“The Rules.” A mythical book of rules for women and dating. According to legend, if you follow their thirty rules for courtship and dating, the man you have always dreamed of will ask you out, woo you, treat you like the queen you are, and eventually propose. But only if you keep to their rules. Their very strict rules.
For the purposes of this article we will be referring to Not Your Mother’s Rules: the New Secrets for Dating, published in 2013. And not the more archaic original.
There are women who swear by The Rules. Others who laugh it off and mock it. There are men who doubt its existence. Others who are oblivious to them. Men who despise them. And then there are the Southern women who just call it common sense.
I’ve read “The Rules” (both the original and updated) a few times. I’ve followed The Rules at times. I’ve broken every single one of The Rules at times. I can see the arguments from both sides. And I’ve heard the laments from the men.
But lately I have wondered if The Rules really work for Mormon women in a singles ward?
Let me explain.
In my mid-singles ward there is/was a consistent 3:1 ratio. Three women for every man. Three beautiful and talented women for every single man. And not all of those men are looking to date. Plain and simple, it can feel like a competition to get the attention of the good guys and get a date. The women feel like they have no choice but to be proactive, invite the guys over, flaunt what they got, and make sure they are noticed and remembered.
All of this goes against the teachings of The Rules. And I can’t help but wonder, if Mormon girls in singles wards changed their approach, and followed The Rules, would there be more dating and relationships?
- Be a Creature Unlike Any Other
- Look Like a Creature Unlike Any Other
- Don’t Talk to or Text to a Guy First
- Don’t Ask Guys Out by Text, Facebook, etc.
- Don’t Sit or Stand Next to a Guy First or Flirt First
- Wait at Least Four Hours to Answer a Guy’s First Text (and then 30 minutes thereafter)
- TTYL: Always End Everything First
- Don’t Answer Texts or Anything Else after Midnight
- Rarely Write on His Wall and Other Rules for Social Networking Sites
- Stay Away From His Facebook Profile
- Don’t Email a Guy First and Keep it Brief
- Make Yourself Invisible and Other Ways to Get Out of Instant Messaging
- Don’t Talk Too Much in the First Few Weeks
- Don’t Just Hang Out or See Him 24/7
- Let Him Suggest Skype and Visit You More in a Long-Distance Relationship
- Don’t Lose Your Friends Because You’re So Obsessed with a Guy
- Don’t Introduce a Guy to Anyone First, Invited Him Anywhere First, or Friend His Friends First
- Don’t Write to Guys First, Ignore Winks, and Other Rules for Online Dating
- Don’t Pay for Dinner or Buy His Love in Any Way
- Don’t Choose a College or Job or Relocate Because of a Guy
- Don’t Get Wasted on Dates or at Parties, So You Don’t Say or Do Anything You’ll Regret
- Buyer Beware… Weeding Out Bad Guys (Cheaters, Addicts, Players, and Time Wasters)
- Don’t Be Self-Destructive by Dating Married, Unavailable, and Other Mixed-Messages Guys
- Stop Dating a Guy Who Cancels More than Once
- Don’t Send a Guy Anything You Wouldn’t Want Him to Have If You Broke Up
- Don’t Accept Booty Calls or Meaningless Hookups
- Wait Before Sleeping with a Guy
- Don’t Put on the Freshman 15, Go to the Gym, and Other Rules for Looking Good at Every Age
- Wait for a Guy to Follow You on Twitter First and Rarely Return Tweets
- Don’t Date Indefinitely without a Commitment
(A few of The Rules don’t quite apply to Mormon culture obviously. So we’ll skip over and ignore those.)
Do The Rules apply or work for women in a singles ward where the ratio of women to men can be staggeringly not in their favor? Where just getting to talk in the hallway to a man can feel like a weekly competition? And Sunday dinners and taking a plate of brownies over to a guy you like is an expected commonplace occurrence?
Or is it possible that The Rules are what we need to help spur more dating, and less hanging out and waiting for something better to come along?
In my most recent mid-singles ward we had about 400 people attending on an average Sunday. With 5 Sunday School classes, an overflowing sacrament meeting, 2 Relief Societies, and 2 Elders Quorums, it can feel like an Olympic event just to find your best friend to sit with. You can meet a new person, have a fabulous conversation with them, and then it may be months before you spot the person at church again. There are so many people in our ward it can feel like Where’s Waldo in there week after week.
