Ricki/Sophia 3

Dear Ricki/Sophia,

I’m the oldest of my ten cousins, and I’m the only one who didn’t marry in my twenties like a good girl. Usually, being single doesn’t bother me, even at a wedding, but I think that is about to change. My youngest cousin, Tabitha, is getting married in May, at which time I will be the only single cousin left. I won’t disclose our ages, but suffice it to say I held Tabitha when she was a baby. Even if I happen to be feeling good on the big day, I’m anticipating a lot of pitying looks and rude questions. What are your best tips for looking great, feeling fabulous and not giving a fuck?

Sincerely,
Spinsterliscious in Seattle 

Look great, feel fabulous, and do not give a fuck. Am I missing something?

Yeah, Sophia’s pretty much right here. Look, haters gonna hate, and rude people gonna rude. When you get pitying looks, ignore them. When you get rude questions, make big eyes at the person, say, “Wow,” like you cannot believe that this person could ask that rude a question, and then, if you don’t care about that person much, walk away, or if you do, change the subject. “Boy, the bride looked beautiful, huh?” “So, Kim Kardashian, right?” “Your shoes are fabulous; where did you get them?” Just as if they did not ask the incredibly rude question.

Yes, this is perfect. And do not for one moment allow yourself to feel as if you are being rude by changing the subject. You are being all things gracious and kind by ignoring their rudeness and carrying on a polite, appropriate, interesting conversation.

Yes. And if they persist, you can say, “Why are you asking?” And then stare at them and let the silence just sit there. Fight the nice-girl urge to smooth. They’re being rude and inappropriate; it’s they’re job to smooth.

Darling, you have nine nincompoop cousins who have chained themselves into the bonds of matrimony. You alone have escaped these shackles. What on God’s green earth would give them cause to pity you?

Sophia!

What?

We’re married!

Well, that was your decision.

Wow, Sophia. So, Spinsterliscious, do you have an ally at the wedding? Are you invited with a plus one? Bring your coolest friend, male or female. Do you have someone in your family who gets you and would never pity you for being fabulous? Hang with them during the wedding and have a good time. And stop calling yourself a spinster. Or not a sufficiently “good girl.”

Who wants to be a good girl? My alter ego is good and what good has it done her?

Wow, Sophia. Just wow.

Advertisements

Ricki/Sophia 2

And we’re back!

Dear Ricki/Sophia,

I just moved back to Chicago after seven years in sunny Florida. It was hard saying goodbye to a job I loved, great friends, and lots of fun clubs and community groups I was a part of. But opportunity knocked and I was ready for a new adventure, so I decided to give it a chance. Well, it’s been almost a year now and I couldn’t be more miserable. My new job turned out to be a total bust: I work long hours and I can never seem to get ahead. I have no friends left in town except my parents, who I’ve been living with while I save up enough money for my own place. I thought Chicago might be a great place to find the man of my dreams, but between my long commute and my lack of energy, all I want to do at the end of the day is curl up with a jar of peanut butter and the remote. Even my parents go out more than I do (which they don’t hesitate to point out)! And all that laying around and eating have made me pimply and fat. Who’d want me now? What can I do to get out of this rut?

Yours,

Regressing in Rolling Meadows

I do not know how it is that women do not understand this basic fact of men, but please, hear me: Being pimply and fat will not stop a man from wanting to have sex with you. Most of them will not notice that you are fatter and pimplier than you would like to be. BUT! Believing that men don’t want to have sex with you will stop a man from wanting to have sex with you, nearly every time. (Except for those horrible men who make a business of preying on insecure women, telling themselves that they are very clever indeed, when really, deep down, they do not believe that a woman who liked herself would ever like them. Which is true. And they are absolute shit in the sack; please do not bother with them.)

self-five

(It’s a self-five because Sophia lives in my imagination so we share a set of hands.) (Also, I’ve never inserted a .gif into a post before. I have a feeling this might be addictive.)

You have a bunch of small problems and they are snowballing into one big one in your head and that’s making you miserable and depressed. That doesn’t make you a horrible person; it makes you a totally normal person. But it’s what’s happening and it’s hard to recognize when it’s happening to you so I’m here to tell you that that’s what’s happening.

So, first things first, take care of you. I would start small. I would make a little schedule for myself. On Mondays, allow yourself to curl up with the peanut better and the remote. On Tuesdays you are required to go immediately to the gym after work, even if you feel draggy and tired. Join a yoga class or a class with some fun, exciting element like belly dancing or rock climbing, and just go no matter what else is happening. Take a totally different route to the gym than you do to go home, even if they are close to each other, so you can’t “accidentally” or unconsciously drive home. I’m not saying this because being fat is awful and you must get skinny immediately; I’m saying this because working out makes you feel better. Endorphins, energy, the sense that you did something good for yourself, simply not being home when your irritating parents are all, “We and have awesome concert tickets tonight and then after we’re going out for drinks, what’s your lazy ass doing?”, these are all good things. On Wednesdays, maybe a little more peanut butter and remote time, but before you sit down, go through your local paper or meetup.com and write down three new things you could maybe get interested in trying. Thursday, either back to the gym or to some other outside the house thing. Friday, do more research on those three things, then back to peanut butter. What the hell, put a few dark chocolate chips on there; it’s Friday!

