Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Rules

I'm back with more gems from Sister Dear's Interpersonal Communications class! I'm finding some of the reading material to be both fascinating and amusing :). Earlier this week I posted on one method of finding a guy ;) and then a post on anxiety which I thought was timely given the topic of relationships, contentedness, etc. I'm still looking at articles on male-female relationships. Hannah also gave me an interesting piece on family relationships that I hope to scan in the near future, though right now I've barely skimmed it. I am enjoying more free time this week since the public schools are on Spring Break :). No tutoring!!!

The most interesting piece I've looked at so far is The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right. It's actually an entire book, but Hannah's professor just xeroxed off a few chapters for the class. If I ever find it at a thrift store or garage sale, I think I may have to get it, just out of curiosity. It's very interesting in a sad, twisted sort of way. It's essentially a manual for playing the old-fashioned game of "hard-to-get". There's about an ounce of truth to the concepts presented, and several hundred pounds of hogwash.

I have to applaud the authors, Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, for starting off on the right foot. They make no bones about the fact that women follow The Rules to find a lasting romance and a life-long marriage, of which most women dream, even if they hesitate to admit it (emphasis mine):

Modern women aren't to talk loudly about wanting to get married. We had grown up dreaming about being the president of the company, not the wife of the president. So, we quietly passed The Rules on from friend to friend, somewhat embarassed because they seemed so, well, '50s. Still, we had to face it: as much as we loved being powerful in business, for most of us, that just wasn't enough. Like our mothers and grandmothers before us, we also wanted husbands who would be our best friends. Deep inside, if the truth be told, we really wanted to get married - the romance, the gown, the flowers, the presents, the honeymoon - the whole package.

Perhaps I should begin by summarizing The Rules. The basic idea behind the book is that men like a challenge and will only appreciate something for which they have to work hard. We single women should be the elusive, lofty desirables who make men want to come after us. In the words of the authors (emphasis mine):

They [The Rules] are a simple way of acting around men that can help any woman win the heart of the man of her dreams. . . The purpose of the rules is to make Mr. Right obsessed with having you as his by making yourself seem unattainable.

My problem is the mentality that is behind The Rules. The authors seem to ignore the fact that the end does not justify the mean, nor does good ambition always result in success in the long-run. I think The Rules, at least the little I am acquainted with them, seem based on manipulation and snobbery almost - an attempt at superficiality that is a dangerous way to enter any relationship. Follow Rules X, Y, and Z to snag Mr. Right and live happily ever after!!??

The portions of the book that I read are riddled with anecdotal evidence. So-and-so didn't follow The Rules and ended up with Bozo; so-and-so did follow the rules and is married to Mr. Perfect who adores her. Wow, those few examples really convince me. I love all sweeping generalizations. *rolls eyes* The authors make some wonderful promises to those who commit to follow The Rules. Just a sampling:

If you follow The Rules, you can rest assured that your husband will treat you like a queen - even when he's angry with you. Why? Because he spent so much time trying to get you. You have become so precious to him that he doesn't take you for granted.

and. . .

When you do The Rules, you don't have to worry about being abandoned, neglected, or ignored!

and. . .

Read The Rules. Follow them completely (not a la carte) and you will be happy you did. How many of us know women who never quite trust their husbands and always feel slightly insecure? They may even see therapists to talk about why their husbands don't pay attention to them. The Rules will save you about $125 an hour in therapy bills.

Ironic that the authors offer $200 e-mail consultations or 1-hour phone consultations for $250 - and I'm not making this up!

The authors admit that playing hard-to-get isn't easy work, and they consistently acknowledge that:

It's easy to do The Rules with men you're not that interested in. Naturally, you don't call them, instantly return their calls, or send them love letters. Sometimes your indifference makes them so crazy about you that you end up marrying one of them. That's because you did The Rules (without even thinking about it) and he proposed! But settling for less is not what this book is about. The idea is to do The Rules with the man you're really crazy about. This will require effort, patience, and self-restraint. . . Keep thinking, "How would I behave if I weren't that interested in him?" And then behave that way. Would you offer endless encouragement to someone you didn't really like? Would you stay on the phone with him for hours? Of course not!

So, we women are therefore instructed to turn a cold-shoulder to the men we like, because that will drive them crazy and make them love us even more. Isn't that nice?

The authors first discovered The Rules from their friend Melanie, a girl who seemed to just attract men like bees to honey. Finally the authors asked Melanie what her secret was, and she told them:

One day, after years of watching girls like Melanie snag the men of our dreams, we asked Melanie how she got such a great catch. She took pity on us and told us about The Rules. She said that we were nice but we talked too much and were overly eager, and that we mistakenly tried to be "friends" with men rather than elusive butterflies, or, as she put it, "creatures unlike any other." Needless to say, we were offended by what seemed to us to be downright trickery and manipulation.

