Sunday, December 12, 2004

One note nation

It’s one hundred and sixty-something pages of what you might have been led to believe is the wisdom of the ages. A pink-covered, two-authored, based-on-the-TV-series advice tome, promising the answer to questions that have reportedly vexed the imaginations and emotions of women since the first single-celled organism split – and never called back.
What’s a single female to do?
According to authors and, based on their vast experience as television series scriptwriters, experts, Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, accept that ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ – their one-size-fits-all insight into the ways and means of men who won’t call back, and not incidentally, the title of the runaway bestseller and this publishing year’s silly season offering into the pre-remainder bin.
Subtitled ‘The No Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys’, Behrendt and Tuccillo (or Greg and Liz – a consultant and writer for HBO’s sizzling single gal sitcom Sex and the City) apparently need all one hundred and sixty-something pages to deliver one answer – one thought, one response – to any question regarding why he doesn’t call in a timely fashion, agree to commit, or say he loves you: He’s Just Not That Into You.
Though this Pet Rock of print claims to be based on “a popular episode of Sex and the City” even that description overstates its pretensions – it’s actually based on one of a number of story lines in one episode of the popular series. (A story line that incidentally disproves the overarching theory in the final scene.)
Imagine that: spinning gold from such insubstantial dross.
But everyone’s talking about it: Oprah dedicated an entire episode to the book and it’s single-answer premise – and this from a show that couldn’t find 60 minutes to dedicate to “Children who shook the world” and had to plumb the ancient practice of foot-binding and an update on Oprah’s Book Club in order to fill another unforgiving hour.
The morning news shows, talks shows, tabloids, radio call-ins, international publishers and each and every neighbourhood Pennysaver from here to Istanbul seems to have dedicated a segment, a feature or a mention to 2004’s new signature catchphrase “He’s Just Not That Into You”.
And as is the case with virtually every short-lived, simple minded solution – most especially those in advice book format - initial response is huge. (Think: the ‘The’ diets – Scarsdale, Atkins, South Beach, Zone, Cabbage, Grapefruit, Suzanne Somers!) And as is the case with most every simple solution guide, there’s both a grain of truth and a world of hurt. One lightbulb moment does not peace of mind, mended heart or thin thighs make.
But you have to admire the single minded – though depressingly cynical – pursuit of success in publishing such a book. Can’t you just see them in their funky little Manhattan script-writing aerie? All exposed brick and high ceilings and self-consciously styled antique mixed with modern shabby chic furniture sensibility? There they are: Greg and Liz, chortling with glee as they decide to stretch a one note idea into a best seller, coming up with endless variations on the same theme, with a table of contents that by themselves cover the waterfront – no need to actually read all the words that follow.
(Seriously, what amplification do you need of the following chapter headings: He’s Just Not That Into You if …
… he’s not asking you out
… he’s not calling you
… he’s not dating you
… he’s not having sex with you
… he’s having sex with someone else
… 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
… he’s married
… he’s selfish, a jerk, a bully or a really big freak
With the exception of a Q & A and closing remarks from Greg and Liz, I’ve just saved you $19.95 plus tax and delivery charges.)
It’s what people want: the simplest possible solution to a complex problem. “This will save your life!” shrieks Oprah, dazzled by the notion of most famous best gal pal on earth Gail never again calling for those marathon sobfests about why such a nice, pretty (pal of a multi-millionaire media franchise) gal can’t find love.
Because that’s the sub sub-title and central message: stop wasting time; hie thee thither from the silent telephone, the empty e-mail box and the endless supposing and maybe-ing that follow a great date with no actual follow-up… He’s Just Not That Into You.
Talk about a waste.
A waste of space, newsprint, airtime and real time. If a message with the same approximate ‘stop the presses’ urgency as ‘smoking causes cancer’ and ‘Russian roulette can be risky’ needed delivering, surely it would have been more wisely applied to matters of greater moment…
How about:
He’s Just Not That Into You if he…
… starts a war on a dishonest premise
… says the war is about freedom and democracy
… ignores world opinion
… pretends to be interested in one despotic terrorist when he’s really interested in another
… sends improperly armed and trained people into battle
… talks about freedom, then kills civilians
… favours supporters who obey his every wish and whim and ignores solid, sober, experienced voices of reason who differ
… states ‘Mission Accomplished’ then goes back for a whole lot more
… runs an election on issues, but makes sure he wins on values
… attempts to heal rifts by offering an open mind and a ready ear to those who ‘share our goals’
… calls the systematic removal of human rights and freedoms the ‘Patriot Act’
No need to waste another moment trying to figure out why he does these things; why he doesn’t care or call or send flowers or candy, or stop the war or let people who love each other marry or treat other beliefs, values or nations with respect.
He’s Just Not That Into Us.
I’d like to think I’ve just saved you $19.95 plus tax and delivery charges. Sadly, the world of hurt is still being billed.

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