HarperCollins, £6.99, ISBN 0-00-719821-3
Relationships, 2005 (Reissue)
Since when does being a consultant for Sex in the City gives Greg Behrendt the cachet and qualification to be a relationship expert? But then again, it is becoming a moneymaking trend for men to write books of relationship advice with a freeloading female co-writer (usually a pseudo celebrity) to give these men some “acceptability” among the female readers that the book clearly targets. He’s Just Not That into You is one of the many relationship books written in a mix of Valley Girl and caustic teenaged-girl magazine lingo to appeal to readers of the Elle and chick-lit crowd. Thanks to Oprah, this book gets the exposure boon that ensures many people who would never otherwise care about this book will pick up the book because Oprah gives it her seal of approval. Case in point: me.
The raison d’etre for most self-help books is to hammer home the obvious that we sometimes refuse to believe. In this case, He’s Just Not That into You is a short but very effective hammer that will shatter all the illusions of a woman in a relationship with a Mr Wrong. At the dating stage, this book bluntly points out that men who don’t call aren’t interested in you, so stop waiting by the phone making up excuses about why he didn’t call. Men who have sex with you and then vanish the next day aren’t interested in a relationship – move on with your life. Men who belittle you in public do not respect you. Men who won’t commit will one day marry – it’s just that he won’t marry you because clearly there’s a reason why he doesn’t want to marry you. He’s just not that into you. The painful truths go on: men who have sad childhoods should not be given the free pass to treat a woman like dirt, men who drink too much and smoke too much pot clearly have issues, men who broke up with you will not come back to you unless you stupidly let him have sex with you after the breakup (and really, why would you do that for, silly girl?), and on and on.
What this book wants to drive home is the fact that women tend to make all kinds of excuses to allow the men in their lives to treat them pretty badly. Sometimes they refuse to accept that when a man says no, he isn’t interested, they delude themselves into thinking that the man surely doesn’t mean what he says. Oh, he is just confused. He just needs time to sort himself out. And on and on the woman may keep going until she ends up in a sad relationship where the man takes everything and gives nothing back.
On one hand, this book is a quick and easy read and while Mr Behrendt isn’t saying anything new, I like his sense of humor that enables him to drive home his messages succintly yet humorously in order to lessen the burn any reader may feel while reading the book. I believe that his views about the social scene is way too much of a black and white at times without any room for exceptions. For example, he is completely against a woman dating a married man unless she enters such affair with both eyes open instead of a fairytale delusion about how he hates his wife but can’t leave her because of the kids. But people sometimes do stay in unhappy marriages because of the kids.
Liz Tuccillo’s role in this book is to write painfully banal counterpoints to Mr Behrendt’s points at the end of each chapter. What can I say? It’s the easiest truckload of money she has ever made. While I appreciate her counterpoints, she writes like an irritating Valley girl that has never grown up. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer my relationship advice to be delivered in an adult and professional manner instead of a mess of “duh”, “like”, and “boy” peppering all over Ms Tuccillo’s constant derailing of a chapter into TMI moments about her own social life. Do I care to read about her exciting dates with drunks and junkies? I’m sure she thinks that I do but honestly, no, I don’t know whom she is and I don’t like receiving relationship advice from the literary soundalike of Jessica Simpson.
There are some potentially dodgy advice here, like how a woman should never ever ask a man out because men are conditioned to lead. Are women supposed to sit at home prettily and wait for a soulmate? Also, Mr Behrendt is a self-confessed former playboy who didn’t treat women too well in the past. Apparently he finds happiness with his wife that he co-wrote another relationship book with (about breakups, of all things), so I wonder whether I should be wondering whether there is any contradiction here between how it is okay for his wife to love a bad boy and how we women shouldn’t give bad boys any time of day. But to go there is to assume that working on Sex in the City magically gives one insight into love and sex and I really don’t think that is the case.
But there are some good wake-up calls nonetheless, like Mr Behrendt correctly pointing out how many women play the martyr too much to men who don’t treat them as well as they deserve to be, because many women feel so invested in the idea of being in a relationship that they are so afraid to lose the man, to the point that they delude themselves with fantasies about why the man still love them despite all the signs pointing otherwise. Therefore, if you need such a wake-up call or if you know someone who does, get this book for yourself or for them to read.