- Beth Solka
I picked up I Never Promised you a Goodie Bag, by Jennifer Gilbert, thinking that it would be full of hilarious mishaps that occurred at weddings and events that the Save the Date’s CEO had experienced. However, I soon found that it was something more. It is the memoir of a young woman who started out life being fiercely independent, the daughter of wealthy parents who had an import business and were frequently overseas. Jennifer traveled all over without a care in the world until at 22 years old she was attacked in the hallway of her best friends’ apartment. Her friends were too frightened or too selfish to come out, even though Jennifer was screaming for help. The girls in the apartment did call some boyfriends and they came over with baseball bats and drove the attacker away.
Jennifer almost died, but she went home from the hospital to become a frightened, ashamed young woman. Her friend who would not come out of her apartment to help her even finally rejected their friendship, perhaps because of guilt. For years Jennifer became a successful event planner and expanded her business, but inside she struggled with issues that victims often struggle with—self-loathing, a fear of losing control, shame, feelings of "why did the attacker have to choose me'? What did I do wrong?" She became anorexic and over-exercised to try to achieve some semblance of control over her body and her world.
All the while her business, Save the Date, was flourishing. No one ever really knew how unhappy she was on the inside. The details about her business success were fascinating to me. How a business owner thinks outside the box is a refreshing concept. It definitely paid off for Jennifer because her business survived and then thrived during a time when many businesses were going under.
So many times when I read this book, I wanted to give Jennifer a motherly hug and say the things that her mother and father may not have ever said to her. This is what I would say, “Jennifer, continue to give to others less fortunate than you. Don’t always just make yourself happy by throwing a lavish party for the rich and famous. When you are drowning in your own sorrow -- look outward. Find other people like your husband, Bennett, who love you unconditionally -- whether they have money or not. If they have a pure heart, just love them. Stop obsessing over your appearance! It seems to have taken a lifetime for you to stop thinking of your glass as being half empty. Jennifer, I think that you have finally learned the most important lesson of all. You have learned that every day is a gift to be enjoyed and cherished.”