An urgent bulletin from the Department of the Apocalypse: Satan has gotten himself a diploma-mill Ph.D. and is now walking among us in the earthly form of Dr. John Gray.
For those of you who have been living in a cave for the last decade, Dr. John Gray is the evil mastermind behind the inexplicably popular “Mars and Venus” franchise. You know, how “men are from Mars, women are from Venus,” and all our problems with the opposite sex are simply a result of opposing natures and conflicting communication styles.
Still confused? Well, allow me to explain:
According to Dr. Gray, men are fierce Martian Warriors. They are direct, problem-solving, action-oriented commitmentphobes who long to roam free across the land, hunting, pillaging, and scattering their seed in a testosterone-fueled frenzy.
Women, on the other hand, are gentle Venutian goddesses—sensitive, loving nurturers who talk endlessly about problems without ever actually solving them, longing instead for the perfect soul mate who will help fulfill our true desire to remain indoors, sheltered and secure, tending to home and hearth.
It’s all very pretty and poetic, and, as pop-psychology goes, hangs together quite nicely in our faith-based culture of dumbed-down metaphors. And the fact that there is not one shred of empirical proof to support any of his theories has not kept Dr. Gray from turning this sizzling heap of crap into a multi-million dollar industry. In addition to all the books — I think there were eleven or twelve of them at last count — there are also cassettes, videotapes, a website, a syndicated advice column, a radio show, a board game, a musical (!), and an entire curriculum of workshops, seminars, certification programs, and couples coaching sessions, all brought to you courtesy of Lucifer’s Death Star, i.e., the Mars Venus Institute at www.marsvenus.com. There was even a TV talk show for a while, hosted by that treacherous gender sellout Cybill Shepherd, whom I actually used to like before she bowed down to the Beast and had the Mark of Venus branded on her sensitive, nurturing forehead.
True confession time: Back when I was in my early thirties and still convinced I needed to repent my shallowly singular ways, I actually purchased — in hardcover, no less — a copy of Mars and Venus on a Date. I’m almost too ashamed to admit this now, but I bought the book on the basis of a single chapter heading that caught my eye: “Why Some Women Are Still Single.”
The logical fallacy that underlies the entire premise was not readily apparent to me at the time. I mean, think about it. There are roughly the same number of men and women on the planet, aren’t there? So it stands to reason that, if there are so many single women out there, there are bound to be one or two men in the same situation, no?
Where’s their chapter?
They don’t have a chapter! They don’t have a chapter, you see, because the book wasn’t really written for them. And if you go to Dr. John Gray’s website (don’t go; please—you’ve just got to trust me on this one, okay?) you’ll see that, for all the psychobabbly blather about the mutuality of this communication breakdown, the lip service paid to “working it out together,” and the pseudo-sociological emphasis on “openness and honesty,” none of this so-called advice is really meant to be followed — or even read by — men. Despite the fact that it has been exhaustively documented by numerous (real) experts that there are just as many, if not more, unhappily single men placing ads and joining dating services as there are women, every single book, website, TV show, magazine article, advice column, and how-to video is directed at women and women only. That’s why they all have pink covers, play sappy background music, or offer “beauty tips” along with straight-from-the-can relationship advice.
And we buy it. We buy it all. We buy it all because we have been conditioned from birth to believe we are solely responsible for managing and sustaining our relationships. Men, according to the Tao of Gray, are what they are and they’re not capable of anything better. It is up to us, we are told, to understand them, accommodate them, humor them, and adapt our own expectations and behavior accordingly. All the better to trick them into settling down with us.
In Mars and Venus on a Date, Dr. Gray opines that the real reason “some women” (i.e., me) are still single is that we are unwilling or unable to convince the men we go out with that we actually “need them.” We are too independent. We don’t need to be “rescued.” We frighten them. They don’t know how to cope when we’re not twittering after them to change our oil, take out our trash, and slay the woolly mammoth so we can skin it, cook it, and serve it up for a candlelit dinner.
Or, as Dr. Gray so earnestly puts it, “What good is a knight in shining armor when you’re slaying your own dragons?”
Once you’ve wiped the giant chunks of projectile vomit off your shoes, riddle me this: As insulting as this whole premise is to women, isn’t even more insulting to men? I mean, at least Dr. Gray is giving us credit for being able to change, but apparently, the way he sees it, men are a lost cause.
And he’s not the only one. According to every other self-styled relationship pundit, be it Dr. Gray, the Rules Girls, Robin Norwood, and the rest of that merry old band of quacks and hacks, men are so foolish and malleable that all it takes is one or two clever mind-tricks and a quick stroke to that fragile ego and boom—they’re down on one knee, ring in hand, ready to pop the question.
