June 8, 2006
He Said/She Said
And people tell me I'm neurotic. They say, "Don't think about it so much," and "Just let it happen." They think, "God, she's never going to get married if she is going to get hung up on that," and "Where does she even come up with these things?"
Well, let me tell you something: I've got nothing on the minutia of relationships. I'm a lightweight on the subject, I've decided, after reading two new books on relationships written by Jewish Journal singles columnists.
Lori Gottlieb, NPR commentator, Atlantic contributor and JJ columnist, has co-written "I Love You, Nice to Meet You" (St. Martin's Press) with Kevin Bleyer. And Evan Marc Katz, Journal contributor and the founder of E-Cyrano, an online dating consultant service, has co-written "Why You're Still Single" (Plume) with Linda Holmes.
They've both taken on the essential problem of romantic relationships -- that they occur between men and women. (Or if it's a same gender relationship, between the feminine and masculine.) Two completely different perspectives. Mars and Venus doesn't begin to explain it: These are not two different planets, but two completely different solar systems.
Guess what? Problem solved: Both books provide a "He Said/She Said" take on the thousands of little flies in the ointments of relationships, and now, perhaps, men and women will never ever have to wonder, "What is going through his/her mind?" again.
"I Love You, Nice to Meet You" by Gottlieb and Bleyer, the latter a writer for "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," is a hysterical compilation of essays on subjects I've never even begun to consider (I really have got to get out more). For example -- going through someone's medicine cabinets? Nicknames and pet names? Pornography? Couples therapy? Cellphone messages? It's as if we're watching a game show with two comedians, where the host throws out a topic that each of the pair have to riff on for a minute. Which they do very, very well, thank you. Laugh out loud funny sometimes.
"Alcohol is dating steroids" (Bleyer).
"It's hard not to be intrigued by somebody so unembarrassed by their weirdness" (Gottlieb).
"The only man who can look at a piece of art for more than 13 seconds and not appear to be bulls------ interest is the guy who painted the thing" (Bleyer).
"The three most important words of first-date discourse: Better Left Unsaid" (Gottlieb).
Funny as it is, "I Love You, Nice To Meet You" also provides serious thought into the complex nature of modern relationships.
"Frankly, it's unclear what's required of a man today. If we hold open the door for a woman, is it a courtesy? Or are we suggesting that this pathetic creature is so fragile the door might break her arm?" (Bleyer).
"It's not that we don't appreciate chivalry. It's that ideally, we'd like to pick and choose from an ? la carte menu of chivalrous acts" (Gottlieb).
"Why You're Still Single," by Katz and Holmes, a television writer like Bleyer, is less "everything we wanted to know about relationships but were afraid to ask," but more focused, as the subtitle says, on "Things Your Friends Would Tell You if You Promised Not to Get Mad."
More self-help than it promises not to be, this book is aimed squarely at women. It hopes to show them how what they've done in the past could help them figure out how to improve their search for a soul mate. From "You're Knocking Yourself Out of the Game," to "You're the Patron Saint of Lost Causes," Katz and Holmes, as they subtitle the chapters, offer a more tough love approach to issues. (This is like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders VI for relationships.)
"Everything that goes wrong in a relationship can be attributed, in some form, to insecurity" (Evan).
"There's insecurity of the type everyone has and then there's the insecurity of the type that's completely paralyzing and you can't handle them the same way" (Linda).
If I closed my eyes when reading the books -- well, they'd be hard to read, for sure -- but if I covered up the "He Said/She Said" subtitles, often I would not be sure who was the man and who was the woman. For example, Kevin Bleyer is the one who cries and Lori Gottlieb is the one who eschews tears. Evan Katz has been cheated on and Linda Holmes loves to flirt. Perhaps, because they've been analyzing relationships for so long, the men in this book are more emotionally in touch than most "typical" men and the women are more hardened than most "typical" women, or perhaps modernity and the reversal of gender roles has so confused both men and women that no one is sure what to think anymore.
It also makes me marvel at how anyone finds the path to a successful relationship. Reading these books might not help you get any closer to that road, but they surely will provide lots of laughs along the way.
Lori Gottlieb and Kevin Bleyer will discuss "I Love You, Nice to Meet You at Dutton's Brentwood on June 16 at 7 p.m. 11975 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 476-6263.
Evan Marc Katz will discuss "Why You're Still Single" on Tuesday, June 20, at 7 p.m. at Borders 1360 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 475-3444; and Thursday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica. (310) 260-9110.