The Rules: Trashed and Revised

If you're single, female, dating, and especially if you watch Oprah, you've probably heard about the book, The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. The premise of the book is that if you want to snag Mr. Right, you should treat him like a man you don't want -- you know, don't call him, rarely return his calls, don't accept a Saturday night date after Wednesday, and by all means, follow The Rules to the letter or you'll never get married!It works like this: you deceive a man into loving you (or who you appear to be), only to show your true colors after it's too late, too expensive, or too embarrassing to back out. Well, my first objection is that not every woman is trying to catch a husband. Some of us just want to date, casually. Further, if one were to subscribe to The Rules, she'd still be wearing a corset and a powdered wig; or at least an apron and a bouffant hairdo. The authors themselves admit that The Rules seem, well, '50s, but -- and I quote -- "when followed, invariably serve to make most women irresistible to desirable men."So, obviously, this book is not for me. I mean hey, I'm a woman of the '90s, I'm in a management position, I'm supporting myself, and as much as I enjoy the company of men, I don't need one, nor do I want one hanging around all the time or calling me every day. So, I developed my own list of Guidelines for Casual Dating: Untested Dating Tips for Women of the '90s. Here's the first five:1. Be yourself, be unique (or at least know what's unique about yourself). Obviously this takes some self-reflection and some level of self-awareness. Ask yourself, what do I enjoy? How do I like to spend my time? Do I like to go out and party and laugh, or do I like to stay home, listen to music, and read books? Find out who you are, then look for someone who is compatible. The Rules will tell you things like take care of yourself, eat healthy, exercise (hmmm, sounds good), be neat and clean (because neat and clean women make better mothers of their children -- the kind who don't lose their kids at the beach -- Aaarrrrgggghhh!)2. If you like him, or think you might, talk to him. This may scare some men, but if they're scared that easily, you might find that they're controlling and too traditional if you are indeed a woman of the '90s. The Rules say, "Don't talk to a man first and don't ask him to dance. Women who are aggressive will be rebuffed and put through emotional hell." (Please see rule 16: Don't expect anything and you won't be disappointed.) Confident, self-assured women of the '90s, when rebuffed, will say to him, or to themselves, "Your loss."3. Don't stare, it's rude and it makes you look like a stalker. This is actually one of The Rules with which I agree, but not necessarily for the same reasons. The Rules say you shouldn't stare because you should make him work to get your attention. The Guidelines say, and so does your mother, that staring is rude. Make casual eye contact so he knows you're interested. Then, play it by ear.4. Don't dominate the conversation. The Rules say most men find chatty women annoying. While this may be true, a better reason to shut up and listen is because you might be exposed to a new perspective, learn something new, or expand your horizons. You should be genuinely interested in what he has to say. Note: This is appropriate with anyone, despite their sex or sexual persuasion.5. It's okay to go dutch; it's the '90s. The Rules will tell you that you should be honored and happy to let the man pay; after all, he wants to be chivalrous and he derives great pleasure from taking you out. Why deprive him of that? The downside is: (a) he may expect something in return that you're not ready to give, (b) if he doesn't get it, he'll feel used and taken advantage of, and (c) you may feel obligated to give it to him even if you don't want to. And that's bad for your emotional well-being. Caution: Some men are old fashioned, outdated, and living in the '50s, just like the book, The Rules. If you're husband hunting and you want one of those men, run, don't walk, to the nearest bookstore, buy a copy of The Rules and don't put it down until you've read the entire thing -- twice. Good luck and have fun!MORE GUIDELINES6. Don't call him too much (he'll get annoyed or scared); but return his calls.7. End the phone call after the first lull in the conversation.8. Don't accept a Saturday night date after Thursday. (Be flexible; if someone else canceled on you at the last minute, tell him that, go out, and have fun.)9. Be slightly late when he picks you up for the date; you don't want to be at his beck and call. But don't make him wait more than 10 minutes.10. Don't see him more than once a week. (Okay, maybe twice if he's really great.)11. No more than kissing and maybe light petting on the first date.12. Don't open up too much too fast, or you run the risk of being hurt.13. Don't rush into sex.14. Don't expect to change him, only train him.15. Don't act clingy; be prepared to take him or leave him.16. Don't expect anything and you won't be disappointed.17. Don't boss or demand; merely suggest, encourage, or persuade, noncommittally.18. In general, let him take the lead, but it's okay to be aggressive once in a while, especially if he likes it.19. Be honest, but he doesn't have to know everything -- be somewhat mysterious.20. If things start to get serious with someone with whom you don't think you have or want a future, break it off before it gets even harder to break it off.21. Don't play games unless he starts playing them first. If he plays them too much or too often, he may not be worth dating.22. Practice safe sex, always, always, always.23. If you start to feel taken advantage of or taken for granted, stop whatever activity is making you feel that way; or lose him.24. If you find yourself straying from the Guidelines, just commit to being better about following them in the future.25. Even though these are Guidelines for Casual Dating, if Mr. Right does come along, consider keeping him.- from Guidelines for Casual Dating, 1997.

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