Author Melissa Pimentel’s new novel, Love by the Book, has a pretty spectacular premise. The main character, newly single at 28, moves to London and decides to try a new dating guide each month — everything from the infamous Rules to the total bro guide, The Game. But the story behind this story is pretty great too.
You see, Pimental started out doing the all the experimenting herself. Newly single, she moved to London with the intention of dating around using different guides. The thing is, she fell in love while doing it, so she couldn’t finish, hence the fictionalized character carrying out her dirty work. We talked to Pimental about the guide that worked for her, the hardest one to follow and how the “rules” of dating have changed over time.
The Dating Guide That Worked For Her
“I was following the 1960s book, Sex and the Single Girl, which was written by former Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown,” Pimentel told us about the magic book that worked for her. “You can basically do whatever you want on it; there aren’t very many rules.” The rules that were in the book: having a job (easy enough) and having to be thin (Um…). “There’s this horrible diet in there of pineapples and cottage cheese,” Pimentel says.
Other Guides She Was Inspired By
When trying to narrow it down to what guides made the final cut, Pimentel went for the most talked about dating guides, like The Rules and The Game. “I also looked at a Victorian dating guide and one from the 1920s,” she says. She also included famed prostitute Belle De Jour’s dating guide, Belle De Jour’s Guide to Men, just because it was so different.
Suffering For Her Art
But her research wasn’t without its own catastrophes. “Probably the worst was when my friend set me up with this very nice guy and I was following The Rules at the time,” Pimentel says. “The Rules basically doesn’t let you show any interest in the guy.” She couldn’t express her opinions, and even had to cut the date short to abide by the three-hour time limit. “He ended up telling my friend I was nice, but seemed completely uninterested in him. I did go out with another guy the next night who The Rules worked well on though,” she says. “I think it was because the guy was a total alpha male, so he was like, ‘Ohh, how do I get her?'”
How The Rules Of Dating Have Changed Over Time
From the Victorian dating guide to the books being released today, surprisingly, not much has changed when it comes to dating advice. “It’s still the idea that you’re not meant to have all your eggs in one basket and that you should play the field a little bit while also making the guy pursue you,” Pimentel says. “They all said there is no point in chasing down somebody who is obviously not interested. What was nice about all of them — even the ones where the advice was kind of awful and limiting — was that they all said you should hold yourself in high enough regard that you make somebody show they are interested in you.”
If A Guy Tried All The Dating Guides
So let’s say the roles were reversed. If a guy tried all the dating guides, would he find love, the way Pimentel did? She doesn’t think so. “I think it would be a disaster because the guides geared toward women are very much about holding yourself back,” she says. “I can see a guy having a lot of women interested in him because there is the appeal of a guy playing hard to get, but as women, we’re trained — partially because of all these guides — not to pursue guys like that. And he wouldn’t be able to pursue girls because he’d be following the dating guides. So he would have a lot of interest, but I don’t think he would close a lot of deals.”
The Dating Guide She Tells Her Single Friends Try
“My favorite was the 1920s one, which was written by a very witty flapper,” Pimentel says. “She basically recommends that you flirt with everyone, all the time. It was the most fun one to follow. So often, we only flirt in certain situations, like in bars or on a date, but if you keep your head up, are always looking around and make eye contact, I promise you’ll get way more attention than you’d imagine.”
Have you ever tried a dating guide? Did it work? Share your experience in the comments, and don’t forget to check out Love by the Book, which is out now!
(Photos via Fernwood Productions, Hulton Archive/Getty and Penguin Books)