I’m Busy Today, So To Keep You Amused, Here’s a Clip of Me on Oprah in 1996

Yes, it really happened. I was on the show to rebut the women who wrote that odious book The Rules. No, I was not actually AOL’s Relationship Columnist; Oprah’s people made that up. Yes, that is a very Cosby sweater I’m wearing. Yes, that’s my real hair. It was the 90s, man. Enjoy. See you later.

105 thoughts on “I’m Busy Today, So To Keep You Amused, Here’s a Clip of Me on Oprah in 1996

  1. Oh man.. my wife had a copy of ‘The Rules’ when we were first dating – I think it was tossed out within a couple of days of our first date; it’s now been 12 years later, including nearly 7 years of being married – we still occasionally joke about what a ridiculously stupid book it was. Her point was that the book’s whole purpose was getting the ‘achievement unlocked of getting marriage’ and not at all related to a good relationship.

  2. Hell yes John! There was nothing not awesome about that. I hate crap like The Rules. Such BS. Being yourself (most importantly being happy and comfortable with yourself, that shines through when you are not trying, that is what really gets peoples attention) gets you a whole lot more then trying to enact some advice from some book that trys to tell you how you HAVE to act if you want to find someone. I has ring to prove this point as well=)

  3. This is just to say that, since my sound card is dead, I tried the “translate audio” option for closed captioning.

    Is very funny, but I don’t think it’s very close to what John and Oprah were actually saying.

  4. That was fantastic.

    I feel like a member of your family; I’ve heard the story of how you and Chrissy met so many times, I may as well be sitting at your Thanksgiving table. (Not complaining, mind you.)

  5. This was incredibly cool. Someone gave me that book years ago (I had really bad man choices). I read it, lmao, then tossed it. I would much rather have made bad choices than no choices. You were dead on back then and now.

  6. I was working in a book store when that horrific book was selling big. It was around the same time Dr. Laura’s “Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives,” was on the bestseller lists.

    There was also a book out called “Now That I’m Married, Why Isn’t Everything Perfect?”

    I *hated* the self-help section with the flaming heat of a billion suns.

  7. Will George Lucas and ILM be remastering that show any time soon to correct your hair to match his original vision? Or perhaps to add more droids and aliens in the background?

  8. Love it John. I think you got the last word, and that’s nearly impossible on the Oprah Show!

  9. I actually did manage to track that down earlier after you’d mentioned it on this blog. Nice to see it here so you can point to it more easily in the future.

    The one thing that baffles me about the whole Rules thing is why people talk as if men are the only ones put off by being pursued a little too obviously. Surely the Nice Guy phenomenon would prove that women aren’t impressed by that behavior, either.

  10. The Rules was a great idea! Deceive a man into liking a false version of you so in a couple of years when you know each other better you can have a messy divorce.

  11. I’ve never read The Rules, but what the authors say on this show strikes me as absurd, and what you said strikes me as very reasonable. Women shouldn’t ask men out, call them, or propose? That’s dumb.

  12. WOW.
    Hair? Glasses? Cosby sweater?
    Who knew that you were the coolest dork in the universe?

    Raising your hand rather than just shouting over the other people. A more elegant weapon for a more civilized age.

  13. That was awesome. Between a late-night run to grab a forgotten bag, waking up in a tent, having to deal with a customer’s server-down issue from a KOA campground, my morning was getting off to a lousy start. Then I fixed the problem, had a wonderful camp-cooked plate of eggs, sausage, and hash browns, and saw this lovely clip. LOL at the wedding ring bit. My day is looking up!

  14. I was going to watch the clip but then I realized it would give the authors of The Rules more credit than they deserved. I’ll just salute the Scalzi hair that sacrificed itself to keep us safe.

  15. I don’t always watch Oprah, but when I do I only watch it with Scalzi. Stay witty my friends.

  16. Robert, I urge you to reconsider. They come off as grim and cranky and defensive; John comes off as both suave and nerdy, somehow.

    It’s also an excellent example of how to make assholes look like assholes without namecalling or being rude.

    Of course, I also really enjoyed seeing a young John do a very queeny “Stop! In the Name of Love” hand gesture at 0:49. :-D

  17. The 1990s had “The Rules”. This decade has “The Rules of The Game”. A mating strategy that worked in 1990 is completely useless these days. And once you are married, there is “Married Man Sex Life” with tips on how to stay married by becoming the husband your wife will desire forever.

  18. Hahaha! I actually remember this episode. I remember agreeing with you. I made a move very similar to your wife and landed my own John. Happily married for nearly 20 year now. Not bad. Rules were meant to be broken.

  19. John, that was simply beautiful. Thank you for unearthing this clip!

    Would it be inappropriate for you to hand out stickers / badges inscribed “AOL Relationship Consultant” to anyone wearing a red shirt at your next con appearance?  ‘Cause I’d totally spring for those…. <chortles/>

  20. Syd wasn’t kidding. Definitely watch it with the CC/transcription on. It’s extra hilarious! :D

  21. Dood! You talked over Opreh. Cool!

    I have no idea what The Rules are (90’s had 7 of my 14 years of college; kinda blurry) but am guessing it’s women trying to turn back the social clock to pre-1964?

