My friend Quelle gave me her copy of The Rules when I was getting divorced, and it changed my life. I'll give you a minute to get your gag reflex under control, because, yeah, it's awful. If you've never had the pleasure, here's an excerpt. My favorite part is when they say, "Men who respond to The Rules are not sick or stupid, but quite normal and healthy. Your average guy." Somehow, I don't see the connection between "not sick or stupid, but . . . healthy" and "average guy." Anyway, I certainly don't have a copy of that crap in my house, so I'll have to give you everything from memory. Shockingly, once removed from the feminist acid bath, The Rules offers one--one--very valuable lesson: Men aren't all that. Really. That's the covert thesis of The Rules. It's so covert that almost no one picks it up, but I'm telling you, it's there.
I can see you're skeptical, but hear me out. The stated purpose of the Rules is to get a ring onto your dainty finger. It assumes that any marriage that flows from rigorous application of the Rules will necessarily be a happy one. It is my contrary belief that such a marriage will be a '50s-style tragedy, and that the only man you'll snag with the Rules is an Oedipal case. But to make my pro-Rules argument, I must take you back to my eighteenth year. I had just started college. It was a bright, sunny day, and I was walking across campus when I suddenly became aware of my posture. My shoulders were hunched, head down, elbows drawn in, with my arms crossed low in front to hide my belly fat. Now, I liked at the time to think of myself as a person projecting confidence, but I had to realize that I was wrong about that. I thought about it for a moment, and decided that, even if I'm not confident, I can pretend I'm confident. With difficulty, I straightened my spine, lowered my arms, and lifted my head. I think my new, commanding presence lasted about as long as it took to get across the quad. That time. After that, whenever I noticed myself cowering, I did my best to lift my head and walk purposefully. One day, I realized that I was standing up straight, arms relaxed, weight balanced, and I hadn't even been thinking about it. The upshot is that, by pretending to be confident, I became confident.
The central commandment of the Rules is this: Thou shalt not show undue attention to men. What the Rules "girls" mean by this is that you should act like you don't care whether a given man notices you or not. You should never be overly friendly or encouraging, and you must never take the romantic lead because, as they constantly remind us, man pursues woman. This is most decidedly not the same thing as Thou shalt not be obsessed with men, or Thou shalt not make the quest for a bacon-bringer the center of thy life. But. When you yourself are an Electra case, when you yourself think of male attention as the nectar of the gods, when you yourself have been taught that you and your body exist for the pleasure and comfort of men, this is quite a revelation. Thou shalt not show undue attention to men. Wow. So I started acting like men were no big deal. I started acting like I didn't expect to be taken advantage of. Like I was a real, human person who deserved to be treated like the fucking gift from God that I am. Pretty soon, it wasn't pretending anymore. It was all true.
Now, I don't even like men. That might sound harsh, but really, most men are entitled jerks. A man has to prove himself worthy of my regard before I'll, you know, regard him. This is not solely because of The Rules, but I have to admit, they were a spark. Take those sparks where you can get them, friends.