Machines Guns & Manolos: Surviving the Mine Field that is my Dating Life

Several years back a couple of women got together and wrote a dating book that set the dating world on it’s head…..and in my opinion, set the Women’s Movement back about 40 years. It was called The Rules.

I won’t bore you with the list that these two women came up with. Suffice to say they hearken to the day when Ward was wooing June, burgers were served by gals on roller skates, and women saved their virginity for marriage.

As a long time single woman that has been dating for many years, I would like to address a trend that I see going on not only in the dating world, but as well, in the self help aisle at your local bookstore. You know the one. In this aisle you’ll find books about how to find love, how to attract the mate meant for you, and yet another that will teach you the golden secret to getting everything in life that you’ve ever wanted! May I just say that each and every one of these so called “self help” books tests my faith in my fellow female brethren as well as assails my sensibilities as a confirmed fan of Erica Jong and that generation’s “self help” books. Those books spoke to me. Those books were revolutionary. Those books were written by the Bra Burning Brigade.

First of all, let me state that I’ve never been one that liked to follow rules. I recall my second grade teacher asking me why I wouldn’t walk in line like the rest of the class when going to and from the cafeteria. I told her that I walk faster than everyone else so why should I have to wait for them to catch up? My defiance although obvious, was not intentional. It just seemed to me that the rule hampered me in my quest to reach the cafeteria in a timely fashion, so therefore, it shouldn’t apply to me. I mean, they wanted me to eat didn’t they? It’s this sort of rationalization that has at times in my life both helped and hindered me on my quest to discovering the secret to having a fulfilling and happy life, free of rules.

I was a late bloomer compared to all of my high school girlfriends. Boys didn’t particularly find me desirable. Not that I blamed them. I was painfully thin, so flat-chested that I was “almost concave” according to my older brother, and I had an overbite that would have “allowed me to chew a corn cob through a picket fence” according to my father. On top of all that, I was completely insecure when it came to boys, and didn’t understand my inability to talk around certain ones.

I finished my stint in High School still a virgin and must say that after all the hoopla that I’d been hearing from my girlfriends; when “it” did finally happen, I was quite disappointed. This was what was so great? This was the earth shattering thing that got my best friend knocked up at 17? This sex thing that was all anyone ever talked about including my then boyfriend Martin Jones who told me that “even though he really loved me, if I wouldn’t do it then he knew plenty of other girls that would?”

I didn’t get it and let me just tell you that THAT would be the last time that I would be doing THAT…for a long while. That vow lasted about 8 months but even as I entered into my first grown up relationship, I was often surprised that my lover seemed to find such joy in sex and for me it was…..eh.

I entered my twenties wondering if I would ever truly enjoy sex and thinking that perhaps there was something wrong with me. As I carried this cloud of shame around with me my desire for knowledge regarding said subject grew, and this led me to devour anything and everything about sex that I could get my hands on. I will never forget the day that a copy of Fear of Flying by Erica Jong sort of fell into my lap. It changed my life.

My coming-of- age was in the early 80’s and although this book came out in 1974 it was still very relevant to my life as a young woman discovering her own sexuality and her own dating rules. After reading it I realized that there really wasn’t anything wrong with me, other than the fact that I was unable to articulate what it was that I wanted in bed…well that, and it really was the first time that I’d heard about this elusive creature called The Clitoris. Crazy, I know. I mean, I took home economics in high school but they most certainly glossed over this entire body part. After learning about it, there began a life long relationship with “the little man in the boat” and my sexual satisfaction began to rank off the charts.

Now, back in the mid-seventies, this book was quite timely. There was a revolution going on in this country and this book helped to ignite a nation of women into a united front as we entered into the “battle of the sexes”. Nothing was bigger than women learning that orgasms should be theirs for the taking, and that you didn’t have to be in love, or even married, to have one. You just needed to know how to ask for one.

By the time I read this book, it was probably 1984 or 85. Shortly thereafter AIDS came onto the scene and everyone started to get freaked out about being single. One night stands became a thing of the past and very suddenly, we all settled into relationships. By 1990 I was playing the field once again and practicing safe sex. I was in the military, and getting HIV tested regularly was one of the perks but I was also dating under the umbrella of another whole different set of rules that were dictated by Uncle Sam. I found it quite ironic honestly. Here I was working within an organization that had me in the company of dozens and dozens of men every single day, and most of them were off limits to me. How freakin fair is that? And how rational? They throw us together to work side by side in an environment that only other military members can appreciate; giving us a bond that no one else has, and then they tell us not to form attachments or attractions to one another. As with The Rules top ten dating rules, I found these to be similarly ridiculous. And as I did in second grade, I found my own way to deal with these new rules and how they applied to me.

Now, back to The Rules Book. Some of it is just plain common sense:

Don’t date married men. Believe a man when he shows you who he really is. Don’t try to pin down a guy that tells you up front that he doesn’t want a relationship.

All good advice, but nothing that we haven’t heard before so therefore, should already be doing. But then they suggest the games. Make a man chase you. Don’t accept his first invitation. Don’t return his calls right away. Be elusive and mysterious. All of which is a bunch of hooey if you ask me. And then there is the politically correct world that we live in now. It drives me insane. Nowadays, a first date is nothing more than a job interview with cocktails. There are so many things that you’re not supposed to talk about for fear of offending someone or venturing into territory that is loaded with land mines. It’s become oh so unsexy and just plain not very much fun. I long for the unencumbered easiness that it seems was so prevalent in the 70’s when it was still about having fun, being with someone because you wanted to be, not because it was what you SHOULD be doing, and not having any rules telling you who, how, when, or where you should be finding and dating men.

I recently read an article that said that this new decade will be one spent with all of us having full knowledge of where we are now, but that most people are ready for that sigh of relief that we made it through, the war is winding down, the recession is almost behind us, and we are going to be okay.

As we embark on a new decade, I realize that our last decade had many similarities to the one in which I was born. In the 1960’s there was unrest and dissention in this country due to a war that no one understood and no one wanted.

In the 1960’s, young people all over the country decided to turn on, tune in, and drop out.

And in this last decade, full of war, economic crisis, and a nation politically divided, the young people in this country decided to try out, act out, and pull back the privacy curtain to expose their lives for all to see via social networking sites like MySpace, You Tube, and Facebook.

After the 1960’s it seems that the 70’s ushered in a collective sigh of relief that the worst was over, everyone had gotten through it, and now it was time to start living without fear again…….and definitely time to rewrite the dating rules ie: Erica Jong.

Here’s to hoping that this decade ushers in the same sentiment. And perhaps…a new take on dating via one certain writer ie: Lisa Taylor. It’s only April 15th. There’s still time.

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