Help yourself

A friend of mine who is lovely, attractive and intelligent, but has trouble landing a decent bloke, convinced me recently to read her copy of He’s Just Not That Into You, which she swears (only partly ironically) has changed her life. Some other friends were having a rant today about that other bestselling relationships manual, The Rules.

The main target market for self-help books is people who have read other self-help books. Wha? Surely you read one self-help book and it, you know, helps. Nope.

Self-help books, like pretty much everything else in society, exploit your insecurities. You’re wonderful, of course, but you have a PROBLEM. And it’s a really BIG PROBLEM so you’d better do something about it. And THIS book, with its wry and amusing “that’s so true” homilies and handy 10-commandments numbered lists will solve it all.

In other words, these books will convince you that they have the answers, but will leave you unhappy — probably more unhappy than you were before — if you follow their advice.

Let’s not worry about the books’ obvious reactionary right wing social agendas; the authors were just good at reading societal trends. In the age of Dubya and Johnny, nobody’s going to go broke suggesting we go back to the 1950s with women on a pedestal demanding wedding rings from men who make all the effort and of course pay for everything.

The big problem is, no real-life man can ever meet their standards. And no woman, sorry sisters, is worth that much effort. A Nobel laureate who looks like a supermodel and can suck a golf ball through 10 feet of garden hose isn’t worth it. So you have to feel sorry for the self-centred neurotics who buy these books and start acting like nobody’s good enough for them. And the desperate try-hard blokes who try even harder but will never measure up.

Want to know more? My book, Why You Should Settle for Less, will be on Oprah’s book club any day now.

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