’10 Women’ is self-help book for ‘Cosmo’ crowd

Sarika Jagitiani

If your idea of great writing is Cosmopolitan, then Alison James’ The 10 Women You’ll Be Before You’re 35 is for you.

The book, as its title states, describes the ten women you’ll be before you’re 35: the New Graduate, the Dollarless Diva, the Worker Bee, the Party Girl, the Body-Conscious Babe, the Chameleon, the Crisis Chick, the Ms. Independence, the Wirl (half woman, half girl) and the True You.

Just typing that phrase, the “true you,” put an incredulous, one-raised eyebrow expression on my face, which is pretty much what the book as a whole did. James sugar coats life’s experiences to the point of making them cartoonish, which can be entertaining but not so helpful, even though this is supposed to be a self-help book.

The book does have some merit, though. Relying on her education from Princeton University and the London School of Economics, James passes on helpful tips on the differences between 401Ks, mutual funds and CDs. She also gives some decent advice in highlighted sections throughout the book, on everything from taking time out of your busy work day to expense a coffee with a co-worker.

Unfortunately, the helpful hints are scattered, such as the praise for Party Girls who can “survive outside with no coat in the dead of winter” and “carry powder, lipstick, money, a tampon, a bank card and your driver’s license all on the inside of your bra.”

One bonus of the book is that you can pick it up and put it down with ease. Information is arranged in short paragraphs, which makes the book distracting, but perfect for those with short attention spans. Basically it reads more like a long, lighthearted magazine with no ads or pictures.

The book is also heavy on quotes, some from celebrities or writers and some from anonymous sources. Although they serve as useful breaking points between topics, it seems James went a bit quote crazy, throwing them in haphazardly.

Better than the quotes from celebrities are the “Real-Life Tales” at the end of every chapter. Real women are quoted about being in the period of life the chapter highlights. This is where the real comfort of the book comes: in knowing that you’re not alone and that you will survive.

For instance, who doesn’t know the feeling of the Dollarless Diva, of being so broke that you “used my parents’ calling card to call a friend from a pay phone because I didn’t want to use up my cell phone minutes.” Or the tale of the Party Girl who “would end up eating in places at 4 a.m. that we would never dream of going to sober.” I hear that, sister.

As a self-help book, 10 Women needs some help in giving more realistic advice. It fares better as a sometimes informative, usually entertaining, and somewhat mindless read. Something perfect for, say, an inexpensive graduation gift for the chick lit reader.

Contact sex columnist Sarika Jagtiani at [email protected].