Is it possible that I actually whispered the words, “Self Help” to the Tattered Cover employee, and then mumbled into the canopy of my hands, “The Rules” when asked which specific title I was looking for? Yes and yes. And did this happen because I consider myself too good for self help? Yes again. And did a small part of me want to pompously say to her, “I’m only reading these for my sex column and not because I need help dating. I actually have a boyfriend and he’s pretty cool if you look past the fact that he seems to feel no remorse at having read the entire Twilight series.” ??
Instead, I just grimaced as I was led to the Relationships section of Self Help and pointed to an embarrassing paperback decorated with the desperate, needy font of romance novels and the illustration of a wedding ring. The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right. “Lame.” I whispered for the benefit of the tattooed twenty-something stranger curled up in a chair observing me. I opened the book to page 22, and this is the first ditty of advice that I read, “Don’t talk so much.”
I rolled my eyes, mildly offended and thought maybe he shouldn’t talk so much. Maybe I don’t care about hockey stats or his day at work. Maybe I wish he’d go masturbate in the bathroom and leave me to my reading. “Is this it?” The cashier asked smugly.
The reason I was reading this book was because at least four of my friends had read it, swore by it and frequently quoted it between sentences like, “I wish a man could hope to love me one day” and “I can’t eat that pasta because I want to get married eventually.” Not really. My friends are cool, which is why it was confusing to me that they kept starting sentences, “The Rules say…”
So I started reading The Rules… not on public transportation or at work of course, but in a dark, isolated closet where my reputation as someone that believes women deserve the vote and that men are a little annoying could stay in tact.
Here’s what I didn’t expect: I really, really liked The Rules even if I would rename it from, The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right to The Rules: How to Act Like an Unannoying Human Being with Self Respect on Dates. Because even though The Rules keep repeating this intensely weak line: be a creature unlike any other, what they really mean is, get a life. Getting an active, interesting life will not only create opportunities for you to meet men, but it will make you less desperate and give you something respectable to discuss on dates.
While one of my friends objected to a line early in the novel that glibly says, “Present your best self, if you need a nose job, get a nose job!” I didn’t entirely disagree. Yes, that kills the feminist inside of me a little, but the fact is: women reading this book want to get married. One way to increase your chances of getting married is looking more attractive- and while some would argue, beauty comes from the inside, I would argue that it’s a lot easier to feel good about yourself when you fix that horrible, disgusting monstrosity jutting out of your face.
Anyway, here are some lines that I liked, p. 25: “You don’t date men who don’t want you” and p. 26: “All you have to do is show up; he’ll love you or not.” If you are radiating self esteem, interesting conversation and a huge plastic surgery bill, there is no reason to waste your time with someone that doesn’t want you. There are tons of men in this world and many of them will appreciate that about you, so wasting a lot of energy (or any energy) on the one that doesn’t, is stupid. And, on dates, you should show up and be yourself. Talk about what is interesting to you, laugh at what you think is funny, be genuine. Appealing to someone else’s personality takes a lot of energy and quickly becomes transparent, so really dating shouldn’t involve that much more than showing up and being yourself.