The Rules

If Ellen Fein or Sherrie Schneider ever needed a more lucrative career, I predict that they’ll make very successful con artists. Then again, their book The Rules is a con already, and considering how well it sold, I doubt the authors need to rip off college students or people on Social Security. They’re doing a great job just manipulating women, feeding them so many lies that I felt as though I was reading the secret manuals of some bizarre religion. Which this probably is; it’s the Worship of the Wedding Ring, and like any cleverly written religion, it’s written to lure those in emotional straits and keep them hooked, addicted to what the authors deal out. Other than the fact that they each found men willing to settle for them, the authors have no qualifications worth mentioning in the book, but judging by their style of, er, reasoning, they should receive honorary diplomas from Patriot University.

What are The Rules?

The Rules (always italicized in the book and referred to with initial capital letters) are a more developed version of the game of playing hard to get. According to the authors, they began with someone’s Grandma who “had more marriage proposals than shoes”, but unlike this Imelda Marcos of the dating game, modern women seem to have different priorities. Still, deep down, all women want one thing – “husbands who would be our best friends”. Despite being “magic”, The Rules cannot get you this, since the cornerstone of friendship is trust and good treatment, but they’ll get you the next best thing – a husband. Right away you get the impression that Laura Schlessinger has nothing on these people when it comes to marriage, since this is the be-all and the end-all of the Rules mentality. It is an end that will justify any means.

Follow The Rules and he will not just marry you, but feel crazy about you, forever!

I hope you’re fond of grandiose sweeping claims, because there’s a lot of them in the book. For instance, women are told that they don’t have to worry about their husband falling for his secretary, because “…he somehow thinks you’re the sexiest woman alive! When you do The Rules, you don’t have to worry about being abandoned, negalected or ignored!” The word somehow is usually a sign that the author had no idea how to convey the process that led up to the desired effect, and therefore tried to gloss over it. There’s also a plethora of exclamation marks in lieu of facts or references. The authors might be low on logic and reality, but they have the style of the sham merchant down pat.

Of course, a playboy type who falls in love with you because you did The Rules will automatically mend his ways… Do The Rules and even the biggest playboy can be all yours!

I think I’d rather have a man with some dignity and self-restraint, thanks. And although the double standard is normal in Rulesworld, I mentally rewrote the above quote as a guide for men. “Do The Rules and the biggest slut – the one who blew every member of the football team and their mascot as well – can be all yours!” Still, even such a reservoir for STDs would be better off in the long run than Pam. You see, Pam broke The Rules.

She spoke to him first.

This italicized sentence is repeated twice so that we grasp the gravity and extent of her stupidity. She spoke to the man first. Naturally, he dumped her over “something trivial”. Randy suggested that they go dancing after the date, and the man never called again. Other women – Claudia, Marcy, Nicole – also broke the Rules and were dumped. I’m seeing a pattern here… these must all be celebrities with single names, like Madonna or Cher. Lucky for them that they didn’t have to put up with such shallow, insecure men for too long.

In the long run, it’s not fun to break The Rules! You could easily end up alone.

Worse still, you might end up with one of the authors, who was divorced after the second book hit the stands. Apparently she didn’t follow her own Rules. Or maybe she was foolish enough to treat a man like a friend, instead of, you know, like a man.

We mistakenly tried to be “friends” with men rather than elusive butterflies.

So I assume that the man who was not your friend before he married you will suddenly metamorphosize into your bestest buddy after the wedding? This is only one example of the book’s internal inconsistency – much like the bible, it often contradicts itself. I suppose none of the authors’ most fervent loyalists are going to read the text critically enough to notice. Though in case you’re wondering who would be interested in an elusive butterfly (other than an entomologist), you’ll be interested to hear that this kind of insect species is what all men like in their women.

In summary, The Rules are a list of behaviors that, if correctly performed (you have to do all of them, not just the ones that sound good), will make a man fixate on you, marry you, take charge of the relationship and attach himself to you like a leech. This is because all men follow the same simple biological imperative, like lemmings towards the sea, and once you believe this, you’ll go a long way towards

Understanding the Collective Male Hive Mind

According to the authors, men are programmed to be aggressors, meaning that if a woman asks a man out, he loses interest sooner or later because she has shattered his “male ambition and animal drive”. But what about those men who claim that they like it when women ask them out? Father, forgive them, for they know not what they say. At heart, all men are rutting Conans, just waiting for you to flick the on/off switch of their rampant manhoods. And how do you do so? Why, by treating them with detachment and indifference, of course. The more you like a man, the less you should show it.

We understand why modern, career-oriented women have sometimes scoffed at our suggestions. They’ve been MBA-trained to “make things happen” and to take charge of their careers… In a relationship, the man must take charge.

