I love how honest you are. Do any of these women ever talk back and say, ‘Excuse me, but I’m an Amazon, or ‘I don’t want to put in hair extensions’? What do you say to them?
Without pause, Stanger answers, “’Uh, you’re stupid.’ Basically … I am giving you information that the men tell me.” This response elicits laughter; she continues, “As long as [the women] listen to me, get the hair extensions, lose 20 pounds or whatever it takes to get the man, I’m kind.”
Stanger isn’t alone in her dating advice. Whether it is a television matchmaker or the likes of Steve Harvey schooling women on how to be “keepers” rather than “sports fish,” we are constantly being pummeled with all the do’s and don’ts of dating. A huge section of every bookstore is devoted to books giving women advice on how to snag a partner.
My disdain for this advice finally hit its limit watching VH1’s reality show Tough Love: New Orleans. The show follows the formula that hosts Steve Ward and his mother JoAnn employ in their family matchmaking business. In each episode’s opening, Steve says, “No one knows single women like I do,” and then goes on to describe the needy, clueless and lonely behaviors of single women. The selling point is this: He can find you the man of your dreams if only you take his advice and “tough love.”
At the beginning of each 12-episode season, eight contestants–typical Cosmopolitan-cover beauties, always petite, with those hair extensions and layers of make-up–are given nicknames such as “Miss Other Woman” or “Miss Body Issues” to describe their disastrous dating patterns of the past. Each week they must complete several tasks, whether it’s being flirty on a date or playing a makeshift game show in which the women informally talk to a panel of bachelors with the goal of seeing what turns the men on or off.
When contestants are matched with certain men on dates, Steve or JoAnne will remind them, “This is a good guy, a guy like this does not fall out of the sky everyday.” That’s akin to what I heard in my former single life: “Girl, you better keep that man! You don’t know when another good one is going to come along.”
With its cookie-cutter template for dating and relationships, Tough Love once again tells women they can be “rewarded” with love and the ideal guy if only they act a certain way or wear their hair in a certain style. It preys upon the fears and insecurities of many single women, convincing them that something is wrong with them, and it needs to be fixed before they can attract the ideal partner.
How about encouraging a woman to be who she is? How about letting her say, “Screw hair extensions” if she doesn’t like wearing them? How about telling her that there are men who will accept her for being her most genuine self? Heck, there are even men who might find her quite attractive with no makeup!
Despite the overflow of dating advice you might find next to the checkout counter in the grocery store, within the pages of the latest dating advice book or from the “experts” on television, a woman is sure to best find love by looking towards herself and not by being a relationship contortionist to win over a partner. I believe the actor Ingrid Bergman said it best: “Be yourself. The world worships the original.”
Photo of the cast of VH1′s Tough Love: New Orleans from Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons 3.0.