And then Saturday find yourself a delicious man – not your dream man, honestly, darling, just someone attractive – and go back to his place. Or, if he also has a less-than-ideal living situation, go find someplace terribly naughty to park. 

Sophia thinks casual sex is the solution to everything.

I have nothing against formal sex. Wear ermine and pearls if you like; they make me feel divine!

We don’t have any ermine.

That’s what you think. 

Next, the big things. (1) Are you in therapy? Because it sounds like this whole situation – the big expectations you had going in, the letdown of those expectations, the feelings of helplessness surrounding the situation you’re in – has got you pretty down and a little immobilized and maybe seeing a therapist would help.

(2) How soon can you realistically move out of your parents’ house and to someplace that is closer to work? Get an idea in your head of how much money you’d like to have saved and then do everything in your power to get to that number as quickly as possible. Long commutes can suck the everliving life out of you and so can asshole parents. and rest assured, your parents are being assholes. “We’re going out; how come you’re not, loser?!” is not what parents say. It’s what Regina George says.

tumblr_mnksldboXR1reeivdo1_500

Yeah, this .gif thing is going to be fun.

Also, is this the house you grew up in? Even without asshole parents, living where you did when you were a kid can increase your feelings of stagnation and helplessness. GTFO.

(3) The job. You didn’t go into much detail so I don’t know exactly what’s going on with the job. You’ve only been there a year and you called it a “new adventure” so maybe give yourself a little break on the learning curve if it’s relatively new stuff for you? Maybe one of those off-the-couch nights could be seeking some form of professional development? What’s your boss like? Can you talk to him/her about practical, concrete ways to improve your performance? Does your boss think you’re underperforming (“can’t get ahead”) or is it just you? Sometimes – and God knows, I do this, like, way too much – we can let ourselves think, “I did not perform this particular task well, therefore I suck, therefore I should just bury my head in shame and hope no one notices while I chew myself out on the inside for sucking so much,” and that’s not productive or helpful. But you can instead think, “I did not perform this task well, therefore there must be better ways to approach this task. I wonder how I can find them?” and then you can go find them and learn new things and master them and it’s awesome!

I teach Sunday School and sometimes have to teach kids from 4th – 8th grade to read Hebrew. And because the place that I teach is what it is, kids tend to come into the classroom with widely varying levels of already knowing this stuff. So the kids who barely remember that Hebrew goes right to left and not left to right watch the kids in their grade who already know pretty much all the letters and vowels and go, “I must be so stupid and dumb and I hate Hebrew and I hope we can just get this over with,” and sometimes it takes a great deal of work for me to convince them that it’s okay not to already know stuff. No one is born with the Aleph Bet in their head. The kids who already know this stuff just learned it before, that’s all.

My point is, with the job, is there stuff you can treat like it’s just a skill set you haven’t learned yet, and then go about finding ways to learn it, either with the help of your boss/colleagues or on your own?

Or is it simply not the job for you at all? I think you should give it a full calendar year, but if it’s not, it’s not, and that’s okay. Maybe spend one or two of your nights a week doing some serious thinking about what it is you like about the job, what it is you liked about your old job, and what you want from your next job. Then start looking for the next job.

(4) Friends. Friends are everywhere. I think there’s something of a problem in letting us all come of age in college, where finding friends is the easiest thing ever and people get super tight super fast and it feels like family because you’re all at the exact same stage of your life, living on top of each other, with more free time than you even had before or will again, and so many ways to fill it that allow you to meet even more friends. And then we all graduate and move and shit, and find out that making friends as a grown-up is way harder. And it is. And it’s not going to feel like college. But it’s not impossible. Is there no one in your new work place you like and would want to get to know? Ask them for coffee! Ask them if they know any way to conquer the tasks that are difficult for you. Ask them if they know of any fun thing to do this weekend and then ask if they want to do that thing with you. When you’re not at work, get out of the house! You said you were part of lots of clubs and community groups in Florida; find some of those to join! I know you say your long hours are leaving you wiped but, (a) sometimes having fun stuff to look forward to doing is more energizing than knowing you’re going back to your house to be assholed at by your parents, and (b) caffeine exists in numerous delicious forms. Go join shit. Then find the cool people at the places you just joined and say, “Hey, I’m wiped from my long day. Want to get some coffee?” Or, “Holy shit I just had an awful week at work. Know any good wine bars?” What about people you grew up around? Are any of them still in the area/cool? Would you want to hang out with any of them? Give them a Facebook nudge and see what happens.

(5) Dudes. Look, I am not saying that the man of your dreams is not going to happen. But he is sure as hell not going to pop up on your couch holding an extra spoon. So, yeah, you have to leave the house. But also, you’re not going to find him if you start by thinking, “Are you the man of my dreams?” Because then it will always look like, “No.” Because you will be comparing him to this nebulous, glowing image in your head of what a dream man is and no man is nebulous and glowing.

I really like to cook, and my husband really likes it when I cook. But sometimes he’ll be like, “Hey, this restaurant makes a really great thing! Can you make the really great thing just like this restaurant makes?” And I hate when he does that because I’m never going to match the restaurant thing, and, worse, I’m never going to match his memory of the restaurant thing, which is better than even the restaurant thing itself. No man can match the dream in your head.

