Monday, 13 October 2014

Book Review - The New Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider

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Back in 1995, Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider published The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right. In it they claimed to have found a sure-fire recipe for finding your perfect man which largely consisted of not returning a man’s phone calls and generally playing hard to get. Behaving like ‘no’ means ‘yes’ basically. The book hit all the bestseller lists but raised a lot of questions like “Isn’t that kind of sexist?” and “Won’t that kind of behaviour make guys think it’s OK to act like stalky weirdoes?” And most pertinently, “What the actual fuck?”

Fein and Schneider have clearly decided that another generation of women are clearly ready for their unfounded wisdom and have released “The New Rules: the dating dos and don’ts for the digital generation.”

Although “Rules 2: This time it’s rulesier” would have been better.

Apparently they have been inundated by women who just desperate to live their lives by the rules set out for them in their by now presumably dog-eared original copies of The Rules but who are flummoxed and confused about how to follow them in this crazy new world of texting and social media.

I’m not convinced that there was a lot of work put into updating the original. Mostly they seem to have put “or email” after every instance of “phone” and called it an afternoon. There are sections on Facebook and texting but they’ve already told you to remain aloof and not return his phone calls for four days. Having separate chapters telling you not to answer his texts for four days and not to answer his Facebook messages for four days seems a little unnecessary.

Who am I kidding, though? The whole damn thing is unnecessary.  Who reads this sort of thing? Who writes this sort of thing? Who decided that apropos of no kind of qualifications or relevant experience whatsoever, they are the perfect person to dictate to women how to behave?

And dictate really isn’t too strong a word in this instance. Everything in Rules world is black or white. You follow Fein and Schneider’s rules to the letter or your life will be one big fuck-up. End of.

The absolutely certainty of their assertions made is astonishingly.  One edict which is continually hammered home is the rule that the woman can never make the first move. Ever. You can’t ask a man out on a date or even say ‘hi’ first because if you do, you will fuck up everything. There are no exceptions in Rules World.

You know that marriage of yours that you thought has been going swimmingly for the last fifteen years? Well, if it all began when you struck up a conversation with your husband unbidden, then your whole relationship is on borrowed time. It’s a hollow sham.

Because, you see, what a woman has to remember is that “she cannot be the aggressor without eventually regretting it. Like it or not, being the one asked out, not the asker is the only way it works with a man.” Well, that’s us told then. Women – know your limits.


Fein and Schneider recognise that everybody is an individual. You are a creature unlike any other, they tell us. They even shorten Creature Unlike Any Other to CUAO and use it a lot so you know they mean business. You are unique, they tell us, you have your own style. Be yourself.

As long, that it, as your self is enigmatic, doesn’t hold strong opinions and always allows the man to do most of the talking in a conversation. Oh and when it comes to your looks, the authors are unequivocal that you should do the following
  • Grow your hair long and wear it straight. (Invest in some hair-straighteners curly-haired ladies! Your future happiness depends upon it.)
  • Wear bronzer
  • Swap your glasses for contact lenses
  • Always wear high heels, tops that show cleavage and tight skirts or skinny jeans
  • Wear three inch hoop earrings at all times
So, you know, be yourself. Unless your self isn’t exactly like the ideal woman described above, In which case, be her instead.

Less sexist than The Rules
To be fair to Fein and Schneider – and I don’t know why I’m bothering beyond the sheer mental exercise of the thing – not every single piece of advice in the book is bad. They encourage their readers to make an effort to get and meet new people which is fair enough.

Of course, once you’ve met someone you are then encouraged to play a bunch of silly manipulative games in the manner of an attention-seeking nine year old at a slumber party. Don’t make the first move. Don’t ever pay for dinner. Don’t talk too much in the first few weeks.  Always end a phone or online conversation first. You don’t even have to wait for a lull in the conversation, just say I have to run!” and hang up. Men love that, apparently.

Most importantly, don’t ever suggest the day or time for a date.  I don’t know why this is so important. Presumably it totally emasculates a man if you say “How about Thursday at eight?” to him. You might as well just chop his penis off and be done with it, you brazen hussy.

This rule is so important that the authors genuinely suggest that you have the below conversation rather than just answer a straightforward question.
Him: Hey, want to go out some time?
You: Sure. That sounds good.
Him: Okay. When are you free?
You: Well, when did you have in mind?
Him: How‘s tomorrow, Tuesday night, for drinks?
(Of course being a Rules girl, you would have to say no to a last minute date)
You: So sorry, but I already have plans.
Him: Then how’s Wednesday night?
You: Actually, work is really crazy this week!
Him: Ok, so how’s your weekend?
You: The weekend is good (but don’t mention any specific date)
Him: Okay, how’s your Friday night look?
You: Actually, I may have plans Friday night.
Him: Saturday night?
You: Sure, Saturday night would be great!
No matter what it takes you mustn’t ever suggest a date (or agree to most of the dates he suggests, apparently). It’s like the yes/no game. But more stupid. “Remember, he has to fish and hunt otherwise it will be too easy and he will get bored.” Sure, who can resist a challenge like having to rattle off every day of the bloody week every time you want to go out for dinner?

Giving this book one star is absurdly generous. This book isn’t just stupid, trite, badly written and more than a little sexist. It’s hateful. It reduces dating to a reality show-style competition in which underhanded tactics are the only way to win. It portrays men and women as adversaries. When it comes to finding happiness, aren’t we all on the same side? If you can accept than any women actually follow this piffle (and I dearly hope that they don’t and that all the authors’ case studies are as phoney as they sound), then the picture of women to come out of this book, is that of shallow manipulative players who favour  point-scoring over formulating any kind of connection.

Not pictured: bungee jumping
It’s men though who really get the rough end of the deal in Rules World. Sure the women may be playing you, but those big dumb blokes are just so very easy to control. Read this book and you will be able to pull the strings of the meat puppet of your choosing until he has no choice but to bung a ring on your finger.

As the rules tell us: “Men are extremely visual and can’t be attracted to a woman just because she is nice, smart or funny.” Hey, all men ever, I didn’t know that about you before. Thank god I have Fein and Schneider to set me straight.

To sum up, and just in case you were in any doubt about how different men and women are, this is what actually passes for advice in a self-help book in 2013:

“Men and women are not the same romantically. Men love a challenge while women love security.  Men love to buy and sell companies as well as extreme sports like mountain climbing and bungee jumping, while women love to talk about dates and watch romantic comedies.”

Hahahahahahahahahahah. Piffle.


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