    I agree with you on confident women being cool. Met my wife at a party where she washing on about the Chinese mummies of 4000bc. I was the only guy who started talking with her as I had some knowledge of Philology (thank you Prof. T!) and how it helped confirm the movement of proto-Celtic people east as well as west. 14 years later, can still say “I married the smart one.”

  22. I think I saw that episode when it originally aired. I thought that book was at least as stupid as, Real Women Don’t Pump Gas. I got all my relationship advice from Seventeen Magazine. Without fail it all pretty much boiled down to, “Be yourself!”

  23. [does the math in his head] Dude … that couldn’t have been you! What were you, like 14 in that clip?

  24. Will George Lucas and ILM be remastering that show any time soon to correct your hair to match his original vision? Or perhaps to add more droids and aliens in the background?

    John shot first!

  25. You talked over Oprah!!! Also, that book sounds completely retarded. I would give you kudos for crushing her ridiculous argument, but that’s not really an accomplishment. Her rules are just that stupid. (Has anyone followed up on her marital status, BTW?)

  26. Okay, I copied the CC myself. The transcription doesn’t identify the speakers, it just prattles along in all lowercase. All the stuff in caps below is my additions:

    OPRAH: clients cognizant relationship column is for america online says it may be the rules will lend you a husband but he’ll probably be dumber than a sack of rocks christmas annual had no idea of who you really are

    JS: i’m just a guess i don’t know much but i do know i do know this much that when uninterested in a moment i want someone who is my equal and i know that she’s mabel from the get go we’re talking it with the rules are talking about parents is your peer cool you peer conficent but i want a woman who is cool and who is confident and how to i know that because she has enough confidence to come up to me kenapa accomplices say one against she has enough confidence to meet me halfway for for date let me give you an example i had the swinging immune it’s a lovely waving as a learning that i have because i’m a rich maybe a full life christine vows his colleague we met because she asked me to get she saw me [BREAK IN TRANSCRIPTION PRESUMABLY BECAUSE APPLAUSE RENDERED HIS SPEECH TOO UNCLEAR] does that mean that funky chicken thank you and she said i headed here is that [OPRAH SAY SOMETHING NOT TRANSCRIBED] well before the record

    SHRILL BRUNETTE WOMAN ON STAGE: but here’s a bit using people can walk across another admitted that the metadata i wanna hang out

    JS: but here’s the thing financier unless she was there menopause and synergen connect up to comes up to me says u_n_ week we have to that now is good dot that we dance at the end of it we had a really good time many of you know what i did i did my business card and i said i really like you i want you to give me a call sweden dot on another day it by giving her my business card in saint please call me i really want to call me what sunday i gave her control of that situation ok but the thing is is that i don’t think that i’m that unusual in the sense that i think that meant today know enough about women that they are confident not that they can say business it is good for me cannot mean say g one death and mike ago ally catches a well to start for me and i would say i would say i would say yes i sent and if there was a dance it’s good to see if it goes from there it was

    OPRAH: one of these days that the rules concentrate on the process of meeting in dating a man rather than the relationship but i think one of the things they said was that this is for the beginning most women and just decided that that most women are just trying to meet diluted how many celebrities and in these people just want to meet some not

    JS: hearing dates are married you still need to rules thats a rolex role

    BLONDE WOMAN ON STAGE: you need a reluctant to do them at that point from

    JS: but but that’s not my point is is that as it is a much better they have a man who knows who you are from the beginning

    OPRAH: yesterday until daily so I don’t really have a play at a point watching it they both be right like you to be right with right baby right now that i need you look at the rules with a sense of humor antisense abt bank balance incorporate what works for you and what doesn’t work do you think

    SHRILL BRUNETTE WOMAN ON STAGE: well are smart beautiful man in the event constantly talk with them and area because ob you can take and then you can call then you can propose

    OPRAH: kids we know this is how do on the oprah show some of the smartest women in the world may complete fools of

    SHRILL BRUNETTE: candidly it’s like balcony barakat part of the however

    NONSHRILL BRUNETTE ON STAGE: having one parent is a psycho

    [ALL THREE WOMEN TALK OVER EACH OTHER, NO TRANSCRIPTION]

    SHRILL BRUNETTE: alright still enjoys it hostility

    JS: what is what i think i think that every relationship should indeed have rules and those rules should be made between a man and woman

    OPRAH: doctors say you should never by a man if you want him to marry you also the men get to speak some more when we come back into town

  27. OMGoddess, I watched that ep. I vaguely remember it and remember thinking that whoever thought up “The Rules” found a quick way to make some money at stupid women’s expense. (Expenses?) You were dorky, but so were most of us in those days. Weird seeing it again.

  28. I am reminded of the Star Trek Next episode where Worf is asked to explain the physical difference of the Klingons of times past and his present state. I believe he said we don’t like to talk about it? Not that you are not now an eminently handsome man…but I do notice a change…
    Oh, and that woman scared me.

