August 2006

Joanne McNeil

nonfiction

Why Men Marry Bitches: A Woman's Guide to Winning Her Man's Heart by Sherry Argov

Why are there no self-help books for men? "Playing hard to get" maxims are continually padded and mass-market-paperbacked but, Why Women Leave You If You Don't Pay Enough Attention to Them or Why You Really Won't Be Having Affairs With Teen Cheerleaders When You're Middle-Aged have yet to be published.

Then again, Sherry Argov's latest self-help, Why Men Marry Bitches, can be read -- in spite of the pink lipstick-font -- as a play-by-play for the other team. Fittingly, she counts Esquire and Playboy among her writing credits; these "Relationship Principles" hold up only as reverse psychology. The book is a lesson in avoiding self-absorbed women that are really watching Gilmore Girls reruns as they pretend to lead much more fulfilling lives.

The underlying principle (of all 77 principles) is that men are frightened of marriage-obsessed women not because of anything you might have read in pop evolutionary psychology, but because they neglect the emotional bond in this pursuit. Men don't want to feel like they just filled an available position. But "fair warning people: this is no 'coddle your inner child' book;" Argov hardly takes this objection seriously. Instead, she advocates even greater proto-Bridezilladom; a battery of man-catching techniques that hardly leave her apprentices with anything else to think about.

The resulting Ouroboros complex would be funny if it weren't so gross. Argov actually advocates acting inexperienced in bed. Because we all know that men love it when you just lay there. She also suggests you refuse to carry condoms. Safe sex is so 1992.

What is retro is her erotic aesthetic. If a man arrived at my door in "silk boxers and cowboy boots," I would probably vomit. But these used car salesmen in a Fredrick's of Hollywood lingerie would likely lasso-him to the waterbed and pour candle wax on him or whatever Kim Basinger would do. WWKBD could be the subtitle to this book; she is quoted intermittently and inexplicably throughout it. ("Kim Basigner said something interesting: 'I don't have time to be classified as difficult and I don't have time to care.'")

This book should not be simply brushed aside as a bachelorette party gag gift. It is bad for you! I write this not for the marabou-heeled Kim Basinger fans that have already bought it and tried it out on their Lava Life dates; but for the bookish, slightly-insecure women that contemplate sneaking it between the pages of the New Yorker the next time they're at Borders Cafe. Unrequited love does nothing if not fuel sales of self-helps and astrological readings.

So if you are still wondering, "I know it's dumb but I like someone and I think he likes me -- What if I try this? What if I try that?" -- here's what works for me: imagine him twenty years from now, having missed his chance at greatness (you) and instead swept away by an Argov-bot. He's now a Willy Loman-figure at the dinner table with the now obese wife (her) and their obnoxious, snotty children screaming, "Daddy, let's watch Cheaper By the Dozen 2! Daddy, I want McDonald's happy meals!"

Man and bitch live happily ever after.

Why Men Marry Bitches: A Woman's Guide to Winning Her Man's Heart by Sherry Argov
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 074327637X
272 Pages