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How ‘The Rules’ Gave Me Better Self Esteem

Reading something you don’t like can help you learn more about yourself.

By Leslie WritesPublished 11 months ago Updated 11 months ago 4 min read
Top Story - August 2023
Image by <a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/food-waste-concept_10301986.htm#query=garbage%20can%20banana%20peel&position=0&from_view=search&track=ais">Freepik</a>

When I was younger I had problems getting dates. I kept watching everyone around me coupling up and it made me feel like there was something wrong with me. I’m kind of an open book when it comes to my feelings, so my friends and family would often see me moping about it. They’d dispense advice like that old Supremes song. You can’t hurry love…

I wasn’t a total pariah. I’d occasionally catch someone’s interest, maybe hang out with them a little on romantic terms, but then I’d ruin it by being too eager to couple up. Apparently that pushes people away.

I remember the first time in middle school that the tables were turned. It happened at the eighth grade end of the year dance. A boy was willing to dance with me and I was so excited just to be asked to dance at all. He could have been a sentient coat rack for all I cared! I had been chosen!

He asked for my phone number and I gave it to him because I assumed that’s what you are supposed to do. I forgot to ask myself if I was really interested in this guy. I was just caught up in the excitement of being desirable. Unfortunately, that’s just how girls are socialized.

Then he called me and arranged a date. He wanted to have a picnic of fried baloney sandwiches and see Batman Forever. This was the summer of 1995. Seal’s single from the movie soundtrack, Kiss from a Rose was considered very romantic.

I didn’t want to go on the date, but I felt trapped. He was really excited and I worried about hurting his feelings, so I made excuses. I said “no thanks” in the nicest way possible. I thought maybe he’d get tired of calling me and give up. When it seemed he wasn’t getting the picture, I raised my voice and said some unkind things.

The problem was that he was being socialized to be persistent and I was being socialized to be agreeable regardless of how I actually felt. It was a recipe for disaster. I broke the guy’s heart. I also failed to make the connection between being on the receiving end of unrequited ‘love’ and having my ‘love’ unrequited.

Real love is rare. Most of the time you’ll swing and miss. And that’s okay! You can move on and keep your head high. There is nothing “wrong” with you. I wish I had known that!

In high school it only got worse because of course it did, it's high school! I was a theater kid. They are a very touchy feely group. I wasn’t getting any action though. As an adult, I realize that was probably for the best, but teen me was dying inside.

College was the same story. No hope for love and no prospects. My dad must have seen me moping around when I came home for Fall break. The next care package I received had a copy of The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider.

Photo from Amazon.com

I don’t remember the actual rules, so I am paraphrasing here. The book helps its female readers learn how to suppress their assertiveness, become a version of themselves that appeals more to men. The word “capturing” in the subtitle should give you an impression that some trickery is involved.

Also, I’d argue that men are not all the same, just as women are not all the same. Gender has nuances that I’m not sure the authors of the rules would understand. To be fair, at the time I didn’t understand it either and I’m still learning.

I always thought that when true love happens, you get to be yourself. I don’t want to have to pretend to be someone else all the time. What a miserable thing to do. It’s miserable for the person maintaining a false personality and miserable for the person who is in love with a mirage.

I sat around with my friends discussing the contents of the book one night and we all came to the conclusion that it was bullshit. The feminine energy was palpable. We had created our own little anti book club in honor of the worst advice we’d ever read. One thing led to another and suddenly I was ripping out the pages and tearing them into little pieces.

I don’t condone destroying books, but for this one I make an exception. It was actually a very cathartic experience.

I don’t think my dad meant any harm in sending me this book. He just saw that his daughter was unlucky in love and wanted to help. When I told him I disagreed with it, he said something like, “I’m not surprised. You’re a very independent thinker.” He understood where I was coming from.

The old adage is true. The minute you stop worrying about finding a mate is when you display the confidence and wholeness that makes you a great partner. No trickery. No games. Just mutual love and respect.

Unfortunately, there is no secret or rules to follow. You can’t force it and it can take a long time to find it, but everybody deserves love. If you are lucky enough to fall in love, cherish it! You won the lottery!

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About the Creator

Leslie Writes

Another struggling millennial. Writing is my creative outlet and stress reliever.

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Comments (24)

  • Kendall Defoe 10 months ago

    When I was in university, a few.ale friend read part of this outloud during a study session...and I thought it was satire. So did she, but we had to admit that some people really went for it.

  • Tiffany Gordon 10 months ago

    A beautifully crafted piece with awesome advice! Great job Leslie!

  • JBaz11 months ago

    As a father I know I may have made a blunder or two with understanding my daughter, but it does come from the heart. I would like to think that I would never have sent that book (Well intentioned as it was). I enjoyed this read very much.

