The shelves in the self-help section of the bookstore are overcrowded with guides to love, dating and relationships, most written by self-professed experts with varying degrees of legitimacy. And yet, every few years, a book — the
book — stands apart from the mass paperbacks and holds the fickle attention of love-seeking singles across America. But how do these media sensations fare in the long run? Here are the former love-life bibles that singles cherished in their heyday — and what’s become of them and their authors in the meantime.
1. The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider (1995)
A woman who plays hard to get will snag a quality husband.
Limit phone conversations with a suitor to 10 minutes to encourage the notion that you have a busy life.
Author appearances on The Today Show
; publication in 26 languages; four follow-up books; themed calendars, notebooks, and ankle bracelets; a rap song; coined the term “Rules Girl” (RG)
Critics labeled the book’s advice
as anti-feminist and even said it was dangerous — mainly because it encouraged women to give men mixed messages and potentially enable stalkers. Fein divorced her husband of 16 years
shortly after releasing their third follow-up title, The Rules for Marriage
, in 2001.
Fein and Schneider continue to appear in the media, declaring that celebrity brides such as Beyoncé Knowles and Kate Middleton are successful “RGs.” For Rules
devotees, the pair
offers in-person seminars, online and phone consultations, makeovers, and even courses providing dating-coach certification and instruction for writing a best-selling book.
2. The Code: Time-tested Secrets for Getting What You Want from Women — Without Marrying Them! by Nate Penn and Lawrence LaRose (1996)
The male “response” to The Rules
— only this time, it’s played for laughs.
Date married women — they won’t expect presents.
The sensation: People
magazine printed a predictably frivolous interview
with the authors.
Itself a product of The Rules
backlash, this lampoon did nothing for advancing the dialogue between single men and women.
New and used copies of the paperback
are available from authorized Amazon.com partner sellers. LaRose later wrote about his DIY home improvement experiences in 2005’s Gutted: Down to the Studs in My House, My Marriage, and My Entire Life
3. The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick-up Artists by Neil Strauss (2005)
A man can bed any woman he wants by using rehearsed seduction techniques that have been developed within the pick-up artist (PUA) community.
Deploy “the neg” — a backhanded compliment meant to encourage a woman to seek the PUA’s approval (as opposed to the other way around).
Though the New York Times
best-seller was originally written as an exposé of the so-called “underground PUA community,” Strauss’s presentation and attention to the strategies and tricks they used clearly marked the book
as a how-to guide instead. Male readers started subsequently infiltrating bars, accompanied by wingmen and half-rehearsed “routines” with which to regale unsuspecting single women. A more straightforward guide
by Strauss (Rules of the Game
) and the VH1 television series The Pick-Up Artist
followed in 2007, further entrenching his PUA techniques into the male psyche.
The book’s contents were decried as misogynistic by the press; critics pointed out the superficiality of both the methods and the men who practice them in equal measure.
The popularity of The Game
made women aware of some of the more accessible (though outlandish) tactics employed by its devotees. One example of this is called “peacocking” — i.e., dressing outrageously (like wearing a huge fur hat) for the sake of attracting attention, which is now widely ridiculed and parodied in pop-culture media. All the same, the PUA community thrives online and in society; Strauss himself founded a company
to provide coaching for his fellow daters. Meanwhile, Strauss continues to write, most recently releasing Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead: Journeys into Fame and Madness
4. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (2006)
Use positive thinking to get what you want!
Clear out space in your closet to make room for your future soul mate’s belongings.
Conflating several decades — if not centuries — of popular self-help-y advice that encourages optimism and thinking positively with rudimentary scientific principles into a unified theory (“The Law of Attraction”) in order to create wealth, health, and happiness, The Secret
captivated trends-maker Oprah Winfrey, catapulting the book
and related DVD
into the hands of millions. For a lovelorn single, The Secret
advised visualizing and listing his/her ideal partner’s characteristics (e.g., “He’s taller than me”), the expectation being that the universe would align itself accordingly to produce said mate.
Several things enabled The Secret
’s fall from grace. First, there was a falling out between Byrne and Esther Hicks
(who had served as a primary source/spiritual adviser to Byrne) over a financial dispute. Byrne’s “like attracts like” theory, when applied to victims of natural disasters (like the 2006 tsunami), suggested that catastrophes are the fault of those who suffer from them; similarly, the belief that overweight people are to blame for their condition for not thinking “thin thoughts” seemed callous and reproachful to critics. Even Oprah herself later recanted her initial enthusiasm, decrying the book’s focus on “getting stuff.”
The book has sold over 21 million copies and has been translated into 44 languages; Byrne recently released The Magic
, a 28-day guide
to living the principles of The Secret
and her second book
, The Secret: The Power
5. Make Every Man Want You: How To Be So Irresistible You’ll Barely Keep from Dating Yourself! by Marie Forleo (2008)
Women are amazing, and so are you!
Embrace being single!
Forleo, a professional life coach
, launched Make Every Man Want You
as an alternative to the “manipulative” tactics espoused in tomes like The Rules
and The Secret
while doing a blitz of peppy media appearances. Short on substance but flourishing with style, the handbook and Forleo personally earned rave endorsements from celebs like Kelly Ripa, Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, and 4-Hour
pitchman Tim Ferriss
Online reviewers sum up the book as 172 pages of “be in the moment;” a self-styled “Jill-of-all-trades,” Forleo seems to have published Make Every Man Want You
for no other reason than to add “author” and “relationship expert” to her extensive list of professional titles, which currently include: speaker, fitness personality, dancer/choreographer, and lifestyle coach.
Despite offering rather meager actionable advice, Make Every Man Want You
remains in Amazon’s top 20 within the dating category. Meanwhile, MarieTV
— part of her online mission to enable entrepreneurial women to be “Rich, Happy & Hot™” (yep, it’s trademarked
) — was recently named as an Official Honoree
for a Webby award in the “Best Web Personality/Host” category.
6. Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment by Steve Harvey (2009)
Women who let men be the man get what they want — a ring.
Wait 90 days before you sleep with a guy.
A best-seller upon release (and buoyed by Harvey’s appearances on The Tyra Banks Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show
, and The Today Show
), Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
has retained the title of America’s most popular dating guide for the last several years. The book
’s humor and simple characterizations made it the perfect vehicle for a rom-com
of the He’s Just Not That Into You
ilk; the movie opened in the number-one spot at the box office
in April 2012.
A compendium of stereotypes and clichés, Act Like a Lady
has been subject to criticisms of sexism by perpetuating outdated gender roles; unbelievably, some men consider Harvey a gender traitor
because he has given away men’s secrets.
Harvey — a successful comedian and syndicated radio host — followed Act Like a Lady
with more of the same in his follow-up book
, Straight Talk, No Chaser: How to Find, Keep, and Understand a Man
, further establishing himself as a relationship guru and truth-teller.
New York City-based freelance writer Matt Schneiderman has written for
Article courtesy of Match.com