And you have to get to know the man before you know whether or not he is dreamy. I know, I know, gut-level attraction is important, but, as much as I hate to agree with Patti Stanger on anything, most women don’t know if their guts are attracted until the dude has his tongue in her mouth.

So don’t start with, “Are you the man of my dreams?” Start with, “Are you a man I might enjoy a cup of coffee with?” If yes, “Are you a man I might enjoy dinner with?” And then keep going.

But I wouldn’t even start here because I think you’ve got to get yourself in a healthy headspace before taking dating seriously. I mean, when choosing gym classes and community groups and whatnot, maybe keep half a mind toward dudes you might meet there. Like, maybe make only one thing a thing only girls would do. Don’t do a belly-dancing class AND a knitting circle AND a Jane Austen book club and then not have any time left for dudes. (I mean, I’m sure there are dudes who take yoga and/or knit and/or like Jane Austen. But in terms of numbers? Not so much.) But start by making yourself feel better about your life. Get yourself on a path toward what you want your life to look like. Then, if no dude has presented himself to you, start actively looking for dudes.

In the meantime, some delightful casual sex couldn’t possibly hurt.

I’m not saying “Turn down nookie.” I’m just saying, “Don’t make pursuit of nookie a significant goal right now.” Actually, I’m not saying that either. I’m saying, “Don’t make pursuit of the man of your dreams a significant goal right now.” Nookie is fine.

“Nookie” is always fine.

Ricki/Sophia Reboot

So here’s what’s going on. A long time ago I had an alter ego named Sophia. She’s sort of my id. And she even has an origin story! I had an English teacher my junior year who called me Rachel all year, except one day she called me Sophia. Then she looked at me and said, “You’re not Sophia; you’re Rachel!” So the following year I had a different English teacher who heard me telling this story, and speculated that Sophia was my evil twin. Specifically, my evil Italian twin, whereas Rachel was my nice Jewish girl. (My mother is 100% Italian and my father is 100% Jewish and so I do, actually, have Italian and Jewish halves.) (Also, the English teacher making this comment is himself Italian. I grew up in Jersey, people.)

Anyway, Sophia was going to offer advice with me and I did a couple of columns like that and then I think I erased Sophia from my blog. I was going to set her up with her own but I . . . kind of never got around to it.

And yet my – and her – advice is needed! So here goes!

Dear Ricki/Sophia,

Help! I have a big decision to make. About a decade ago, I got my dream job and moved to a small town in the Midwest. I love what I do, and I have a lot of friends here, but there’s just one problem. There are NO eligible men here! I’m not exactly afraid to be on my own for a little while, and I love the independence of the single life, but to be honest, I haven’t been with a man since I moved here (and the few that have applied for the job could not handle the workload, if you know what I mean). Now I’ve been offered a less-prestigious job, for less money, but in a big city with lots of man potential. Is it silly to sacrifice my career just for sex?

Yours,
Celibate in Cedar Rapids

Darling, I do know exactly what you mean. Of course it is not silly. Sex is never silly. Well, sex is often silly, and delightfully so, but it is never silly to do anything in order to have sex.

Yeah, maybe that’s true for figments of my imagination, Sophia. But let’s back up a step. You say “eligible men” in sentence two, but then in your question you ask about “just for sex.” And those are two very different questions.

Ah! I am lucky I am not alone here; I did not catch that. Yes, I must agree, I find it absurd to believe that there are no men capable of delighting your body in Cedar Rapids. I confess, I do not know what a Cedar Rapids is, but, darling, the world is positively full of men with working penises and a significant percentage of them have some vague idea of what to do with a woman’s body. But if you are looking for something more than simply a person to fulfill your sexual desires, then the question is more complicated.

And you’re not great with complication, Sophia.

I beg your pardon?

Outside the bedroom.

There are many things one can do outside the bedroom.

You know what I mean!

Look, if by “eligible,” you mean, “a man I might want to get married to,” and marriage is important to you, then no, it’s not silly. I’d take some serious time to consider if you’ve truly looked at all of your marriageable options where you are, but if you really think you need to move to find a husband, and you want a husband, then, yeah, do it.

If your career is important to you, too, though, also consider the new job and the old job. You say the old job was your “dream job” ten years ago. Is it still? You say the new one is less prestigious and makes less money. Are those crucial characteristics to you in a job? Does this new job offer something, besides a well of new men, that is attractive to you? If so, then I’d say this is an unqualified yes. Change jobs, change living situations, go on with your bad self. If not, is there a possibility of holding out in Cedar Rapids for a little while longer? Maybe looking into dudes you would not marry but might have fun with in the interim and still look for new jobs in new locations that would offer fulfillment?

Darling, do keep in mind, men are simply crawling all over this planet. There are literally billions of them. In big cities and small, in little tiny towns and on vast swaths of farmland. I do not know how to go about choosing a man for marrying, but for pleasure? Just find one that makes your skin tingle and go for it!

But use a condom.

Ugh.

Yeah, well, figments of imagination don’t get STIs or pregnant. Real women do.

Yes, well, fine, then. Use a condom. And have fun!

Ricki and Sophia – A Conversation

This has been brought to my attention.

And this.

And this.

I thought Sophia was going to be too upset by all this to speak, but it turns out she’s not.

