For this, my final column, I thought it was high time I took a look at what I originally set out to do and assessed whether or not I actually did it.
My original proposal for the book describing the journey I wanted to go on with Helen Gurley Brown started with a quote from Sex and the Single Girl: â€śI never met a completely happy single womanâ€¦or a completely happy married one.â€ť It sounds so simple but doesnâ€™t that just sum it right up? A lot of the time, we pretend that one choice means everlasting happiness and the other serious miseryâ€”our opinion of which is which depending, of course, on where we find ourselves in the equationâ€”when the truth is that life isnâ€™t about everlasting happiness or major misery but simply about balancing everything as best we can.
After the quote, I went into this whole thing about my fears of intimacy until I got to the main point I was trying to make: that what I said I wanted wasnâ€™t, perhaps, what I actually wanted. That was a major theme of the book for most of the time I was working on it (the working title was What I Say I Want; other potential titles along the way included Growing More Gurley, Sex and the Still Single Girl and The Perfect Man or The Perfect Me, among many, many others). Basically, I hoped to figure out through this project why I always went around saying that I wanted to get married and have a baby but didnâ€™t behave like someone who wanted those things. Living the Helen way, I thought, would help me to determine if I was just claiming to want those things because society told me I should or if I really did. I decided that by the end of it, I would either meet the man of my dreams or decide that the whole thing was a fantasy and give up on it altogether. But neither happened. Instead I learned that I did, indeed, want those thingsâ€”I just wasnâ€™t ready for them yet. And, I began to see, Iâ€™d allowed the fact that I didnâ€™t have them convince me that I never would. On a logical level, I knew that past events did not dictate the future but my fear had convinced me otherwise.
If Iâ€™d never taken on this project, I wouldnâ€™t have actually learned how much I was lying to and torturing myself. Oh sure, I might have given lip service to how everything happens when itâ€™s meant to, as I had before. But I donâ€™t think I would have absorbed it at a cellular level and experienced the sense of peace that such absorption brought with it if I hadnâ€™t tried to re-make myself into the most glittery, well-rounded, feminine, adventurous woman I could. Because I realized at the end of it that though I went in thinking I was making all that effort so that I could attract the best mate possibleâ€”my own personal David Brownâ€”the end result was that I learned to attract me to myself; I learned to actually like and sometimes even love myself.
Now, look. Thatâ€™s just the kind of sappy, self help-y, Hallmark card-esque sentence I would have sooner, once upon a time, committed Hari Kari than written. But you guys donâ€™t know how far down the path of not loving myself Iâ€™d gotten. Or maybe you do. Maybe youâ€™ve been there yourself. Iâ€™d essentially become so used to turning on myselfâ€”to telling myself, if something didnâ€™t work out, that it was because I was unlovable, to forcing myself to go along with romantic situations because I believed it â€śmight be my last chance,â€ť to mixing up lust and status with liking and loving, among many other nasty habitsâ€”that I didnâ€™t know there was any other way to think or be. Itâ€™s like that feeling you get in the depth of an East Coast winter. You know there was once sun on your snow-drenched street and that you had walked by that same stoop in shorts and a tank top, eating frozen yogurt and sweating from the effort, but you canâ€™t actually remember what it felt like. I had once known how to love and support myself but I couldnâ€™t get back there, emotionally or literally, until I put myself through the process I did.
I always hoped the book could serve as both a tale of what I went through and a sort of guidebook for othersâ€”married, single or otherwiseâ€”to put the same kind of lens on their lives. And although Iâ€™m too close to the material to be able to tell if I did that successfully, I do have several friends who started cleaning out their closets soon after reading it.
While my work on myself is far from done, my work here at the Gloss is. So I wanted to thank you for reading about my experiences with the great HGB here. If you want to buy the book that actually describes the journey Iâ€™ve given glimpses of each week in this space, here is a list of places where you can get it (anyone who buys the book during the first week of releaseâ€”thatâ€™s now, folksâ€”can participate in the first week sale promo; details are here.)
Now, let me leave you with a quote from the woman who launched my project: â€śI hope I have convinced you,â€ť Helen once said, â€śthat the only thing that separates successful people from the ones who arenâ€™t is the willingness to work very, very hard.â€ť
I agree with her but also think we get to define success however we want. (For me, personally: feeling good about myselfâ€”and the worldâ€”more often than I donâ€™t.) It has been and will continue to be hard work for me but, like Helen, Iâ€™m a workhorse. And Iâ€™ve learned that my life is well worth the effort.