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  • Keyaira Boone

C Letter Book Club: Joi-Marie McKenzie's "The Engagement Game: Why I Said "I Don't

Joi-Marie McKenzie’s debut effort is glamorous, well-paced, and just plain fun. But the attribute that most endears this page turner to me is its honesty. McKenzie steps outside of all of the unspoken social contracts that we sign with every new Facebook status update to say all of the things that single professional women are never supposed to and her book is better for it.

Many young women with enviable careers have scoffed at the seemingly lesbian-until-graduation classmate who had the nerve to end up engaged and pregnant before they did and asked an ex “where is this going?” only to end up single before the end of the conversation. They’ve adopted hashtags that are just sharp enough to subliminally snipe at former significant others without anyone calling them out on it and phoned their (biological or spiritual) mothers in a panic because they still weren’t happy married when they. were. supposed. to. be. by. now.

They’ve sworn off gossiping, tried to be kinder, committed to scheduling exercise sessions, booked bi-weekly blowouts and vowed never to never to text that jerk back in order to prepare themselves for what they (and society) consider their largest promotion yet-the role of wife. But they’ve never talked about it.

Until now.

A mass rejection of the impossible standards placed on twenty-somethings has resulted in a communal cries for help in the form of funny-because-they’re-true memes, digital communities, mental health advocacy, and books like these these.

Still despite all of the “we’re all in this together” rhetoric social media has given us a front row seat to the highlight reels of others lives. So with each gender reveal party, and overproduced engagement photo shoot they witness someone still waiting on Mr. Right can feel as if they’re falling short. Even if that someone is a talented, well-traveled, and leggy entertainment reporter for ABC News.

The weaving in of McKenzie’s encounters with people like Jill Scott, Nate Parker, Kerry Washington, Common, members of Rascal Flatts and others who provide her with intentional and unintentional perspective and wisdom at work feels like punctuation to not only the reader but the narrator. Because her career came sort of easy to her she values it less than the prospect of matrimony and in an incredibly brave move she actually admits that.

In full disclosure I have met Mckenzie on two separate occasions (once when purchasing the book during Blogger Week after hearing about it on the Bri Books podcast) and she was one of the most polished women I have ever met. That’s part of why I was so impressed by the vulnerability she showed in these chapters.

Like Gillian Flynn’s “cool girl speech” and many a hotep blog post, have reported women are so programmed to be agreeable that they’re willing to be adaptable to the point of extinction. McKenzie details changing her wardrobe, forfeiting valuable closet space, and other sacrifices she made in the effort to be fully “chosen” by her long-term partner.

If you’re someone who, like myself on occasion, has been guilty of falling into the trap of believing that remarkable attractive people from solid family backgrounds are all but problem-free this book will most certainly shake that belief. Despite her solid support system, ‘grammable celeb selfies, and seriously cool job Mckenzie details periods of depression, self-doubt, anger, jealously, loneliness and insecurity that are relatable and sometimes kind of hilarious thanks to styrofoam cups , unzipped dresses, and unexpected run-ins with #tourlife.

Nobody likes to be dumped and people like talking about it even less but this book doesn’t hide behind the “my phone so dry” jokes that have taken over many a twitter timeline.

Instead the author is as frank with the audience about losing who she was and what she wanted in her relationships as she was with herself. When her reclaiming of her identity signals the end of “The Engagement Game” you’re really glad she won.

Get your copy of “The Engagement Game: Why I Said "I Don't" to Marriage and "I Do" to Me” here!

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