  29. Xopher:

    “Suave and nerdy” is exactly the impression I got too.

    JS: In the ’90s I would have wanted to be you, sir.

  30. I guess Shrill Brunette was incapable of seeing that men weren’t responding to her overtures b/c she didn’t follow The Rules, it was that they simply thought she had a grating personality and wasn’t someone they wanted to hang out with?

  31. “Odious” is a strong word; I much prefer “silly” for a book like “The Rules”. But that’s to be expected since it’s a self-help book and the self-help book industry is dominated by silly books.

    “Odious” I’d reserve for the modern feminist movement which seeks to graft the Left’s favorite theory of “Oppressor vs. Oppressed” onto gender relations even though women have more than achieved equity in our society.

  32. Bullshit, scorpius. But you know that. You never stop, do you? Even something light like this you just can’t resist coming in and trying to light a fire.

    Scorpius Infraponticus.

  33. I once read an article about The Rules but I was unable to turn it up via search..

    The gist was:
    1. apply tests to determine if a woman is using “The Rules”
    2. If she is, use the rules to be as difficult as possible. For example, one of the rules is “don’t accept dates after Wednesday night”. The response was to get tickets for her favorite band and then ask her to the concert on Thursday.

    The article wasn’t actually advocating such behavior; it was a criticism of The Rules.

  34. I suppose there are men out there who want a woman who follows The Rules. Perhaps there are even women who want to follow them. They get what they deserve. I would make such a man as miserable as he would make me. My adorkable husband likes having someone who is his equal, and not into game playing. So do I.

  35. @Xopher, you have to treat it like that annoying guy at the party who has to make every conversation All About The Injustice Of His Life and try to shit on everybody else’s good mood. You know: Bob is excited about his new job, and while everybody’s congratualting him, That Guy says (just loudly enough to be heard) “Wow, I wish people got that excited about *me* holding down a job like an adult.” Or, when Yukio is excitedly telling everyone she’s pregnant, That Guy has to stage-whisper about how there just aren’t enough people already using up all the resources on the planet. Then he’s as pleased as a toddler in a Cheerios pit when people react with shock and irritation (i.e., pay attention to him as if he matters).

    So, yeah, you can pretty much assume that no matter the subject, scorpius is probably going to come sulking in with “blah blah LEFTIES blah HELL IN A HANDBASKET blah blah I RAIN ON YOU ALL WITH MY DARK GRUMPY CLOUD OF GRUMPINESS, HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT, LIBERALS?!” Best to just treat it the way you’d treat That Guy.

    @vian: As Pat Califia has pointed out in a really brilliant essay I can’t remember the name of, there are people who not only prefer traditional, rigid gender-role behavior, but eroticise it. They may complain about game-playing and “the war of the sexes” but the only thing they like less is doing without it. It is for those people that The Rules is a good fit. Sadly, it was not marketed as Dating for Performative-Femininity Fetishists and The Men Who Love Them, but as general advice to all, which just made it sad.

  36. I love how Oprah tries to smooth things by saying “why can’t you all be right?” That might be valid if the book didn’t have such a provocatively authoritative title. If it were called Some Options, then sure, but no, not exactly, no.

    Anyway, glad my wife, who approached me first almost ten years ago, didn’t buy into that nonsense. I imagine our kids would agree. Is it excessively snarky of me to wonder how the authors are doing these days, relationship-wise?

  37. I remember reading someplace that Mulder & Scully were the perfect “Rules” couple. Look how well that worked for them.

    I worked at a book store when “Rules” came out. I remember thinking following the rules would probably keep anyone dumb enough to buy
    the book from contributong to the gene pool and that was a real good thing for humanity in the long run.

  38. I’m surprised no one has commented on this yet, but I love the looks the women in the audience were giving John. I’m sure that if he hadn’t been wearing that wedding ring and basically stated he was more than happily married he would have been approached by a few women at the end of that show. I saw a few that looked attracted to John with an expression on their faces that said “I want that man, now”.

    And as others have stated that clip’s a perfect of example of making someone look like an ass without trying. The Rules ladies were so eager to defend their book they did themselves in.

  39. I like John’s hair better now. It’s aged like a good single malt Scotch. Not wine though; wine is revolting.

    I feel bad for John, though, since he evidently read that book and will never recover that time. And now we have new and improved 21st Century bullshit, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, and a market so obsessed with these wastes of paper that I wind up hearing about them despite my best efforts to ignore them.

    Here’s my self-help book reprinted in its entirety:

    Save yourself time, money and brain cells by not buying pop psychology books written by cynical socially indoctrinated drones who think people are TV sitcom characters, only shallower.

    Your welcome, world.

  40. “The Rules”? Wow, I’d totally forgotten about that.

    It was a good set of rules for women who had little or no self esteem and got way too serious in a relationship way too early. Out of the first 24 rules, many address behaviour one might observe in women with low self esteem.

