The New Rules for Dating: Stop Looking for Love

This story might be one to add to the realm of urban legend: a friend of a friend was a little down on her luck with love and money. In an effort to troubleshoot the easiest issue first, my friend suggested, "Maybe you can get a job as a nanny," to which Debbie Downer responded, "I don't want to be a nanny; I want to have a nanny!" Subsequently, she purchased a relationship book called The Rules and followed the book's dating advice to the T. Six months later, she was engaged to the handsome wealthy man of her dreams. She's now (presumably) happily married with two kids... and a nanny.

It's taken me a while to face the fact that there are rules of engagement one must follow to properly attract and trap -- I mean keep -- a partner. For a long time, I acknowledged them but met them with resistance. I'd hear the usual, "Don't kiss on the first date," "Wait at least two days to return his call," "Don't give it up too easily." When I was younger, I would adhere to some of these guidelines, but always netted out feeling, "It's all too much. I don't want to play games. I want to be honest about how I feel and let a relationship unfold naturally." So, years later, when I finally read Not your Mother's Rules: The New Secrets for Dating, a follow-up to The Rules, I was ready to roll my eyes before even cracking open its digital cover.

The book was immediately hard to take seriously because the writing and structure was a little elementary and repetitive (but I guess dating advice has to be drilled into the receiver's head). It was a little salesy -- the writers seemed to be selling their consulting services. And the book seemed to imply that most women were lowly, desperate creatures. This particular version is about dating in the digital age, so it covers things like how to handle online dating, Facebooking, Tweeting and texting; they even included a handy little "Text-Back Times" table, which outlines how long you should wait before responding to a text, depending on how old you are. For example, if you are in the 18-22 age range, you should wait 30 min to an hour to respond to a guy's text. If you're older than 31, you should wait at least three hours! My thought: these chicks are cray. And it doesn't stop there.

To get a sense of the rules, below is a snippet of the book's table of contents. You can find a
  • Rule #1: Be a creature unlike any other.
  • Rule #2: Look like a creature unlike any other.
  • Rule #3: Don't talk to or text a guy first.
  • Rule #4: Don't ask guys out by text, Facebook, Gchat or any other way.
  • Rule #5: Don't sit or stand next to a guy first or flirt with him first.
  • Rule #10: Stay away from his Facebook profile.
  • Rule #14: Don't just hang out or see him 24/7.
  • Rule #16: Don't lose your friends because you're so obsessed with a guy!
  • Rule #19: Don't pay for dinner or buy his love in any way.
  • Rule #23: Don't be self-destructive by dating married, unavailable, and other mixed-messages guys.
  • Rule #24: Stop dating a guy who cancels more than once.
  • Rule #26: Don't accept booty calls or meaningless hookups.
There are a total of 31 rules in the book and they are each explained in detail with real-life anecdotes sprinkled in. Skimming the table of contents alone and seeing so many "don'ts," it's easy to wonder,
is there anything left to do when it comes to dating?
The fact is, not really. The Rules require you to be a passive participant in the dating game, which, for someone like me who never likes to sit and wait for things to magically happen, is pretty hard to do. The Rules also seem a bit conniving and a way of forcing a relationship as opposed to letting one just bloom. But although The Rules seem unnatural, they're based on a somewhat natural principle:
things that are scarce have more value
-- the scarcity principle. When you're easy to get or you don't allow a pursuit at all, there's very little thrill for the would-be pursuer. If you're always available or accessible, spending time with you has little value because it's something that can be acquired on demand. The Rules are essentially telling women to play hard to get both at the outset of and during a relationship. That's nothing new.

Playing hard to get works. It's worked on me and for me. But it bothers me because sometimes I just can't be bothered with it, but mostly because it creates an artificial scarcity, which begs the question: How can you build something real with someone if it's based on something fake? How do you get past the lack of authenticity that's innate in calculating your every step, like purposely waiting two hours to respond to a text message?