A few days later ...
I keep repeating to myself that I am a unique individual -- with thoughts and hopes and dreams ... Still, I find myself unable to stop humming my name to the tune of "By Mennen" as I walk down the street. "Cole Kaz-din!" I sing.
I walk down the street with a hop in my step. I am no longer Cole Kazdin, unique individual who is happy and usually confident but sometimes unsure -- I stop myself mid-thought. Complexities, be gone! I am Cole Kazdin, Refreshingly Approachable!
I'm midway through the "Find a Husband" book, slightly disheartened by the idea that I have to strip away whole aspects of my being because they aren't in my marketing plan, or aren't wife-y enough, or can't be sung to the tune of a deodorant commercial. I decide that's bullshit, but I proceed in the interest of science.
Bearing in mind "Market Expansion," as author Rachel Greenwald calls it, I "cast a wider net" and attempt to open my eyes to men I would normally pass over. I walk outside of my apartment building and take a long look at Chico, as if for the first time. Sure, he appears to have no job and he spends his days sitting on a stack of milk crates. And yes, he has been wearing a beat-up plaster cast on his leg for the three years I have lived here. But he always smiles through his greasy handlebar mustache and says "Hola" as I pass him each morning. Maybe the man of my dreams was under my nose the entire time.
Chico notwithstanding, the concept of widening your net is valid -- especially for women who find themselves dating different incarnations of the same man over and over again.
I've never done a manhunt before in my life, but now that I'm "looking," I realize just how many of them there are. After a girlfriend and I have lunch downtown, we run into two very cute 35-40ish men she knows. In the two minutes we chat in the street, one makes an offhand joke about needing a good woman in his life, as he gives my elbow a squeeze. Huh?
Since I do in fact have a boyfriend, I give off the scent than men love but not even Calvin Klein could bottle: Unavailable -- a fragrance for women.
A few days later, after a creepy guy on Rollerblades tries to pick me up in line at the falafel cart on 46th Street, I decide maybe I appear too "Refreshingly Approachable" and maybe I should switch gears, to the more mature and comforting "Let Cole Keep You Warm."
Greenwald tells me in a phone interview that she considers dating to be a numbers game -- once you have your brand, the idea is to get it out to as many people as possible. For example, send beautiful note cards to friends, telling them you're looking for someone wonderful to spend your life with. Go through your entire Rolodex -- all personal and professional contacts -- and tell them of your quest. This strategy "is accepted in other arenas," Greenwald says. "Yet women are so reluctant to do it in relationships. If you were looking for a job, could you send out 100 résumés?"
Of course. But "husband" isn't a position you're trying to fill. I thought you were supposed to meet someone and because of who he is, you begin to imagine spending your life with him.
Greenwald has no patience for such romanticism. "The romance comes after the man is found," she says firmly. "But not in the search process."
Rachel Greenwald is a lovely, soft-spoken woman to talk to, but she is also savvy and strong and hardcore. And she is becoming a very wealthy woman. Her seminars sell out. Her bestselling book is being adapted into a movie (a romantic comedy about a woman who does the steps of the book and gets married). Match.com has asked to link to her Web site. They probably love her because she plugs them in the "Online Dating" chapter. She says she has no arrangement with them, or with the other companies that seem to pop up a lot in the book: Home Depot, as a place to meet men, or Starbucks -- where she suggests you go instead of making coffee at home. It's true and pretty obvious that your odds of meeting people are higher if you leave your house. In trying to follow her program, I've gone to four different Starbucks, four days in a row. I met no one, but I have taken a significant chunk out of my initial budget.
I am trying to mix up my routine a bit, as she instructs -- take the long way home, walk into a man-friendly store I would normally pass. The other day I walked 11 blocks out of my way to take a different subway. I pass four gorgeous guys in a row. Then a fifth. This is fabulous! Then it hits me -- it is fabulous. I've crossed over the rainbow and into Chelsea. The next two men who pass me are holding hands and I realize that nobody here wants to marry me.
I contact friends to try to get a sense of how many available men they are aware of. I go on a "date" with a woman -- Greenwald suggests that women invest time going on "dates" with helpful, well-connected women who could potentially introduce them to single men.
By Week 2, I am exhausted. I'm tired of thinking about this stupid book all the time, and I have other, more important stuff to do. One night, I'm feeling particularly moody and probably PMS-y. My boyfriend tiptoes around me -- "Um, Cole?" he asks sweetly but tentatively. "Is this a 'step'?" I find that hilarious and we both start laughing. The poor guy is paranoid he will become a guinea pig in this story.
I could also be a little hungry, even though I feel like I'm eating a lot. I'm still doing the South Beach diet concurrently and I haven't had a processed carbohydrate in my body for at least 10 days. I feel fantastic. I've probably lost at least five pounds and I'm in the skinny jeans. Jeans I can usually only wear when I'm depressed and not eating, or battling stomach flu. Of the two books, South Beach is a hit.
Because of all the energy the husband program takes, the book mandates time off. Indulgence. Finally, a step I can sink my teeth into. I promptly add $100 to my "husband budget" and get a pedicure and a new sweater.
This period of rest is merely preparation for the toughest part yet -- Performance Review. Here, you evaluate your results: Are you meeting men? Are you in a relationship? It is here that the "Exit Interviews" are conducted. You have a friend or your mentor call men you have dated but, for whatever reason, stopped calling you. The idea is not to put them on the spot but rather get constructive criticism.
