"Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong."
-- Sir Winston Churchill
"We're all in this alone."
-- Lily Tomlin
Billy Joel said it, too: No matter who you sleep with, you wake up with yourself. Since having irreconcilable differences with your own psyche is unlikely to lead to lucrative alimony, you might as well learn to love your irrepressible self. Or have fun trying.
Local writer Wendy Burt has produced a book encouraging women to do just that. "Studies show that more women are marrying later in life, if they marry at all. We want to make choices based on who we really are and what we think is important to accomplish in our lifetime. That takes time and experience getting to know ourselves better before connecting to someone else."
Wendy's first book, Oh Solo Mia! The Hip Chick's Guide to Fun for One, is not just for single women. Wendy's committed to a happy relationship of five years and her co-author, Erin Kindberg, is married.
"We both know women who have to pursue their personal interests alone because they're just not shared by a partner or spouse." They decided on the topic after discussing the awkwardness some women feel dining alone.
The book offers 125 ideas on solo activities, from the social (starting a book club, organizing an office potluck), to the crafty (making your own perfume, shoe-designing) to the charitable (taking pets to a nursing home, starting a socially relevant newsletter) to the downright ballsy (performing stand-up comedy, modeling nude for an art class). If you've ever sat at home thinking, "Hmmm ... I'd like to go out, but I can't think of a single thing to do!" you're bound to get some ideas in Oh Solo Mia!
Summoning an image of an updated Martha Stewart on meth, the book tosses snappy "bon mot" suggestions with more straightforward, well-researched recommendations for making those fantasies into realities you'll one day tell your grandchildren, therapist or priest confessor.
Indy: One of my favorite ideas from your book is hosting your own public access show. Have you thought about what you would do one about?
Burt: I'd have women on who are artists, writers and involved in creative endeavors, kind of like the bi-monthly group I started two years ago called Just CAWS (Creative Alliance of Women's Support). We have a total network of 140 women and about 20 meet every other Sunday at the Citadel Drive Barnes and Noble to share their progress and moral support.
Indy: Seems like being single was cool in the '60s or '70s, but becoming a cocooning couple was the fashion in the '80s to '90s. With the book and film Bridget Jones' Diary, and so many recent celebrity breakups, do you think flying solo is about to become chic again?
Burt: Gee, I always thought it was cool. You don't have to be unmarried to have adventures on your own, though. Doing things alone--both the daring and the practical--teaches you to take care of yourself, and that enriches all of your relationships.
Indy: Which chapter was your favorite to write, and why?
Burt: Probably [the one on] charting your family tree, because it brought back memories of my Irish grandmother--a sweet eccentric who loved telling us kids horror stories about everyday dangers. What I wrote in that chapter made me laugh, and I knew right then we might be on to something other people would enjoy, too.
Indy: What is the most gratifying thing you've done by yourself?
Burt: In Burlington, Vt., I organized Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless and raised $4,000 at an art auction that rebuilt an AIDS center destroyed by arson.
Indy: Where do you get all your energy?
Burt: Attitude. I don't like wasting time. I don't want to be 80 years old and thinking, "I could have done so much more."
Indy: What's next?
Burt: Erin and I have another deal with the same publisher for a follow-up humor book geared to hip working women.