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Dear Breakup Girl,
What is the deal with "The Rules?"
Why do you not like/advocate them? Please don't take me for someone affiliated
with them trying to force you into admitting X, but I'm really curious! I've
been to the Web page, and I don't know, some of their stuff makes sense (in
theory -- of course, communism worked in theory too, no?).
The reason I'm asking is that I'm 18-years-old and have had several disastrous
relationships. I'm insecure yet very forward (don't ask how that works -- very
complicated and very silly). So, because I value your opinion so highly, I'm
asking you to tell me what's wrong with the Rules, so that I can be comfortable
knowing that I will find a guy who loves me for being loud and direct and honest
(and a girl who will call a guy, rather than waiting for him to call me -- uh,
her) ... so I don't have to change. Right now, I'm feeling so pathetic about
my love life (or lack thereof) that I'm actually considering a change in who/what
I am -- how sad is that?! Please help...
-- Curious About The Rules
Dear Curious About the Rules,
Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right. You guys
know, they're all those hard-and-fast rules for playing hard-to-get that "guarantee"
a ring (or at least purchase of The
Rules II). Glad you asked, especially because my position on them is actually
much more measured than one* might imagine (and that's not just because I'm
playing it cool on our first letter).
Really, the most interesting thing about the Rules is
not the pro/con debate, but rather the fact that that book -- nay, that movement
-- was so damned popular. Debate all you want, but that stuff sold. Why? Because,
at a time when the politics of dating seem to be one huge quicksandy gray area,
people grope for a black-and-white bar that they can grab onto for dear (love)
life. "The Rules takes the guesswork out of dating," comments a supporter
in The Rules II. Exactly.
Anyway. Yeah, Curious. Of course "some of their
stuff makes sense." Common sense. Like, don't hurl yourself at someone,
repeatedly, if they show no interest. Why not? Not -- I say -- because
it's "unladylike," but because, yeah, it can be tacky,
and also self-defeating. Demoralizing. At a certain point, the chase becomes
a chill. No one wants that, but lots of people need to be reminded that they
Also, The Rules say, have a life. A life complete without
boyfriend ("... as best means of obtaining boyfriend," to paraphrase
Bridget Jones). Can't argue with that. But
the whole point, The Rules say, is to be busy and fulfilled so that you're not
focused on men -- and the way you do that is by reading The Rules, keeping The
Rules Journal, attending Rules Support Groups, using Rules notecards/calendars/lipstick
(made none of that up), etc. But don't think about men! Hmm.
Along the same lines, here's an actual quote from The
Rules II: "When you feel that nothing is happening in the man area, take
advantage of this downtime
and pursue that MBA or law degree, finish the
novel you started writing in college, redecorate or find a hobby."
Oh! With all this time I spent calling men, I could have gone to graduate
(And how about this one, from the second -- more evil
-- half of the first book: "When you do The Rules, you don't have to worry
battered." I'm speechless.)
Now. Technically, you can't do "some of their stuff"
and still do The Rules per se. As the authors write, "You can't do The
Rules a la carte." That wouldn't be The Rules. They're right. By definition,
and also by dint of the publishing/marketing genius who knew that only absolutes
-- like not, say, The Suggestions -- would take hold and cause such a stir.
I'd like to marry that smartypants. I mean, in a way.
That said, BG does say, Rules or no Rules, that
there is room for courtship (old-fashioned, even) without mind games,
for measuring your responses
without egg-timing your phone calls (see Rule no. 6). For not chasing, because
well really, who has time? It's not playing hard to get;
being hard to get. It's not being a doormat, it's being a diva. Heck,
if you want, call it a Rules Grrrl.
Where do you fit in? Sure, The Rules would tell you not
to be loud and forward (they'd also tell you not to have short hair and not
to be "funny," but I'll quit swiping). So you are breaking The
Rules, but are you breaking your own? That's where to look. If you want
to reinvent yourself somehow, that doesn't mean you need a day-vaca at
some sort of Stepford spa. Rather, consider: at this time and stage in your
life, is that (overcompensating for insecurity?) approach working for you? Maybe,
maybe not. Maybe, just maybe, you would find it more fun (key word!) to hang
back a little, to let the anticipation grow, to let the fizz fizz rather than
shaking things up so fast they go flat. Try it. It doesn't preclude being loud
and direct and honest as a person. See what happens.
In other words, make your own rules based on what you feel comfortable
with. or simply based on a new approach you'd like to try for the
heck of it. Like: I'll give guys 15 minutes before talking to them; I won't
e-mail them right back, whatever. If you stick to them, you'll
see if you like them. If you break them, you'll realize (a) Wow, bad rule! Don't
like! (b) Wow, [something else instructive about myself!],
or (c) Wow, I actually like this guy -- unlike the others -- enough to break
the rules for him!
* e.g. the husband of one of the authors, who, I am not kidding, stepped protectively
between her and me when we met in the green room of a TV show we were doing
together. How can I get me a guy like --? Oh, wait.