    Don’t Stare at Men or Talk Too Much
    Don’t Meet Him Halfway or Go Dutch on a Date
    Don’t Call Him and Rarely Return His Calls
    Don’t Accept a Saturday Night Date after Wednesday
    Fill Up Your Time before the Date
    Always End the Date First
    Stop Dating Him if He Doesn’t Buy You a Romantic Gift for Your Birthday or Valentine’s Day
    Don’t See Him More than Once or Twice a Week
    No More than Casual Kissing on the First Date
    Don’t Rush into Sex and Other Rules for Intimacy
    But as general advice for all women? No, not so much.
    Don’t Live with a Man (or Leave Your Things in His Apartment)
    Don’t Date a Married Man
    Slowly Involve Him in Your Family and Other Rules for Women with Children

    My favorite: Don’t Discuss The Rules with Your Therapist

    Also, don’t discuss any drugs you’re taking with your doctor or pharmicist.

    So, it might have value for some women who have low self esteem and either attach themselves way too quickly to a man or have sex way too early for the relationship because they don’t value themselves. But as general advice for all women, it’s pretty clunky.

    Also, John, love the sweater.

    ;)

  41. I’ve always respected John Scalzi. Ever since I bought OMW out of the blue and read it the same night. I’ve been following his blog since then, every morning reading through Whatever. I’ve been a hanger-on for years. I balance him out with Charles Stross’s blog. But this Oprah clip changes everything. Why? Because John used to be a cool geek, like Wil Wheaton et al. Now he’s COOL (end stop)

  42. mythago, yeah, you’re right. As usual. I even kind of know that. Guess he got through my guard that time.

    I’ve never understood why some people think being hated is just as good as being loved. Some even seem to prefer it. I am truly mystified by this; it’s completely alien to my mind.

    K.W., I noticed that too. The woman sitting next to him, in particular, would definitely have asked him to dance! Several others were definitely thinking “wow, all the good ones are taken.”

    Greg, “Don’t Discuss The Rules with Your Therapist” proves that the authors were not just misguided, but were actually scumbags who didn’t have their readers’ best interests at heart. It proves they didn’t believe in their own rules.

  43. It always seemed to me that one of the big problems with The Rules is that it’s all about “how to make a man marry you by playing hard to get;” in which case it probably only works on men who want what they can’t have, and will get bored and cheat on you almost immediately after the wedding; which would be fine, I guess, if you were only after their money, and lived in an era when it was much harder for them to divorce you.

    Similarly, the “player” books all seem to be about advising men on how to attract clingy insecure women – you know, the sort that might start stalking them – for one-night stands.

  44. Xopher:
    It’s easier to be disliked than loved (or even just respected), emotionally safer in the short run, and for some people it’s preferable to not being noticed at all.

  45. “Don’t Discuss The Rules with Your Therapist” should have been a big red flag in a high wind, like saying “Don’t Discuss This Business Proposition With Your Accountant”.

  46. Xopher: were not just misguided, but were actually scumbags who didn’t have their readers’ best interests at heart. It proves they didn’t believe in their own rules.

    I don’t know. Misguided maybe. Scumbags, not so sure. Like I said, I think the rules might be useful for a woman with low self esteem, to give her a “how to” list that she can follow until she gets high self esteem. So, maybe the women who wrote the Rules were women who used to have low self esteem, and the rules helped them. And maybe they had a lousy therapist, so the rules helped them more than the therapist did.

    Then again, maybe they were just looking for a way to cash in.

    I don’t think it actually matters to me what their intentions were. I think the advice could be helpful for some women with low self esteem.

    Looking back, having dated women with low self esteem and women with high self esteem, I would say a woman with high self esteem is a whole lot more fun to be in a relationship with. I think it also increases the chances of a marriage lasting if both partners have high self esteem going into the marriage. Which, I think, was one of the things Scalzi was pointing at on Oprah.

    If a woman is following the rules because she has low self esteem and she would normally break the rules, for example, if she is a woman who usually sleeps with a man on the first date because she doesn’t think she has anything of value to offer the relationship, then ultimately, the Rules will help her in the short term from doing things that might make her self esteem worse (sleeping with a man trying to get him to love her), but in the long run, she needs to deal with her low self esteem. And any man with high self esteem is going to fairly quickly pick up that the woman is following the rules because she has low self esteem, and he’ll want to get as far away from her as possible. Not because she’s following the rules, but because she has low self esteem. And a relationshp based on low self esteem has the odds stacked against it. A relationship based on low self esteem is far more likely to end in really spectacularly bad ways.

    I think John points at this on Oprah. A man with high self esteem wants a woman who has enough self worth to walk up to a man and ask him to dance because she feels confident about herself. A relationship where both partners have high self esteem, a grounded sense of self worth, has far better chance of achieving happily ever after.

  47. Like I said, I haven’t read the book, but going by Greg’s description at 3:14 am, it looks like some of The Rules are a good way to screen out any guy who isn’t a stalker.

    Don’t Call Him and Rarely Return His Calls

    Many men are reasonably going to interpret this as a sign that someone is not interested. In fact, I would say it’s creepy for a guy to keep calling a woman if she doesn’t return his calls.

