Self-help books about dating ask us to stifle the essential part of falling in love
Published 14/10/2015 | 02:30
I'm always wondering how women managed to get by before the slew of self-help relationship manuals arrived to set us on the right path of dating etiquette. Now there's a new one on the block thanks to 19-year-old reality star and model Kendall Jenner.
Kendall is reportedly gripped by self-help book 'Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man', by Steve Harvey and the Kardashian machine has prodigious marketing power.
The book is 'The Rules'-lite. Some of Harvey's highlights include how to deal with "mama's boys", how many dates should there be before a guy is invited to a woman's home, and five questions to ask to find out if your man is serious.
Kendall has been linked to famous faces Harry Styles and Justin Bieber in the past and more recently she has been spotted with Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton and singer Nick Jonas.
But it's being reported that the star has no plans of getting serious with anyone thanks to her new guide. "Steve is a family friend of the Kardashians," a source told Britain's 'Now' magazine. "He could see Kendall was getting a lot of male attention and wasn't sure how to deal with it. He gave her some advice and told her to read the book and she's hooked. She's been telling friends it's changed the way she thinks about guys."
Was I on Venus, or possibly Mars, the week women decided to stop thinking about men as normal human beings and downgrade them to the level of psycho-sexual Rubik Cubes to be conquered? Then I noticed that most of the writers of these self-help books were men, which makes the whole thing look very different. If these books were written by women, I'd have been thinking that maybe they didn't know what there talking about; now I know that they definitely don't.
The number of people who are single has doubled in the past 30 years and it's predicted that very soon the single-person household will be the most common kind. In Ireland, single-person households account for almost one in four households (23.7 pc).
The rate has been nudging up in recent years. In 1979, 16.4pc of Irish households were single-person. Go back to 1926 and this share was just 8.3pc. It seems that our lives are no longer measured out in wedding cake, and Snag-a-Man manuals are the publishing success of our times.
We sneak furtively into bookshops in our thousands to buy books that promise to tear our boyfriend apart, to uncover his inner workings so that we can manipulate him more fully.
The compulsion to buy these books embarrasses us but we do it anyway because we've run out of any original ideas of our own. Luck, good or bad, isn't acceptable nowadays. We want strategies, answers, game plans. And most of all, we want someone to be accountable and this is what the books are for.
If I understand it rightly, 'Act Like A Lady' is basically a paper bully, yelling at women to toughen up, to forget love and ideals and to stop being women. Full stop. I've always preferred to trust my own instincts, rather than the frivolous, paranoia-inducing waffle of some book which might as well be entitled '101 Great Reasons Why Nobody Will Ever Love You' or 'Desperate Yet?' Not only are these manuals degrading to both sexes, they are missing the point completely.
The problem with dating rules is that they ask us to stifle that thing essential to falling in love: our gut instinct.
They make hard work out of something that should be natural and fun and overwhelming. At their most extreme, they replace honesty with manipulation, attraction with cynicism, and lust with cold-eyed connivance.
Just think about the craziness of men giving women backhanded compliments in order to make them seek their approval and women using neuro-linguistic programming to trick men into marriage.
The truth is men don't care if you call them without waiting for three hours. If they like you, they'll want to talk to you.
Whether you find books like these uplifting or just plain daft obviously depends on your current level of neediness.
But clearly trite self-books will allow any self-appointed guru to make money from the impressionable.
Alchemists and snake-oil salesmen have been peddling potions to bring love and happiness forever. These days, they come in book form with accompanying podcasts and we go on hoping, foolishly, that there just might be something in it this time.
Call me a sentimental old fool, but I have this naive belief in something called love.
Cathy didn't read 'The Rules' before she ran off to the moors. She knew that love is not an exact science. How do you find love? Don't trust the rules. Be yourself.