Darlings. When I first read the Chris Jones, ahem, article-

I know, right? (It’s the third link, kids.) The thing is, like, less than 500 words. I spend more time on these posts. And I don’t get paid or have a national audience.

I think, darling, that this gentleman’s efforts in this piece of writing might be indicative of his efforts elsewhere.

Snerk.

Really, what goes through a man’s head? “I admit that I am mediocre at best when it comes to pleasing women, but if my partners are uncomfortable and unenthused, it is clearly because they are bad in bed.” This is ridiculous! I would be outraged if I were not merely mystified. He calls women couch cushions and wonders why they won’t communicate with them? Couch cushions don’t talk!

Dumbass!

Darlings, perhaps I did not cover this well enough in my initial offering to you. I told you, great sex is an adventure with two participants. But perhaps I did not emphasize enough – you must make a woman feel comfortable enough with you that she’s willing to, say, rappel down the side of a mountain with you at her side, otherwise it cannot be great. You cannot just strap on the harness and then say, “Whaddaya, frigid?” when she seems nervous. Nor can you look at an obviously nervous face and say to yourself, “Well, she’s not saying ‘no’, so legally I am not obligated to do anything more before we head down the mountain.”

You think this makes us delicate flowers but it does not. You do not realize it but we are constantly doing this for you. We do not make a habit of frequent comments on penis size of other men while in bed with you.

There are probably women who do.

Then do not have sex with them; what do you want me to say about that?

Fair enough.

We do not go to the Internets, assessing the hotness or lack thereof of every male person whose picture has ever been available in a newspaper, and then acting as if we have been personally hurt or offended or slighted if we do not want to fuck said person.

That’s not all guys.

But it’s hardly any women, is it?

You’ve got a point.

We read magazine article after magazine article instructing us as to how to be more pleasing to you, both in and out of bed. As far as we can tell, your magazines mainly focus on getting us into the bed, via manipulation and trickery. They ought to focus on the one thing that would actually work consistently – show us that you are kind, decent, clean men who are very, very good at making us come. 

You know, not every girl reads Cosmo.

And not every man reads Maxim. But the attitudes embodied in those magazines are present in the wider world, are they not? Furthermore, a simple comparison of the two displays this phenomenon of which I speak. Cosmopolitan has article after article about, “Does he like that skirt on you? Really?” and “How to tell what he’s thinking by the movements of his eyebrows” and “Top Ten Sex Tricks to turn him on and get him off!” Maxim has pictures of women in tiny underwear standing next to gadgets.

And now I see the nonsense [first and second links] about how you might not even want us in bed except perhaps as distant-second proxies for your favorite pornographic movies! I admit, I was upset when I first read about this. I, Sophia, am not anti-pornography, although I do find myself wondering how they can create millions upon millions of films in which people have sex that are so devoid of true sexiness. But I am not against pornography as a concept. I think if you, or you and your partner, find the viewing of such things pleasurable, then this is wonderful for you. 

But to be satisfied with it to the point where an actual lover cannot interest you? This to me is ridiculous! What about kissing? What about touch? What about the excitement of discovering that this person with whom you want to do all manner of filthy and delicious things also wants to do them with you? What about the fun parts? But, darlings, I cannot be angry. Only very, very sad.

I have to think this all has to do with entitlement. I thought this, for instance, was an interesting read.

Pah!

You didn’t like it?

Why does he elide his evo-psych “men are just naturally built this way” ideas with his “men are conditioned by society to feel this way” ideas? Those two are exact opposites!

Granted. And, as my readership knows, I’m firmly in the “men are conditioned” camp. I think he’s so far conditioned he can’t tell the difference between his conditioning and his natural urges (which, really, we all are), and not only that, but he can’t separate enough from them to satirize them. He ends up sounding like he thinks men are justified in behaving in the ways he describes.

Another man with whom I will not have sex.

Well – that was a given.

I mean even in your imagination.

Okay. Anyway, I wonder if these things are connected. David Wong writes that men have been tricked by pop culture into thinking they are owed a woman just for being their awesome selves, and maybe they’ve also been tricked by porn into believing that those women should be willing vessels for the fulfillment of whatever fantasies they have, with no particular desires or fantasies of their own. You said before that one of the best parts of sex is knowing someone wants you the way you want them, but if it never occurred to you to give a damn what someone else wanted, if it only has ever occurred to you to concern yourself with whether or not they’ll agree to let you do what you want, then you’re not even aware you’re missing that part.

That is depressing.

Yeah. And that speaks also to the whole “rape culture” notion and the resistance to the idea of replacing “No means no” with “enthusiastic consent.”

What is this now?

You know the expression “No means no.”

Of course, darling. I have never had occasion to utter the word “no,” nor have I ever heard it uttered to me, but I am certain I understand.

Okay, good. But then there are activists who want to emphasize that it’s not enough to not hear “no,” you also have to hear an active, “Yes!” or even, “Oh, my God, yes, please, now!”

Naturally that is preferable.

I’ve written about this before. Sort of. And the resistance to the idea of “enthusiastic consent” is, on the one hand, understandable, because it’s pretty difficult to enforce legally, but on the other hand, why do so many people-

Male persons.

Uh, yeah, pretty much. Male persons. I mean, I wasn’t going to say that, because obviously, women can rape, but-

But I don’t have your nice-girl political correctness so I’ll just say it. Male persons.

