March 9, 1997
Just What the Hell are "The Rules" Anyway?
So Iím sitting at work the other night, and a romantically-challenged friend decides to toss away her copy of the million-selling guidebook for dating in the Ď90s, "The Rules." She dismisses the tome, saying a friend gave it to her, and she didnít really see any use in following said Rules.
Well, in the interest of research, I gobbled up this book, happy to read just what it was that was being programmed into so many womenís heads these days. What I found scared me, enlightened me, and gave me a bit more understanding into the reason I find myself 30 years old and single.
Some of "The Rules" are just common sense tidbits of advice.
Rule 23 ó "Donít Date a Married Man." Iím okay with that one; from my perspective, it thins out the already crowded field of competitors.
Rule 34 ó "Love Only Those Who Love You," seems okay in my book.
Rule 35 ó "Be Easy To Live With" is a welcome attitude. Does this mean we can leave the seat up every now and again, without it becoming a Federal case? (Not habitually, mind you Ė just every now and then. Iím single, not a moron.)
Then there are some Rules I question.
Rule One ó "Be A Creature Unlike Any Other," seems to be of limited use. Perhaps the Rules authors were merely foretelling this yearís remarkable developments in the field of cloning technology. (Dolly the lamb clone is many things, but she is not a creature unlike any other! Fortunately, I do not consider her appropriate dating material. It's not that bad ... yet.)
Rule 17 ó "Let Him Take the Lead" is a bit of a downer, too. You know, itís almost the year 2000. I thought weíd gotten past that?
Rule 19 ó "Donít Open Up To Fast" sounds more like advice for a baby flower than a strategy for dating.
Here are the Rules that really bum me out the most:
Rule 2 ó "Donít Talk to a Man First (And Donít Ask Him to Dance)." This rule should be applied vigorously by people who really, really donít want to meet people. I guarantee youíll spend a lot of your time in silence if you follow this one.
Rule 5 ó "Donít Call Him, and Rarely Return His Calls." Good only if youíre in eighth grade.
Rule 7 ó "Donít Accept a Saturday Night Date after Wednesday." This Rule makes no determination if you already have a date for the weekend or not. Instead, it is a blanket exhortation to stay home, and not go out at all (which, strangely, seems to be the "real world" logic behind many of the Rules).
Now, we get in to the Rules that I think are downright scary.
Rule 25 ó "Practice, Practice, Practice" tells women to stay true to this cult-like philosophy.
Rule 27 ó "Do The Rules, Even When Your Friends and Parents Think Itís Nuts." Notice this one does not even say "IF your friends and parents think itís nuts." This rule comes right out and admits it: If you follow these Rules, people you love and respect will think you are crazy. (Guess what? Theyíll be right, too.)
Rule 31 ó "Donít Discuss The Rules With Your Therapist." Am I the only one alarmed by this? I believe a similar encouragement is given in the Hare Krishna pamphlet. "If you decided to join us, for Godís sake, donít discuss it with a trained mental health professional!"
Rule 33 ó "Do The Rules and Youíll Live Happily Ever After." I disagree.
"For some reason, where love is concerned, ignorance and confusion are not a handicap to being considered an expert."
"If what appears to be a passionate attraction is able to sustain itself for at least a year, then it can correctly be defined as love, even if by that point both people actively hate each other."
Merrill used to be Dave Lettermanís gal, and you can see why. She writes with flair and insight, just staying on this side of the point where you want to say, "Okay, Merrill, it canít be that bad!" That fact that sheís laugh-out-loud funny helps you deal with her huge dose of bitterness. With chapter titles like "Tips on Dating a Crazy Person," and "Marriage: What the Hell is Going On Exactly?" you get a pretty good idea of Merrillís outlook on the dating game. Look for her book in the humor section of your local bookstore. (That's where I found, and bought it.) Itís a lot more fun, and a hell of a lot funnier than any Rules Iíve read lately.
Why the focus on love books this week? Absolutely no reason at all. Really.