Hmm, I'm rather offended as well. Creatures unlike any other could be good (depending), but elusive butterflies? It's interesting to note that Melanie's grandmother (who passed The Rules down to her) was considered a romantic success because of all the proposals she received in her youth. Granted, I'm not trying to blame every refused proposal on the young lady in question, who may well be innocent in the matter (hehe, thinking of a certain scene with Lizzy and Mr. Collins. . . ), but a general pattern of frequent proposals and subsequent refusals does give one reason to question the motives and behaviors of the said young lady. . .

We're not allowed to be friendly to men, says Melanie? That rubs me the wrong way. . . I really don't like this notion of turning a cold-shoulder to men in whom you are interested, coupled with the picture of an "elusive butterfly." My dislike is founded on a number of reasons, most notably the following two: I like to be nice to people, and I don't like to communicate false feelings to people. This post is already rather long, so I'll expand my thoughts on that in my next post, to be completed very shortly, Lord willing.

It is interesting to note that The Rules hinge on the "believing in yourself" mentality that just makes me nauseated. Anything with that sort of mindset is not for me. I gag over commercials that urge people to buy something because "you're worth it." *shudder* Definitely not my cup of tea. Evidently it is the cup of tea from which a bonafide Rules Girl is supposed to drink: You tell yourself, "Any man would be lucky to have me," until it sinks in and you start to believe it.

There also seems to be an over-obsession with outward appearance. I will give the authors this: they recognize the value of neatness and orderliness and encourage good eating and exercise to keep your body health. They also encourage feminine dress, which I fully support! Of course their idea of feminine clothes is a little different from mine. . . but I'll spare you the details. After the positives I mentioned, though, their attention to outward appearance seems to go downhill:

Don't leave the house without wearing makeup. Put lipstick on even when you go jogging! Do everything you possibly can to put your best face forward. If you have a bad nose, get a nose job; color gray hair; grow your hair long. . . Manicures, pedicures, periodic facials, and massages should become part of your routine. And don't forget to spray on an intoxicating perfume when you go out.

I'm not claiming that any of the above is wrong nor that I don't do some of the above myself (see recent post on long hair. . . ), but it is more the way the authors insist that all these things are needed to attract men. Lipstick while jogging? Give me a break!

A final point of irritation is the absolute trust the authors have in their method. The reader is entreated, trust this process. It seems The Rules are viewed as a magical formula to find a perfect guy, and neither the formula nor the perfect guy exists on this earth! Call me strange, but I think that God is the author of romance. If I thought it was a matter of chance and game, I'd have reason to fret and worry with discontent at my current single status. As it is, though, I am commanded to rest in God's sovereignty, trusting in His perfect plan. Paints a different picture, does it not?

So, all in all I don't think I'll become a Rules Girl. I think I'll just be a girl of the Golden Rule, which certainly doesn't command me to lead men in an intricate game of guessing and flirtation. More importantly, I'm striving to be a Praying Girl, realizing that ultimately my romantic future is in the hands of He who created the love between man and woman. My method may not sell zillions of copies or be translated into 27 languages. It also won't garner me oodles of proposals like Melody or her grandmother, but then, as Amy from Little Women would say, "You only need one, if he's the right one."


Anna Naomi said...

Wonderful blog you have here, with great posts! I too, am an old-fashioned kind of girl, and love every minute of it! The book "An Old-Fashioned Girl" is definitely on my favorites list! I enjoy reading more of your blog in the days to come!

God bless!

Turn2 said...


I always enjoy browsing your blog! I heard of The Rules a few years ago when it came out and was the rage of all the talk shows. From the world's perspective, it was pretty old-fashioned (the woman being the "chasee" rather than the chaser).

For myself, I am not a fan of aloofness. Be honest, be real. Trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, I think that they are saying women should display an aura of confidence. By their methods, however, it seems to be a false confidence.

To me, confidence (not to be confused with self-determination or independance from any and all other people) is very alluring while a lack of confidence, as shown by overly aggressive pursuit, may be perceived by a gentleman as desperation, which is not at all attractive, in my view.

When in doubt, I would refer to The Song of Solomon and Naomi's advice to Ruth. That seemed to work pretty well. :-)

Keep on blogging!!

Susan said...

I stopped by your blog last night and enjoyed looking around. I love Louisa May Alcott's book too, as evidenced by my blog title :).

I agree that women should display a sense of confidence, though not false confidence as The Rules seem to encourage. In fact I will expand on that more in my next post! Thanks for the references to SoS and Ruth.

Adrian C. Keister said...

Bravo, Susan! I like. :-)

I can tell you, I have been manipulated in the past, and it doesn't feel right at all.

I think you understand headship. How can a man really be the head if his wife manipulates everything to make him do what she wants? Much better simply to ask him. If he loves her, he will do it.

It brings to mind that fun quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where the mother says, "The man may be the head, but the wife is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants." It's funny, but I'm not so sure it should be true about "the ideal" marriage.

Honesty is absolutely crucial to a relationship. That's why I'm even inclined to frown on "little white lies." Surely there are better ways to surprise someone. Not telling someone something (the Proverbs have loads of verses about keeping your tongue) is quite different from telling an untruth.

