The DJN dives into dating, dad jokes and more with author Sabrina Must.
By Allison Jacobs
Featured photo by Travis Norris
1. As a writer, where do you get most of your inspiration?
Because I write personal essay (i.e. creative nonfiction), my inspiration always comes from personal experience. I find when I share what’s happening within—the parts we’re often taught to suppress and hide—readers connect more deeply because they see themselves in me. My upbringing, circumstances, and geographical location may be entirely different than yours, but when we peel it all back and really get to the core of what makes us us, we’re all exactly the same with similar feelings and fears. In saying that, the inspiration may come because something triggered me or excited me; it may also come from hearing readers say they want more. That always lights a fire within me.
2. You emphasize that your latest book A Terrible Dater is not just for single people. What are some takeaways for people who are in a relationship?
The desire to be loved drives every single person. We never lose that need to feel connected and comforted—even though as adults we’re often conditioned to suppress it. And so even if we have the most fulfilling job, the safety of a warm home, and nutritious food, we feel void without relationships. This is why A Terrible Dater isn’t just for singles. Every person can relate, because every person at some point in his/her life has wanted to fall in love, has fallen in love, and/or has felt heartbroken.
Additionally, you may be my parents’ generation and curious about what online dating is. You may be a teenager who has never fallen in love and has been fed the unrealistic Disney princess/prince fairytale. You may be in a long-term relationship and haven’t dated since before online dating was ubiquitous. You may be single and need a reminder that you’re not alone and most importantly that nothing is wrong with you.
Because we have all heard the same advice about the proper way to date and about what is and is not expected from us sexually, the book is really for everyone. My job as the narrator is to ensure every reader relates to at least one thing. This is what sparks conversations and the driving force to write: encourage others to share their own stories.
On a lighter note, who hasn’t done something stupid or borderline stalkerish to garner the attention of a crush? We all can laugh about and relate to what we do or have done to find love.
3. Can you give us a sneak peek of a humorous dating story you share in your book?
My dad is a main feature in A Terrible Dater. He has always entertained me with his off-color, Jewish-centric dating advice. For years, I’ve shared many of these conversations in social media posts titled “Joel Convos.” Stereotypically, it’s the Jewish mother who’s overbearing and unrelenting when it comes to pressuring you to “marry someone Jewish!” Instead, it’s my dad. So throughout the entire book are many of these conversations as it relates to a particular chapter and topic.
One story that is quite humorous is when I agreed to meet a guy for dinner (after he begged me on an online dating site). He was nice, but just not my type. When the bill came, he welcomed my credit card. I couldn’t believe this guy was accepting a woman’s money on a first date on which he insisted I go. On my walk home, I called my dad, who knew I was going out with a Jewish guy and told him he made me pay for half. I shared the date’s number in jest, not thinking anything of it, and to my utter shock my dad called the guy, asked him if he enjoyed going to dinner with me, if he liked that I paid for myself, and if his father taught him anything. That’s my father.
4. Many singles feel the dating scene nowadays is full of challenges. What helps you stay positive in the midst of dating?
The dating scene can definitely be challenging and disheartening. In A Terrible Dater, when I was suddenly single again in 2013, I discuss the infiltration of dating apps. When “swiping became a verb,” I joke. Despite so many letdowns and getting stood up more times than I thought was possible, I have generally remained optimistic about love. My previous serious relationships were very fulfilling and loving, and so I knew what was possible. You keep chugging along, meeting others, seeing what’s out there, and though most are so far from compatible for you, you stay positive knowing that soon enough you’ll meet someone just right for you.
5. What would you recommend as a good first date activity?
Most who know me always assume I’d prefer to do something adventurous or unique. But instead I prefer a basic—some may call it “boring”—first date: a drink. Coffee, tea, wine, beer, cocktail, sparkling water, whatever is your thing. Go somewhere where you are forced to sit face to face and SPEAK to one another. Where you can just be, without external distractions, without a crutch of a funny comedy show. (Especially if prior to meeting, as is common these days, you texted back and forth a ton; find out if the person is as charming and funny as he/she was via text.)
A friend humorously calls a first date “the first interview.” If you don’t have good conversation nor feel connected to one another, your looks, your charisma, your drive, your family, your lifestyle, and your athleticism don’t matter. As they say, you have to actually like the person because eventually we all get old and ugly.
6. When you’re not writing, where can we usually find you?
I’m an odd split of artist and athlete who loves to write and create and who also loves to be active and play. If I’m not writing and working for my blog SabrinaMust.com and for my content marketing business WriteLessBad.com, you can always find me biking, roller skating, yogaing, swimming, surfing, running… And my fun-size pug Monkey is usually with me. In general, I’m nonstop all day, trying to tire myself out which is hard to do. It’s genetic; have you ever met my mom?!
Sabrina Must is the author of Must Girls Love, a memoir, and Living Witnesses, the Holocaust Survivor series. Passionate about using personal experiences to inspire others to be more open and real, she runs the lifestyle blog SabrinaMust.com, where she shares about her travel adventures as well as grief, wellness, dating, and more. She teaches at the University of California, San Diego, has a Bachelors in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Northwestern University, and operates WriteLessBad, a content creation marketing firm for clients worldwide.
Don’t miss the all-inclusive book release party for A Terrible Dater this Thursday, Feb. 21 at Dick O’Dows in Birmingham from 6 – 8 p.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet Sabrina, enjoy live music, drinks, nosh on appetizers, and win awesome prizes! Books will be available to purchase via cash, check, Venmo or PayPal. Click to RSVP.