Book review: He’s just not that into you.

I’m the only single, unmarried child of me and my five siblings. My mother gave me this book with the advice ‘It’ll tell you what not to do’.

The first three chapters irritated me as I disagreed with several depictions they made about dating dynamics. I read on though, while I still thought it was a low-brow read, I could start see some sense of purpose to the book – not as a general dating advice book, but to be used as a nudge to friends to get out of some specifically bad relationship.

This fits in to a general opinion I have about dating advice books – I often can’t take them seriously. People’s perceptions and strategies for dating are dependent on their experiences of dating – who they’ve dated and what kind of relationships they’ve been in. Because everyone has had different experiences and different values when it comes to dating, there’s no one-size-fits-all set of dating advice guidelines. However, it is possible that a given set of dating advice guidelines will apply to a specific subsection of society.

The book outlines several signs that a guy is ‘just not that into’ a girl:

  • He’s cheating on you.
  • He only wants to see you when he’s drunk.
  • He doesn’t want to marry you.
  • He’s breaking up with you.
  • He’s disappeared on you.
  • He’s married.
  • He’s a bully.

It was at these chapters that I got an inkling as to how this book might be useful. A woman might be in a relationship that is obviously toxic, but due to a variety of cognitive biases everybody is subject to, not recognise it and be playing mental gymnastics to find reasons to stay in the relationship. As a friend one could tell her how obviously toxic the relationship is, but giving advice to friends may not be effective and may damage the friendship. By externalising the advice to an ‘expert’ the advice might be taken more seriously. The book even includes a section on ‘how do I give this book to a friend’.

I agree with the general premise that there can be a dating dynamic of someone being ‘not that into’ the other person. The book has been effective in giving the dynamic a label.

It was the very first chapters that I disagreed with.

One of the chapters is ‘He’s not that into you if he’s not calling you’. An example it gives is ‘I met a guy at a bar, and he gave me his number’. The advice? ‘He’s not that into you, if were into you he would have got your number be calling you’.

I disagree with this. There are several reasons why a guy might opt to give a girl his number, rather than asking for hers – the primary being that a girl may not feel comfortable giving her number out. A guy offering to give his number provides both the advantage of expressing respect for her privacy, as well require a clear signal of interest on her part to move the relationship forward. The fact that he has given her his number is a clear indication that he has some level of interest in her.

In the same chapter another example they gave was a girl who fancied her gardener. She had brought beers out to him and they’d chatted. She said that she suspected that he might be interested in her, but he hasn’t asked her out because he’s afraid to. Again the advice is ‘Nope! He’s just not that into you’.

This paints all men, (or all men worth dating at least) as having perfect social perception to gauge the appropriateness of making such a move, as well as the confidence to do it in a manner that they think will be attractive. Given that the gardener’s livelihood and professional reputation is at stake in this situation, it’s quite easy to see how a guy, even if he fancies the girl, might decide that the risk of offending her by asking her out for a drink and the subsequent potential damage to his reputation, outweighs potential benefits. From his point of view it might be better to hope that she continues chatting to him until he’s more confident that asking her out isn’t going to cause offence.

Both of these examples paint unrealistic and outdated gender stereotypes. While I’m not of the opinion that all differences in gender behaviour are solely the product of socialisation, (for example I think men genuinely do have a higher sex drive, though I think there is also socialised behaviour to act in a hyper sexual way as well) the model expressed paints men as very one dimensional (it doesn’t acknowledge that guys might genuinely be shy) and doesn’t acknowledge the increasing empowerment of woman to ask for what they want.

Does the book’s use as a hint or nudge for a friend to leave a relationship make this a good book? I don’t think so. But – I would accept that perhaps this book has indeed helped some people. I think though – we should be concerned about propagating unhelpful or unhealthy depictions of dating dynamics, and I think it’s more important is to criticise the book for its simplistic and naïve depiction of gender roles.

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