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You have to wonder whether a
self-help book based on an episode of Sex and the City is going to be
very profound. He's Just Not That Into You is written by a comic and a
story editor. Greg Behrendt lives in Los Angeles and is married with a
daughter, while Liz Tuccillo, 41, is currently living and dating in New York
City. What expertise do they have on relationships? It seems mainly that
they have done their fair share of dating and they have managed to convince
their publisher to give them a book deal. Their advice is that women should
dump men who are ambivalent, already taken, liars, cheaters, sexually messed
up, manipulative, dismissive, arrogant, or diffident. Women should certainly
not be with men who are dependent on drugs or alcohol. The authors believe
that if a man really likes and respects a woman, and wants to be with her, then
he will seek her out, woo her, love her, and will want to have sex with her.
If he doesn't do these things, then the woman in search of happiness should
find someone who does.
It is not a bad message and maybe
it is needed because as the authors say, there are too many women who put up
with bad behavior from men. Women do need to believe that they deserve
respectful behavior and should not fall for the many lies they are told.
Indeed, women should not be so ready to lie to themselves about their
relationships in the belief that they can't do any better. They need to
respect themselves enough to insist on being loved well, because if they don't,
then men won't respect them either. It is pretty crude psychology, but it
The difficulty is in knowing whether
to take the generalizations of the book very seriously. For example, the
authors say that men are cowards and will always avoid telling a woman the
truth that he is just not that into her. Now, that's partly for comic effect,
and it works, so we shouldn't worry too much about the silliness of some of the
statements. He's Just Not That Into You is certainly not an academic
treatise, so readers should take the advice at the level at which it is
offered. The idea of the book is to get women to improve their relationships,
not make final pronouncements about the nature of men and women.
Maybe the most interesting part of
the book is near the end, where the authors show some differences between them
and discuss whether it is ever appropriate for women to settle for less than
perfection. Apparently Behrendt is an optimist who thinks that the women he
knows, such as his sister and the many women who seek out his advice, should be
able to have fabulous love lives. Tuccillo is a pessimist who has experienced
great loneliness in the dating scene and presses the point that sometimes there
just are not enough good men to go around. But they agree that women should
not let me walk all over them.
This might be an uncomfortable book
for both men and women to listen to, since it has high expectations of
relationships. It has a light touch and is often funny, and this is helped in
the unabridged audiobook by the fact that the authors are excellent readers of
their own words, giving the performance plenty of energy and sounding
enthusiastic. However, the fact is that most people are very fallible, and
make a lot of mistakes. People do cheat on each other, drink too much, lie to
each other, neglect their responsibilities and go through personal crises. Many
people suffer from mental illnesses. If women follow the advice of Behrendt
and Tuccillo, they will leave the men they are with. While the book often
seems to have a very idealized view of romantic love and the perfectibility of
relationships, relying on an old fashioned view of the differences between the
sexes, it also fits in with one of the simplest and most obvious planks of
feminism, that women should be treated with respect and kindness. We well know
that it is often the people we get closest to that we hurt the most, and
negotiating the dating world is difficult whether you are a teen, in your
twenties, or in middle age. He's Just Not That Into You will make its
readers consider what their minimum requirements should be in the attitudes of
a partner, and how much they should forgive the faults and mistakes of their
lovers. So, surprisingly, is a book that takes a strong moral stance. It is
probably not a stance that its readers should adopt completely, but it is at
least one worth keeping in mind.
© 2005 Christian
Perring. All rights reserved.
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division
and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and