In Christ.

Susan said...

Glad you liked it, Adrian :). I had a little too much fun writing this post and the following one.

It seems we see eye-to-eye on headship :). Yes, the MBFGW quote, though funny, really irritated me in the movie - okay, I wasn't a fan of the movie as it was. . . Make something funny (like that quote) and people soak it in easier - a typical ploy in our culture, unfortunately.

Ah, someone who has a problem with "white" lies. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It is rare to find someone else (outside my immediate family) who agrees with me in that regard. It's hard for me to trust someone who I can't believe, even if my mistrust is founded on "littler" issues. The boy who cried wolf comes to mind. . .

Sherrin said...

This was a fun post to read! Very well written and detailed, serious yet funny :).

Lydia said...

I'm jumping into this a little late but thought I would share my two cents. Here they are for what they're worth:

Very intriguing rules. I had never heard of them but I think overall I agree with you, Susan. From what I've seen, such a pattern doesn't work well. It reminded me of the Adventures in Odyssey episode when Jessie had a crush on Jimmy. She has it from "a very good source" (Connie) that if she ignores Jimmy he "will come to his senses and like her." The ensuing fiasco is hilarious after Eugene gives the opposite advice to Jimmy saying that if he acts like he's "deeply in like with her" she will flee from him in a heartbeat. I think Whit's advice was the best: Be truthful but be sensitive of others feelings.

I have to say that I think there is a small amount of truth to the "Rules" theory that if you act too head-over-heels it will scare him off. No guy wants to marry a girl who has a way over-estimated sense of his being perfect. After all, no one is perfect so it would be a huge let down to the one when it's discovered that the other is less than ideal. If you have read, "For Women Only" I would follow that advice about how to treat men rather than this poppycock. It certainly helped me in knowing how to better understand and relate to my father and brothers.

And the whole notion of going all out to "doll" yourself up is absurd. I realize guys are attracted by what they see but if I have to go to the effort of getting a nose job and regular massages and pedicures, forget it. With older brothers, I have some insight into a guy's thoughts on girls and relationships. It isn't always seen as a positive to marry a "high-maintenance" girl (One who spends hours or loads of dollars on her outward appearance). I think it's important to not neglect yourself in your appearance but don't go to the extreme either. I like to think of the analogy of being a daughter of the King (Jesus). If you were a daughter of a king you wouldn't dress like a slob or neglect daily hygiene or ignore how you looked to others but I don't think it would be appropriate to be consumed with your outward appearance every waking moment. It actually disgusts me when I see what is obviously a natually attractive woman that cakes on make-up and has a mile-high hairdo and fake nails. I figure they must be very insecure about themselves to put on that kind of show. As for me, I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin. It's what God gave me and it's what I'll keep until God gives me a glorified body someday. The beauty issue could be a whole post of itself. Hmmm, that may be on the agenda in the future.

Well, I better quit now. My apologies, dear Susan, to be going-on and on. I hope you don't mind. I actually like long comments from people on my blog but I know not everyone has the time or patience to leave them.
You are on a roll with your blogging. I've enjoyed many of your recent posts. Keep them coming! :)

Susan said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sherrin. I visited your blog this morning and left a comment :). Your posts seem very well thought-out and written, and I'm looking forward to reading more!

Don't worry, Lydia, I like long comments; in fact I'm the queen of long comments myself. My record was 41 paragraphs, but that's another story. . . :-D

I agree with everything you said in your comment. I did mention in passing that there is an "ounce of truth" to The Rules because there really is, as you said. Men don't like to be smothered or drooled over. It's just nauseating! I talked about this a bit more in the following post, but mainly focused on the negative aspects of the rules instead of the positive.

No guy wants to marry a girl who has a way over-estimated sense of his being perfect. After all, no one is perfect so it would be a huge let down to the one when it's discovered that the other is less than ideal.

Yes, yes, absolutely! That's the danger of completely turning 180 degrees from the rules. Turning 90 degrees (or maybe 135 degrees) is better in this instance ;).

I haven't read For Women Only but I've heard it's very good. I hope to read it eventually. I thought you only had one older brother (and two younger)?

I loved your point about dressing like a Daughter of the King. I am all for neatness and grooming in a moderate manner. I try to dress semi-nice on a daily basis because I am a Daughter of the King. It is so easy to take that to an extreme, though! You seem to have a nice way of striking a balance :). Hehe, mile-high hairdo - that tickled me. I am so with you on that. . . I'd like to do a beauty post sometime as well, but we'll see :-D. I'd love it if you addressed the issue.

The Happy Feminist said...

Gaaaah. The Rules drive me nuts. I am supposed to believe that any man should be thrilled to be with me but I still have to get a nose job?!? Come on.

These "rules" are predicated on the notion that we women are pathetic little creatures with whom men never would want to spend time unless we can turn ourselves into valuable objects to be acquired.

Excellent post by the way!