Wednesday, 25 April 2012

'All the Rules' - Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider

I made a pact with myself that this year would be the year that I would follow my heart and go with the flow. I would ignore fear, ‘mental monologues’, ‘what if’s’ and ‘but you can’t do that’s!’. This would be the year of boldly going where I’ve never been before, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, whatever-ly…it would be a year of seizing opportunities and reacting to the gut instinct that says ‘GO!’ and not ‘well let’s just see whether 2+2 equals 4 first…’. After all, that’s what youth is for. Caution is reserved for adults who’ve been badly burned before.

See I think there’s something to be said for these gut instincts; they are our inner children, our animalistic urges, unconditioned by expectation, dread and anxiety, and completely isolated from others judgements and beliefs. Of course, a civilised human being can only act like a child or an animal for so long, and certainly a 2 year old in a 22 year old body, or a piranha in a 22 year old body, might be a little less appealing than say…a human kitten or Peter Pan.

Despite this, part of me is still deeply analytical and I do enjoy intellectualising things as much as I enjoy feeling. There is safety in studiously standing back and attempting to comprehend ‘leaky feelings’. Perhaps because of this tendency, a close friend of mine lent me a book called ‘All The Rules’.

‘All The Rules’ is basically a dating manual but for a very specific kind of woman. This woman is not looking for a man to occupy her Saturday night sit ins, this woman is looking for a husband. Now I can assure you all that that is NOT what I’m looking for. To be fair, I am only twenty two and the lightning bolt of babydom and wifehood may strike me yet, but I feel I am destined (if life is kind) to a life of freedom and adventure….this may be why labels and rules scare me as much as they comfort me. As soon as I put a label on a radical or exciting emotion, thought or occurrence, it immediately becomes ‘intellectualised’ and ‘kinda boring…’ I quite enjoy the mystery and intrigue of experiences that don’t quite fit a logical or rational explanation, which is probably why my favourite of all maddening emotional ventures is the rollercoaster of infatuation; the adrenal, hormonal, whimsical rush that belies definition and convention.

I should have known really that ‘All The Rules’ wasn’t for me. First of all it’s a manual. It’s a ‘don’t do this’ and ‘do do that’ way to get your future hubby. It’s guidance from traditional, conventional, old fashioned women who snagged their husbands with good home grown ladylike manners, class and aloofness (like the old movie stars).

The advice includes but is not limited to the following gems;

  • Value yourself as a unique creature (probably like a unicorn or smurf)

  • NEVER call him first. NEVER. Or you will die.

  • NEVER tell him you like him, miss him, or love him first. OR YOU WILL DIE

  • NEVER return his call quickly. Make him wait. OR YOU WILL DIE

  • Never accept a date invitation for the Saturday any day past Wednesday. Presumably he will then think you are easy and boring and have nothing planned except eating cheetohs out of your hair and watching Mamma Mia.

  • DIET. LOOK SPLENDID. GO FOR A JOG. EAT LEAVES. Basically look beautiful.

  • Invent yourself some plans. Otherwise, if you don’t have anything to do, pretend that you did…presumably to make this lie believable you either have to stick to quite a simple and straightforward social event that requires no elaboration (‘Me and Tania went for lunch’ – too dull to require any embellishments). OR go for a big fat whooper of a lie that would dizzy any extrovert. I think I’d go with ‘I got up at the crack of dawn and rode on the back of wild skateboarding tigers through the Amazon whilst playing the bongos and chasing poachers to the verge of the new world’. You know something like that.

  • If he upsets you, never tell him. Accept it or leave him, but NEVER admit that anything he does bothers you or holds any power over you.

  • DON’T check up on him or ask him questions. Basically, show no interest in his life.

  • Never admit to jealousy, distrust or feelings of inadequacy. Deal with these outside of your relationship, privately, but don’t communicate them to him.

  • NEVER see him more than once a week – got to keep that lust and love alive!

Love/lust is a push/pull dance. You have to have the perfect balance of connection and distance. Connection becomes it naturally fosters a sense of closeness, compatibility and compassion, and distance to administer healthy doses of spice, mystery, freedom and desire. After all, familiarity breeds contempt and supposedly absence makes the heart grow fonder.

The problem lies in the fact that we all want different kinds of relationships. What we feel we can offer and what others want from us are usually very different and sometimes, in direct conflict. The real truth is that most of us don’t really know what we want, or we think we do until we have it. Then there’s the dilemma of maintaining what we have when it can all so easily, pardon my French, go to shit. Further to that, there's the fact that men and women are expected to act so differently and normally for good reason in the dating world. Yet there's always that one person who actually LIKES it when a woman is aggressive and forthright in her hunt for a man, or the woman that loves a shy, passive dude.

Human nature is a fickle, greedy, selfish and confused beast, but it can also be one of great altruism, kindness and closeness. I know there are times when I could barricade myself away in a room with nothing to live on but cuddles, and other times when my desire for freedom would be enough to cause me to set sail in a pirate ship far away from any other human companion. I think most of us are probably alike in this respect.

But like I said, this book wasn’t made for me. This book was made for people who KNOW what they want, or THINK they know; they want a husband, marriage and family. In that case, why waste time with weirdoes, committmentphobics and time wasters? For these women, this book is probably a bible. It ensures that the only guys that will even bother with you will have the patience of a Saint; you will weed out the chronic chasers, the flakes and the guys that don’t really want you. The ones that run your marathon of self-flagulation and rainbow chasing will be confident, ambitious and really really sure that you are the one that they want.

Truth be told, I can see why these rules may work, especially for the traditional woman who wants to be wooed. This guide works on the premise that men like challenge and they like to conquer. They don’t want a woman on a plate (not really), they want to woo and win her. They want the frustration, the intensity, the anxiety of having to run around after you, wade through the minefield and jump the hurdles you set out, whilst you casually breeze about in a waft of perfume like a beautiful, sexy skunk. This is supposedly the science behind why men like football and beating the crap out of each other. If you hand them anything without the promise of a war or struggle, they simply lose interest. Generally, I would say this is true of men. What draws them to women is her initial mystique combined with the glimmer of some connection. But at the end of the day, no matter how many games you play or races you run, all relationships (except the rare few, and these are probably wildly dysfunctional…and even dysfunction becomes boring and repetitive after a while!) fall into a pattern and lose the sheen and shimmer of their earlier passionate days. If those days lasted, we’d all be wandering around in swoons, emotional, outcast wrecks glued to our phones, disintegrating into tears when we have to be prized away from our lovers for five seconds.

To the women that want a hubby and a big white wedding, I would encourage them to at least attempt this advice. It’s tried and tested, well-worn and it will definitely put the men in your life to the test. For those of us that aren’t sure what we want and just want to enjoy the ride, I would instead advocate going with the flow and throwing all advice and guidance to the left while you struggle and swim through the fluctuating waves of human relationships.

This book just doesn’t fit with my ‘go with the flow attitude’ for the year…but still…I might hold off being the first to reveal how I feel….