your Mind (and Finding Lasting Love Along the Way). Penguin, New York. 2010.

General assessment: A fun bathtub read. Cove writes well, in an accessible style with vivid examples. Singles of different stripes will relate to many of the book’s insights, such as this example of Europe’s progressive singles optic:

“In America, the government taxes the household, whereas in Europe the government taxes the individual. That means many people in the United States who marry get certain benefits and provisions that make marriage a better economic choice” (261).

That said, this book, like all books, has some parts that could be improved. Mostly, the title. (Which is better than saying, “Mostly, the content.”)

Detailed assessment:

I have read most of this book, but not all of it yet. I didn’t have to! I could skip right to the chapter most relevant to me and my personal outlook on romantic relationships, thanks to the fun structure of the book. Cove’s premise is that single women often fall into one of four very broad categories:

screeeeeeeeeeech

I should probably stop here and say that this book is largely written from a hetero female perspective using hetero females as real-life case studies. I would have liked for the title to indicate as much.  Our Not-So-Copious single male readers can still find relevant insights in the book–such as when interviewee Cindy says, “We want our partner to be everything. And that’s just impossible! Nobody can be everything!”–but as it is now the title gives the impression that singlehood is such an inherently female obsession that the book’s female slant doesn’t even need to be mentioned.

That issue aside, back to the four categories, which I feel are as accurate as any categories can be and which give a pretty good idea of the span of the book:

–Looking (Eagerly) for Mr. Right

–Experiencing Conflicting Feelings About Being Single

–Changing Love-Life Goals

–Navigating a Marriage-Obsessed Culture (Subtitle: Time-out, people. Who decided this was a race, and what’s the *&*ing rush?)

Each major grouping contains several sub-categories. For example, I fit into the last category, which contains three chapters: The Someday Mom; The Slow and Steady; The Trailblazer. Each starts with a handy Pop Quiz that tells you whether or not the contents is suited for you. Really, they’re mini-questionnaires.

And I adore questionnaires. I love being asked for my opinion. I love the safe, cozy feeling of seeing my answers added up, categorized, and in the end telling me a little bit about me, if only a small corner of myself and if only for an instant. I found out I was a Trailblazer (yay!), by answering the following quiz:

When you picture yourself as an older single woman, you:

A. Imagine planning Margarita Mondays with your senior friends.

B. Can’t totally picture it, but trust you’d make a good life.

C. Join more online dating websites in a state of wild panic.

If you answered A or B, this chapter is for you.

Cove defines being a Trailblazer as: Married life is not for you, so you’re going to need a compass with a new path toward happiness. She devotes the rest of the chapter to explaining how to cultivate this type of Onely mindset. Here are some (of many) excerpts I related to:

Shift your Thinking. Recognize the pull of the race. I don’t think there was one single woman I spoke with who didn’t at least feel some pressure to marry. . .

If you fit into this category of ‘single and fine if everyone would back off,’. . . you know the headache of being cornered at parties by an obnoxious someone who pulls you aside and asks in a stage whisper, ‘You’re such a lovely person! How can it be that you’re still single?’

For those non-bathub-bound readers, Cove includes “Action Items” to bring her philosophizing into the real world. Examples:

Realize you’re on familiar turf. . . remember back in sixth grade when you knew if you didn’t have the right pair of blue jeans, you’d be deemed a loser? . . . At practically every stage of life there is a push to keep up with those around you. . .

Go ahead and quit (the marriage race)

Keep calm if the conversation nosedives

Write it down–what goals can you set to get there?

Round up fellow trailblazers.

So far, so good. In fact, a really great chapter on Trailblazers/Onelers/Singlutionaries/People Who Don’t Mind Being Single.

That’s why I was disappointed that the book’s subtitle, “And Finding Lasting Love Along The Way,” pretty much ignores and obliterates Trailblazers. The other three categories of singles (women) I noted above could be construed as eventually “finding lasting love”. Trailblazers could certainly find lasting love too, but not necessarily of a sex-and-everything-else-partner sort, and you know that the subtitle is not referring to lasting love with a ferret or French cooking (both totally valid love interests, though hopefully not in the same person).

So to sum up: Some problems with the title, but if a sequel came out, I would buy it.

–Christina

P.S. Cove’s book was preceded by a film of the same name.

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Comments»

1. Alan - October 4, 2010

Nice that there’s a book that acknowledges singles, even if it doesn’t do so in the title.

2. singlutionary - October 4, 2010

The hetro female perspective is loud and clear in the book!! I am not sure what it is about the book that makes it NON Singlutionary — the cover and the intro make it seem like it could go either way. But I found it to be about how to find a partner (male hetrosexual partner) and not how to just be. I think she even says that books that discuss how to just be a happy single are written for folks who have given up on finding a partner.

At the same time — any positive book about singles is a good thing at this time. I think the documentary would be interesting.

3. Michelle Cove - October 4, 2010

Thanks for a great blog post, Christina, and I understand your reservation about the subtitle. I thought I’d jump in and say that yes, this book is geared to hetero-females who are trying to figure out what type of relationship with men would work best for them. Could be marriage, could be co-habitating, could be casual dating, could be taking a break from romantic relationships altogether. It is not really aimed at women who are not interested in any kind of a relationship with men, not because I judge that, but because that’s not the demographic I’m addressing. Anyway, best to all of you…Michelle

Onely - October 8, 2010

Thanks for your input, Michelle! Right now hetero females are definitely the most substantial demographic participating in singles’ discussions. Onely’s content tends also to be very hetero-female just because that’s how Lisa and I identify, but we’ve gotten dinged before by readers (esp male) for not exploring other points of view more. So I wanted to warn some of our non-hetero-non-female readers that we were once again going to be talking about hetero-female stuff. = )

BTW It’s been a constant struggle for us to find male (gay and hetero) and female (gay) voices in the singles’ advocacy movement. Please flag any you hear about!

CC


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