How following “the rules” turned me in to a mute bore
Ladies, if you’re finding it hard to bag a bloke, consider these tips:
Play hard to get. Talk less, and listen more on dates. Lose weight, grow your hair and act dumber than you are. And don’t tell a man what to do, or try to change him.
These simple guidelines are at the heart of a new dating book which has just been released: The New Rules: The Datings Dos and Don’ts for the Digital Generation. And sadly, I’m not kidding.
It sounds like a spoof, but it’s an alarming follow-up to the original The Rules, first published nearly 20 years ago in the United States.
The book was an instant bestseller and spurned a raft of copy-cats such as Why Men Love Bitches (again, sadly, I’m not kidding), Have Him at Hello and Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.
The latest version has been updated for the online and technological world – teaching women how to apply The Rules to texting, Facebook, skyping and online dating.
Both books are based on the notion that women who want to find a guy should play hard to get because “guys love a challenge and lose interest when anything is too easy, especially women”.
Women are told: “Don’t speak to a man first, don’t ask him out, don’t accept last-minute dates, don’t see him too often, and don’t date him forever”.
It makes me wonder how I ever managed to snag myself a husband ten years ago, given that I didn’t ever follow any such rules.
I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to be unattainable, aloof and a “creature unlike any other” (Rule 1). I was loud and opinionated and tried to be funny.
I didn’t Look Like a Creature Unlike Any Other (Rule 2). Although I was passably attractive, I would sometimes go for hours without touching up my lippie, often sported a very unbecoming “vegemite stripe” at the roots of my blonde hair, and often let my legs resemble old growth forest trees in winter.
Indeed, the one time I tried to follow The Rules 15 years ago as a single girl, it was an unmitigated disaster.
I made sure I followed Rule 3 (Don’t Stare at Men or Talk too Much) and Rule 20 (Be Honest But Mysterious).
I didn’t contribute much to the conversation, didn’t share my vast collection of lewd knock-knock jokes, and didn’t make a drunken lunge at 3am after too many Stoli, lime and sodas.
Rather, I gazed off into space, smiled a lot at a fixed point above his head and barely ate or drank anything. In the end, I didn’t have to worry about sticking to Rule 5 (Don’t Call Him and Rarely Return His Calls) as he didn’t ever call me again anyway.
As I wrote in The Courier Mail all those years ago, I’ve got a hunch that instead of finding me honest and mysterious, he just found me mute, stupid and boring.
Ultimately, the real problem of the book is this: in my view, finding a successful match has less to do with whether a woman sends the first text (Rule 3) or looks good in a bikini (Rule 28) rather than just basic compatibility.
A man who genuinely likes a woman won’t care that she talks too much on a date or leaves sappy messages on Facebook – he’ll love her for it, not reject her for it.
There is also a great double standard at the heart of The Rules’ basic message. Repeatedly, women are told to move on if a guy doesn’t show any interest, but men are supposed to love pursuing a woman who plays hard to get.
The stereotypes at the heart of the book are pretty alarming.
We’re told that men love a challenge and women love security. We’re told that men like to buy and sell companies and indulge in extreme sports, while women “love to talk about their dates and watch romantic comedies”.
And we’re told women are emotional, but men “can’t get past a woman’s looks”.
Admittedly, it’s easy (and fun) to just bag the book.
But whether we like it or not, it has clearly struck a deep chord among young women who appear to be unhappy with the feminist agenda that tells them men and women are not only equal, but the same.
In any case, it’s not all bad. The book does have some valuable advice (just not all that much).
It does tell women that they shouldn’t continue to pursue a guy who’s clearly not interested. It tells them they shouldn’t give up their friends just because they’re obsessed with a guy. And it tells them to avoid married men, unavailable men and guys who send mixed messages.
I agree that women should have self-respect, but The Rules is not the right way to get it.
Women need to establish their own expectations and find men who meet them, rather than live down to the expectations of others. Love may be blind, but women shouldn’t have to dumb and mute to get a guy.
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