    Always End the Date First

    Again, I think many men would interpret this as a sign of low interest. It would make me think she was too timid to decline my invitation but really wants to get the hell out of there ASAP.

    And I agree with Xopher and Bearpaw: “Don’t Discuss The Rules with Your Therapist” is a big huge red flag!

  48. CPierson: “Is it excessively snarky of me to wonder how the authors are doing these days, relationship-wise?”

    One of the authors got divorced after the book came out, which made it pretty high profile. She remarried later. They’ve done more books in the Rules franchise, basically by raiding old 1950’s tomes on how to be a good wife or mistress, and of course make a mint off of seminars, speeches, private consultations, etc. Their audience are upper middle class women who are trying to snare “alpha” business males by presenting themselves as highly desired sex objects who need to be pursued but who are pliable and won’t challenge the man’s “alphaness.” Basically the idea is that you put up with men who are completely sexist because they’re successful, rather than go find men who aren’t sexist, like say Scalzi. It’s the idea that society and men can never actually change their attitudes towards women, so at least successfully manipulate that into a ring and a bank account. (Never mind that such a guy will replace you with a new trophy wife down the road; divorce court is presumably seen as a profit center for these people.) It’s a fantasy of a world that doesn’t exist and certainly doesn’t exist now, where women are the main breadwinners in 40% of the households, stay at home dads number in the millions and the majority of women have to work for a living. (The majority of women had to work for a living in the 1950’s too; we just like to pretend that they didn’t.)

    What was so effective about Scalzi’s appearance was not so much what he said, but simply the story about he and his wife meeting, which so eloquently showed that the philosophy was bunk and that relationships are actually about two human beings interacting. But that sweater, seriously, even for the 1990’s that sweater was impossible. :)

  49. I TOTALLY had that sweater!

    As to The Rules, it was a disturbingly good seller at the bookstore I worked in right around 1996… In Salt Lake City. In that area, there was a HUGE pressure on women to get married and have kids (eg. if you were over 22 and didn’t have someone, you were an old maid.) So glad I moved.

  50. The sentence that struck me was, “..I think that every relationship should indeed have rules and those rules should be made between a man and woman.” That is much more gender specific than you are today.

  51. I may have seen that (I was still watching Oprah in those days) because I remember one of “The Rules” the women at the front yelling at a nice guy who was giving a sensible comment. All couples are different, whether they have one date or are still dating 35 years later… ;-> And one reason why couples stay together is when they decide what’s right for them, and if other people disagree, well, fuck them.

  52. Chris Sears, to be fair, The Rules was only about interactions between men and women. And with same-sex pairings you’d quickly discover that if both parties are following the same rules (of this kind, where you don’t call until he calls you etc.), nothing happens…or disaster occurs.

  53. @Xopher: Lesbian sheep!

    @Kat: part of the reason these books do so well is that there IS good advice in them; have self-esteem, there is no need to be desperate, don’t act as though he is doing you a favor by allowing you to be in his life, set appropriate boundaries. The problem is that it’s buried in a toxic stew of creepy manipulation and stereotypes.

  54. Which isn’t to say that some rules don’t hold any wisdom:

    Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars, 1939

    Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit. ~Peter Ustinov

    The hardest-learned lesson: that people have only their kind of love to give, not our kind. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

  55. And he did it all wearing a button-down collar!

    Love comes in many flavors. Give it to others, and you’ll get much more in return. It’s not a zero-sum game.

    nb. If you’re keeping score — you’re losing.

  56. Hilarious and perfectly timed for me. Recently broke up with a woman who insisted that the fake ph.d. John Gray knew everything important about “relationships”. ugh, live and not learn…

  57. “Their audience are upper middle class women who are trying to snare “alpha” business males by presenting themselves as highly desired sex objects who need to be pursued but who are pliable and won’t challenge the man’s “alphaness.”

    Probably more just highly desired objects; the sex seems like it would be likely to be less interesting than in a healthy relationship.

  58. @ CLP

    Many men are reasonably going to interpret this as a sign that someone is not interested. In fact, I would say it’s creepy for a guy to keep calling a woman if she doesn’t return his calls.

    Well, yeah, which is exactly why it’s a good way to end a relationship before it starts. I’ve always taken things slowly on my end of a relationship. Kissing is not something I would do on a first date (sometimes second, usually third). It takes a couple of months of dating for me to feel sufficiently comfortable with a woman to find out if she wants to progress to sex. But if I call a woman two or three times over the course of a week to set up a date early in the relationship and she doesn’t call back, I assume it’s over. This isn’t just respecting her boundaries; it’s not wanting to seem desperate. Contrawise, if a woman calls me several times in a day early on without some very good reason, I’m going to end the nascent relationship for the same reason I’d avoid getting overly chummy with a clinging guy friend – needy people want someone to fill in their insecurities, not a friend/partner. I’m happy to be there for my friends in times of need, but I’m no one’s blankie. Fortunately, I found a mate who’s as much of a nefarious hard-ass as I am :D

    @ Greg

    If someone doesn’t feel confident confiding in their therapist about their love life, they probably ought to shop for a new therapist or else they don’t belong in therapy. Paying to be psychoanalyzed by someone you don’t trust would be pretty counterproductive, IMHO.

