As research for a project I’m working on I have recently been immersing myself in the world of self-help and dating manuals which lead me to my discovery that “The Rules” should quickly be removed from the world and immediately from my local library. I will take the fine, I will accept it as my burden. Call me Saviour of Women, the martyr of matriarchy. Because, it. Is. Bad.
To save us all time here’s a list of reasons NOT to read it.
1. You can’t help but imagine it being read aloud in your head by Sally Fields crazy dance-mom in Donnie Darko. ‘When a woman meets a man she likes, she sometimes, without realising, relaxes’ and on clever women ‘they feel their diplomas and salaries entitle them to do more in life than wait for the phone to ring’ it must be these kind of women who invite men to lunch ‘a common ploy’. I expect she’s going to start screaming at me for not taking Sparkle Motion seriously.
2. Sweeping generalisations. I love them as much as the next guy but The Rules really LOVES THEM. The behaviour of the two sexes can be reduced in Rules terms to black or white. Michael Jackson would not have been a fan. You know when everyone painted their houses terracotta? This book is the Dulux colour chart of relationships and every colour is terracotta. There’s no room for gender difference or accounting for taste. No deviation. Terra-fucking-cotta.
3. Thought Sex and the City’s sexual politics was antiquated? The Rules seems to have been written in the fifties with advice suggesting when a relationship doesn’t work out ‘go to a singles dance. You’re an optimist. You brush away a tear so it doesn’t smudge your make up and you move on.’ A singles dance? Might as well make it a weenie roast.
4. No maybe not actually because within the first few pages there are so many more examples of this type of thinking and god awful dialectic I had bitten through my own fist. Right through. Honestly.
5. I’ve always freely taken the piss out of people who believe you really should get up earlier than your man to apply your make up so he never witnesses you at your most gut wrenchingly horrific but I didn’t realise people could actually peddle this crap for cash. If you follow The Rules your sole purpose in life is to ‘be a creature unlike any other’ and that includes being eternally grateful your husband wants to shag you let alone let you wash his socks.
6. A sample of the myriad quotes I could provide to prove its lunacy: If you follow The Rules you’re not allowed to talk to men but must wait for the right one ‘the one who talks to you first, calls and does all the work’. Emily Davidson weeps.
7. There are 55 rules in The Rules. If relationships requires more instructions than an IKEA Billy bookcase you need to question what the hell you’re doing and why you have eons of time on your hands to apply them all. Your friends hate you and your batshit rules.
8. Doesn’t matter there’s no room fro friends in The Rules. ‘Do the rules even when your friends and parents think it’s nuts’. You don’t need a sub-list of all the many, many things your parents and friends think are nuts that you really shouldn’t do. Narcotics for example, which prompt declarations like: ‘a conversation begins. It’s going well. You’re both animated. You laugh, at the room, at the night, at the jokes, but you don’t bare your soul, you’re feelings. You’re light-hearted. You come on slow, not like gang-busters’!
9. They’re not just for heterosexual relationships though the writers of The Rules have deigned to fart a faux rule for gay people. It’s different if you’re gay: ‘ You can show some interest, you can return some phone calls. It’s different from a male-female relationship because if the man doesn’t ask the woman out, that’s it, it’s over.’ This book is over.
10. As if you need another reason not to buy, borrow or steal The Rules, imagine if it fell out of your bag. More embarrassing than that time you called your teacher mum (or the time you jumped on your dad’s back in the swimming pool before realising it wasn’t your dad – ed.)
Picture courtesy of Sequential Crush, probably the best source on the internet for defunct romance comics ever.