He's Just Not That Into You

by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo

He's Just Not That Into You
© Simon & Schuster.

He's Just Not That Into You is not a guide to dating. Aimed at well-to-do heterosexual women who want to get married, this 165 page book serves as a calling card for its authors, Sex and the City consultant Greg Behrendt and Sex and the City executive story editor Liz Tuccillo. Presumably their participation in the creation of that callow and over-praised HBO television series is what qualifies Greg and Liz (the book always refers to its authors by their first names) to offer relationship guidelines: He's Just Not That Into You is titled after an episode of the show, and the design of the book is engineered to reinforce that connection.

The Content of He's Just Not That Into You

The first 11 out of 16 chapters have titles that begin with the phrase "He's Just Not That Into You If" and end with putative sins such as "He's Not Calling You," "He's Not Having Sex With You," "He's Having Sex With Someone Else," and "He Doesn't Want to Marry You." These chapter titles, and the relationship failures they indicate, tend to represent either the blindingly obvious or an intensification of traditional dating and relationship rules, often both at the same time. 

Each of these chapters contains a brief description of the problem from Greg; two or three advice column-style questions from women, which Greg answers; a paragraph or two under the heading "It's so simple," which reinforces the chapter title; "Here's Why This One Is Hard," wherein Liz empathizes with reluctant readers and whines about how difficult her romantic life is; "This is What It Should Look Like," which discuss an ideal situation; and "Greg, I Get It," credited to a woman who finds the advice liberating. Three items end each chapter: "If You Don't Believe Greg," which always has '20 out of 20' or '100% of polled men' giving advice that stands by the chapter's rule; a redundant "What You Should Have Learned in This Chapter" summary; and a trivial but occasionally giggle-worthy "Workbook" section.

The Quality: We're Just Not That Into It

If this formula seems as though it would stale over eleven such chapters, it does. The entire content of the book can be summarized by those chapter titles; Greg barking "No excuses!" at the reader, Liz whining that it's tough, and a reaffirmation that Greg knows best. This could fit on a single sheet of paper.

Throughout the book, there's an undertone of emotional immaturity and consequent insecurity: of assuming that the reader is the center of her paramour's universe and that nothing less is acceptable. If he has multiple or conflicting responsibilities, dump him; If he is too shy to telephone to ask for a date -- email is explicitly deemed unacceptable -- then don't go out with him; If he's not pressuring you for sex constantly, dump him; If he doesn't have a job and you're footing his bills, dump him. It's a very small step indeed to believe that if he buys you the wrong shoes, or questions the number of pairs of Manolo Blahniks in your closet, you should dump him for those infractions as well.

Although HJNTIY is subtitled The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys, the book neither explains nor apologizes for men's behavior. Its picture of men is almost entirely one-dimensional: the only question asked about a man's role in a relationship is whether or not he's immediately and fully accessible, or at least if he appears to be so. The question of why he behaves as he does is off-limits. This serves to inculcate in women the desirability of the stereotypical alpha male: aggressive, smooth-talking, immediately expressive, and therefore attractive.  HJNTIY never engages with the notion that men may be able to be those things precisely because they're playing a role.

In fact, the book's primary mission seems to be softening women up so that men's bad behavior can continue unimpeded and untroubled. He's calling you, he's having sex with you, he's not married? Grab him, fast! He's stopped calling you, he's not sure he wants to marry you, he's having sex with someone else? Just drop him and get on with your life. As Greg writes, "Always be classy. Never be crazy." This means don't call him, don't ask him to come back, and don't ask what's changed or what's gotten into him. Just move on and, in Greg's words, "Don't waste the pretty." If all women took this advice, men could do as they pleased with virtually no repercussions.

The book takes pains to keep its readers from questioning their own role in relationships. Is he not making the first move because he's just not that into you? Or is it because you're sending mixed signals? Always the first, never the second. Disguised as 'liberation,' the book espouses an astoundingly passive role for women in relationships: always the pursued, never the pursuer. And like an abusive relationship, the book's tone alternates between bullying and coddling. "Try not to be four years into a relationship when it suddenly dawns on you that the guy you're with is a big, selfish jerk," Greg exhorts; but also, "You are an excellent, foxy human being worthy of love, and the only way you can pursue that idea is by honoring yourself." Liz, the toady, coos that it is difficult, but Greg is only saying this because he wants what is best for you. He's only browbeating you because he loves you.

The Bottom Line

Complaining about the prose style of He's Just Not Into You would be pointless. Its conversational tone is breezy and readable enough, though too smug and too cute. Devoid of insight and apparently unaware of that fact, HJNTIY is as simple-minded and as useless as dating advice gets.