The Return of ‘The Rules’? No Thanks
There’s a fine line between useful advice and outdated nonsense—especially when it comes to dating.
I can pinpoint the year my mother lost all credibility as a dating expert. It was 1995, the year Ellen Fein and Sherri Schneider’s The Rules was published; the year my sister and I came home to find two copies of the bestselling book — based on a list of seduction tenets from 1917– waiting for us on the kitchen counter.
“Nineties women have simply not been schooled in the basics —The rules of finding a husband or at least being very popular with men,” read the introduction.
What burned more than the thirty-five chapters that basically told women to shut their man-repulsing traps, was the subtext: Your mother was right.
Now almost two decades later, we know she wasn’t.
If there’s any question, a press release I received last week teasing Not Your Mother’s Rules, an updated version of the ’90s bestseller, due out in January, closed the case.
It reads: “Two million books sold in 27 countries later, the #1 New York Times bestselling duo is back with updated Rules for the twenty first century: NOT!”
See what they did there? Not Your Mother’s Rules promises to be exactly your mother’s rules with a sprinkling of slightly-off references to text messages, email, and quite possibly, the Twitter.
Back in 2009, Fein and Schneider made their first foray into laptop-land with The Rules for Online Dating. In that book, they call an online dating profile an “ad,” recommend usernames like “blondbeauty60” and suggest succinct email responses to potential suitors like, “nice abs.”
If their advice was charmingly dated back in 1995, today it’s just spam.
For further proof, turn to the New York Times Bestseller List. In the nonfiction section, there’s a grand total of zero dating advice books. Women are increasingly turning away from romantic advice, in favor of commiseration and humor courtesy of famous rule-breakers. Today’s bestselling authors like Ellen Degeneres, Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey, have found success by offering women one single piece of advice: “It’s okay.”
If you were to add it up, the three comedians alone break almost half of the thirty-fiveRules, including “don’t talk too much”, “let him take the lead” and “don’t open up too fast”
What Fein and Schneider didn’t predict in 1995 is what direction the women’s “movement” would naturally take in seventeen years. Both women and men have changed and there’s no amount of dates we can coquettishly turn down that will bring back the past.