    @ Xopher Halftongue

    Chris Sears, to be fair, The Rules was only about interactions between men and women. And with same-sex pairings you’d quickly discover that if both parties are following the same rules (of this kind, where you don’t call until he calls you etc.), nothing happens…or disaster occurs.

    Bingo. Which is why these sorts of advice books are only useful if you want to play cat and mouse games and not build a real human relationship. But hey, lots of folks want to live behind picket fences:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_A50V0WOgE

    To each their own. A fool and her money…

  59. @Xopher Halftongue I was trying to be fair. John’s wording was surprising to me because since 2004 “between a man and a woman” is most commonly preceded by “marriage is defined to be”. Hearing John say “between a man and a woman” triggered a connection in my mind. I’m certain that John’s support for gay marriage has not changed, and I didn’t mean to imply that is has.

    The connection I made is that this is the only time that I can remember that John talks about relationships in general when he is specifically discussing a different-sex relationship. It commendable that he has been able to be inclusive in all of his other writings. I was commenting to give John that commendation. I guess I needed one more sentence.

    Please keep in mind that I am only responding to explain, and not pick a fight. I also don’t believe that you want to pick a fight either. I just hate to have that hanging out there when my real name is attached. We really are in agreement.

  60. Future Ace in the Hole conversation:

    Wife: I’m so tired of you feeding your inner geek with my hard earned cash.
    Me: But it’s Scalzi’s 50th First Edition, and has the 3d interactive holofoil diecut cover.
    Wife: So what? Why do you like him again?
    Me: I really like his books. He called you once, at home, on a Saturday, to make sure that you wanted nothing specific signed to me on the two books that you bought for me as a Christmas gift. I tried to run him off thinking him a solicitor, but he felt he needed to ask you personally and would not hang up.
    Wife: Oh, him… He had such a nice phone voice. What was I supposed to have him write? “From your loving wife, Kim. She always tells me how great you are!” Would you have liked that?? But seriously. $200? For a book?
    Me: He’s a good guy. That’s worth the $200 alone, BUT… he’s been on Oprah. He raised his hand when he wanted to speak. He made her guests look foolish, as they proved to be. Best of all, he was met with applause for what he said. Not many men can say that. Here, watch this…

  61. Man, that rules lady is shrill.
    A very reasonable and robust rebut, John. On behalf of dude-kind, I thank you.

  62. Gulliver: Paying to be psychoanalyzed by someone you don’t trust would be pretty counterproductive

    Hiring a diet consultant and never losing any weight? Hiring a workout coach and never exercising? Welcome to the human condition.

    Which is why these sorts of advice books are only useful if you want to play cat and mouse games and not build a real human relationship.

    Not sure what you mean by “these sorts of books”. But one can read the Bible and get something of personal value out of it, even though it’s full of endorsements of slavery, rape, stonings, war crimes, fratricide, and more. No book will ever give *you* the advice and answers that is exactly right for *you*. No therapist will. No spiritual leader will. No one will. Not even you can give that to yourself.

    All we can do is try and pick through the rubbish and find the bits of treasure that will help us on our way.

  63. Greg, I agree with the second part of your post but not the first. I agree that many people don’t get much out of therapy, often because they don’t put in the work, as with the nutritionist and exercise coach. But that has little to do with trust, IMO. It has to do with the client’s willingness and ability to put in the effort, even with a trusted therapist, nutritionist, or exercise coach. Seems pretty pointless to even attempt to work with them if you don’t trust them. It’s hard enough when you do.

  64. Mythago: “part of the reason these books do so well is that there IS good advice in them; have self-esteem, there is no need to be desperate, don’t act as though he is doing you a favor by allowing you to be in his life, set appropriate boundaries. The problem is that it’s buried in a toxic stew of creepy manipulation and stereotypes.”

    Not in this one. The book tells you how to pretend to appear to have self-esteem so that you will seem like a desirable sexual object worthy of chasing — the pretense of self-esteem tied entirely to your value as a hard to get sexual conquest. It has nothing to do with your actual sense of self-esteem. Once you have gotten the man to chase you, and to buy you by buying you good gifts, you are supposed to then largely drop any semblance of self-esteem and never challenge the man, let him think he’s right, let him take the lead, never ask for anything that might cause the man inconvenience, like picking up his socks, etc., and behave in a submissive, quiet, accommodating manner — forever — as long as he financially supports you and buys you presents. The book explains to women that they are deficient, that however they might naturally behave is wrong and the only way to have the desired alpha guy is to play the chaste coquette, followed by a combo of obedient wife and mistress.

    At least once every ten years now, we get a book like this that usually sells really well. They contain no original material, just a call to go back to ideals of feminine behavior from the 1800’s. In this case, the two authors were very good at marketing all sorts of spin-off products and services, which combined with the further development of the Internet, helped propel their media profile and sales. Because Oprah and women’s magazines will always take something like this on, even if it’s to talk about how it really doesn’t sound like a good idea. If you have low self-esteem, subverting your personality and refusing to ever talk honestly with men is not really going to improve things.

