Would you take marital advice from someone twice divorced? You might, if you were trying to figure out what type of behavior to avoid once married. What about listening to lessons on love from an admitted player? Maybe, once again, if you were looking to avoid becoming easy prey. The same counsel that we (and by 'we' I mean women) would be wary of in person, we seem to clamor for in print. We'll read books by gay men, straight men, single men, divorcees, widowers all in hopes that they will give us insight on getting that elusive hardware on our left hands. But maybe we should check our sources.
Consider some of the titles that have come our way in recent years, for instance, 'The MANual: A True Bad Boy Explains How Men Think, Date and Mate--and What Women Can Do to Come Out on Top.' I read this book when it came out, not for any dating tips, but to get another perspective on the male mind. It should come as no surprise that someone who looks at dating as a game of one-upsmanship would frame his point of view as how to get the better of an opponent, but falling in love or seeking love shouldn't be played like a game of chess; because if you 'win,' how do you plan to date someone that feels like a loser and would you want to date someone who is, in a sense, a loser? And if every man treats a woman like a conquest, what happens when she's conquered? Is he going to want to settle down and get married? Not likely. What any woman can tell you is that once a man gets want he wants, he's gone. Especially if he's playing games.
Another recent addition is comedian Steve Harvey's New York Times bestselling book, 'Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man'. What makes Harvey, who is now happily married for the third time, an expert? There's no doubt his fan base from stand up performances and his nationally syndicated radio show, as well as admirers of his old school, 'tell it like it is' style of advisement have contributed to the book's smashing success. Harvey has even refashioned himself as 'love doctor' appearing on Nightline and Good Morning, America to dole out the truth about dating to lovelorn singles. Why his advice is mainly geared at women is beyond me. Can't men be clueless too?
In our society, it seems as though there has been a flip in the balance of power when it comes to dating. It used to be that a women's intuition ruled when it came to courtship. Men would have to play by a lady's rules if he wanted a chance. Now, with the decline of chivalry and the rise of extreme feminism, women's needs have taken a backseat to men's wants. A woman who desires marriage is portrayed as desperate and needy, someone to be avoided at all costs. For evidence, look no further than the movie He's Just Not That Into You, based on the book of the same name, which itself was inspired by a Sex in the City episode.
In the movie, woman are depicted as clueless, frigid and home wrecking. In one storyline, a character named Beth (played by Jennifer Aniston) decides to break up with a boyfriend after 7 years and no proposal. The resolution? After observing her sisters' soulless marriages, she agrees to continue the relationship so long as he is committed to her. The characters end up marrying in the end, but not until after Beth gives up her desire to wed almost as if the writers were saying, it shouldn't be about marriage, it should be about him. Mmmph! Give me a break!
No man has ever been depicted as weird or uptight for not wanting to get married. As a matter of fact bachelorhood is celebrated in our society as something that should be held onto for as long as possible. Single men are cool, hip and happening; single woman are sad, lonely and desperate; men's lives are full and active; a woman doesn't really feel completely fulfilled until there's a man to come home to. Where's does this all come from? I blame it on the fact that most of Hollywood is male (men compose over seventy percent of TV writers). I also blame women for believing the reality that these men create.
People often downplay the connection between the movies and Main Street, but art has strong influence on our culture. The fantasies created onscreen often become the next big thing. So, when TV tells us that marriage is a holdover from a bygone era…we believe them; when TV tells us that the most desirable woman is the most sexually uninhibited, we believe them; when TV tells us its more entertaining to watch women prostrate themselves for one man, we say, that's the way it should be! They're right! But who does this inuring benefit?
The majority of dating reality shows of the 21st century have fifteen to twenty women seeking the hand of one guy: The Bachelor, Ochocinco: the Ultimate Catch, Rock of Love, For the Love of Ray J, and, Lord God Almighty, Flavor of Love, sending the message that no matter how crusty the intended, women will go for it. Shows that put a twist on it (Average Joe, For Love or Money, Joe Millionaire, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?) do so to the detriment of their female participants, attempting to reveal them as superficial or venal.
When a woman does come around to try to clean up the dating muck being dish out by her male counterparts, she is often criticized, as in the case of The Rules authors, Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, who were called out for not having a sufficient background to be doling out dating advice or Patti Stanger, CEO of the Millionaire's Club and star of Bravo's Millionaire Matchmaker who was mocked because she was unmarried. No such arrows were thrown at VH1's Steve Ward who hosts Tough Love and remains without girlfriend or wife.
Dating is a challenging prospect especially for those who seek to be married, but it becomes even more daunting when dealing with negative ideals created by books, TV and films. Say what you will about the challenges of marriage, but for many single women (and men) that is still the ultimate goal of dating. For the media to put men in the position of being all knowing when it comes to relationships is to ignore women's natural intelligence when it comes to the same subject. I'm not saying women are smarter, just that our point of view is equally valid.