I’m sure Sherrie Schneider and Ellen Fein, authors of the infamous dating manual The Rules, are swell gals. If I ever have the chance to meet them, I’d love to go shopping with them. At the drugstore. For Advil. Because while their intentions are no doubt good, their philosphy about dating, marriage and relationships make my head pound with dismay and anger.

Recently, the Ottawa Citizen republished an interview with the co-authors. The original Rules sold over 2 million copies worldwide and Fein and Schneider have written an update volume, The New Rules: Dating Dos and Dont’s For The Digital Generation. I read their first book way back when and throbbing temples ensued. After reading the Citizen piece (shout out to reader Christopher for sending it my way), I think it’s best that I stay for away from the sequel, lest I suffer a stroke.

To be fair, not everything that Fein and Schneider suggest make my heart hurt. Apparently there’s a chapter called “Don’t Sext or Send a Guy Anything You Wouldn’t Want Him To Have If You Broke Up”. On the surface that seems like pretty sensible advice, though I don’t see why it needs to be gender specific.

But apparently The Rules are all about the gender specifics (and binary). The things men do. The things women do. The things women should do to get with men. According to Fein ““Women can chase apartments and jobs, but not men. It’s biology.”

The sum total of my scientific expertise is exactly zero. But I’m pretty sure that distorting your personally preferred courtship rituals into The Way That All Women Are does not biology make. It’s lazy persuasion. It’s a way of trying to convince readers that they should accept the methods proposed in The Rules without question because “Hey, biology! That’s a kind of science. No one can dispute science!”

Except it’s not science and I DO dispute it.

The interview with the authors are jammed packed with inflammtory quotes, like the following:

“We know what works with men,” says Schneider, with a shrug. “Oh, never go Dutch. Even if he has no money and you have a mansion he should take you out for pizza”.

Imma need some Extra-Strength Tylenol, stat.

“If a woman does what she wants — whether talking to a guy or eating a piece of cake — it is the antithesis of discipline,” Schneider says. “Many women are doing what they want and failing miserably, having one-night stands and so on. 

Can someone please massage my temples?

“Work can only make you so happy,” Schneider claims. “Women want to be fulfilled by a partner and children. Take that away and they’re devastated.”

Fuck extra strength. I need some maximum strength painkilling action right now, because I cannot even!

The article goes to on to descibe the new rules. Advice about how 20-year-old women should wait one hour to respond to a text. 50-year-old women should wait four hours. Unless it’s night time, in which case they shouldn’t respond at all. And never booty calls. Also, women should make it look like you have a fabulous life…because more important for a guy to think we enjoy your lives than it is for us to, you know, actually enjoy our lives.

Also this:

“We tell women a man is not your friend. Until he proposes he has the power to hurt you by never calling, by sleeping with you and never calling. Men can be cruel, not because they want to be — they just don’t love you.”


It’s not just the outmoded approach to dating or a commodity model of sex Fein and Schneider’s rules that are breaking my brain. It’s also this bullshit assumption that at their core, men are assholes.

Maybe Fein and Scheinder have encountered a disproportionate number of mean men in their life? Because the notion that men are just hardwired for cruelty and not loving people? Is ludicrous and offensive.

And can we talk about the logic being applied here? Fein and Schneider  are basically saying to women, “Men are cruel. Men do not really love you. If you make yourself vulnerable, men will hurt you. You need to protect yourself emotionally by using our patented set of passive aggressive courtship tactics in order to maintain the upper hand. If you do it right, you will be successful in getting these men to marry you.”

Which, okay but they haven’t answered one burning question:

Why do women want to marry these men? You know, the cruel ones who are one ill-timed text away from crushing their hearts.

For reals, yo? Why am I trying to Rules my way into a lifetime commitment with someone I don’t trust? Why on earth should women – or anyone – waste their time and energy monitoring the intervals between text messages, cultivating illusions of a fabulous life, denying themselves sexual pleasure all to wind up married to someone they can’t be real with?

Fein and Schneider are self-proclaimed feminists. And because I’m not Queen of the Feminists*, I can’t deny their claim. But if we were chillin’ and shopping for drugs, I might point out that telling women, get married is an accomplishment can be problematic. I don’t object to marriage per se. In fact, I’m in one myself. But treating a wedding as the ultimate gal goal suggests that women always have more value if they’re married. It also places a disproportionate importance of the act of getting married versus the reality of the relationship. And the reality is, that if you’re going to share your life with each other, sooner or later The Rules go out the window. True colours always shine through. And I firmly believe that in order for a long-term relationship to work the people involved have to really see and accept one another as they truly are.

So yeah, I can hang with these gals but I won’t be reading their latest without a full supply of analgesics. But I would love to hear from you. Are you familiar with The Rules? What do you think? What are some of your tried and true dating tips?

*I kind of wish I was Queen of the Feminists




  1. Brenda says:

    Oh my… Yeah, I think one of those fine authors is now divorced. I guess she forgot to keep applying the Rules after she was married. Because I think part of the Rules is that you have to KEEP DOING THEM. Ugh, so exhausting. Like you said, just be real.
    My number one dating tip: trust your instincts. Some men are good for sex in the short term. Some men are good for everything in the long term. But, either way, if he’s not a basically good human being, just don’t waste your time. After one hour and one drink, you are allowed to say: It was nice to meet you, goodbye.

  2. Eric says:

    I’m curious to see what other people think, but on my small collection of data points I think it might be a good idea to hold off on googling your date too hard before a date or two. You’ll have more to discover organically, you’ll be less invested in the case where things don’t click, and in-person just feels like a gentler way to learn the broad strokes of each other’s lives.