*Spoiler Alert: this piece contains spoilers for the book He’s Just Not That Into You
I read He’s Just Not That Into You so you don’t have to.
Any guesses as to what I thought about it?
Before I start, let me just say this: this book wasn’t written for me. As such, I know I’m bound to take issue with it. But I promise this review is coming from as neutral ground as possible.
My main issues with this book are: it’s repetitive (probably could have just been an essay), it’s ableist, it’s from a heterosexual lens, and it’s black and white. Also it’s just not what I expected coming from seeing the film (which I love) first.
It’s not totally unheard of for a non-fiction book to use repetition. Repetition is one of the best ways to learn something, so I can’t fault the authors too much on beating a dead horse. Truly, they were taking the same message but presenting it from every angle so that every woman reading it can have her “aha!” moment. I get it. I just didn’t like it.
Personally, I would have found the book far more convincing if the phrase “he’s just not that into you” wasn’t repeated so much and instead we got a more elaborate explanation of what said guy is into. Or at least what their hangups are. This isn’t to say that the authors didn’t give reasons for some men’s behaviors. It was just overly simplified and thus felt superficial.
I also didn’t much care for the statistics offered by Greg. He polled about 20 guys (in his own social circle which means they are all likely to think similar to him) and used those results to say things like, “100% of men said…” I know he was being cheeky with these “stats” but it made his argument less convincing for me.
My next gripe with the book is Greg’s use of ableism. There’s no excuse for ableism, ever. Greg thinks it’s funny to call some women cr*zy or some men st*pid. I don’t. Humans are flawed and this oversimplified boxing of them is hurtful to very real people who are already left out by society.
Instead of calling the obsessive girl cr*zy, point out what’s the more likely culprit of her agitated behavior: she’s craving acceptance and is willing to accept it from any man. I may have taken Greg on if he had shown empathy for the desperation many women feel. And instead of saying some asshat guy who is unwilling to commit is st*pid or blind to a girl’s worth, just say he’s an asshat. There’s no need to use ableist slurs or phrases to bring your point across.
Moreover, sometimes when a guy (or gal, for that matter) says they’re not ready for a relationship it’s because they’re not ready for a relationship. Sometimes people are at a point in their lives where they need to unpack some baggage with a therapist or doctor. Having mental illnesses (or any chronic issue) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to date. And if a person is actually taking steps to work on themselves, does the rest of their life have to stop? Newsflash: life doesn’t stop when we need a timeout.
I’m not saying anyone has to stick around while a person works on themselves, but if you fall in love and think someone is worth waiting for, you absolutely should. Be their friend. What is love if not adapting to the needs of the person you love? A selfish approach to relationships isn’t necessarily the healthiest, after all. There will always be a give and take. Life isn’t perfect, so why expect relationships to be?
To the point of heterosexuality as a standard, I understand that it’s what’s considered the social norm. So Greg wrote this with expectations of gender roles and other heteronormative ideas as a standard. He says things like, “Men should always be the one pursuing. He should make the first move.” So what about gay dudes? What about lesbians? What about non-binary folks? Where do these people fit into this formula for relationship success?
I’ll give it to him that at the very very end, in the very last paragraph of the very last section in the whole book, he adds that he thinks all folks deserve happiness, including gay people. So, he says, take what applies and leave the rest. I honestly think that could have come sooner. Look, I get it. This book was written for hetero women. That’s not inherently wrong, but I personally don’t like it. I wish there were more inclusivity in self help books. But if a book isn’t going to be inclusive, state up front exactly who the book is for. It’ll save those it’s not intended for time and energy. Not to mention sparing them from the headache of rolling their eyes every minute on the minute until they finish the book.
Next I’d like to point out that not everything is black and white. In fact, the majority of things aren’t. Life, experiences, identities, desires, right and wrong, light and dark, they all exist on a spectrum. Greg doesn’t seem to think so, though. I appreciate that the co-author, Liz, points out the grey areas in the end of every section. But what I don’t appreciate is the authoritative tone Greg has as he puts people into teeny-tiny boxes. Despite how much he says, “This is what it should look like,” the reality is that happiness is going to look different for everyone. And that’s okay.
Finally, and this is to no fault of the authors, the movie was so much better than the book. And I happened to see it before even knowing the book existed. The movie was awesome, adorable, and perfectly demonstrated the ideas in this book while also showing its flaws. It shows that dating isn’t black and white at all. It’s also in narrative form, not a non-fiction documentary type film. I expected this book to be in narrative form, too. But that’s my mistake for not noticing it was non-fiction before reading it.
The point here is that I came to the book with a certain expectation, and that’s not the authors’ fault. But it did prime me to be thoroughly disappointed with the book.
So here’s the main takeaway of the book if you don’t want to read it: if you’re a heterosexual gal dating a dude that doesn’t call back, doesn’t ask first, doesn’t pursue you, doesn’t dote on you, doesn’t impress you, doesn’t care about you, doesn’t treat you right, doesn’t want to have sex with you, doesn’t want to put a label on your relationship, doesn’t want to get married, etc etc etc, the truth is he’s just not that into you. So dump his ass and enjoy your beautiful self while you wait for Mr. Right, who will be so into you he won’t be able to hide it, to come knocking on your door.
My advice? Just be honest with the people you’re dating. There’s no need for games. Just communicate. If your date/romantic partner is not willing to open the lines of communication, it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re into you. They aren’t willing to do the work to make it work. So go out and find someone who will. You don’t need to wait around for your Right Person to come along. You can go find them.