So when The Rules suggest that a woman should never instigate a conversation, or angle herself into the seat beside his, invite him over first, etc., it might seem like a really bad strategy. How else will a guy ever notice you in a sea of other women, if you don’t help him out a bit? He may truly never see her in the crowd.
It’s a tough call to make. I’ve been a Rules Girl, and I’ve been the anti-Rules Girl. I’ve asked out men, and I’ve patiently waited and wished for a man to ask me out. And here’s what I can tell you- The Rules do work. Even when it might feel like they don’t.
But I’m not here to try and convert every woman over to The Rules. It’s a choice.
The Argument in Favor of The Rules
When you follow The Rules, you may get disappointed when nothing happens, but it also removes all of the endless wondering, and potential heartbreak.
For example, Girl sees Guy, conversation ensues. Girl invites Guy over for dinner with her roommate and a few friends. (It’s possible she only ever planned the dinner just for this reason.) Every Sunday she makes it a point to talk to him, sit near but not too close to him, and repeats the same at family home evening, and Institute during the week. She conveniently got his phone number when she invited him over for dinner. She texts him occasionally, “Hey, some of us are going to the movies tonight, you in?” He goes. Within a few weeks, she’s suddenly his social director. They aren’t really dating, but they are doing everything together. She doesn’t mind that she’s instigates everything because she’s a social butterfly. She plans outings for all of her friends, it’s just her thing. He doesn’t mind because, well, why would he?
In her mind there are mixed messages all over the place. He texts her. They hang out together. They spend enough time together they were practically a couple. And yet, he’s never asked her out. Why? Why hasn’t he asked her out? Obviously he likes her, they do everything together. They are great friends. So what’s his problem? How much more does she have to do to get him to ask her out or fall in love with her?
This is where The Rules come in. If she had never done any of that, she wouldn’t have to ask. If he was interested, he would have found a way to talk to her. Just like she sought him out in the crowd, he could have sought her out.
But would that happen in a women-dense population where the men expect the woman to flock to them, bake them treats, and invite them to parties? Yes, it could. If a man is interested, he’ll find a way to meet the woman. If he’s shy and needs a nudge, he will still do it, it just might take him longer.
Here is the upside for the women- the reason why you should put your baking pans away, and stop being the go-getter. With The Rules, you never have to wonder. Without The Rules, you may throw more parties, and talk to him more, but you’ll never know if he was ever interested in you or the parties. You’ll never have to send another text to your sister analyzing his every move. You’ll never have to wonder if he actually likes you, or if he just likes free food and something to do on a Sunday evening.
Why Should Men Like The Rules?
Should men like The Rules? It may mean fewer free meals and few less plates of cookies for you, and more proactive dating, so why should men support The Rules? Because it allows a man to pursue the women he’s interested in. Because he won’t have to play games, or dig his way out of the Friends’ Zone again. Because when he calls and asks her out (at least 3 days in advance, like a gentleman should), he knows she will say yes. Because he knows that a Rules Girl will show her appreciation when he treats her and her time with respect.
The Rules don’t hold back a woman’s personality. The Rules don’t prohibit a woman from showing how much she likes a man. But they do keep a woman from making a fool of herself chasing after a man who doesn’t respect her.
Mormon Girls and The Rules
Why should Mormon Girls follow The Rules? Because it allows them to keep their dignity. And in a world of juvenile group dates where adult couples chase each other through grocery stores, and girls spend every last penny they have to throw a party just to talk to a guy who shows up with a different girl on his arm, we could all use a little more dignity.
I’m still not saying that The Rules are for every girl. I do believe there are many exceptions to The Rules. Some guys do require a little more nudging- but not every guy. And I do think there is room for a woman to instigate a conversation first in the competitive world singles ward meeting and dating. How else will he ever spot Waldo in the crowd? But then again, if you’re his type, he will see you.
I’m Not an Expert, I Just Play One on the Internet
I don’t pretend to be a relationships expert, a dating guru, or any sort of therapist. I’m just a single girl with way too many years of experience on her hands. I welcome your opinion, feedback, or two cents. If you disagree with The Rules, leave it in the comments below. If you love The Rules, please let me know why.
Erin Ann McBride is a writer, dreamer, and single woman. By day she writes and by night she hunts unicorns. Her books “You Heard It Here First,” and the sequel “This Just In!” are available on Amazon. You can always find her at the Story of a Nice Mormon Girl, or on Twitter as @erinannie and Instagram as @erinannie17.