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What He Really Means Is …

Trying to understand the New York Times Best Seller "He's Just Not That Into You."

I have a new boyfriend. Well, I think he likes me, anyway. He’s got a certain look on his face that lets me know he’s interested. Or maybe he just has indigestion. OK, so he hasn’t asked me out yet, but I know he wants to. I’m almost positive he is just dying to ask me out. I’m not sure what the hold up is. Maybe he’s just worried that I would say no. I better call him. I think I should tell him how I really feel, or at least bake him a pie, so he won’t be too scared to ask me out.

A good guy friend once told me “if you’re confused about whether or not a guy likes you, don’t be. If he likes you, you’ll know. If he doesn’t, you may be confused. So if you’re confused, he’s not interested.”

I guess he was on to something because the New York Times Best-Seller He’s Just Not That Into You says basically the same thing to single women confused about men’s “mixed” messages. The book is co-written by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, former consultant and writer for the wildly popular — and wildly risqué — cable show “Sex in the City.” That’s some credential. If anyone can offer an insightful analysis on the nature of love and dating, it’s got to be these two. Hey, if we could all follow the advice of their characters on this show, I bet we’d totally be able to understand men and see fireworks on every date. Either that, or we’d at least contract an STD.

Falling into the one-on-one intervention-type genre of self help books for total morons, He’s Just Not That Into You has a humorous tone and an in-your-face style, as if the authors broke into your apartment and sat you down on your couch to say, “Girrrrl, you gotta get it together. It’s clear you don’t know jack squat about guys. So, listen up … ” Actually, that’s a clean version. The authors must have side jobs as truck drivers, because the huge amount of cussing in the name of humor made me want to wash my own mouth out with soap after every chapter.

So why all the fuss? What’s compelling singles to buy the book in droves?

The basic premise of the book states “when a guy is into you, he let’s you know it. He calls, he shows up, he wants to meet your friends.” It’s good to know if a guy isn’t interested because “wasting time with the wrong person is just time wasted.” The authors describe the many ways women rationalize when men don’t call them, marry them or meet their needs in a relationship. They say women make excuses like “he’s got a lot on his mind” or “he’s afraid to get hurt again” in an effort to hang on to the smallest bit of hope that a relationship will work out the way they want it to.

The authors say this knowledge is power; that instead of waiting by the phone for hours and hours for a guy to call, you should assume rejection first and move on. Instead of obsessing with your girlfriends in an attempt to figure out why your boyfriend would rather play with his hamster than take you out, you should know he’s over you. “It’s intoxicatingly liberating,” they write, because if you know a guy isn’t that into you, you can “free yourself to go find the one that is.”

The book does have some good points. Yes, we should create healthy boundaries for ourselves as women. Yes, as the authors aptly counsel in the book, a woman should walk away from a relationship with a guy if he can only tolerate being with her when he’s drunk. And a woman should get a clue when a guy doesn’t call. She should know that if he really liked her, he’d find a way to call, even though he has an extra full load this semester, or is traveling a lot, or is caring for his sick mother suffering from a flesh-eating disease or is learning to play the harpsichord and is very busy practicing. If a guy is interested, he’ll find the time to let a woman know.

Actually that’s a useful reminder in today’s post-feminist dating world. Women ask men out. Men give women their phone numbers. More and more couples are having sex before marriage — and even before the second date. And shacking up is no big deal. No wonder dating can be confusing.

The book made me laugh at times and once or twice I found myself nodding in embarrassing agreement. But it also made me wince, blush and feel truly sad about the baseness of what people do and think when they’re not in relationship with God or living for Him.

For instance, take the chapter “He’s Just Not That Into You if He’s Not Sleeping With You.” Ludicrous. Not to mention totally unbiblical. As Christians, we know the opposite is true: if, outside of marriage, a man is having sex with you, he has no respect for you. And by agreeing to have sex with him, you have even less respect for yourself than he does.

Also troubling was the book’s basic assumption that all guys are out to deceive women. Sure it’s implied that men do this when they don’t want to hurt a woman’s feelings, but the huge generalization still isn’t fair. It’s just another example of our culture’s attempt to portray the male species as either incompetent fools or bad-boy players.

Take any sitcom on TV, and you’ll notice that almost every plot depicting a married couple weaves a story around a leaderless, blubbering nutjob of a husband and a wise yet critical, had-it-up-to-here wife who tolerates her husband’s weak mind, laziness and inability to pick out clothes that match. On the big screen, we usually see a tough guy who plays the field … that is, until he’s rescued by some lass who makes him see the error of his ways and realize what he really wants is a loving, monogamous relationship with her.

Facing that kind of disrespect, it’s a wonder guys are ever “into” anyone.

As bad as what’s printed on the pages of this book what’s worse is what’s missing. The authors have no understanding of the essential ingredient for successful dating: God’s will. Paul tells us in Romans, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world … test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.” We need to seek God’s will first in our dating life — even before our feelings or our gut instincts.

And what about prayer? I know several women who petitioned God about men they adored who were “just not that into them.” They sought the Lord’s will and prayed earnestly for these men to “come to their senses” and begin pursuing them … and the Lord answered their prayers. I even had one friend who met a man she felt instantly connected to, but discovered he was engaged to another woman. Her first thought was, “Well, he’s not married yet.” And now he is married … to her. The prayers of a righteous woman can move mountains — and men — if the Lord wills it.

The book’s appeal seems to be its promotion of self-centeredness. During an interview on CBS’s Early Show co-author Greg Behrendt told viewers, “You’re good enough to have the things you want or at least ask for them.” Upon first hearing this, you may be inclined to agree. But as Christians, we know we don’t get things because we are “good enough,” but because God has blessed us with them. And when we don’t get what we want, we should trust that He might be protecting us.

I know believers will pick up this book in the name of entertainment. Yet while they’re being amused, they may also find themselves being influenced: To take their dating life into their own hands. To forget God’s role in meeting the right man. To think that a “little” fooling around can’t hurt, especially if that’s really a guy’s way of telling a girl he’s into her. To veer even slightly off the narrow path they’re walking … only to discover years later they’re totally off course. For a book boasting a modern satire, that would be a true tragedy.

Copyright 2004 Kara Schwab. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Kara Schwab

Kara Schwab loves being a freelance writer and mommy. When she’s not writing, she can be spotted with her husband, two little girls and boston terrier in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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