Apparently it’s not just the bible which preaches female submission to the supremacy of the XY chromosomes. To make up for the mental regression, however, women are assured that their masters will provide them with all the smotheringly close attention they could ever need – if you follow The Rules, your husband will think of you constantly, want to do everything together and insist that the two of you synchronize your trips to the bathroom. All right, I made that last one up, but it was completely in line with the obsessive, stalkerish mentality of men as the authors see them. Now, how does one go about attracting such promising specimens?

Beauty and the Beasts

The authors advise women to look their best. Although there are a few snippets of sense in this book, they are few and far between, and to buy the book for these would be like purchasing a sack of cowpats because there was a Pop-Tart underneath them. Since men (all men – they’re clones) like feminine clothes, women are exhorted to wear short skirts.

Wear sheer black pantyhose and hike up your skirt to entice the opposite sex!

That way, you might get a few dollars slipped into the top of your stocking. You are also advised to get a nose job if you have a “bad nose”. We are never told what a “bad nose” is, but this Michael Jackson-esque feature is obviously going to scare off any man who might have thought of marrying you. You must grow your hair long, get manicures and pedicures, go for regular massages and facials, and bathe in an “intoxicating perfume” before you go out. Intoxicating, huh? Maybe if you get the man drunk enough, he won’t notice how high-maintenance you are before you drag him to the altar. All men fit into one mold, naturally, but the authors would like to do the same for all women as well, and now that you have been physically barbiefied, it’s time for your lobotomy.

Men like women. Don’t act like a man, even if you are the head of your own company. Don’t tell sarcastic jokes.

Knock-knock jokes are fine, though. Men love these.

Be quiet and mysterious, act ladylike, smile… You may feel that you won’t be able to be yourself, but men will love it!

Yes, they would have to love “it” – “it” presumably meaning the façade, the performance and the mannequin with the raised skirt, because they certainly wouldn’t be loving you. Whatever unique, funny, tough or human qualities you have were effaced out of existence, all in pursuit of the almighty marriage proposal. Although you are now the equivalent of a smiley face drawn on a helium balloon, the authors constantly reiterate that you are “a creature unlike any other” – well, any other except the hundreds of Rules girls out there.

You have more confidence than women with MBAs or money in the bank.

I get the impression that the authors couldn’t achieve MBAs, settled for MRSs instead, and have been bitter ever since, hence their determination to manipulate people into the same situation. Misery loves company. The cleverness of The Rules is that it camouflages the poison under a pretty and perhaps even appealing veneer. By being passive and manipulative, the woman is actually following some age-old biological law, saving herself a lot of pain and making the man feel that his Herculean labors have been rewarded when she drops a crumb in his direction. Which brings me to the first of the worst of the Rules,

Never talk to a man first

You have to hand it to the authors – they’re up-front about their paean to passivity, though they mask their weakness as a gracefully feminine acknowledgement of The Way Things Work.

The premise of The Rules is that we never make anything happen. We trust in the natural order of things – namely, that man pursues women. By talking to a man first, we interfere with whatever was supposed to happen or not happen…. Eventually, he’ll talk to the girl he really wants and drop you.

The hell of this religion is called Dumpsville, and the authors are almost Chicklike in their mentions of it, not to mention their salivating descriptions of those sinners who refused to obey their 35 commandments.

They think they are too educated or too talented to be passive, play games or do The Rules... These women, we assure you, always end up heartbroken when their forwardness is rebuffed.

The other great danger of forwardness is that it “always puts the woman through hell emotionally.” I guess that men, being robots, don’t feel the same hell when they approach a woman, and even if they do, so what? Serves them right for being men. But if women choose the “torture” of approaching a man they like, they risk being rejected or ignored – if not now, then later – and what decent woman would choose to do anything that might damage her fragile self-esteem and leave her sobbing into her lace hanky? No man is worth that, is he? Therefore, your best bet is to wait for a man to look past your mask of indifference and see the great vacuum benea… oops, I mean, to be intrigued by the thrill of the pursuit. The right Neanderthal will be turned on by your impersonation of the Mona Lisa, and from them on, he’ll take the lead in your relationship. Which is a good thing, because you can

Never ask a man to dance

Wander around, go to the bathroom, read The Rules in a stall or drown yourself in the toilet if you have to, but never ask a man to dance. You see, you’re not going to the dance to, well, dance. That’s so mundane. You’re going there to find love and marriage, followed by a baby in a baby carriage. Therefore, you cannot ask a man to dance, lest you make him think that you’re the second half of the madonna-whore complex. But the authors toss wallflowers the sop of knowing that when they leave alone and miserable because they had no fun at all, at least they have a “sense of accomplishment that at least you didn’t break The Rules!”

