The Rules and Relationships in the 21st Century

Have you ever heard of The Rules? It’s a book compiling a guide to “finding Mr. Right,” and if you think that’s hilarious then you’re definitely on my side. Relationships are tricky, but do we really need a book telling us exactly how to act? Still, judging a book by its cover, I opened it up and started reading. Twelve pages in, I sensed a huge flashback: “In a relationship the man must take charge.” Call me a feminist, because I am, but these so-called rules are so backwards it’s painful. In this day and age it’s ridiculous to think that a man has to be in control all the time. Where would the world be without powerful women taking charge for themselves?

Do you think Beyoncé gives all the power to Jay-Z? I think not.

A Rules girl is not to offer to pay, not to speak unless spoken to, and to basically avoid phone calls, and lie to anyone who asks about The Rules. You also have to be “a creature unlike any other,” but you can’t give too much of yourself away. Don’t even think about flirting and showing off your sparkling personality—he has to work for everything.

According to The Rules: “Put lipstick on even when you’re jogging” (21).  This is, of course, because you constantly have to impress a man, which is unnecessary. While you have to be impressive, it is all about him doing everything. He is the one to approach you, ask you out, and make the plans. He’s even the one who has to keep conversation going. If you do anything, you will lose the mystery and he’ll get bored. It’s all a game and you are the challenge that men are seeking.

It is still nice for a guy to do a little extra work.

These ideas just don’t work in the 21st century. Men and women are equal. It is perfectly okay for women to be in charge, and it is definitely okay for a woman to go up to a man and start conversation. I, personally, lost any chance I had with a certain man because I was never the one to initiate conversation. He told me it felt like I wasn’t interested, so he moved on. But, according to The Rules, starting conversation will take away a man’s power and he will never actually love you. I just don’t see how placing everything in the man’s hands is helpful for anyone. Relationships involve two people, so putting all the pressure of conversation and dates (and everything else) all on one person completely throws off any sense of balance—something that The Rules is seriously lacking.

Besides a decent amount of good advice, like: don’t stalk the guy you’re interested in, have a life of your own, and don’t make him a center of your life, there is also some really harmful advice. The focus that they place on body image is worrisome: “If you have a bad nose, get a nose job” (21), “overweight is not The Rules” (131), and other instances where weight or style choice is brought up. Many women today have to deal with a lot of stress about how they look, and for a book to promote harmful self-image rules, directed towards women, is dangerous. It should be about accepting who you are and finding a man who loves you for that—not about changing everything about yourself and hoping the dropped pounds will magically draw men to you. The best relationship advice is to love yourself before someone else can love you, but once again The Rules doesn’t see that.

If you’re looking to find help for relationships, don’t go to The Rules. Trust yourself, love yourself. Don’t over-think—sometimes it’s best to just see where it all goes. Life isn’t solely about being in a romantic relationship; it’s also about friends and family and developing yourself. So even around Valentine’s Day and other couple-specific times, don’t get discouraged. Grab a good friend and go see a Rom-Com and laugh about stupid dating advice. You’re too awesome to handle anyway!


Jen Orlando, Manhattan College. Check out my blog! Follow me on twitter!

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