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In preparation for the big kick-off on 1st July, I’ve started reading The Rules. It feels like being indoctrinated into a cult – the phrase The Rules is italicized, bolded and repeated over and over and over again. Chapter headings include ‘Do The Rules, Even when Your Friends and Parents Think It’s Nuts’ and ‘Don’t Discuss The Rules with Your Therapist.’ It all feels alarmingly similar to being encouraged to drink the kool-aid or take the stress test.

So far it’s an interesting combination of ¾ crazy horseshit that’s totally antithetical to all I deem right and good in this world and ¼ complete genius. It works on the principle that one should be “a creature unlike any other”; this apparently involves never ever pursuing, expressing interest in, making eye contact with, sharing your opinions with or being yourself around a man. I have long based my romantic behavior on the ‘put up or shut up’ principle, so this is clearly going to be a struggle for me.

Regardless, it’s all started seeping into my subconscious and I’ve been spouting its wisdom to all and sundry. The other night I was out with my lovely flatmate watching her latest possibility do his best Jack Johnson impersonation in a tiny Soho bar. Normally I would have encouraged her to hang around after his set and flirt her ass off but instead I was consumed with fiery indignation: “We are leaving immediately! Don’t look at him! You are a creature UNLIKE ANY OTHER!” We made a hasty escape and he texted her moments after our departure, telling her how sexy she looked and how desperate he was to see her. Hmm.

Keep in mind that all the while I was ignoring all my own advice and surrepticiously sending rather explicit texts to B, my are-we-aren’t-we-oh-god-never-again-well-maybe-one-more-time-for-good-measure of past eight months. But it was a fruitless endeavor – he was at home watching The Wire and, frankly, couldn’t be arsed. That’s right, a man chose watching a television show – which he owns on DVD! – over having sex with me. Grim.

So for those of you keeping score, that’s The Rules: 1, Me: 0. Roll on July 1st.

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Setting the Challenge

Recently I’ve noticed a pattern emerging in my dating life. It goes something like this: Girl meets Boy. They like each other. They go on a couple of dates. They have a fine time. On the third date, Boy freaks out and decides that Girl wants a relationship, marriage, babies, eternal commitment to the grave and beyond, etc. Girl explains (nicely) that she really only wants regular sex with someone who isn’t a known sociopath. Boy becomes convinced that this is just elaborate trickery on Girl’s part and (in most cases) then reveals himself to be a known sociopath.

Time and again, I am left with this question: why is this so damn difficult? I don’t want a relationship. I don’t want a husband and I don’t want babies and I don’t need flowers or candlelight or long walks on the beach discussing Keats. And yet… every man I meet seems to think all of this is some sort of double bluff and I’m secretly constructing pastel paper storks for our impending baby shower. In short, being honest and upfront does not seem to be working for me. So what will work?

I’ve decided to embark on a little social experiment in which I try out a different dating guide each month (to the letter!) to see if behaving the way I’m apparently meant to behave will help or hinder me. Along the way, I’m hoping to learn a little more about the way the male brain works and maybe – just maybe – a little bit about the way my brain works, too.

There are, of course, a couple of ground rules:

  1. No outright lying. I’ve got to be myself (just me behaving within the confines of the rules dictated by the books). This shouldn’t be a problem – as my mother is so fond of telling me, I am one stubborn mule and could never convincingly pretend to be someone I’m not.
  2. On the first day of each month, I have to completely switch over to the ways of a new guide. No mixing and matching – this is a scientific experiment, after all, and I wouldn’t want to taint the results.
  3. I can’t tell any of the guys I date what I’m up to. Controversial, I know, but integral to the whole project. And besides, millions of women follow these guides every day and I’m sure they don’t fess up – and don’t even get me started on the dating guides for men out there. This means that if a guy I’m seeing carries over from one month to the next, I’ll have to completely change tack according to the new book without explaining my erratic behavior. Hey, maybe it’ll work in my favour – men do love crazy!

So there you have it – the challenge has been set. First up, the granddaddy of all dating guides: The Rules.

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