to Capture Heart
By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES - You've used it for shopping, playing solitaire, checking your horoscope, booking a hotel room and diagnosing that mysterious rash.
So why can't you find Mr. Right in cyberspace?
Maybe it's because you are breaking "The Rules."
Seven years after urging millions of women to adopt a play-hard-to-get, 1950s-style strategy to catch and marry a man, the authors of "The Rules" have come up with some new female strictures for the world of online dating.
For when it comes to online dating, men, according to Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider "are having a ball. They are laughing all the way to the bank."
"The women are so forward, men are having a party. You cannot believe the excuses these men are coming up with to juggle four or five women at a time," Fein told Reuters.
"It was starting to become a really bad bar scene. Women are e-mailing with abandon, answering men's ads, meeting a guy, e-mailing him the next day -- making a million mistakes!
"That's why we wrote the book," she said.
"The Rules for Online Dating," published by Pocket Books, was launched in U>S. bookshops on July 30.
Back in 1995, when their first book, simply called "The Rules," was on its way to becoming a best-seller translated into 27 languages, Fein and Schneider had nothing good to say about online dating.
They regarded cyber romance as potentially dangerous and a threat to the guiding principles of mystery and challenge in relationships between the sexes.
But the huge popularity of personal computers, e-mail and online dating forced the pair to adapt precepts of the Eisenhower era (Stop dating him if he doesn't buy you a romantic gift for your birthday) to the 21st century (Never e-mail on a Saturday night; it smacks of desperation.)
"We wrote this book because we realized people were having trouble transporting The Rules to online dating. You have good-looking girls, putting up their picture and thinking they can do what they want -- answer a man's ad, chat up a storm with him and get to know him so well that by the first date they can sleep with him," said Fein.
According to the book, an e-mail is equivalent to a phone call (never initiated and only rarely returned), a first date is a sexless date, no matter how long you have been e-mailing, and Instant Messaging is "like a free date, which we don't allow. We want men to court us, to ask us out in advance."
Other advice includes tips on how to create a good screen name (never too boring or too sexy), waiting 24 hours to respond to e-mails and dumping men who don't ask for a date by the fourth e-mail.
There is also a chapter containing common-sense but invaluable safety precautions about meeting men found on the Internet in public places and never giving out your home address.
The original "Rules" were handed down to Fein and Schneider by the grandmother of one of their friends and quickly went on to sell more than two million copies some 20 years after liberated women first began burning their bras along with their inhibitions.
The pair wrote a sequel, "The Rules II," in 1997, followed by "The Rules for Marriage" in 2001. "Marriage" came out when Fein had separated from her husband and was heading for divorce, a delicious irony that critics of the series pounced on.
Call them old-fashioned and misguided -- and many commentators have -- but Fein and Schneider insist that strict application of The Rules brings the desired results for women looking for love and marriage in a world apparently inhabited chiefly by cads and rogues.
The authors cite men who "insult" women by wanting to sleep with them on a Tuesday or a Thursday but who don't want to take them out on a Saturday night.
The Rules are not intended for women interested in casual sex or one-night stands, nor should they be seen as taking a moral or religious stance.
But Fein and Schneider say they do believe it is up to a man to pursue a woman, and that women who break The Rules -- by being too forward, too available and too honest -- invariably end up getting dumped, and getting hurt.
They warn that online dating means women have to be even more vigilant about applying The Rules.
"Online dating lends itself to more fantasy relationships. You don't really know if he's married, if he's living with someone. So you have to be really strict," said Schneider.
"The fallout is greater...Men will e-mail 25 girls in a night, so if you do get a guy who answers your ad, seems to like you, and you go on a date and never hear from him again, just chalk it up to experience.
"You have never seen so many men with elderly sick parents who have to be visited Saturday nights. It is unbelievable! But that doesn't mean that Tuesday or Thursday night, he won't try to sleep with you," she said.
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