(from November 1996 Single Scene)
copyright 1996 by Single Scene Newspaper
by Janet L. Jacobsen
Time magazine says the book "sets the dating game back 30 years."
That's because The Rules: Time-tested secrets for capturing
the heart of Mr. Right includes such pointers as
"Don't accept a Saturday night date after Wednesday,"
"Love only those who love you," and
"Don't discuss The Rules with your therapist."
Many people who've heard of the book (reported to have sold over 235,000 copies) think that it must be an "old" book that's seeing a revival, but it was actually just published in 1995. And some "Rules Girls" who buy the book are also paying $250 an hour for advice from the authors_married women Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, "neither of whom," says Time, "is a credentialed anything."
Their basic theory, one that they say got them their husbands, is that men are hunters who thrill to the chase. And by playing as hard to get as possible, men "are so crazy about you," says Schneider, "they never ignore you or abuse you. And you don't have cheating."
Their basic approach is this: "The purpose of The Rules is to make Mr. Right obsessed with having you as his by making yourself seem unattainable. In plain language, we're talking about playing hard to get!" And getting your man in this way guarantees he will treat you like a queen, they say, "because he spent so much time trying to get you. You have become so precious to him that he doesn't take you for granted."
All this is based on one assumption: "Men are born to respond to challenge. Take away challenge and their interest wanes." So the woman's goal is to be as challenging as possible. And she does this by first making herself as attractive as possible (don't even go jogging without lipstick!), always showing a happy attitude, and then playing hard to get as hard as possible.
And we do mean "play" _ don't talk to him on the phone for more than ten minutes, no matter how much you like talking to him. Never call him; don't even return his calls regularly.
At least the authors are realistic about the initial impact; they realize that if you're making the man do all the work, you have to meet a lot of men to find ones interested enough to go to the trouble. So they suggest you "go, go, go" _ to singles dances and events, get your friends to introduce you, use the personals. Then "pray for patience."
The goal, by the way, is marriage, or at least a proposal. However, "never show that getting married is foremost on your mind." Instead be so busy that he feels you barely have time for him.
If all this seems terribly artificial and difficult (even outright deceitful), cheer up. "Remember, you won't have to keep such things to yourself forever. Just for the first few months...until he says he's in love with you. Eventually you will become more of yourself. It's the first impressions from the first few months of dating that men remember forever."
Once you've "got" him, by the way, the next "rule" is to become very easy to get along with. Be totally understanding and don't complain. "You're hard to get, but easy to be with!"
At one point they note that one resorts to "the rules" when one is finally desperate to get married and all other methods of snaring a husband have failed. They assure the reader that the result of carefully following "the rules" will be a life of wedded bliss, but the goal as spelled out in fact is not a happy marriage, but to be married, period.
By going out and meeting lots of men, as they suggest, you will eventually meet one (or more) that you find attractive who will ask you out. You immediately begin playing by the rules, and if he's really "the man of your dreams," he'll become devoted to you as a result, promise the authors.
But there's almost nothing in the book anywhere about communication, matching values, negotiation, conflict, or compatibility. Since you are being extensively "mysterious" if not downright dishonest, your opportunities for really getting to know each other are limited, which perhaps is irrelevant if your objective is to have him value you as a prize, rather than as a person.
What, after all, is the goal of dating? For readers of The Rules, the goal is marriage, pure and simple, but I have to assume that in most cases for most people, the goal of dating is to get to know each other well enough to have a sense of the kind of relationship - and the kind of life - you could have together. For people following the guidance of this book (and other books like it), the goal is to convince the man that he loves you. But in many cases this is a man you know awfully little about!
From the point of view of The Rules, you are dating to win him, without getting to know him and without him really getting to know you. Does that sound like the formula for a successful marriage? Sounds like the formula for plenty of unpleasant (and potentially incompatible) surprises! It puts quite a different spin on the world if, instead, you look at dating as something you do to get to know him well enough to decide if you are really interested, while at the same time he's getting to know you. And if you should fortunately come to the conclusion that both think the other is ideal, you have a relationship and you actually know each other and what to expect!
Which brings us to the key difficulty of all of this. Is the kind of man who would find the behaviors in The Rules attractive really the kind of man you want? Is the kind of man who would be intrigued by a woman who doesn't speak to him unless she is spoken to, the kind of man who is going to do his share of child care or laundry?
Not a chance. Believe me, Ice Princesses (as Herb Goldberg calls them in The Hazards of Being Male) do not win the caring, sensitive types. If he believes in and knows how to take part in meaningful communication, he is long gone from the gal who won't talk to him on the phone for more than ten minutes at a time! If you want a male chauvinist pig, go with The Rules. If you were hoping for a little more equality in a relationship, burn "the rules."
Actually, in my experience much of the underlying assumption here is flawed to begin with. We've run singles dances for almost 25 years and I get to see the who-asks-who-to-dance process in full force every week. If most men found a challenge so irresistible, then the women who steadily turn down the men who ask them to dance should find more and more men asking them to dance. While there might be a brief flurry while the die hards and the masochists hang in there, the woman who turns down everyone who asks her to dance will very soon find that no one asks her to dance. And if she continues to come to the dance, eventually the regulars warn the newcomers about her and no guy will ask her to dance, ever. Men may like challenges but throwing themselves against the high probability of rejection does not seem to be one of them.
Besides, can you really expect that the man who pursued you primarily because you were such a challenge will be satisfied once he has "caught" you? Isn't it logical that someone so motivated by the hunt will soon need new "prey"? So, tempting as The Rules may sound with their "guarantees," consider seriously whether the man who would find such deception appealing is really the kind of man you want.
Still, there is some wheat among the chaff of The Rules:
Your odds for meeting Mr. Right do go up considerably if you
work hard to get out regularly and meet lots of people.
Don't try to change him; if you don't like him the way he is, why are you hanging around?
Don't rush sex.
Don't date a married man.
And it is better to lead a busy, interesting life, not so that he will consider you "hard to get" but so that you will find your life interesting, you will be in places where you meet interesting people, and you will be of interest to the interesting people you meet!