Monday, June 20, 2016

Book review: The Rules of Dating

About a decade ago I bought this book - it seemed interesting. It's definitely been food for thought, and while my first impression was that it seemed like mostly good advice, over time my opinion has reversed and I now consider it the memetic equivalent of eating glass shards.

Many of my current thoughts are expressed in a reddit thread about a "modernized" edition of the book.

Overall I now think that the book contains kernels of truth, but its message gets terribly corrupted by the time it gets put into practice. There's also a sampling issue: I don't yet know what it is about this book, but it seems to positively attract unempathic users as its readers / practitioners. Wherever I've found fora where women focus on this book, I've found a vast majority of them to be deeply broken people. Sometimes they're broken in an innocent kind of way - they're hurting, and they're trying to find a way not to hurt, and they find themselves there. But to me the majority seem to be broken in a way that telegraphs misanthropy / misandry / psychopathy - a danger to others, if not always actively evil. This book should rather be taken from shelves and burned, lest it be the instrument of more people getting fucked over. As for the redeeming kernels of truth in the book - well we'll just have to find some other way to teach those truths. This book isn't it.

My most serious concrete concern about this book is that it seems to encourage women to think of and actually treat the men they date, and claim to want to marry, as relationship objects. I don't think the more darkly dysfunctional fans of the book really see men in general, and the men they date in particulat, as persons, people with feelings and needs and desires of their own. Instead these men are just objects to be used to check that "Married" checkbox, to fill that dark hole in their souls, and to reassure themselves that they're desireable.

As for all the tactical advice, taken merely at face value? That's probably not the worst part of this book. Having a life is indeed a good thing (and a little bit of faking it till you make it is forgiveable - but don't be just a fake!) as is communicating in moderation (but maybe not to the point of observing radio silence). I think there's a point that wants to come out of the book, but nobody really addresses it properly anywhere: training people (men, in this case) to treat you well. It's fine to "punish" people when they treat you badly, but don't forget to also reward them when they treat you well! I think this latter point tends to escape most Rules fans. Even though the book itself hints at it in its advice on how to act after the Rules Girl has gotten herself a husband. But I think reward should be applied more liberally than just as a treat for performing the grand trick of marrying the girl.

TL;DR: burn this book.

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