Okay, thanks. So they respond with an almost absurd degree of anger at the idea that they should be responsible for making sure that the women with whom they’re having sex really, really want to be having sex with them. Which is an entitlement issue, isn’t it? To think you have a right to sex, sex being a thing you do for your own personal pleasure, as long as you can get your partner to say “yes”, that’s being super-entitled.

If you say so, darling. I think, more significantly, it is sad. It is completely pathetic that these young men – and by “these young men,” – I mean the authors of articles such as these – are so completely unable to experience the fullest and most delightful human experiences, stunted as they are. Perhaps by pornography, perhaps by this culture of entitlement of which you speak, but perhaps simply because of their own natures.

By the way, while I’m typing this, I’m seeing a commercial for Axe dandruff shampoo with the tagline, “Lose the flakes. Get the girls.” In it, girls turned off by flakes literally vaporize, because obviously women who are unwilling to have sex with you cease to exist, and then he gets rid of the flakes and even though he’s otherwise physically unremarkable, three models in bath towels fondle him. So, yeah.

I am also surprised to learn that the “blow job” is no longer in fashion.

Snerk.

Really, darlings, if you meet a man who expresses any agreement with the idea that porn is better than sex, do not have sex with him. If you meet a man who declares the blow job passé, do not give him one. It is simple.

There might be a numbers problem.

Oh?

Maybe so many guys are-

Unformed adolescents with no ability to satisfy a woman?

Yeah. That all the women will be competing over, like, seven guys.

This is not my problem. Your imagination is populated with more than enough men for me.

You’re welcome.

Then my other suggestion, for the men, is that they become one of those seven “guys.”

He’s Just Not That Into You – A Readalong

Look at me, getting on this super quick like that.

Okay, the book was published seven years ago but I just announced my intention to blog about it, like, two weeks ago, so that’s super quick.

First, some general background. This book is by two writers on the staff of Sex and the City. Greg Behrendt advising some of the women on the staff that the men they were obsessing over that the gentlemen in question were just not into them inspired an episode in which Carrie’s boyfriend Ron Livingstone advises the girls – well, advises Miranda, because Miranda is the closest thing to a feminist we have on the show, and therefore the least attractive – that some guy is just not into her. Miranda finds this eye-opening (as did the writers, apparently) and it works out great – until she thinks a guy is not into her when really he’s having a bad reaction to the Indian food they just had. Likewise, the absolutely mind-numbingly awful movie they made of He’s Just Not That Into You (and I say that with all the love in my heart for Ginnifer Goodwin and a soft spot for Justin Long, too), the guy is just not that into her, and acts like he’s just not that into her, and does all the things in the book that indicate that he’s just not that into her, until poof, he is. So both times they use this premise in fiction, it’s not at all a good premise. I realize that’s how romantic comedies work, but I just need to point that out.

Okay, let’s take this chapter by chapter, shall we?

Chapter One – He’s Just Not That Into You If He’s Not Asking You Out

I do feel the need to start with a caveat – I met the guy I’m married to – I met and immediately started dating and have never been non-monogamous in my relationship with the guy I’m married to – when I was eighteen. And, unless we’re counting the three days in sleep away camp I spent with Mike Braunstein when I was fourteen, he was really the only person I could ever have described as my “boyfriend.” So I have not personally gone through the experience of dating as it is described in this book. I have never, not once in my life, been “asked out,” on an actual date, by someone who wasn’t already in a long-term relationship with me. (I’m not sure I’ve really been “asked out” by someone who was already in a long-term relationship with me.)

But I live in the world; I have friends; I have met people before. Not only that, but I am fully capable of understanding that not all people experience the world exactly the way I do, and that not all people of a given gender experience the world exactly the same way as each other. So that puts me one step ahead of Mr. Greg Behrendt.

I don’t know how guys stand this. After presenting us with three examples of women making excuses for why men aren’t asking them out – they don’t want to ruin the friendship, they’re intimidated, they want to take things slow – he hits on the “But can’t I just call him?” theme. And here’s what he says about that:

Men, for the most part, like to pursue women. We like not knowing if we can catch you. We feel rewarded when we do. Especially when the chase is a long one. … men like to chase and you have to let us chase you. I know. It’s insulting. It’s frustrating. It’s unfortunately the truth.

Now, I’ve met guys. A lot of them. Some of them do really seem to like the chase. Some seem to like it to the exclusion of having an actual girlfriend. This is one of the reasons women don’t like hearing, “Oh, men like the chase, just let them chase you!” Because somewhere, some time, we’ve all done this. We’ve held ourselves at a distance, either on purpose or because we genuinely weren’t sure, we’ve finally decided that the guy chasing us must be a worthwhile person of excellent taste, we’ve finally allowed ourselves to be “caught” – and we’ve found ourselves less interesting to him than a garden slug the next day. Even I, with my embarrassing lack of experience, have gone through this.

But men are, in fact, human. They don’t all like the same things. They don’t all like the chase. Some of them, in fact, experience this very human emotion known as “insecurity.” So when a guy like this is interacting with a woman who doesn’t flirt overtly with him, isn’t available for dates, and never calls unprompted, he assumes she . . . doesn’t like him. Shockingly. So he doesn’t pursue because he’s not interested in courting rejection.

