Monday, October 15, 2012

The Rules - Revisited

I recently re-read the 1995 book The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right, by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider as research for one of my works in progress. It was an eye-opener. Released just as online dating was becoming a trend, this book seemed so wrong, so sexist and so manipulative at the time that it was scorned and spurned by many readers.

It’s a guide to capturing and marrying the absolute right guy and frankly, the rules that are explained to the reader – obviously meant for women looking for a husband – ARE indeed all those things. At the same time, after two marriages, several years of dating and a bunch of years of just living, the girls are right about much of what they say.

The basic premise is that men must be challenged, it’s in their nature, so the best thing a woman can do is remain aloof, allusive and mysterious. The mystery is created and maintained by not revealing anything about themselves, until the time is right and even then, don’t reveal unattractive things – until you have a ring on your finger.

I broke every one of their rules. Just take a gander at the first 5 and you’ll see why my dating history is spotty at best:

#1 Be a “Creature Unlike Any Other” – Seriously? I love the concept but the execution is a little difficult. You must BELIEVE you are a creature unlike any other or be a damn good actress. However, if you can pull this off – I’m sure it has value.

#2 Don’t Talk to a Man First (and Don’t Ask Him to Dance) – Are they kidding? No, they are not and they do have point here, but I hadn’t read the rules and did both of these things whenever I spotted someone I didn’t want other women to snag first. Their take on it is that you may get the guy, but only for the one time. In the long run, men don’t like it to be easy to capture your heart. I have to agree.

#3 Don’t Stare at Men or Talk Too Much – Guilty on both counts. I always look directly at someone when I’m talking to them, male or female. This can be off-putting for some people, but men interpret this as overt interest. I’ve had men assume I was interested just because I looked at them when I spoke to them. Whoa! And telling me not to talk too much – well, you may as well ask me to wear a muzzle, because that’s what it would take. I love to explore a new person or situation, and have a tendency to ask a lot of questions. Sure, I can tamp that down a little, but I’m sure I’ll still be the more talkative of the two in any coupling.

#4 Don’t Meet Him Halfway or Go Dutch on a Date – I was famous for this, but my motivation was mostly to be safe and not to owe the gentleman anything. The authors contend that you don’t owe him anything but the pleasure of their company, and they are right. Also, being too accommodating IS a mistake. You are quickly taken for a pushover. Sad, but true.

#5 Don’t Call Him and Rarely Return His Calls – Okay, this is great advice. I wish I had read it when I was dating. I never assume there is going to be any game playing in a relationship, but Fein and Schneider say it’s to be expected and phone gamesmanship is essential. Again, appearing to be unattainable is the goal.

Okay, a quick breakdown is required here.  In my opinion, it is true that men are hardwired to want to pursue their mate and any other goal that crosses their paths. There are some exceptions, but as a rule, it’s a pretty correct assumption. I’ve been amazed in my life at the women who have attracted devoted mates and how often that woman is a complete and utter ice queen, unable to be satisfied with life, their mate and any other circumstance. The more difficult to please, the harder some men try to win the approval of that woman.

So, I conclude that as much as I’d like for The Rules to be wrong-minded, much of what the book professes is true and right. As much as we’ve progressed as a society, we still program women to be giving and men to be achievers.  Until that changes, if it ever does, then most of The Rules will still apply.

If you get a chance, read or re-read The Rules and see what you think nearly 17 years later.


  1. Kathy, I always broke all of the rules and then some. I will admit that I seldom "cold called" a guy I was interested in or dating but I did return phone calls. As for the other rules well let's just say that I am more interested in being me than in finding a guy. If I can't be me then I don't want to be in a relationship.



    1. LOL - Ardee-ann, I can always count on you to be yourself! I guess that's the truth for me, too. After all, this book was written for women who wanted to get married, and that was never my goal. But I found myself surprised at how true so much of what they wrote seemed to be.

      Thanks for stopping, my friend.

  2. stumbled across your blog inadvertently while winnowing out twitter traffic. actually like all of them. this one got my attention. i've heard of the 'rules' book you're writing about. your take on it from the viewpoint of your 'advanced' age and experiences with men is very interesting and i'm sure will cause you to drop several points in the estimation of younger women. from the standpoint of an older male who still appreciates women, this is a fascinating topic. the funny thing is virtually every generation thinks they invented sex and romance and relationships and beyond that they can do it BETTER than those old fogeys from whose loins they sprang. remember, old people don't know anything.

    there are some simple truths that never change. men will chase. the harder they have to work for a woman, assuming she sends out some kind of signal that she's ultimately available, the more they will want her.

    having a woman make the first move always warms a man's heart - and other places - but it is a very self confident man that doesn't have a thought somewhere in the back of his mind :"if she put herself out to me, how many other guys has she gone after - or is she still going after". I know. caveman stuff. but guys think that way.

    same way - calling and going after a guy - making the first call after a date - is regarded by young women as no big deal and i'm sure young men feel the same way. but, it will lessen the way in which a man looks at a woman. not in big ways, significant ways, but it's there. and the harder women chase, almost every guy is going to retreat. Once he's had sex with her.

    And I know I will be crucified for this, but the truth is that women are made and built to bear children and marriage came about as a way to make sure men didn't spread their seed as men are wont to do and then leave the mother alone to raise their offspring.

    no rule is universal. millions of women of course won't. they don't want children. or they'll have them and they'll divorce or raise children as single moms, but history and biology can't be denied. and a lot of women in their 20s who think that's all crap and enjoy having a lot of men, will wake up one morning in their 30s and realize from out of nowhere they've become their mothers and want that life. With the ability to work, and with supportive spouses, but they want the rugrats.

    And, men for the most part don't look forward to and fantacize about marriage the way most (maybe only a lot) of women do. we don't dream of the weddings. we don't dream of little toddlers running to us with arms outstretched. we just don't. so most men in some sense have to be manipulated or cajoled into walking down that aisle.

    that doesn't change the fact that marriage is the best thing that ever happens to most guys, even if the marriages fail. they give us children and bonds drop-by daddies never achieve. marriage gives emotional rewards that i believe most men never know they want until they realize what they have.

    anyway, good blog.

    1. Thanks for posting a comment - and in such detail! I was so surprised not to have more people comment - whether in agreement or not. I agree with you on all points and heartily with the last one - that marriage is the best thing that ever happens to most guys. Once married, I think most men like marriage and seem to remarry must faster than woman (anecdotal evidence only).

      Anyway - it is very interesting to look at things from the 10,000 foot view age gives you. Nice to meet you.