  • Jay Kantor11 months ago

    Dear Ms. Leslie - When in the Military overseas a "Care-Package" was so looked forward to; when our chums would give us a second to tear-them-open and share. ~ Love turns up when least expected ~ -You are a terrific StoryTeller - Jay Jay Kantor, Chatsworth, California 'Senior' Vocal Author - Vocal Author Community -

  • Test11 months ago

    Terrible book! OMG. I'm glad you tore it to pieces, even though hurting books is a crime, lols 😂 I can so relate to your teen self. In my later years, having lived alone for a long time, I decided I was fine continuing to be me by myself, and that very night, my friend connected me via social media messaging to the man who is now my husband. All I had to do was stop looking for that special someone! The universe has a strong sense of irony! Love this, Leslie 💕😊

  • Mariann Carroll11 months ago

    I agree it’s the worst book , I am glad you ripped it to pieces. It’s tells a woman to let a man walk all over her. Confirm to what is expected. If a man like you they will go all out for you. How are you going to get to know the guy you like if you keep saying no.

  • Babs Iverson11 months ago

    Remember the book!!! Keeping up a charade, that's not a good thing or way to begin a relationship!!! Honestlt, it is so empowering to shred a letter, junk mail or a book that provides bad advice!!! Congratulations on Top Stoey, Leslie!!!❤️❤️💕

  • Dana Stewart11 months ago

    Bless your Dad, he was trying to help. One of my family members gifted me with Maureen Dowd’s Are Men Necessary. I wish I would have ripped it up like you did but I put it in the yard sale. 🤣 I enjoyed this and related to much of it.

  • Antoinette L Brey11 months ago

    I never figured out the dating game> i read a similar book which made the woman seem as if she was hunting her desired man. Didn't make much sense to me.

  • Ah man, Leslie, you had me cracking up from top to bottom. But you also had me shaking my head in agreement. Super love the interwoven elements like your family's advice and inclusion of the audio. There were so many favorite lines that resonanted with me, like "He could have been a sentient coat rack for all I cared! I had been chosen!". This was clearly worthy of Top Story. Congrats!

  • Mackenzie Davis11 months ago

    There is value in reading what we don’t like, and relishing in our opposite opinions; I like that you show this, in addition to what you did get out of the book. Engaging in our disagreements can only help us grow, which I think is actually at the heart of “how” to find true love. If you aren’t willing to grow as a person, you won’t find or keep the person you want. I agree that a one true love may not exist; but I do believe you can make your person be your one true love by recognizing that love is action and choice, which has to adapt in your own heart. You have to make some compromises to love, otherwise you (read: we) are just a stubborn individual in proximity to another. And that isn’t love. Congrats on your top story! Very thought provoking and valuable.

  • Naomi Gold11 months ago

    Back to say congrats! 🥂

  • Alexander McEvoy11 months ago

    I know how it must have felt to be the one unchosen, except from the guy's side. Invisible, unwanted, it's a terrible feeling and one that I'm dealing with the effects of even though secondary school was nearly ten years ago now. This story was very open and emotional, a pleasure to read!

  • Donna Renee11 months ago

    Yessssss!!! Shred that thing! Ugh. Loved this, Leslie!!

  • Congratulations on your Top Story🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • This Was an Extremely Good read 📖 ❤️💯😉👌-I Like Dad 😎

  • Aksaya Bandodker11 months ago

    Nice Story ! Keep it up!! You can check out my work too!

  • Hannah Moore11 months ago

    Seems like the book did a good job of helping you find a few things that had been there all along. And also showed your dad cared....and then that he actually did get you despite the poor choice.

  • Naomi Gold11 months ago

    Never heard of this book, but I love what you got from it. I agree that reading what you don’t like (or even despise) can be an illuminating experience. I felt that way about Gone Girl. I thought it was the most shit book I’d ever read, but that righteous anger empowered me when I started explaining to friends what was wrong with it. It helped me define the type of writer I want to be. And finding someone you’re truly compatible with doesn’t happen by following rules, like how absurd! Yes, sometimes rejecting bad advice is just what we need to follow our hearts.

  • L.C. Schäfer11 months ago

    I love that it worked in an unexpected way 😁 I remember seeing something on TV about that book and thinking it looked like horse shit 🧐

  • Omgggg I'm socialized to be agreeable regardless of how I actually felt too so I totally understand! I loved that it was cathartic when you ripped that book apart!

  • Heidi McCloskey11 months ago

    Very enjoyable read and I could totally relate. I was in chorus, band, theater, you know, all the “cool clubs.” Growing up in a small town doesn’t help either.

  • Joelle E N✨11 months ago

    Love the conclusion u came to; i couldnt agree more. Its about being urself. My experience is that when authenticity is ur approach, u may go thru seasons of getting “less action” as u say, but ur also the one who’s going to bag a real one!! ❤️❤️

  • Jazzy 11 months ago

    Now I want to read this! I have only wanted to rip up one book, but I'm happy to read something that will upset me! It's interesting you say you didn't even think if you liked the boy. I have been on, like, date three, asking myself why I keep doing this. Exciting read; thank you for sharing!

Leslie WritesWritten by Leslie Writes

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