And following this advice puts women in this weird position where we can’t act like we like you if we like you, because then you’ll be put off, but if we genuinely don’t like you but are not total bitches, then we’re acting precisely in the way that inspires these chase-oriented guys to, well, chase. You know, we smile, we laugh at your jokes, but we don’t call you or give you our phone numbers or date you. So you chase. Then we have to become actual bitches to put you off, which many women hate doing, and which has been known to inspire violence from men. Not all men. Not even many men. But it’s hard to know which ones are which until you’re alone in a back alley with one.

And he’s awfully dismissive of some perfectly good reasons why men might not ask a given woman out. The “He’s intimidated by me” “excuse” is illustrated with a (fictive?) letter from a woman saying someone in her employ – a gardener? – is attractive to her but not making a move despite her flirting. Now, one possibility is he’s not interested, sure. But Behrendt insists that “a guy will ask out a woman of higher status if he’s into her.” Might not the employee be uncertain about the flirting the woman is doing, and nervous about holding on to his job if he’s wrong?

The same thing is going on with the “ruining the friendship” thing. Behrendt insists that no man ever has worried about ruining the friendship with a sexual relationship. I’m sure that’s not true, but even if it were, people (yes, men and women, both) don’t usually worry that making a move on a friend because they think the move will be accepted and the friendship will be ruined. They worry that the move will be rejected and the friendship would be ruined. We’re not picking a friendship over sex. We’re picking a friendship over the possibility of no sex and no friendship. (And we’re also keeping Schrodinger’s cat in the box, allowing ourselves to permanently exist with the possibility that our crush object might secretly like us rather than opening the box and finding out. But that’s a separate issue.)

I mean, sure, if you make a move on your guy friend and he says, “I don’t want to ruin the friendship,” then, yeah, he’s telling you, “I’m not attracted to you.” Or at least, “I’m not interested in pursuing a thing with you.” But if you have a male friend and he’s not making a move, it could be that he’s not interested OR it could be that he is interested but thinks that if he makes mention of his interest, you’ll think he’s a creep and not be his friend any more.

The “take it slow” thing is illustrated by a woman writing about a man going through a divorce, blah blah blah. Again, Behrendt rejects the notion that men ever feel anything other than “desire to have sex” and “satisfaction that they’ve just had sex.” It is not possible that a man could be attracted to you but have other things going on emotionally that are making him gun-shy at the moment. Because men are not human, they’re men. Really, there’s a whole subset of the third wave feminist movement devoted to screaming about the way women are portrayed in the media (and I am a proud member of this subset). Why aren’t more guys there, screaming about how men are portrayed in the media? I don’t get it. (Okay, there are some guys. Scream louder, guys!)

Darlings, this is what the point ought to be. Maybe the gentleman is “into you” but is in an emotional place where he cannot fully devote himself to the worship of your wonderfulness. This does not make him a bad man. Nor does it make him a man worthy of your thoughts, your emotions, your time. Whether or not he is into you, you are not required to be into him.

Thanks, Soph. We need to be reminded of that.

Behrendt ends the chapter with two stories under the heading “This is what it should look like.” One is about him asking for a girl’s number in a bar. She won’t give it to him but gives him her name, which is not a terribly uncommon name. So he calls all the girls in the phone book with that name until he finds her. Another is about a friend of his who met this girl at a party, lost track of her, but then hunted her down. These are supposed to be the good stories. Not at all the, “He seems sweet but he might just be a stalker” stories. Because when you meet a guy for ten minutes and don’t give him your phone number or a way to find you easily, he should definitely assume that means you want him. Right?

Chapter Two – He’s Just Not That Into You if He’s Not Calling You

This chapter is a special bailiwick of mine because I f-ing hate the telephone. I have always hated the telephone. It was actually a problem for me in high school, until I learned to just be a girl and have phone conversations. Then I went to college, lived with my friends, and reverted to my old, hating-the-telephone ways. I will consent to phone conversations with people far away from me because I love them and it’s the only way to keep in contact. But if we live near (or with) each other, the only phone conversations I want to have are ones in which we make arrangements to meet or make amendments to those arrangements. This does get on Jason’s nerves, because he will sometimes call me on his way home from work, which is fine with me if it’s just a “I’m on my way home from work!” call, or a “I’m stopping at Target, do we need anything?” call, but then sometimes he wants to actually talk about his day and I’m like, “Won’t you be home in twenty minutes? Can’t you tell me this then?” If I were a single adult who dated, and you were the guy I dated, I would be mildly annoyed if you called me up in the middle of the day just to say hi. I mean, if I liked you, I’d take the call, and I’d try to chat pleasantly, but mostly I’d be thinking, “Aren’t we seeing each other tomorrow? What do you need to talk to me now for? Couldn’t you send me an e-mail instead?” So I have little sympathy for the women who are in this chapter whining about the men who don’t call them, and little sympathy for Behrendt’s assertion that men, just like women, love talking to the people they care about on the telephone. Because I don’t. I really don’t. I like e-chats and e-mails and talking in person. I hate the phone.

That aside, there’s some more stuff in here that’s, “Even if he’s into you, are you into him with him behaving this way?” – like, if he says he’ll call and he doesn’t, and especially if he does that thing where he says, “Oh, someone’s at the door, call you back in five,” and doesn’t, aren’t you annoyed? At some point, don’t you say, “Whatever, I’m not dealing with his bullshit no matter how ‘into me’ he is?” Why isn’t the question, “Am I that into him?”!

