She’s baaaaack-and this time, she’s not appearing on a reality show.
Jen Schefft, now 30 and Chicago’s most recognizable bachelorette, can add author to her r‚sum‚. Her first book, Better Single Than Sorry (William Morrow, $15), came out this past Tuesday. Since I’m living the better-single-than-sorry life myself, I decided to dig in-and what I found was a candid, straightforward, well researched piece of self-help literature. Based on interviews with 100 or so women-married, single, and in-between-the book presents a refreshing perspective on the questions plenty of single women ask themselves: Do I need to settle in order to settle down? How will I know whether he’s “the one"? (Trust me, we ask ourselves these questions-often.)I’ve known Schefft since her Bachelor days in 2003, when she was plucked by Andrew Firestone from a gaggle of single girls. I’ve sat down with her a dozen times to dish about everything from breaking off that engagement to her post-Bachelorette relationship in 2004 with Billy Dec (yep, both are discussed in the book). She’s about as nice as a person can get, yet she got a seriously bad rap for ending her engagement with Firestone, then turning down two marriage proposals on national television. The horror, right? Wrong.
I invited Schefft to lunch last week at Kamehachi to discuss the book before she headed off on a national publicity tour. (She appeared on The Today Show Tuesday; see the video under the link “Bachelorette on Singlehood.")
“I’m so nervous!” Schefft told me at lunch, in anticipation of her Today Show appearance. This from a girl who carried her own primetime show on ABC? That’s one of the reasons I’ve always liked her: She’s humble, she’s honest and, despite what some angry fans of the show may have thought about her, she’s never taken the obvious or easy road to dating (if you think subjecting yourself to public scrutiny is a piece of cake, think again). “I’m not saying everyone should agree with my decisions,” she said over sushi, “but people have said the meanest things. Sometimes it stings.” Female watchers were especially vocal after The Bachelorette aired, calling Schefft a “spinster,” bombarding her with e-mails, and leaving nasty messages at home and at work-even calling her mom in Ohio.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” she said. “Do I wish I’d done some things differently? Sure. But ultimately, I have no regrets.” Schefft is open about why she doesn’t believe in settling, even when the package looks good from the outside. “During the two years I was writing this book, about five guys came in and out of my life. Writing the book probably helped me realize that these relationships weren’t right for me,” she said. “It was very therapeutic. It was sort of my response to the mean things people said about me-and to me-after the Bachelorette aired.”
Most of the relationship anecdotes in the book came from friends of friends-and their friends-in addition to those based on Schefft’s own dating disasters. We had a good laugh over a particular term she uses in the book to refer to girls like herself, people she calls “Last Women Standing” or “LWSs” (my blog’s similar name is a complete coincidence). So, I asked Schefft, a professional bachelorette, to share her five ultimate dating tips-rules that LWSs should live by.
1. “Date guys who aren’t good at first dates,” she says, “because that probably means you’re not one of many.” (I agree! As I’ve warned my friends, stay away from the future-talkers and hand-holders; if the guy is super-suave, you’re probably not the only one he’s putting the moves on.)
2. “Let the guy pursue you in the beginning, through at least the first handful of dates,” Schefft says. “Two dates aren’t enough for the girl to start calling the shots.”
3. “I dated a guy-we went on six dates-but we never talked on the phone! We only communicated through e-mail and text messages [between dates]. Make sure the guy actually calls you.”
4. “Expand your group of friends. It’s likely you won’t meet someone at a bar, but rather through friends of friends. Be open to new girlfriends, too, who might introduce you to someone.”
5. “Don’t put so much pressure on yourself,” Schefft says. “Think of it this way: In your thirties, you’re more confident, more independent, and financially secure; you know who you are more than you did in your twenties. All of the fun stuff is still ahead of you.”
The bottom line: “Life does not begin when you meet a man,” she says. “I’ve been happier in my life when I’m single.”
This Last Girl Standing agrees.