Wednesday, 28 January 2009

I'm just not that into self help books

He's just not that into you.

It's a single phrase stretched into 200-page book bestseller book and now according to the advertising a movie boasting a whole heap of a-listers.

In case you missed this pop culture fad circa 2004 the gist of the book goes like this:

He says he's afraid to get hurt? Actually, he's just not that into you. He's madly busy at work? No, he's just not that into you. He's too tired for sex? Get with the programme, honey. Soon, you begin to wonder whether it is worth bothering with men at all. Suppose your S/O says he's going to a rugby game. On the surface of things, this is just another sign of his Y chromosome. Then again, perhaps he is just not that into you. After all, he could be giving you a foot rub.

Apparently the phrase came up during a writers' meeting for Sex and the City. One of the women present was describing how her current object of affection was giving her mixed messages. 'He's scared,' said the others. 'Give him time.' Then apparently the sole male writer piped up 'Sounds like he's just not that into you' and the juggernaut was launched.

I suppose one level the book is liberating insofar that departs from the idea that if a man can't get a woman it's women's fault and if a woman can't get a man it's her fault that is the mainstay of most relationship advice geared at women. Accepting that a man is 'just not that into you' means no more sitting by the phone; no more cancelling evenings out on the off-chance he will be free, and definitely no more making excuses for him when he dishes out lines like: 'I have a problem with intimacy'. Hooray!

But it still overly relies on men do this/women do that dichotomy for dating which really isn't helpful for dealing with actual human beings as opposed to cardboard cut outs. I still don't understand why people are so down on the idea of a woman 'making a move' on a guy if she thinks he's hot. If he digs her he'll be happy that she called, but if he's bummed that she's stolen his thunder, well then perhaps she shouldn't be that into him.


Julie said...

I think Oprah was quite big on promoting this guy and his book orginally?

It does seem to me to buy into the idea that men should be in control of relationships and women need to learn how to respond to men better. I'm sure we can all think of examples of relationships in our own circles where the stereotypes don't play out like that. And how would they compute to a same sex relationship?? Maybe self-help books for those who aren't hetero isn't a big enough market to sell to?

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me, but most of my het relationships have involved a significant amount of her "making the first move" type stuff.

But Deborah Tannen's basic idea still rings true to me (just ignore the publisher's requirement that she write another 5 books on the same theme). Boys and girls are socialised differently, deal with it. Work to change it, sure, but right now today... it's there.

So to some extent, yes, men have a really hard time understanding that they can just say no, they don't have to "accept the compliment" that a woman likes them. That, IMO, is the underlying message.


Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

[edit for clarity] Anonymous: it's not wrong that some women wilfully ignore the signs in favour of making up complex excuses, etc, but I'd wager there are about as many men that have exactly the same issues. A LOT of men I knew in my 20s would hear "I'm just not ready for a relationship right now" & assume they just needed to wait around long enough. There's no way it's a one-way deal.