  65. The Rules struck me as a useful way to artificially remove the whiff of desperation from women who are, in fact, desperate. Not at all a great guide to a genuine relationship.

  66. I love the look of panic on the authors’ faces when they realize you’re reasoning them out of book sales!

  67. BW: Seems pretty pointless to even attempt to work with them if you don’t trust them.

    Trust, or a lack thereof, is tertiary symptom, not the problem. The problem is low self esteem. The cause can be anything, but an example might be the woman was molested when she was a child. The woman might think that being molested is somehow a reflection on *her*, that she deserved it, that she had it coming, that that’s all she’s good for. And THAT, ultimately, is what low self esteem is all about. “I’m only good for sex.” or some “Truth” to that effect, rather than having a sense of self worth.

    Kat: If you have low self-esteem,

    Well, that’s great, except most people with low self esteem don’t realize they have low self esteem. They think “I’m only good for sex” or they think “no one likes me” or they think “I’m ugly” and they think that’s the TRUTH. Trying to get someone with low self esteem to give up their version of the “TRUTH” and to see its just low self esteem can be quite difficult, and almost entirely unlike Hollywood tends to portray it.

    Often, the place to start is in *behavior*. And Rules 14 and 15 improve behavior regardless of whether it immediately improves self esteem or not.

  68. @Chris Sears: Absolutely in agreement. “To be fair” is a locution meaning “here’s a mitigating factor to the perfectly valid point you raise.” I didn’t think you were being UNfair, and I certainly had absolutely no intention of picking a fight, or thought that you were doing so. In fact I didn’t think anything bad of you at all. I wasn’t even slightly irritated. I’m sorry if the way I wrote my reply made it sound like I was taking you to task; that was not my intention.

    I thought you were making a point about how long it’s been since the 90s, actually. Marriage Equality wasn’t really on the table then, IIRC.

  69. I’d be more concerned about those glasses than by the sweater and hair combined. Not that I, who rocked the mullet in my senior portraits, has any room to criticize anyone else’s ’90s-tastic style.

  70. Seriously, that particular book is specifically about how you catch a sugar daddy. Have a career and catch a sugar daddy, but still, sugar daddy. In multiple books, the authors promote the concept that the best way to be happy long term is to continually lie to guys you date or get involved with and on into marriage. I think my favorite is one of the ones for marriage, though, which involves you giving him fifteen minutes alone time when he comes home from work. They don’t mention making sure there’s a pitcher of martinis waiting and a pot roast cooking, but I think most women can pick up on the “Mad Men” reference. They combine it with the mistress tips: be mysterious, be an amazing creature, etc. I unfortunately had to pay attention to this crap because it was part of my job and the media loved it. They still sell books off it, but thank goodness the media no longer cares and I never have to deal with it again.

    What was so funny about that appearance of Scalzi’s is that here he was, clearly a nice middle class journalist, saying that he met his wife because she asked him to dance, presumably when he was not wearing that sweater, and the authors on the stage couldn’t come out and say on soulful Oprah’s show, “you’re not the kind of guy we’re talking about; we mean rich stockbrokers!” so they were clearly scrambling like mad. One of the main reasons The Rules took off over others of its ilk was because of rumors that Carolyn Bessette used the book to catch John Kennedy Jr. Which is silly because she wouldn’t have to read The Rules, she could just watch an old 1950’s instructional newsreel on dating etiquette. Sad about that plane crash, though.

  71. @ BW, Chris Sears, Xopher Halftongue, et alia…

    BW’s closed captioning transcription reads:

    JS: what is what i think i think that every relationship should indeed have rules and those rules should be made between a man and woman

    Chris Sears said:

    The sentence that struck me was, “..I think that every relationship should indeed have rules and those rules should be made between a man and woman.” That is much more gender specific than you are today.

    I was trying to be fair. John’s wording was surprising to me because since 2004 “between a man and a woman” is most commonly preceded by “marriage is defined to be”. Hearing John say “between a man and a woman” triggered a connection in my mind. I’m certain that John’s support for gay marriage has not changed, and I didn’t mean to imply that is has.

    This was bugging me all day so after work I decided to listen to the video again (marking the second time in my life I’ve watched a daytime talk show, but I’m still 0 for 0 on reality TV). John doesn’t say between a man and a woman; he says between the man and the woman. The use of the definite article indicates that he was referring to the specific hypothetical scenario addressed by the sexist book in question. John’s pre-millennial integrity is secure. What a difference two letters can make!

  72. Kat: I think my favorite is one of the ones for marriage, though, which involves you giving him fifteen minutes alone time when he comes home from work.

    Clearly, there are subtexts going on far more sinister than appear on the surface of those words. Because on the surface, not such a bad rule of thumb. But then, I don’t watch Mad Men, I hate martinis, and don’t expect my wife to cook anything.

    My wife and I came up with a rule of thumb that we greet the other when they get home and at least let the other get their coat off and sit a minute before one drops a litany of troubles in the other’s lap.