Never look at a man first

Never make eye contact, and even if you’re on your first date with a man, look at the table, or at your food, or at the crowd. Sure, he might wonder why he’s being ignored, but if he has any sense, he’ll realize that he may have to marry you in order for you to look at him. The authors love making men (charmingly referred to as “live prey” here) leap through hoops for female attention, though women don’t get it easy either. You’re not allowed to discuss anything unless he brings up the topic first. But then how, you ask, is the man supposed to know enough about you to fall in love with you?

Remember, men fall in love with your essence, not with anything in particular you say.

Each time I think I’ve read the ultimately in idiocy from this book, it kindly proves me wrong. The authors don’t say what exactly this unknown “essence” is – vanilla essence? Essence of cloves? Essence of Rohypnol, which when administered to the man’s drink might put him in the state of mind required to marry a Rules girl?

Be quiet, reserved and mysterious.

Well, you don’t have much of a choice about this if you’re not allowed to initiate any topic of discussion. But what if you’re normally an expressive, cheerful and open woman (anathema in Rulesworld)?

Of course, that is not how you really feel. That is how you pretend you feel until it feels real. You act as if!

The authors should be careful here; if any women reach their standards in lies and masquerade, their books will have competition soon.

Remember, you won’t have to keep such things from him forever. Just for a few months… until he says he’s in love with you.

Until he proves either his own stupidity or his own manipulative streak with these magic words, however, you give the enemy little conversation and you make him pay for dates. Men have to drive to pick up the princess – and the longer they have to drive or the more they have to spend, the more valuable they will think you are. It’s a bit like hazing the pledge half to death to see if he’s worthy to join the fraternity. Remember, if you make it easy for him by splitting the bill even once, he’ll lose interest and run after some other woman who treats him like dirt – oops, I mean follows The Rules.

This inconsiderate abuse of a man’s time and money is called allowing him to be chivalrous, just in case you’re wondering. And do you know how you can repay him for his generosity? Why, you can say please and thank you to him. And then you can go on to show how much you like him by

Never calling him and rarely returning his calls

The ideal Rules Man is a stalker, because only a stalker would be obsessed enough to call a woman again and again after she shows little or no interest. Apparently, you should never call a man because he might be in the middle of a football game, or he might be sleeping, or certainly not prepared to talk to you. “Why take a chance?” And only call him if you have to reschedule a date – never call him just to chat. Otherwise he’ll get bored with you, or your essence, or whatever mysterious quality du jour he’s fallen for. Oh, and when you are on the phone with him, you shouldn’t speak to him for longer than ten minutes, because men (all men) have a very low boredom threshold.

Remember, early on in a relationship, the man is the adversary… He has the power to hurt you by never calling again… or by being indifferent.

I’ve never read a relationship guide that was so inculcated with fear, derision and thinly veiled hostility. Then again, isn’t that the modus operandi of the snake-oil salesperson – sell them the disease and the antidote? The authors repeat that you are doing the man a great favor by treating him this way, even if you feel that you’re being cruel or inconsiderate. It’s like housebreaking a puppy – after the first few encounters with the cattle prod, the dog will be nicely trained.

The Rules are innately unselfish… The Rules are truthful in nature.

Pig with Wings

Stop Dating Him if He Doesn’t Buy You a Romantic Gift for Your Birthday or Valentine’s Day

And what should he buy you? Ideally, jewelry, and since men don’t wear jewelry, you are under no obligation at all to give him any presents in return. The cash flow is always from male to female. Remember, flowers, candy and jewelry mean the man is going to make an honest woman out of… oops, I forgot, Rules girls aren’t and can never be honest. Any other kinds of gift mean that he is going to dump you in the future, so you should turn the tables on him by dumping him first.

If you end up marrying a man who gives you a briefcase instead of a bracelet… you may be doomed to a life of practical, loveless gifts… and you may spend thousands of dollars in therapy trying to find out why there’s no romance in your marriage.

I feel sorry for the poor man who might have given such a woman a thoughtful but practical present. No, on second thoughts, I don’t. He was lucky to get away from a creature more ring-fixated than Gollum, and he was spared a commitment to this passive-aggressive puppet of the authors. Although the book initially claims that you only need to play games until the man says he loves you or proposes to you, it then goes on to explain that you should continue to follow The Rules even if you’re engaged or married. After all, if they’re such good, honest, selfless ways of interacting with people, why not continue them?

The Rules for Marriage

The same man who might act indifferent or ignore a wife who pursued him wouldn’t dream of doing it with the woman who did The Rules. Abuse doesn’t happen in a Rules relationship…

This is possibly the most offensive and damaging claim of the authors; the implication is that if physical or mental abuse happens, it’s obviously caused by the woman’s failure to manipulate her husband into treating her better. Then again, what better way to sell the product than to lay all the responsibility for its success (or more likely, lack thereof) on the customer’s shoulders?

