Sara Eckel’s new book, “It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single,” may be in the relationship section of the bookstore, but it’s not quite like its neighbors on the shelf. “It’s Not You” contains no “helpful” tips about all the things you must be doing wrong if you’re a woman of a certain age who’s still not partnered up. Instead, the book debunks one by one the usual litany of “reasons” for singlehood, from “You have low self-esteem” to “You’re too picky.” In this humorous and compassionate volume, Eckel — who met her husband-to-be at 39 and married him at 44 — distills research, interviews and personal observations into an honest and possibly revolutionary take on single life
The Sisterhood’s Johnna Kaplan spoke with Sara Eckel by phone
Being single can be disheartening, but probably not for the reasons coupled people think. It’s less about doing every little task by yourself or living in fear of dying alone and unloved. It’s more about absorbing society’s sneaky, sometimes blatant reminders that, as a single person, you don’t fully exist. You are a faded black and white photo while married people, or people on the marriage track, live in full glossy color.
Last week, this reminder came courtesy of an article on New York Magazine’s The Cut blog about the newest trend in bragging: “the stand-alone engagement ring photo op.”
In a Hasidic community, where ritual life is separate for men and for women, there is lots of ‘women’s space,’ like their section at synagogue and at the mikvah. But recently there has been a new kind of space for women, one created by Bronya Shaffer. Bronya, a life-long adherent of the Lubavitcher rebbe and his teachings, is a renown teacher of brides-to-be and counselor to couples. I am lucky to be able to also call her my friend.
On the second night of Rosh Hashana this year she had a holiday meal dinner party bringing together an ever-changing group of her friends who are single. They range in age from their 40s to their 90s. Some are divorced or widowed, while others haven’t married. Some are frum (Orthodox) from birth, while others are ba’alei teshuva, or people who adopted observant life but weren’t raised that way. Some are professionals, others artists.
They are as eclectic a group as Bronya’s entire circle. She began the holiday meals in 2008, about a year after her husband, Gedalia, was killed by a drunk driver.