“Men don’t pursue women who are pursuing them.” These words of wisdom are from Christian Carter, dating guru, and author of How To Catch Him and Keep Him (a title that contradicts all his advice, but that he presumably thinks is what women want to hear). He was so tickled with his edgy take on the “don’t call him he’ll call you” rule of relationships he had to say it twice to a roomful of eager women sat with notebooks and pens poised to take down every one of his “dating secrets from a male mind”, most of which appear based on the assumption that it’s all your fault if you haven’t found The One. You’re just not doing it right with the result that any man you approach is traumatised on a daily basis by such things as asking him how his day went, talking about anything even remotely related to emotions, or failing to read his mind. When you first see him you’re not allowed to engage him in conversation unless it’s with a coquettish “is this seat taken” followed by an unneeded trip to the loo designed to intrigue though god knows how, or a fake question that makes you sound like an idiot and him feel superior. If you do actually get to talk to him, in between loo-breaks and questions you already know or don’t need the answers to, conversation has to be kept frothy and frivalous and you must never ever suggest you want to see him again. Such behaviour constitues pursuit and that “violates some secret natural law in the world – a psychological, social imperative for us humans and it’s completely unconscious”, says Christian. Indeed. It’s so unconscious, givers of relationship advice have to keep reminding us just how important it is.
“If you have sex with him on the first date, he won’t respect you.” This piece of advice harks back to a more chivalrous (and, possibly, completely made-up) time when the concept of women initiating sex was as revolutionary an idea as the earth being round. It’s based on the assumption that men want to have sex all the time and women will only have it if they’re cajoled, forced, drunk or loose enough to give in to a man’s demand for it. It’s part of the virgin-whore cliche that I’ve never entirely understood, but I think means we’re either regarded as a prude or a slut. Why anyone would give a shit about being called either, I don’t know. What does concern me slightly is the assumption that neither women nor men have any autonomy over their sex lives – when there are innumberable, and more serious, ways in which to gain or lose someone’s respect, having sex before picking out wedding china seems pretty insignificant.
“Show him that you care just for him/Do the things he likes to do/Wear your hair just for him.” This, from Dusty Springfield, possibly the most accommodating, forgiving woman the world has ever heard, is how to get your man: total reinvention of yourself as his ideal woman. I’m not sure what sort of humanoid creature you’d end up being if you replaced your personality with everything he wanted in a woman. I imagine it would be a pretty boring and how far would you take it? You’ve already ditched your friends, taken up an interest in paint balling, and got a new ‘do. What more does he want?
“Let him take the lead.” So says The Rules, a book I think should be banned and every copy burnt. Apparently, men like to feel in charge and that they’re the ones running the show. If you follow The Rules’ way of doing things (please don’t), you’ll spend your time making him think he’s in charge while quietly undermining his authority in ways he might not notice at the time but will provide him with ample grounds when you end up in a divorce court because the woman he married turned out to be a person and not the android she pretended to be till she’d got him up the aisle. The Rules claims to have many success stories from women who’ve followed it and got that man. They don’t have any little-while-down-the-road followups, though, so the world will never know quite how things turned out when she stopped pretending to be too busy to talk for more than three and a half minutes on the phone and he stopped pretending to find her amateur theatrics irresistible.
“Play the damsel in distress to get what you want.” I don’t know where this bit of advice comes from, but it won’t go away. Whining, pouting, baby talk, fake crying and generally acting like a nitwit to get a man to do what you want never seem to go out of fashion. I don’t really know who benefits from such antics. In the time spent warbling “pwetty pwease with sugar on top”, she could have learnt how to change the lightbulb, fix the wheel bearings, unblocked the shower drain and, quite possibly, run for Parliament. Men, surely, don’t feel so insecure they need to be reassured constantly of their ability to carry out the most basic diy by a woman with the vocabulary of a preverbal infant who then oohs, aahs and claps her hands in delight at her man’s competency with a picture hook, nail and hammer. Or maybe they do.