So what are the Rules for marriage? Once again you have to play hard to get, so you’re not supposed to call your husband at work to say things like, “Hi, let’s get friendly tonight”. If you were so befuddled and misguided as to think this was normal for a wife, correct yourself immediately – he is the one who should be calling you. Affection, like money, is a one-way street, so if you ever fall into the trap of showing your husband that you like him, the excitement of the chase will be gone.

Don’t initiate sex, even if you want it badly. Let him be the man, the aggressor in the bedroom. Biologically, the man must pursue the woman.

Speaking from a strictly biological perspective, the man must ideally pursue several women in order to disseminate his genes as much as possible. But one cannot expect the authors to know so much about biology, or to be honest enough to admit it if they did.

If you bring up sex all the time, you will emasculate him.

Because nothing makes a man feel so flaccid as a woman who wants to have sex with him. Au contraire, the best way to attract men is to be seen and not heard, waiting to be noticed like a dog under the dinner table, so the authors advise women to wear sexy clothes, apply makeup and “wash your hair”. Wow, you mean, like, with shampoo? This is such groundbreaking advice, I’m amazed that it didn’t spawn another book all by itself.

Like a cult cleverly explaining that people outside the collective will criticize the members, perhaps even calling them crazy, the authors do before-the-fact damage control by warning their fans about friends and parents who might call the Rules dishonest or manipulative. Women are advised to share the Rules only with like-minded victims (perhaps in a Rules support group) where they can gather like flies in the same spiderweb to reinforce their fantasies, safe from the slings and arrows of outrageous reality. And under no circumstances should a woman ever mention the Rules to her therapist, or even to any male friends she has, because they’ll only doubt and criticize her wonderful new insights into the male psyche.

Don’t bother asking your male friends if they like being pursued by women. They might say one thing and believe another. They will probably tell you that they’re flattered to be called and asked out by women. What they won’t tell you is that these are not the women they end up marrying or even dating.

Since this is obviously a classified top secret of the Great Masculine Conspiracy, I can understand why even close male friends wouldn’t want to simply tell women the truth. Clearly, it is part of a fiendish plot devised by all men to make life that much more difficult for themselves by chasing only women who show no interest; a restraining order must be like a notch on the bedpost for them. In summary, if it agrees with the authors, it’s right, and if it disagrees, it goes into the trashcan along with the phone numbers of any men who were crass enough to expect you to call them back. You don’t need weird, feminist people like that in your life, not after you’ve got

The Rules Husband

When you are seated in a booth at a restaurant, he slides over and sits next to you. Sitting opposite you is just too far away when he’s truly in love.

And let me guess, he puts both the straws in one glass of Coke so that the two of you can share it, just like in an Archie comic I saw once. Because drinking from the same glass is just so adorably romantic when he’s truly in love (plus, after spending all his money on jewelry and flowers, he can probably only afford one Coke anyway).

He sends you roses after you have sex.

I get the impression that sex, in Rulesworld, happens so rarely that it is a cause for great celebration and bouquets of roses. And in the case of the authors, this floral tribute must be like the Band-Aid over a wound. “Honey, you were sweet and feminine enough to submit to my raging animal desires, so here’s some pretty flowers for you. You’ve earned them. And you’ll get some candy if you go down on me!”

He gets angry when you don’t pay attention to him. He wants your constant attention and companionship.

This is either a newborn infant or a guy who’s going to shoot the president some day to prove how much he wants you. Still, considering how desperate a woman has to be in order to follow The Rules, it’s not surprising that she’d settle for this needy limpet. The ideal after-marriage scenario that the authors describe involves the Rules girl (blessedly free of such ungraceful things as a career) cooking the evening meal before she hurries to dress provocatively in the hopes that her husband might want to have sex with her after the meal and the football game. Perhaps she’s run out of roses.

Conclusion

If you think you’re too smart for The Rules, ask yourself, “Am I married?”

You could also ask yourself, “What does that have to do with it? Since when was marriage required in order to detect the smell of fresh manure?” But then you’d be thinking too much and too analytically, which means you’d turn into the man of the house, and your husband would start wearing lacy lingerie. In conclusion, The Rules plays on fears and panders to fantasies; the authors promise that you will be forever free of the terrors of rejection or abuse, but only if you surrender your free will, your personality and your initiative. In return, you get the idealized, airbrushed dream of a particularly immature teenager – a man who will buy you lots of presents, make all the decisions and sit on the same side of the table as you do. As for the men, please don’t feel that this book is entirely anti-male. In return for spending your time, effort and money on a one-sided courtship where you’re never sure that your feelings are reciprocated, you get a one-sided marriage where you’re never sure that your feelings are reciprocated. But at least you’ll be married to the woman, so you can have sex whenever you like, provided there’s a florist nearby.