"I would be very civil," says Todd Levin, a 30-something bachelor imagining getting such a call. "I would try to be as helpful and civil as I could be on the phone and as soon as I got off the phone, I would change my locks." The whole idea creeped him out.
Like most of us, he has had postmortems after a relationship has ended -- talks about what went wrong, regrets, and so on. But from someone you just dated once or twice, as Greenwald suggests, it's ridiculous.
"It seems silly to ask someone's opinion when it already hasn't worked out," he says. "My issues with [a woman's] appearance, for example, are subjective. Then you're already trying to change yourself for something that hasn't worked out." But maybe if you keep getting the same feedback from different people, there might be something to consider.
Greenwald knows the exit interview isn't easy, but she does say it's necessary. In my research, I found not one man who was willing to go through with this, and not one woman who would allow me to call a man she's dated on her behalf.
"Most people put in that position would be doing anything they could to get off the phone," Todd says. A lot of times in dating, you just don't connect with the person and that's all there is to it.
"Doesn't it make you sad?" asks my mentor, Jane, referring to the entire program. "It's so sad, it makes me want to cry. That someone would be that desperate..."
Greenwald doesn't call it desperate; she calls it proactive. And the women she caters to -- women she instructs not to wear power suits on dates -- are women in crisis.
"I have women who told me that years ago they never would have touched this program," she says in an interview. "Years later they call me up and say, 'I'm ready. I never thought I could make telemarketing calls to my friends. Now I'm doing it. I chose happiness over pride.'"
Because she's a businesswoman, the idea of using a marketing plan to get men makes sense.
"I think it works for her because that's who she is," Jane says. "That's how her mind works. If you're not like her and you try the book, you're going to find a guy that's right for her. [Then] you're supposed to live the rest of your life with someone you tricked."
But Greenwald maintains that "program" marriages are some of the strongest she's seen, and she goes to brises and christenings and anniversaries on a regular basis.
She is married, of course. She says she did the program years ago without even knowing it, which translates as: She didn't exactly do the program -- this is just her personal style. Greenwald says now that so many fields use a marketing model -- healthcare, education -- maybe one day 10 years from now, we won't be able to imagine a time when we didn't telemarket for dates.
"You shouldn't need a focus group and a creative brief and flowcharts," says Todd. "Whatever happened to romantic walks on the beach?"
There was a time when online dating seemed shocking and now it's common and acceptable. Years ago, in a simpler time, Jane suggests, you lived someplace where everyone knew you were a single woman. There was a social network -- the village or your church. "There was a system in place that took care of you," she says.
Dating is moving in a colder direction. But Greenwald says that most of her clients are married in 12 to 18 months.
Of course her system works. If you focus on anything 100 percent of the time, there's virtually no way it will not happen.
Which brings us to the final step -- sealing the deal. This is expressly for people over 35. Greenwald admits she would never give this advice to a 22-year-old: Always Be Closing. If a man is truly in love with you and over the age of 35, she says, after six months he knows if he wants to marry you.
If you don't want to marry him, you should break it off. If you do want to marry him and he tells you he's not ready yet but he loves you, you have to pin him down or leave. In the book, Greenwald suggests a "catalyst" -- something to accelerate your answer. Tell him you are contemplating a job in another state, that a new man has asked you out, or that your gynecologist has suggested you freeze your eggs. Something dramatic that will start the discussion.
"Why can't you just be honest?" asks Todd. "If marriage is that important to you, say, 'This isn't going anywhere and I'm old.' I don't think it's OK to say, 'I have brain cancer.'"
He finds it frustrating that the book puts the business plan before feelings. "She's not making relationships about emotion at all," he says. "She's proposing a dating world where people carry comment cards and suggestion boxes around their necks. The most unromantic thing in the world is to imagine myself as a commodity and that's what you're left with after you've stripped the emotions out of it."
I can't help thinking about something both Todd and Ken said to me when they were formulating my mock ad campaign -- it's an advertising in-joke, apparently, that advertisers create a problem that people didn't know they had and then offer to solve it with stain remover, pain reliever, baked beans or whatever they're selling. On the one hand, there are a lot of people who for whatever reason are single, and they want nothing more than to find a spouse. That's fine. But there are also a lot of people who for whatever reason are a little lost and not sure what they want. And there are a lot of books that tell women in particular that there is something wrong with them and offer a 15-step solution. The most tangible result is that Rachel Greenwald -- pleasant and smart as she is -- is merely another person getting rich off them.
Incidentally, after two whole weeks on the South Beach diet, the skinny jeans are starting to feel loose, so I'm going to cool it.
I can't imagine meeting someone this way or, for that matter, marrying someone this way. Could you ever tell him that's how you landed him?
"What if I told a woman after six months that our meeting wasn't an accident," proposes Todd. "That I had been sitting in a van outside her house for six months" prior to that.
He has a point. At the same time, if you think of this book merely as a way to meet people, it seems harmless. The problem is, that's not all the book purports to be. It sells itself as a solution. Simple, clear-cut and guaranteed. And anyone who's ever been in love knows that those three little words have absolutely no place near the other ones.
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We want to make you a part of this series. What is the state of your union? Did you find the one and never look back, or has finding lasting love been a marathon of trial and error? Did you have a fairy-tale wedding only to watch things crumble once the reception was over, or have you glided along in marital bliss since Day One? We want to hear your stories of joy, romance, heartbreak and pain. After all, partnership, as we all know, is a complex concoction of all of those things. (Please remember: Any writing submitted becomes the property of Salon if we publish it. We reserve the right to edit submissions and cannot reply to every writer. Interested contributors should send their stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.)