Not every woman would ask her grandmother for dating advice. But author Kristine Gasbarre did just that. Along the way, she reconnected with her grandmother, found love in a new relationship and sold her first book to a major publisher.
In that book, "How to Love an American Man," Gasbarre returns home from Italy to sit at the bedside of her beloved grandfather, who is dying, and ends up realizing that her grandmother, who has had 60 successful years of marriage, might just be able to offer her the love advice she needs.
The book, which comes out on August 16, has already garnered positive reviews from critics who have praised the wit and poignancy of Gasbarre's family tale. Kirkus Reviews called it "heartwarming without being saccharine," while Booklist noted that "Gasbarre’s reflections should resonate with many readers…including those who enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s 'Eat, Pray, Love.'"
At a luncheon honoring "How to Love an American Man," Gasbarre, 31, is slender and vivacious, with blue-green eyes that match her dress, long brown hair, and a tendency to punctuate her speech with wide hand gestures. Though this is her first memoir, Gasbarre has worked as a writer for some time, producing articles about men and dating for a number of websites.
Afterwards, Gasbarre took a moment to speak with The Huffington Post about her inspirations for writing the book, and about her process for getting her grandmother's stories. Though Gasbarre doesn't want to give too much away about the ending of the book (here's a hint: there's a happy ending), she emphasized just how much her grandmother's advice continues to affect the decisions she makes in relationships.
"I had a history of demanding what I wanted from a guy instead of relating to my partner with caring and patience, which resulted in a lot unfulfilledness and sometimes even embarrassment," she said of her change in attitude. "When I started operating with more grace and a grasp of how naturally beautiful a woman is created to be, that calmness elicited the exact result I sought in a relationship. That's what continues to work for me today."
According to Gasbarre, her motivation to write the book came in part because of what she perceived as a dearth of positive relationship books on the market.
"After I read 'He's Just Not That Into You' in 2004, I didn't go on a date for about two years," she said. "I felt that there needed to be a book with a lot more heart and hope for single women who wanted to find a best friend and a partner and the love of their lives."
After moving home to help take care of her grandmother, Gasbarre's original intentions were not to squeeze out material for just such a book. But after spending time some time with her, Gasbarre became eager to hear her advice. Though Gasbarre's grandmother was initially hesitant about the project, she eventually opened up. Still, Gasbarre had to be sensitive when it came to those parts of relationships that have changed since her grandmother was on the market. One major example: Sex.
"I was really nervous about that one," she said. "But she was really candid about how she dealt with that. She revealed to me what it was like to date back then and how sexual they were able to get -- Once she said, 'Now don't think we weren't necking in the backseat of the car.' -- I started cracking up."
The generational gap also became apparent when the two women discussed their expectations of men, specifically, American men. Gasbarre, who has researched the topic by speaking with psychologists, sociologists and cultural experts, believes that men in this country are characterized by a very specific ethos when it comes to dating.
"American men are very very goal oriented and not very emotionally available," she said. "They have been raised in a family system and by men who have encouraged them to win at everything, to be the best at everything, to be an achiever and often that comes at the expense of our interpersonal relationships."
Despite Gasbarre's modern mindset, it turns out that grandma knows best after all. Frustrated with an inattentive suitor, Gasbarre expresses her disbelief that her grandmother would have put up with this kind of romantic neglect in her own life.
"I wanted the results right now, I wanted to know exactly what he was thinking right away," Gasbarre recalled. "But in the end she was certainly right."
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