    If tragedy occurs, obviously, no need to wait. But the laundry, the dishes, bills, car trouble, and unmown lawns are no tragedy.

  73. My mum bought me that book when I was 12.[1] It was absolute rubbish, and most of it didn’t apply to me because I wasn’t allowed to go on dates yet, and was not yet very interested in kissing. And anyone I would’ve been seeing, I wouldn’t have had any choice but to see them five times a week: every day at middle school.

  74. @Kat – but that’s why those books sell so well. Otherwise publishers would just be reprinting The Sensual Woman. They’ve got just enough ‘think well of yourself’ advice to make their retrograde advice seem something other than the repackaged war-of-the-sexes nonsense it really is.

  75. Mythago: “but that’s why those books sell so well.” — Absolutely. They reinforce the perception of women as emotional children/sex toys and men as cavemen. In The Rules, women are instructed in how to present themselves as more alluring sexual prey to high status cavemen. The think well stuff is wrapped around making yourself appear a better commodity. That’s why there were rules that you weren’t supposed to tell your therapist or your friends and family that you were doing the rules.

  76. Well, I’ve googled around a couple times for “fifteen minutes of alone time”. I was thinking it was some kind of euphamism like “hiking the apalachian trail”. The only hits I’ve come up with are like this one:

    http://ezinearticles.com/?Save-Your-Marriage:-Giving-Him-15-Minutes-Before-He-Spends-Quality-Time-With-You&id=5620193

    Unless the first fifteen minutes after a man comes home is statistically the most common time for him to call his mistress or something, I’m not sure wherin lies the evil for this rule of thumb.

  77. @Greg
    Quoting from the article you linked to.
    “Get into the habit of making yourself busy when he comes home. Greet him when you see him, perhaps help him take his shoes or his coat off, hand him a beer and the remote, and keep it moving.

    Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/5620193
    Really? You don’t see a problem with that? That’s something I might expect a DOG to do, but I am nobody’s servant. Even if I get home before he does (since I do morning drop-off and he does afternoon pick-up). Also that article has a lovely list of chores the wife gets to do during that 15 min while dad drinks his beer, ignores the kids, and watches tv. Because being isolated with no adult contact at home alone with the kids all day must be so much less exhausting than having a rewarding career that she doesn’t deserve 15 min to herself.

    (Personally, I greet my husband with a, “You’re home, you’re home, you’re home!” when I get home first. Then we make dinner as a family.)

  78. nicoleandmaggie: “I am nobody’s servant.” … “I greet my husband with a, “You’re home…”

    I knew a woman who said she’d never get married because she didn’t want to be obliged to anyone about anything. She would probably consider your “You’re home” greeting to be its own form of servitude to your husband.

    I never saw the movie, but there’s a clip from “The Break Up” staring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn that perfectly surmises the problem.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15hw8D9w4s8

    23 seconds into the clip:

    VV: Fine, I’ll help you do the dishes
    JA: No that’s not what I want
    VV: you just said you wanted me to help do the dishes
    JA: I want you to want to do the dishes.
    VV: Why would I want to do dishes?

    I highly doubt that you *wanted* to say “You’re home, you’re home, you’re home!” each and every time your husband came in the door. I am willing to bet that if you’ve been married for even the slightest bit of time that you said and done things that you didn’t *want* to do, but that you did anyway because of what it did or meant for your husband, and because of what it did and meant for your marriage. But at the same time, it’s not out of servitude that you said or did those things.

    It’s out of your commitment to your husband and your marriage.

    A commitment to lose weight can be bigger than that moment where you *want* to eat a bowl of ice cream. But some people will look at diets as a form of servitude. Why? Because they have no commitment to lose weight.

    Out of commitment, we migth do things in the moment that we don’t want, but we do them because of our commitment to something larger and more important than our immediate want in that moment. We don’t WANT to wash the dishes, but we’re committed to the relationship so we wash the dishes. Or we greet the person when they come home. Or we give them some alone time. Or a beer.

    There is nothing in that article I linked to that I read as mandatory servitude. I read about some things I might not want to do, but that I might do anyway because I’m committed to my marriage.

    If your only measure is whether you “want” to do something or not, and if doing anything you don’t want to do is “servitude”, and if you have no space for doing something you don’t want to do but do it anyway out of a larger commitment, then, well, I think that will make things rather interesting for you and your husband.

  79. @greg/nicoleadmaggie you’re both making interesting points, but i think you’re also both missing out on something, too:

    universal rules for these things don’t exist because people aren’t identical.

    what many people need to do is to learn to communicate their needs to their partner. i’m certain there are some guys out there who need time to defuse when they get home. i’m equally certain that there are some guys who’d love nothing more than their partner to jump on them the moment they’re through the door. neither one of these is an issue – provided that those needs are communicated clearly to their partner, and their partner is able to understand and accomodate that need.

    usally, a successful relationship comes down to communication, boundaries, and compromises that everyone can live with. what makes those things far easier is when both people have enough self-esteem to put that into action.

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