If there’s one thing Eli Rallo wants you to do, it’s date yourself before you date anyone else. In her debut novel, I Didn’t Know I Needed This, which hit shelves in December 2023, Rallo showcases her rules for, in her words, “flirting, feeling, and finding yourself.” Through a collection of essays, spanning from college to post-grad, Rallo takes readers on her journey of self-discovery and self-love.
You probably know Rallo, 25, from your TikTok FYP, where she has gained over 800,000 followers by sharing relatable dating stories and advice. I Didn’t Know I Needed This is written in the same style as her viral rules lists, which detail the “rules” for all things dating and relationships (including situationships).
TK Throughout the novel, Rallo adds anecdotes about how these rules came to be, including the successful habits that turned into recommendations for friends and eventually rules lists for followers. “I wrote about versions of myself that I would not even recognize if I ran into her on the street,” Rallo tells Her Campus. “I was writing about lessons that current me believes and current me can speak to, but I was writing about moments and trifles that happened so long ago.”
Case in point? Well, Rallo starts her book by calling herself a “serial dater,” something that 25-year-old Rallo, who is currently in a long-term relationship, doesn’t exactly identify with anymore. “I don’t think I necessarily had a problem [with dating] by any means, [but] I did recognize a habitualness around the way that I would find myself in relationships,” Rallo says. “I really liked being in relationships, but I think they were also a way to keep me from being alone.”
This isn’t to say that Rallo regrets her Carrie Bradshaw-esque dating escapades. If anything, Rallo recognizes that part of not having regrets about her dating journey is recognizing that her current relationship wouldn’t have been so successful without growing from past relationships.
“Each thing that happens to you plays into where you end up or what happens next,” Rallo says. “A lot of healing is necessary to show up for someone else 100%, and also show up for yourself 100%.”
Despite what you may think about “serial daters,” Rallo admits she was a great girlfriend in her past relationships. The problem wasn’t who she was dating. The problem was who she wasn’t taking care of. “When I love someone, it’s always at 150%,” Rallos says. “I was always giving 150% to other people, but I was not showing up for myself in that way.”
It took years of serial dating — and a move from Michigan to New York City — for Rallo to become comfortable with herself outside of a relationship. “I would consistently make decisions that made me uncomfortable to put others at ease,” she says. “The people who love me are always going to want me to choose my own happiness first.”
Rallo’s book goes deeper than the romantic relationships in your life — I Didn’t Know I Needed This includes moving chapters about platonic love, too, which is also important when it comes to “dating” yourself. After her quick growth on social media, Rallo created “Eli’s Spicy Sexy Gang,” a Facebook group connecting her followers from all over the world. “What I realized consistently is that having friends who are women as a woman is really a necessity for your survival as a woman in this society,” she says. “Selfishly, it’s important to have those people to get you through — I don’t know if there are many things we have as women in this current society that can buoy us quite like the friendship of another woman.”
Rallo even brought this community off-screen to a Facebook IRL event, where she was able to connect with her followers who have now become her friends. “It’s really hard to make friends and find community,” she says. “[This community] is a place where you can just go and be 100% authentically you.”
I can remember a day during my senior year of college when I wandered Manhattan alone. Back home on Long Island was a boyfriend who I had yet to realize wasn’t the right person for me. So, in the middle of the city fresh from the weekend matinee of Wicked, I asked myself “What Eli would do?” and took myself out. The afternoon turned into the evening, and a group of women I met at a pizzeria asked if I’d like their extra ticket to Moulin Rouge. Sitting in the theater, I realized that my favorite company was myself — and that when I trusted myself completely, good things always found me.
Dating yourself makes knowing and loving yourself so much easier. So thank you, Eli, you were right — I didn’t know I needed this.