I love Mandy Hale– she’s been a big supporter of what we do here at The Conversation, and I’m happy to be able to share her work with you . I’ve done a Q&A with her to celebrate her debut book, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass. Read on and see for yourself how fabulous she is.
When did you start The Single Woman?
I started the blog at the beginning of 2010. I had just gotten out of a very unhealthy, toxic relationship and was rebuilding my life and really looking to set my feet in a more positive direction. It’s such a perfect example of how “The End” of one thing is the beginning of another. Since I was feeling so inspired and empowered and motivated to really celebrate my new journey as a single woman, I started looking around for other people who were in the same place that I was, and unfortunately, I discovered there just weren’t a lot of positive portrayals of single life out there. There were hundreds if not thousands of books about “finding a man” or “keeping a man” or “making any man fall in love with you,” but there wasn’t anything that I could find about simply becoming a great woman. The images of single life on TV were even more outrageous…varying from needy and desperate to sad and defeated…and this was just unacceptable to me. I decided right then and there to start documenting my own single life and sharing the lessons I learned along the way with my readers to make people aware of what the REAL single woman’s journey looks like – which is sad at times and gloriously happy at times and messy at times and breathtakingly beautiful at times. And women responded in a BIG way almost immediately, so I knew I was onto something really special.
What made you decide it was the right time for this book?
I wanted this book to be an encapsulation of single life in all of its colorful and hilarious and often wildly unexpected glory. There are so many facets to single life that I wanted to cover because there are so many things that we face every day as single women that are unique to our journey. From letting go and moving on to following our hearts to living a better life to surviving a break-up to releasing a toxic friend from our lives to making a difference in the world – this book covers it all! For me, it was important to write the book because I get so many questions from ladies asking for advice and I just don’t have time to answer them all, so I tried to really address the areas of single life that I get the most questions about. I honestly feel like this book is a first of its kind. I’ve jokingly referred to it as the “anti-dating guide,” because it focuses not on the relationships in a woman’s life, but the woman herself…not the process of finding love, but the process of finding YOURSELF. Certainly love and relationships and dating are chapters in a bigger story – but that’s it. Chapters. Not the whole book. I feel like most books today and pop culture and the media place so much weight on desperately searching for love that no one has really stood up and said, “Hey, what about finding ME? What about chasing my dreams and my passions and my goals instead of chasing love and let love come when it comes?” That’s what I hope this book accomplishes.
What is your favorite part of the “Single Journey”?
I would say just the wildness and the freedom and the unexpected nature of it all. No one day looks the same. Every day that I wake up, I could have a new career opportunity to pursue, or a new dream to work toward, or a new love interest walk into my life – and I’m completely, 100% free to embrace it. If I want to take a spontaneous road trip with my girlfriends, I do it without checking with anyone first. If I want to dance around my apartment in my underwear and reenact Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” on a Friday night, I have no one but my cat to judge me. And if I want to eat Cocoa Pebbles for dinner…I have no one to cook, or not cook for, but myself. Right now I don’t belong to anyone but myself. And I’m okay with that.
What advice do you have for single women?
I think the one of the big things that single women struggle with is “What’s wrong with me? Why haven’t I found love?” and I would say to that: Absolutely nothing is wrong with you. Actually, there’s something really RIGHT with you in that you’ve probably, somewhere along the way, been tempted to settle for someone who wasn’t the right one for you out of fear or pressure or anxiety of never finding anyone “better,” and you didn’t. You looked settling in the eye and you walked away. And the majority of people aren’t strong enough to do that, so give yourself a big, gigantic, enthusiastic pat on the back for that. The thing I’m learning in my own journey is that yes, I want to find love, and I hope to be married with kids someday…but I’m going to live my life as big and as boldly and as bravely as I can, regardless of whether I have someone join me on my journey or not. At the end of the day, happiness really has to come from inside you and not from who’s standing beside you. If you’re a happy person, a relationship is only going to add to that. But it has to come from you first. No one can create happiness for you. A husband or wife can’t magically transform an unhappy person into a happy person. So I say live your life Happily, and let the Ever After work itself out.
What do you think about the pressures women face to “settle down”?
I think this is a huge issue that women face. I grew up in the south, and it seems to be particularly prevalent here. I’d say about 99% of my high school classmates married fairly young and settled down in our hometown and live the whole carpool, soccer mom, mini-van life. And they’re happy and I’m happy for them – but the thing is, that’s not everyone’s path in life. It wasn’t mine. It may not be yours. And that’s okay! It has always been my goal with “The Single Woman,” and particularly with this book, to try and break through those stereotypes and give single women a voice and permission to rise up and say: “Hey, I am who I am and I’m not going to apologize for it. And not only am I not going to apologize for it – I’m going to celebrate it.”
Why do you think it is so hard for women to find suitable partners?
