This month’s Feminist Fashion Bloggers theme is ‘dating and relationships’. I got stuck on the dating thing, because dating is an odd concept to me (and maybe to Europeans in general?). The way people in films and TV shows go up to random strangers and go ‘I like the look of you. Lets go for a coffee and see if I like your brain too. And then maybe we can get it on.’ And the way people date more than one person at the same time. It just seems awfy businesslike, the way dates are basically like job interviews where your reward is another date and your ultimate reward is a permanent position. I’m not saying it’s a bad system, it’s certainly a lot more rational than getting wasted, snogging the person next to you and deciding if you like them afterwards. But it’s still odd to me.
Anyway, so thinking about dating got my thinking about The Rules. Yes, I know that was 16 years ago, but since I obviously don’t follow the dating self-help book market, that was the last such book that made it into my brain. So I checked them out and dear God, it’s scary business. If this was how it really worked, the I would be doomed to eternal spinsterhood.
But thankfully we all know that’s not the case, and so in the spirit of my upcoming wedding, here is a lighthearted guide to snagging a husband by ignoring the Rules based on how Dave an I got together. And just to put what follows into context, I met Dave in an atrociously awful club. I was 18 and off my face and so was he. It’s not a story that makes ideal wedding speech material. But here it is anyway.
The rules say: Don’t Talk to a Man First (and Don’t Ask Him to Dance)
I must admit I don’t really remember who talked to whom first, it’s all a bit of a blur. I mainly just remember dancing with him, and then talking to him properly at the end of the night. So I may not have talked to him first. But I needed to include this rule, because it’s just so completely mad! If you wait for people to approach you, you’re getting such a tiny proportion of people you could potentially meet! And basically either the ones that are really confident and/or desperate. What about the shy guys?
The rules say: Don’t Accept a Saturday Night Date after Wednesday.
Yeah. We met on a Wednesday, he called on the Thursday and we went out on the Friday. Or rather, we didn’t go out, but we’ll get to that.
The rules say: No More than Casual Kissing on the First Date and Don’t Rush into Sex, Wait at Least Three Dates
Or you could invite him round to pick you up before the date, invite him in, sit him on the bed and then jump on him after half an hour. Worked for me. We didn’t actually leave the flat on our first so called date.
The rules say: Stop Dating Him if He Doesn’t Buy You a Romantic Gift for Your Birthday or Valentine’s Day
This was a funny one. Our first non-date was exactly one month before Valentines day, and I was really unsure whether we were going to do something or not. So I basically told him that we should, because I’m bossy like that, and we did. We also did in year two, but haven’t since, on mutual agreement. Because our anniversary is so close, we usually go out for that, on a night when the world is not full of couples and overpriced restaurant menus.
The rules say: Don’t See Him More than Once or Twice a Week
We went straight into complete coupledom, seeing each other 3 or 4 times a week. There wasn’t really a casual, getting to know each other phase. Why deprive yourself of a good thing?
The rules say: Don’t Live with a Man (or Leave Your Things in His Apartment)
We moved in together after two years and it then took another 10 years to get married. Failure! I suppose if you think the ultimate aim is marriage then the thinking is ‘if you’re already living together, then why would you get married’ and I don’t disagree with that. But then I think of marriage and serious cohabitation as pretty much the same thing. Not to be unromantic or anything, but the reason we are getting married now is because we want to have kids, and all the legal stuff that comes with marriage does make that a lot easier. Plus it’s a big party for all our friends and family! It’s not a proof of love, because if I needed proof I’d be worried. I do get the sense that getting married is more of a done thing in the US, so maybe that explains. Lots of bloggers seem to have got married at what I consider to be a very young age – getting married at 22 is very unusual here. I’ll stop going on, because I could write a whole post just about marriage, but basically I don’t see how making marriage into the ultimate aim helps any relationship.
The rules say: Even if You’re Engaged or Married, You Still Need The Rules
Oh yeah of course. Never return your husband’s calls, and go your separate ways 4 nights a week, that will make things work really smoothly!
Obviously this is just a bit of fun, I am not actually suggesting that what I did was a route to success and everyone should do what I do. If I was looking for a partner now, I would go about it very differently, and I would maybe even loosely follow some of these rules. But being 18 chucking myself at Dave in an OTT way was completely fine, and not being a hugely romantic person, it doesn’t bother me one bit that I kissed him before I knew his name or anything about him. A relationship’s beginning does not define it. It doesn’t make any difference to our long term relationship how things started, I care about how things are, and how they’re going to be**.
And that’s kind of my point: relationships are all different. People are all different. The only advice I can give (not that anyone is asking) is to work out what you want, what behaviours you think are the right ones, and then act accordingly.
But since this is a FFB post, I want to finish on a serious point re dating advice: Basically, I think things like The Rules and similar dating advice methods are actually more than silly guff, they’re positively harmful. The message of the book and the ‘playing hard to get’ approach in general is couched in vaguely empowering terms: You’re ace, so you must not waste your time on men that are not worthy. But in saying this, it actually reinforces the idea that marriage and commitment is something women crave, and men have within their gift to give, but won’t do naturally. The methods might have changed, but it is still all about the woman expending huge amounts of energy trying to ‘get her man’. Frank adult conversations about what the two people actually want aren’t really an option, it’s all subterfuge.
Under the Rules, the man is supposed to treat the woman like a princess (or at least bombard her with emails – the advice is to only reply to every fourth one, which will make conversation pretty difficult to sustain I imagine). The underlying assumption is that the man has all the money and power and can afford to dispense it in carefully delineated chunks. And it should stay that way too, because one of the rules is to always let the man take the lead. Presumably that is what the obsession with marriage is about too, the woman being ‘taken care of’. No financially independent women or equal relationships here. Personally, I don’t actually want to be treated like a princess, I want to be treated like a person. A person whose opinions and dreams equally as important as those of her partner.
And even if you ignore all the power stuff, the whole idea behind the book still reinforces gender divisions. There are completely different rules for men and women, and regardless of what the rules themselves are, that is a bad idea. As I said in my very first post on feminism, for me feminism is all about overcoming the gender binary. I’m actually not categorically opposed to having some guidelines for navigating the murky waters of meeting new people (though like I said I think everyone needs to work out their own, based on what they’re after) but OF COURSE they need to apply to both genders equally. Because saying that if a man doesn’t call immediately, he’s not interested (that’s an actual Rule), but if a woman doesn’t return calls it’s a sign she’s keen is really just bonkers, isn’t it?
What do you think?
* In case any new readers are reading this, I’m getting married in just over a week.
** Which is eternal happiness and bliss, hopefully!
Read the rest of this month’s posts here.
Photo via here.