And there’s some more stuff that’s “This is how you expect a guy to act after a few dates? Really?” One “letter” in this chapter is from a woman who went on a few dates with a guy, then he forgot to call her when he went out of town to tend to his sick mother. And, from the letter, I mean, he didn’t show up to the date, she called to find out where he was, and he said, “Oh, shit, I’m driving to Connecticut to deal with my sick mother.” So it’s not like days went by and he forgot to call. And look, not calling to cancel a date was rude. But . . . you’ve been out on a few dates. His mother was sick. Do you expect head-over-heels, you-are-the-world already?

He also ends by saying, “100% of men polled said they’ve never been too busy to call a woman they were really into.” Okay. 100% of your friends agree with you. That’s fabulous. Also, people suck at self-reporting. Ask all of their girlfriends and wives if they have ever forgotten to call and see what the result is there.

(As a note, I don’t think my husband has ever forgotten to call, although keep in mind that we spent the first four years of our relationship in college, where ‘calling’ was less of a thing than ‘coming over.’ But ask him about my phone manners and he’ll give you an earful. Seriously, I suck at phone-related things. And I apologize to anyone I’ve hurt by this. I know there are a lot of you.)

Chapter Three – He’s Just Not That Into You if He’s Not Dating You

Now, again, my experience here is limited by the fact that my only relationship started in college. Behrendt wants to claim that “‘hanging out’ is not dating” but we did nothing but hang out. Well, and make out. More making out than hanging out those first few months, if you want to know the truth. And I’m going to assume that hunting for empty dorm rooms also does not, by Greg Behrendt’s standards, count as a date.

That aside, this chapter is mostly right on, even if it doesn’t address things in a very woman-friendly way. It does assume that, as a woman, you want a relationship, and men, unless they’re “really into you,” don’t. And I’m willing to accept the possibility that there are women out there who are genuinely fine with casual sex, genuinely fine with being each other’s booty call, genuinely fine with a friends-with-benefits situation.

Certainly any of these situations can be quite pleasant.

We’re married, Sophia.

I know, I know. But darlings, there is something to be said for a man who will make you come and not at all expect you to do his laundry.

But if you do want a real relationship and he doesn’t, don’t be with him. He’s not going to come around after the ninth bonk. He’s not going to realize how into you he is when his father is dying and even though he’s only ever called you for sex before he’s now calling you for emotional support unless you’re fictional characters in a rom-com. If he wants a casual thing and you want a relationship, leave. It’ll suck. It’ll be lonely. It’ll be sex-free, which is difficult. But not as difficult as hanging around someone with whom you are in love, who doesn’t love you but is willing to use you.

And seriously, ladies, listen to what a man is telling you at the beginning. “I don’t have the time for a relationship right now.” “I can’t really be anyone’s boyfriend.” “I’m really emotionally unhealthy and toxic.” If you hear a man say this to you, as my lawyer parents are fond of saying, “Be guided accordingly.”

Chapter Four – He’s Just Not That Into You If He’s Not Having Sex with You

Darlings, honestly. Forget whether or not he’s into you. If he is not pleasuring you, what on Earth do you want with him?

Yeah. This chapter is pretty much right on, too.

Chapter Five – He’s Just Not That Into You If He’s Having Sex with Someone Else

Um, yup.

Unless you have agreed to be polyamorous.

And by “agreed,” I mean, you both are into the idea of being each other’s main but not only squeeze. Not you pretend to be okay with him sleeping with other women so that he stays with you even though you die inside a little each time you see lipstick on his collar.

(Who leaves lipstick on a collar? Who kisses a shirt? Why is that a thing?)

Chapter Six – He’s Just Not That Into You if He Only Wants to See You When He’s Drunk

Now this is the chapter I had a real problem with. Because the title sounds reasonable. If he’s only drunk-dialing, that’s not a relationship. But the actual letters go deeper than that. The actual letters go into casual drug or alcohol use that has nothing to do with the relationship, and into addiction. And Behrendt seems to be working on the premise that if a guy were “really into you,” he’d be able to quit his addiction. It’s only because he doesn’t love you enough that he can’t.

Here’s the “This is what it should look like” section of this chapter:

I know a successful businessman who used to get stoned every single night, and sometimes in the morning too. He dated women who didn’t like it, and he would try to cut down while he was dating them. One day he met the women [sic – I assume] of his dreams and she would have none of it. He stopped cold turkey and now spends his days completely sober and very happy with it.

You guys, this attitude is effed up. It’s the exact opposite of what any AA-related material or actual psychological research would tell you about addiction. A genuinely addicted person doesn’t just love their drink more than they love you; they’re addicted to it. It’s an illness. They need help and love, not “If you really loved me, you’d quit!” shit. And the people who do love alcoholics, etc., also need support and love, not “He must not really love you/Your love must not be good enough for him” nonsense.

I’m willing to believe Liz Tuccillo’s stoned businessman story. It happens to some people. Especially with pot, which, unlike alcohol and many other drugs, is psychologically but not physically addictive. Which is not to say that psychological addiction is easy to break, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than physical addiction. Just ask someone trying to get off heroin.