Apparently this is a tremendously difficult lesson for us high-achieving ball-breakers to learn. Luckily, there’s no shortage of helpful hints out there for that desperate woman approaching forty to use to get a man to rescue her from certain spinsterhood. To spare you all the chore and expense of actually acquiring any of these materials yourself—not to mention the shame of having to explain to your IT department why “www.CatchHimandKeepHim.com” popped up on your company’s Web server with your IP address attached — I have compiled a handy list of “Dependency Tips” from a variety of media, both traditional and electronic. Feel free to refer to them whenever you need to make your man feel powerful and in control. You can thank me after your honeymoon.
Dependency Tip #1: Ask him to help you take your cat to the vet. Because EVERY single woman owns a cat, right? Okay, well, I do own a cat. But that’s beside the point. Still, it’s always a good idea to demand that the poor schmuck you’ve been dating for the past couple of weeks wrestle little Fluffy into the kitty carrier in preparation for that lengthy trek to the neighborhood veterinary center. The first vet visit is an important step in the coupling process that has the added benefit of making him feel like he’s part of your little pseudo-family.
I’m sure he will think of you — and Fluffy — quite fondly as he lies sprawled in the gutter, lifeblood gushing out in crimson torrents from the hundreds of claw lacerations inflicted upon him by your terrified pet. Perhaps, since you can’t rescue a gal any more effectively than by dying for her, he’ll even have time to propose before he bleeds to death. At least then you can say you were engaged once.
Dependency Tip #2: Ask him to take you car shopping. Now that’s a brilliant idea! Of course, it presents an even trickier conundrum for the most high-status of ballbreakers—those executive-level overachievers who might want to splurge on that nice new Mercedes with the convertible top, OnStar, and twelve-disc CD changer. Sending your future husband storming out of the dealership in an intimidated snit is probably not the most effective way of building up his tenuous self-esteem. Best stick with a safe, inexpensive “chick” car — a Volkswagon Beetle, a Mini-Cooper or, if you want him to think you have a touch of the rebel in you, a Mazda Miata. Better yet, pretend you’re ready to fritter away your pin money on something completely mechanically impractical!
Just pull down a list of bad car choices from the Internet and “casually” run them by him for his opinion. He will welcome the opportunity to chuckle indulgently at your charming naïveté before setting you up in that nice, safe, Honda Civic his buddy’s wife is itching to unload. And if his automotive savvy leaves something to be desired and you end up in a clunker, so much the better! Now he’ll have even more chances to rescue you. Every time you break down.
Dependency Tip #3: Ask him for advice about a troubling work situation. Your work environment offers a limitless bounty of dependency scenarios—but be selective when choosing which one to focus on. Don’t ever consult him about compensation issues; the last thing you want to do is let on you make more money than he does. Similarly, you should never sound him out on anything concerning your staff. A needy woman doesn’t have a staff — she IS the staff! And, above all, never, ever, ever, under any circumstance, present him with a real problem you are wrestling with, such as whether to up the production quota for the Topeka facility if the GDP increases by more than .5% next quarter. There’s a good chance he may not be able to solve it, and then he’ll just resent you for making him feel bad about himself. Nope.
When consulting with your man on matters of employment, simplicity is the name of the game: Just tell him your boss yelled at you. If you can squeeze out a tear or two while choking out your sad story, you’ll be that much ahead of the game. Not only will he have the opportunity to comfort and advise you, he’ll undoubtedly concoct any number of brilliant revenge fantasies that can keep him entertained for weeks at a time. Either way, he’ll wind up appreciating you all the more.
Of course, there’s always the chance that, if I were to try it, the needy approach might actually work. And what then? What will I have achieved in the end? In exchange for sublimating my personality and selling my very soul in the hopes of finagling my way into a wedding gown, what am I really getting out of the deal?
If I follow these rules, it’s likely I’ll end up with nothing more than a selfish, egocentric, spoiled-rotten little man-child who is so gullible he actually bought my act and so insecure and needy nothing I do will ever make him happy. Oh, I’ll do everything the pundits tell me I should do — let him think he’s the Master of the Universe, quit my job if he wants me to stay home with the kids, keep my figure through yoga and Pilates, and even have my face done when I hit 50.
Then I’ll spend another 20 years sitting home alone while he’s out getting his frail Martian ego stroked by yet another ex-high-achieving ballbreaker ten years my junior who is following the Seduction Guidelines for Aspiring Trophy Wives in Dr. John Gray’s latest best-seller: Mars and Venus Have a Back-Alley Affair.
But, hey, there’s always a bright side. At least I’ll be married.
Excerpted from Singular Existence by Leslie Talbot. © 2007 All rights reserved. Reprinted by arrangement with Kensington Publishing Corp., www.kensingtonbooks.com.
Leslie Talbot has discussed singles’ issues on numerous regional and national radio and television talk shows and has been featured in The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today and The Arizona Republic. She resides in Boston.