The Rules


Earlier in this blog, I took on The Game – instruction manual extraordinaire when it comes to helping men get laid. With this in mind, it’s only fair that I now look into its closest ladies’ equivalent, The Rules.

There is, of course, a small difference in objectives – the pick-up scene spawned articles entitled ‘How to F*** a Stripper’ , while The Rules goes all out for wedding bells and a white picket fence –  but in terms of their impact on the dating scene, the two are heads on the same hydra.

The Rules was first published in 1995 and is subtitled ‘Time Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr Right’. Its influence can not be overstated. It sold two million copies, topped the New York Times’ bestseller lists, and paved the way for the likes of He’s Just Not That Into You. Honestly, as a subtle and penetrating analysis of gender relations Wollstonecraft and de Beauvoir between them came nowhere close.

Although The Rules can be summed up in one brief statement – thou shalt play hard to get – brevity is the soul of wit, and these authors aren’t trying to be witty. No, they’re deadly serious, and as such they expand this rather banal commandment into a full-on dating Bible. Here are some of the things they prescribe:

  • ‘Do everything you possibly can to put your best face forward. If you have a bad nose, get a nose job.’
  • ‘Don’t stay on the phone for more than ten minutes. Buy a timer if you have to. When the bell rings, you have to go!’
  • ‘Don’t accept a Saturday night date after Wednesday’
  • ‘If you don’t get jewellery on your birthday, call it quits because he’s not in love with you’
  • ‘On all non-business e-mails, responding once for every four of his e-mails is a good rule of thumb.

They are also adamant that their disciples should show as little personality as possible. Keep things light, keep things airy, don’t be a ‘hysterical knee-slapping funny girl’, and, when placing personal ads, use this template

  • ‘I am twenty-eight years old, five feet seven inches with long brown straight hair and green eyes. People tell me I look like (model/movie star). I’m a dental hygienist. I like tennis and swimming. Well, that’s me! [Giggle] Have a great day.’

Effectively, when The Rules counsels being ‘a creature unlike any other‘, it means a cross between a crazed egomaniac and a Malibu Stacy doll.

I first read The Rules when I was twenty, in between The Female Eunuch and some particularly wanky Greenham Common era lit theory. As such, my copy is covered in angry post-adolescent annotations. See, for example, the cover page, on which I’ve scrawled (and underlined) ‘Anti-feminist tripe!!!’

Nowadays, I simply think that if you actually have to be told ‘don’t buy a man a book about astrology’ and ‘don’t talk about your time in AA on a first date’, you deserve what you can get. This will most likely be the sort of creepster who keeps on emailing you despite the fact you’ve ignored him four times, and who carves restraining orders on his bedposts in lieu of conquests.

Note to creepsters on OkCupid – if she’s ignored you five times and still no reply, it’s safe to assume she’s not doing The Rules on you.


About Abi Millar

British freelance journalist living in the Netherlands
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4 Responses to The Rules

  1. Nick says:

    Possibly useful in an American context, and I know someone who used it, who, come to think of it did bear some resemblance to Malibu Stacy, but I digress; even there it will only work on a Stepford Husband type. Most men, I think, would be way over the horizon at the first hint of deployment of the rules, or just simply would conclude that she’s just not interested.

    • Abi Millar says:

      Yeah, pretty sure that would be the default assumption. ‘She’s Just Not That Into You’ has yet to find a market.

      • Nick says:

        I’m sure that if Borders was still around there might be a small niche for that, call it pessimist/realist corner, depending on mood. But Oprah’s book of the month? Doubtful.

  2. Ugh, _The Rules_ sounds like more-or-less utter cr*p – at least from that abbreviated summary.

    *Not* speaking for anyone else, but, if I were going to rewrite that summary how it “ought” to be (if the book were totally rewritten!), I’d probably put down something roughly like this:

    o Best face forward – be genuine, don’t try to be or put forward what you’re not – it’ll backfire. As feasible, try to be interesting, positive, etc. – but again, don’t fake it. If one must, sometimes better to take a break or a rain check, than totally blowing it – particularly in early/tentative stages and if “Mr. Right” may not be up for that.

    o on the phone – for as long as it works well. If/when it doesn’t, move on to other things (or at least off that call).

    o Accept a date: whenever you want to and are interested. If you really don’t want to, for whatever reason(s), don’t – and perhaps suggest other time or type of date or whatever. Do *not* go on a date resenting going! Hell, we’re in the third millennium, *you* can propose a date if you want – and many (but not all) guys would be flattered at such proposal.

    o Birthday: If you told, reminded, hinted, etc., and he totally blew it off and isn’t even exceedingly ashamed/embarrassed/remorseful about it, move on. Does he show he quite remembered, cared, and maybe even went fair bit to quite a bit out of his way to try and make you pleased/happy for your birthday? If so that’s a good thing. If he couldn’t (hardly) be bothered, that’s *not* a good thing.

    o non-business e-mails, and other personal communications. Do *not* play (too) hard to get. He’ll take it as you don’t care / aren’t interested, and will tend to resent it, and move on. If you’re interested show it. Doesn’t mean one need reply to every communication or attempt thereof, but typically at least acknowledge such for the most part – or at least probably about 50% of the time or more. Doesn’t mean one need address/acknowledge every bit and point in any or every communication – but at least enough to show that you at least bothered to read it. If you let too much communication go by without response, he’ll likely presume you don’t care, or don’t or no longer like him – unless you’ve got darn good, and genuine, excuse for not responding in relatively timely manner (e.g. your dad’s been in hospital past week after major heart attack, or you had very busy week long business trip … and even in such case, at least uttering some trace of communication, e.g. “dad’s very ill in hospital” or “very busy work travel week, catch up later” – will be taken much better than hearing nothing at all). Oh, and don’t be weak or a pushover – you don’t *have* to answer/address/reply to any and every point he makes or question he brings up. Oh, and *never* tell a guy you’re interested, or like something when you don’t, or vice versa – that’ll just royally screw things up. (OkCupid note: if I send an initial message and hear nothing back, I’ll presume uninterested, and probably never message the person again – that’s what happens with about 90% of my initial messages anyway. If at any point I send 2 or 3 messages/communications in a row, without hearing anything back even after day(s)/week(s), I’m generally going to presume no longer interested, and will generally stop communicating with that person, and move on).

    o “disciples should show as little personality” – hogwash. Be yourself, be interesting, be genuine. If there’s any possibility at all, sooner or later they’ll get to know you well. Toss at least some of that in early. Sure, might “scare” some away – but only those that are too shallow or it’d never work with anyway. Showing more of yourself and what’s uniquely “you”, distinguishes yourself from “the crowd”, and generally makes you more interesting and attractive.

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