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America: land of opportunity. Breeding ground for possibility, birthplace of ingenuity. Here, you can be anything you set your mind to be, as long as you have a dollar in your pocket, a dream in your heart, and a semi-decent Internet connection. And that’s really awesome — for the most part.
Enter the relationship expert. Usually male, rarely certified, almost always correcting women on what they’re doing wrong. The relationship expert can be of a variety of backgrounds — singer, preacher, actor, grocery store butcher, random guy yelling at buildings downtown. Their advice is splattered everywhere, from the big screen to bookstore shelves to your Twitter feed, no matter how hard you try to keep people from retweeting their sage advice into your timeline. They’re absolutely everywhere, thanks to the unfortunate ease of self-promotion in the digital era.
When you’re standing at the corner of My Eggs Are Turning to Dust Boulevard and Crazy Cat Lady Avenue, you may panic a bit and begin to search for something to salve your raw nerves. Books by relationship experts might look rather tasty in a pinch (though I’d instead suggest turning to prayer or dark liquor, but that’s just me). But when the “experts” roam in chaotic packs like those seagulls from”Finding Nemo,” how do you know whom to listen to?
This is where I come in. To help you though the confusing world of relationship etiquette books, I’ve written (or at least will write once someone slides me a couple of dollars to do so) a book that dissects these manuals for you. Tentatively titled “Wait, What?: Your Guide to Emotional Etiquette Books Written by Men Who Think They’re Qualified to Teach Women How to Be Women,” this book will teach you the secret language of men like Steve Harvey, Keith Sweat, Hill Harper and your cousin Charles who is currently on Twitter giving out horrible advice that nobody asked for; men who have their sights set on your wallet while you, unsuspecting female consumer, have your sights set on love. Here are the CliffsNotes:
Chapter 1: Spotting the Fake “Experts”
As I’ve mentioned, everyone is a relationship expert these days. In movies, via e-book, online — if libraries still existed, they’d be all up in there, too. So how do you know which are worth reading, and which make better coasters? Here are a few tips to find the good ones.
Basically, look for books written by accredited professionals who may actually know what they’re talking about. (You can trust me, by the way. I’m a professionally trained relationship expert expert thanks to ITT Tech, where I minored in TV/VCR repair.)
Chapter 2: It’s all YOUR fault, Vagina’ed One!
You’ll definitely want to beware of books that offer to teach you how to get your man to do things (unless the book teaches you some kind of hypnosis or black magic, in which case it may be worth a listen). How to keep your man from cheating! How to make sure your man never looks at another woman, ever! How to keep him from giving you an open-handed smack in the mouth! Listen. A grown man is a grown man, and a grown man will do what he wants regardless. The problem believing there is something you can do to keep a man from treating you poorly, is that it implies that there is also something you can do to cause him to mistreat you. It takes the responsibility for his crappy behavior, puts it in a pretty font and places it directly in your lap. Gee. Why does this sound so familiar?
Chapter 3: Act Like a What?
A common theme in relationship etiquette books is an emphasis put on men being men and women being women. There are roles, you see, and for a happy, healthy relationship the scales must be balanced.
So when one of these expert guys tells you to “act like a lady” or “remember that you’re a woman,” what he’s really saying is know your role! You mustn’t be smarter, more successful or generally happier than your man is. Basically, be perfect, but not so perfect that you emasculate your king. Who wants to squeegee up the remains of that male ego after it explodes all over everything? (As a woman, it will be your job, you know.) You have to stay on your toes; they’ll slip this message into those pages, sprayed with a little perfume and disguised as genuine concern for you. What sneaky little snakes.
The rest of the book will basically be full of testimonials from women whose lives I will have saved with my sage advice. Just look at what they (will probably) say!
Lady McLadyham, Alpharetta, Ga. — “’Wait, What?’ changed my life! I’d spent hundreds of dollars listening to 1990s R&B artists tell me how to live my life, not realizing that it was all just simple ploy to remain relevant. Since I’ve stopped buying those books, I used the money to start a bonsai garden and took first in my local bonsai pruning competition. I’ve never been happier!”
Shirley von Boobs, Hoboken, N.J. — “Since reading ‘Wait, What?,’ I’ve been able to run faster, jump higher, my teeth are 56 percent whiter and overall I feel 23 percent less bogged down by patriarchy masked as female empowerment!”
I could go on and on, but I won’t. Just keep an eye out for my book, “Wait, What?: Your Guide to Emotional Etiquette Books Written by Men Who Think They’re Qualified to Teach Women How to Be Women.” Also, if you could help me get this thing published, that’d be awesome, too.
Tracy Clayton is a writer and humorist from Louisville, KY. She is also Grapevine and Chatterati editor at TheRoot.com.More Tracy Clayton.