Book Review: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

This is a collection of letters and responses from an advice columnist named “Sugar.” It was an easy read with many tidbits that are applicable to everyone. I enjoyed the personal insights Sugar gave into her own life – it made me want to learn more about her and kept me interested. Favorite quotes below.

In response to a letter simply asking “WTF?” — “Ask better questions, sweet pea, she concluded, with great gentleness. The fuck is your life. Answer it.

“We are obligated to the people we care about and who we allow to care about us, whether we say we love them or not. Our main obligation is to be forthright – to elucidate the nature of our affection when such elucidation would be meaningful or clarifying.”

Re: gay pride parade making the author cry, she crys because these people had the courage to say “This is who I am even if you’ll crucify me for it. Just like Jesus did.”

Answering a letter from a self-entitled young female writer who hasn’t been writing: “The only way you’ll find out if you ‘have it in you’ is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your ‘limitations, insecurities  jealousies, and ineptitude’ is to produce. You have limitations. You are in some ways inept. This is true of every writer, and it’s especially true of writers who are twenty-six. You will feel insecure and jealous. How much power you give those feelings is entirely up to you.”

“You are the agent of power in your sex life, even if what you want is to relinquish your power and agency while you’re having sex. You can take that power back at any moment.”

Regarding friends who fall for semi-abusive or horrid boyfriends but refuse to dump them: “Love her even if she doesn’t do what you hope she does once you point out the fact that her paramour is a scumbag. Wish her the best without getting yourself emotionally tangled up in a situation that has nothing to do with you. Her life is not yours, and yours is not hers.”

On Christianity: “What if you listened harder to the story of the man on the cross who found a way to endure his suffering than to the one about the impossible magic of the Messiah? Would you see the miracle in that?”

On female difficulties: “Doing what one wants to do because one wants to do it is hard for a lot of people, but I think it’s particularly hard for women. We are, after all, the gender onto which a giant Here to Serve button has been eternally pinned. We’re expected to nurture and give by the very virtue of our femaleness, to consider other people’s feelings and needs before our own.”

“There are so many things to be tortured about, sweet pea. So many torturous things in this life. Don’t let a man who doesn’t love you be one of them.” Also related – friends with benefits are only ok if you can be friends or occasional lovers with a man who is less into you than you are into him without “feeling a) bad about yourself, b) resentful of him, or c) like you’re always longing for more?” Answer yes on all three or it isn’t a good idea.

“One thing about love –especially free, unfettered, and uncommitted love…- is that people pretty much do what they want to do. If you weren’t enough to satisfy him, you’d know it because he wouldn’t be with you. The fact that he is means that he likes you.”

What I want to say to all men on OkCupid: “You are an educated adult of sound mind, able body, and resilient spirit who has absolutely no reason not to be financially self-sufficient, even if doing so requires you to earn money in ways you find unpleasant.”

“We have to be whole people to find whole love, even if we have to make it up for a while.”

“What you hide owns you.”

“But the reality is we often become our kindest, most ethical selves only by seeing what it feels like to be a selfish jackass first.”

“Be brave enough to break your own heart.”



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