The Secret of Life: Commonsense Advice for Uncommon Women

The Secret of Life: Commonsense Advice for Uncommon Women

by Elizabeth Wurtzel


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Though she might not always follow her own advice, Elizabeth Wurtzel knows certain things to be true: Doing copious amounts of drugs leads nowhere you want to be; trying to be friends with your ex is always a bad idea; if you can’t afford to hire a mover, you can’t afford to move; and always doing the best you can is always good enough.

Here are Wurtzel’s succinct and clever rules for living your best life. Fulfillment is within everyone’s reach. Grasping it takes enjoying your mistakes, being strong, and having opinions. Today’s woman should:

Be Gorgeous. Make the absolute most of what you’ve got. Believe that you are gorgeous, and you will be. It’s the only trick that really works.
Embrace Fanaticism. Harness joie de vivre by pursuing insane interests, consuming passions, and constant sources of gratification that do not depend on the approval of others.
Use All Available Resources. Let the M.D.s and the Ph.D.s help you solve your problems so that you don’t become everyone else’s problem.
Never Clear the Table at a Dinner Party Unless the Men Get Up to Help First. Cleanup should not be gendered. Change the world, one dinner table at a time. Hold a sit-in.

One of the fiercest, funniest, and best-known essayists of her generation, Elizabeth Wurtzel infuses this modest gem of a rule book with a sharp wit and a real candor.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345476753
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/31/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 4.75(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.33(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Wurtzel is the author of the bestselling books Prozac Nation, Bitch, and More, Now, Again. A Harvard graduate whose work has appeared in such publications as The New Yorker, New York, The Guardian, and The Oxford American, she lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Always Ask


People have the power

The power to dream/to rule

to wrestle the earth from fools

Patti Smith “People Have the Power”

This is the essence of life. This is the only reason to get out of bed in the morning. Every day is a new opportunity to ask more questions and see what happens. If you do nothing else with your day, at least make many inquiries and feel free to demand good and satisfying answers from the powers that be, or just from some slightly nervous human being who is a bit put off by your forthrightness. Be especially demanding of those people: They are the ones who are standing in your way, whether they mean to or not.

In fact, it is fair to say that whether it intends to or not, the whole world is conspiring to keep you silent; do not be party to this cabal.

This does not mean that you ought to make a nuisance or menace of yourself—it is only to say that it is important to wonder, and sometimes you might want to do this out loud. This does not mean you should go through life in a manic talking spree, but if something seems very wrong to you or, better still, if something seems just right, do not let the moment pass you by, unremarked, evanescent. I think what I am trying to say is something like, seize the day, only a little more fanciful.

If you don’t ask you will never find out. You will never know if you could have had that great job, or if that guy was available, or who the rock group Tesla was named after (some scientist). You will never know the difference between an elk, a moose, a deer, and a reindeer (mostly size and antlers), or the meaning of the word defenestrate (look it up). You will never know if Freud’s theories are more important than Marx’s or, for that matter, if Einstein’s ideas don’t trump them both (debatable). You will go through life brain-dead, wondering why nothing ever seems to happen to you beyond day after dreary day.

The greatest party on earth, the really wild and rowdy one where all the happy people are, where all the beautiful people are—the one that all of us are sure we’re not invited to, and all of us feel certain is going on right now, on the next block, within reach: you will never know how to find this party, how to get there, what shibboleth to use at the door, what to do once inside. You will miss out on all the fun just because you were afraid to ask.

Curious people are not always the happiest people, but they are never bored. They are the kind of people who amuse themselves while in the queue to renew their driver’s license by getting the life story of the person in front of them, and they are the women who meet the men they are to marry on an intercontinental flight or walking out of the cinema or in any of those places where people are supposed to meet but only the brave and slightly crazy ever do. People are constantly falling in love with women who ask a lot of questions, because inquisitive types are comfortable enough with what they know to admit to what they don’t—and because they are often provocateurs, which is always sexy. Eat Dessert


If I can’t have too many truffles,

I’ll have no truffles.


I have a dream that some day I will have a daughter who will believe she can eat what she wants, when she wants, without worrying about her thighs or her abs or her butt or the saggy batlike Hadassah arms that some women get at middle age. Maybe she won’t even know the word cellulite.

Is this too much to expect? I think not. But in the meantime women can stubbornly refuse to succumb to the notion that food is the enemy. We can all join up with the Chocolate Cake Revolution (so far, I am the only member) and learn to love what is yummy once again. The fact is that if you really eat what you want when you want it and exercise three times a week like the experts say you should, you’ll be fine. The whole offensive culture of dieting seems invented as yet another way to make women smaller and weaker—to make us become less, quite literally. The starving self symbolizes a diminishing person, and really we ought to strive to be more, to have more strength and muscle and inner resolve—which is what we get from working out or playing a sport, and what we lose when we live in hunger.

Even though models must be remarkably thin to mannequin clothes correctly—from a designer’s perspective, the closer they come to resembling hangers, the better the dress will fall—most of us need not be concerned about how we’ll appear on a runway or in fashion photographs. Those of us who are not Naomi or Shalom or Gisele or Cindy must get off our imaginary catwalks and return to the land of flesh and blood, the sooner the better. Most of us need only worry about how we look in real life, which is not static, which allows our vitality and expressiveness to be part of our gorgeousness. The first step toward becoming this kind of living, breathing beauty is to eat your banana cream pie and cheesecake with great relish, to have your dessert like you believe you deserve it.

Men, by the way, find this trait very attractive, in contrast to vomitatious eating disorders, which no one finds appealing.

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Secret of Life: Commonsense Advice for Uncommon Women 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
wow she has got it right its amazing if you're looking for a book that spells out life how it is, then u found it. I can actually quote things from my life that are in this book. Abosolutely amazing
joyfiction on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fun book. Wurtzel is a fun writer and I enjoy her books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love all of her work. I can hardly wait for her next book!
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