August 2003

Melissa Roy

scarlet woman of self-help

Dating: A Survival Guide from the Front Lines by Josie Vogel

"Funny as hell." That's how Josie Vogel's Dating: A Survival Guide from the Front Lines is billed in her book jacket blurb, and it just might be one of the most accurate claims I've ever seen advertised. In case you haven't noticed from most of my other reviews, I am definitely a jacket-reader. I'm sure that there are many readers out there who don't read--or put any stock in--the "catchers" that appear on the back of each and every paperback on the shelves. I, however, am not one of those people. I often, in my personal time, decide to read a book because I'm sold on what the jacket hawks to my impressionable little mind. Often I find that it's totally wrong. (What's especially funny is when even the plot synopsis has major flaws; don't these people read the book?)

Anyway, while searching for a trio of dating/relationship/marriage books to tackle for this column I came across Vogel's and wanted to read it immediately because, well, dating is funny. It may not seem hysterical when you're crying in your soup over yet another miserable failed relationship with yet another miserably screwed-up person, daydreaming your way through a blind fix-up who can't stop talking about how much he loves his mom while all you can think about is the spinach in his teeth, or just wondering when you'll find an actual relationship instead of a meaningless string of hook-ups (or lack thereof). These situations, though, are exactly why it is...why it has to be funny. If you don't believe me now, pick up the book.

Vogel's chapters, with titles like "Movin' In for the Kill: Are you giving me the eye or is my fly undone?", include not only a wealth of information both historical and experiential about dating, but also offer fun distractions like "Date from Hell" stories, snappy comebacks for lame pickup lines, things never to say on a first date, and survey responses to questions like whether or not you should wait to have sex with a date (here's a great one: "You might not be as sexually attracted to the person the next day. You might as well strike while the iron is hot, as it were."). Vogel also makes sure to include all demographic groups in her scope--men, women, straight, gay--expanding the appeal of the book to a wider audience and allowing for some enjoyable anecdotes. She also does an excellent job of not being judgmental of her readers'...um...promiscuity. In fact, this book is probably a dating guide for the more promiscuous among us, which is a change from most of the books out there. She neither encourages nor discourages any kind of activity but seems to want to arm her readers with the most information possible before they continue hopping right in the sack with all of the wrong people (although Vogel is the first to say that wrong can sometimes be so right).

This book is probably the one thing I've read so far for this column that I could use in my life (and become the good guinea pig I'd promised to be at our introduction)--that is, if I could get a date. I just ended a long, long, long relationship (I was actually supposed to get married just two weekends ago, but obviously didn't) and haven't quite gotten back into the dating pool...not even the kiddie pool.... not even the puddles of water on the side of the pool from other people splashing around. You can imagine why, at this point, dating needs to be funny to me. I can't even say that I'm all that interested in jumping back in, but one of these days I'll get a running start, tuck my knees up, and cannonball. In the meantime, I'm laughing at the people in Vogel's book and will be sure to post an update on my trial-and-error with her advice if I ever get asked out again.

Dating: A Survival Guide from the Front Lines by Josey Vogel
Adams Media Corporation
ISBN 1580621767
187 pages