Adena Halpern,
Target Underwear & a
Vera Wang Gown: Notes
from a Single Girl's Closet

(Gotham, 2006)

Adena Halpern will win you over if you give her a chance. From the title and the cover art, I wasn't sure if this book would be my cup of tea. The opening chapter is a grandiose attempt to define an entire life by formative childhood experiences in elegant downtown department stores. It's a forced thesis about an entire life via a shopping metaphor but, fortunately, it is the weakest link to the whole book. The following essays really pick up and let the reader bond with Halpern.

Bonding is precisely what this book is about. I bonded with Halpern on her specific body flaws, her ridiculous attempts to compensate for her height with platform shoes and hooker heels all throughout her adult life, her female friendships, her off-the-wall dot-com job and her relationship struggles. Despite the cover and the subtitle, don't expect this to be a whiny female rant about personal flaws and interpersonal drama. It's a witty, over-the-top, self-satire that any modern gal will relate to. Halpern writes with the wisdom that comes from experience, so she is able to analyze the flaws in her logic during her younger years.

One of the turning points in the essay collection (which follows Halpern's life in a chronological fashion) is her long-term relationship with a down-to-earth, fun-loving guy. Obsessed with presenting a perfect image for him and meeting his every need (or her imagined version of his needs), Halpern buries her true self so deep that the perfect man breaks up with her due to her superficiality. After a year of depression and unemployment, Halpern picks herself up and makes positive changes. Upon reading about this period in her life, I thought, a-ha! Creating that perfect image was exactly what Halpern tried and failed to do in her opening essay. She's not cured, after all, and I'm even more endeared to her as a result.

Halpern writes about depression with wit and candor, and not a trace of self-pity. In fact, she never uses the word depression, and it was only in writing this review that I realized there was no other word to describe that period in her life.

The collection concludes with Halpern's marriage to a high-profile film industry member. One could take away the message that single-life is full of trials and tribulations, and all your problems are solved if you just snag Mr. Right, but I'm hoping that Halpern just found that to be a convenient stopping place for volume one of her life story. Adena, I'll be here, waiting to hear more.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
7 October 2006

Buy it from