Friday, October 21, 2011

Falling For Me Delivers a Lesson Twenty-first Century Women Need to Hear

Anna David has done many things: she's a novelist, journalist, television personality, and radio host. She is also an expert on sex and relationship advice, as well as an expert on addiction and recovery. A very accomplished woman, yet still somehow lacking -- at least, according to her. In her latest writing adventure, David decided to take on her own worst enemy -- herself.

Falling For Me: How I Hung Curtains, Learned to Cook, Traveled to Seville, and Fell in Love  chronicles a year in the life of David, fashioned into a memoir of sorts. Like Julie Powell before her, David sought advice in the hands of someone she considered an expert. However, unlike Powell, whose focus was solely cooking like Julia Child, David takes on happiness in all areas of life. Her inspiration? Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown and her 1960s-era self-help book Sex and the Single Girl.

David memorizes sections of S&SG as though they were gospel, beginning conversations with friends with the words, "You know, Helen says..." until they all roll their eyes at the mere mention of Brown's name. Unlike Julia Child, long considered an expert in her field, Brown and her self-help tome have garnered little recognition beyond the '60s. David doesn't allow this little fact to stop her, though. She dives full-force into advice that, while dated, seems somehow sound to her.

Brown was an icon of the sixties, shaping the way American women thought, felt, and dressed. Her advice was a version of modern feminism, one which both embraced women's working to "get a man" and women's working towards independence. Brown simultaneously encouraged women in S&SG to decorate and cook for male companions, and to work on their own happiness. Her claim that womanhood can contain both was outrageous at the time, but women  loved it. Within three weeks of its release in 1962, S&SG sold more than 2 million copies.

In 2011, the idea that a woman might need to work in order to catch a man is not a popular argument (nor, for that matter, is the idea of "catching" a man at all). However, David finds some truth in that claim. Does it not make sense, she wonders, that a well-appointed apartment and delicious home-cooked meal might make (or at least help) a man stick around?

In Falling For Me, David chronicles her efforts as she methodically goes through S&SG, taking Brown's advice at every turn. Try new things? She rollerblades, takes French lessons, travels, learns to kite surf, and takes a pottery course. Seek out new ways to meet men? She walks a friend's dog, goes speed dating, and signs up for Match.com. Improve your eating habits? She learns to cook Brown's (S&SG-included) recipes, shops at local markets, and even cooks a Thanksgiving feast Martha Stewart would be impressed by. Style yourself? David seeks fashion advice, pampers herself at spas, and gets a "custom bra makeover."

Throughout the course of her self-improvement spurred by S&SG, David comes to an important realization: the steps she's taking make her feel better about herself, perhaps a goal more necessary than finding a man. She also allows herself to get to know various types of men (rather than the same old out-of-work actors), a change that seems pivotal for her long-term relationship-seeking. The story is not an interesting one because of what happens in the end -- rather, the strength in this book is the journey itself.

David is an excellent writer, narrating her own life in a way that is both cleverly sardonic and deeply honest. She is, in short, a very likeable narrator, one that the reader will be rooting for. In Falling For Me, she lays out her shortcomings for both the reader and herself to examine. This is a huge sacrifice for David, as it would be for most women. I mean, who really likes to look at the negative aspects of their personality? The fact that David does this in a nationally-released memoir will allow women everywhere to undergo similar (but less public) transformations. Not in order to catch a man, but in order to feel more whole themselves.

Anna David is the author of the novels Party Girl and Bought. She also appears regularly on various television shows, such as The Today Show, Hannity, Red Eye (Fox News) and CNN’s Showbiz Tonight, offering relationship advice and celebrity commentary. She was the sex and relationship expert on G4's Attack of the Show for three years. She also appears all over the country, giving lectures on addiction and recovery.

You can read the first chapter of Falling For Me by clicking here. You can also keep up with David over on her blog.

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