I think our version of “community” changes as we get older. For those of us who don’t want to spend every weekend in the bars and clubs, the question becomes “Where do I go to meet someone?” For someone like me, who works from home, it’s even more difficult to meet people. Plus you have to factor in the growing trend of connecting via technology rather than one-on-one. As much as I love technology, I feel like it can sometimes be a barrier to intimacy rather than a bridge to it. Today a guy texts or tweets you or Facebooks you to ask you out on a date, when just five years ago, he would have called. I think a lot of us single ladies look around at times and feel like we’re in a giant game of musical chairs and the music stopped and everyone found a chair (i.e. a partner) but us! That’s why I stress in my book the importance of leading full, busy, active lives. Get out there and volunteer. Pursue a hobby. Join a church. Get plugged into whatever community you’re in. That’s the best way to meet people, whether it’s romantic interests or friends.
How many of your close friends are single?
All of them with the exception of one! I feel very blessed to have a strong core group of single friends, ranging in ages 25 to 50. A couple of them are divorced, a couple are single moms, most have never been married…so we’re all coming at single life from different angles, which is nice.
What do you hope your book will bring to women’s lives?
I hope my book brings a little joy, hope, encouragement, humor, and inspiration into women’s lives. I hope they see a bit of themselves and their own journey as they walk with me through mine. I think there’s real power in the “Me too!” moments of life. At times, the single journey can feel lonely, no matter how many friends you have or how much success you have or independence you have. It’s my hope that this book will bridge the gap in those lonely times, so a woman out there on the other side of the world who’s having a bad day can pick it up and remember that she’s not alone in this journey, but that we’re all in this thing together. That’s the thing about life…no matter what you’re going through at any given moment, there’s someone out there who has experienced the same thing. And I want my book to serve as that reminder to single women everywhere…that someone else is walking this road with them and understands both the thrilling, joyful highs and sad, heartbreaking lows of single life.
What does a successful relationship look like to you?
A successful relationship is rooted in honesty, loyalty, and faithfulness. A successful relationship inspires you to be greater than what you are. I truly believe that two people who are meant to be together make each other better. A successful relationship doesn’t complete you… it compliments you. I feel like a big problem with relationships today is people are walking around with their self-esteem and self-worth tanks on Empty and expecting a relationship to magically fill them up, and it can’t do that. A relationship can only make you more of what you already are. That’s why it’s so vital as a single person to build the life of your dreams and not wait for someone to do it for you. For me personally, I’ve always said that my idea of a successful relationship is with a man who loves God and loves to dance. I think if a man loves God, that takes care of the loyalty and honesty and faithfulness part of the equation and if he loves to dance, he obviously doesn’t take himself too seriously and is fun-loving and understands the importance of humor and silliness in life and in love. I love to laugh. Life is both too long and too short to spend it with someone who doesn’t see the humor in life. That’s a big part of my message– extracting the humor from any situation I experience, no matter how hideous or jaw-dropping or embarrassing– so I can’t imagine having a successful relationship with a man who takes himself too seriously. I think at the end of the day, in any relationship, you’ve gotta be able to laugh together, and at yourselves.
Are you still single?
I am still single. I definitely want to be married someday, but I’m letting God and life work that out for me. It’s my hope to be able to continue to grow and evolve with my readers as my life grows and evolves. I hope to be able to share the lessons learned from every step of my journey, whether it involves love, marriage, kids, etc… or whether I stay single for the rest of my life.
Why do you think there is a stigma attached to women who are 30+ and single?
I think from the time little girls are old enough to walk and talk and pick up our first doll, the idea of “love and marriage” is kind of ingrained in our heads. It’s just what we’re expected to do with our lives. Go to college, meet a nice boy, get married, have 2.5 kids and live Happily Ever After. When a woman strikes out on a different path, I don’t think society quite knows what to do with her. I think that’s true for anyone who ventures outside the boundaries of what most people consider “normal.” They get raised eyebrows. They get judged. They are perceived as somehow flawed or wrong or weird. I definitely think our culture is shifting a bit when it comes to the way we view “single after 30,” but we still have a long way to go. It’s my hope that I can play some small part in helping change those stereotypes and shine the spotlight on the bold, brave, fabulous side of single life. If nothing else, I hope my message and this book helps people to see that there is more than one road to Happily Ever After…and that the journey can be just as life-changing and breathtaking and fulfilling as the destination.
What’s next for The Single Woman?
I have a second book coming out in March 2014 that delves a little deeper into my personal story called “I’ve Never Been to Vegas but My Luggage Has.” I’m excited about it because it’s all about the journey to “Happily Ever After” and how sometimes the only thing better than actually getting there is the adventure you have along the way. Outside of that, I am open to whatever God brings my way! My heart is to keep inspiring and encouraging and speaking life into the hearts of single women, because I feel like it’s a mission that’s so very needed, and however that happens to manifest, I’m on board. It has been the greatest privilege and most unexpected surprise of my life to have a platform that infuses a little hope and healing and hilarity into the lives of precious single ladies across the world, and I would be more than happy and humbled and honored to do it forever. No matter where my life takes me!