And I’m not saying, ladies, if he’s addicted to something, and y’all just met, love him and support him and help him on the path to sobriety. You just met him; if you don’t want to pick up that kind of baggage, which can be strenuous, don’t. Remember Sophia’s and my cardinal rule – You don’t have to be into him just because he’s into you. But if you are already in a relationship, romantic or otherwise, with a person addicted to some form of alcohol or drug, please know that it’s not your fault. It’s not that the person doesn’t love you; it’s not that your love or your self is not good enough to cure that person by the magic of your awesomeness. It’s that the person is addicted.

This chapter really pissed me off. It’s serious social irresponsibility in the guise of a lighthearted dating advice book. Step off, Greg and Liz, and leave the real issues to the professionals.

Chapter Seven – He’s Just Not That Into You if He Doesn’t Want to Marry You

Look, if you are a person who wants to be married, and he says or has said that he never wants to get married, don’t be with him.

If you are a person who wants to get married and you’ve moved in together without even talking about a timeline for marriage, like, “Let’s move in together and if we don’t want to kill each other in a year, let’s get married,” it’s time to have that talk. (I know people don’t like having those talks because they want proposals to be surprising and romantic and all, but marriage is serious. Grow up. Talk about it.) If the talk ends with him saying, “I don’t want to get married,” then this is not the relationship for you and I hope you live in a market where finding a new apartment is relatively painless, i.e., not New York or San Francisco.

If you are a person who wants to get married and he says he isn’t “ready,” figure out when you need him to be ready by, tell him when that is, and stick to it.

But. I do not buy the premise that marriage is the be-all and end-all for all people, men or women. I do not buy that a guy who says he doesn’t want to get married necessarily just doesn’t want to marry you. That’s probably the case sometimes. But not all the time. And for all the anecdotes that Greg and Liz and their fictive letter writers can offer of men who just weren’t into you enough to get married, I can think of at least three relationships I know about off the top of my head that were or are long-term, committed, and monogamous, without being legally binding. If I wanted to, I could probably think of several more where one or both partners wasn’t “ready”, and then they were! So if that kind of arrangement is fine with you, don’t go creating problems where there are none.

And yes, I see that, once again, 100% of Greg Behrendt’s friends, who are presumably of similar age, socio-economic background, and general attitudes towards life, agree that of course they’d marry a woman they thought was the love of their life. So that’s a reliable statistic.

Chapter Eight – He’s Just Not That Into You if He’s Breaking Up With You

Look, break-ups suck. You don’t need Greg and Liz to beat up on you for not being over it, already.

Yeah, it’s not a good idea to keep having sex with him. And yeah, you should be classy, not crazy, about the break-up, as they advise.

But still. There’s no need to be mean about it.

Chapter Nine – He’s Just Not That Into You if He’s Disappeared On You

This is the same thing as the last chapter. I don’t know what it’s doing here.

Chapter Ten – He’s Just Not That Into You if He’s Married (and Other Insane Variations of Being Unavailable)

So, once again, people, this is the time when we don’t ask ourselves, “Is he that into me?” but “Am I into him enough to put up with this shit?”

If he’s married? No. That’s a lot of shit. Step away.

If he’s in the process of a divorce and really f-ing bitter and in the middle of the shitstorm that comes with the divorce? Well, look, it’s a lot of shit. It might be a storm that goes away, or all that anger and self-centeredness might be his actual personality. Date cautiously and only if you really, really think there’s a gem in there. (And if you find that he’s handling his divorce with emotional maturity, self-control, and kindness, well, that’s probably the best sign you’ll ever get that he’s a keeper.)

Chapter Eleven – He’s Just Not That Into You if He’s a Selfish Jerk, a Bully, or a Really Big Freak

No, no, no! You’re just not that into him if he’s a selfish jerk, a bully, or a really big freak. (Unless his freakishness and yours are compatible.)

I took a short-stories class in college. In it, we read “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” by Raymond Carver. Truthfully, I don’t remember the story that well, though I do remember that I liked it at the time. Vaguely, it was about a group of friends talk about love and it comes out that one of them is being very seriously physically abused by her fella. Now, the story was written pre-1990s, so it doesn’t deal with the issues the way we, the liberal arts college students of the early aughts, were accustomed to. So a big discussion broke out in class about whether this woman’s fella really loved her. Half the class (mostly the guys) said yes and half the class (mostly the girls) said no. I said yes and was hollered at for a little while, and I was confused at first, until the discussion turned and I finally realized what the problem was and how to address it. “I’m saying he might really love her,” I said, “but I’m not saying she should love or stay with him! He’s still a horribly dangerous asshole and she should get the fuck out!” (Yeah, I might have said ‘fuck’ in class. Brandeis was that kind of school.) It was a light bulb moment for everyone, including me. We had all been operating under the assumption that a woman is supposed to love a man who loves her, because he loves her. This book rests on that assumption, too, that the first question is, “Is he into me?” and not “Am I into him?”

Ladies, the first question should always be “Am I into him?” And you’re allowed to say “No,” even if he is, in fact, into you. And that’s pretty much my problem with the whole book – that it asks the wrong question at the outset. I don’t think you should spend a lot of time making excuses for guys who are treating you badly. I just think you should worry more about who you’re into, and less about who’s into you.