Now, those who know me well know that, although I am intelligent and well-read, I do read self help books from time to time. In fact I’ve been a participant in a number of self help movements over the years (I could do a post on this, but I’m kind of embarrassed and not sure what approach to take in writing it). Not any more- I’ve got the meta-narrative embedded in my brain now and I know very well how to take what inspiration I need and leave the rest. Group dynamics… ewwww <shudder>.
Moreover, having been a librarian for many years, I do believe in what I call the library fairies, who have been joined in recent years by the Internet fairies. I’m talking about those invisible beings responsible for what we in the industry call serendipitous browsing. Sometimes such serendipitous browsing happens in the bizarrest of ways, for instance, your life being changed when browsing a branch library’s shelves for a manual on fixing lawn mowers and finding a mis-shelved book on the one thing you needed to know, e.g., natural fertility treatment. This kind of serendipitous browsing is the reason why I think machines will never fully take over search and browse from human beings.
Of course, these fairies also haunt bookshelves in bookshops, and I’ve often used them in that most unlikely of venues for finding something useful: the airport bookshop. Having travelled by plane an obscene amount, mainly for work, in the last few years, I am very familiar with these dire collections of populist crap, and with finding gems therein. I also surreptitiously read things I’d be ashamed to be seen reading elsewhere, notably the Mars and Venus books (that’s how I know in such detail why they are a load of sexist shite: check out the Rebuttal from Uranus if you want an amusing run down on why).
Last year I found a book in the self-help section on finding a relationship. Self help sections are full of these things, all amusingly contradicting each other and most based on telling women how to improve their sorry selves to find a shiny new manthing. I just happened to find one that looked like the worst sort with its lurid cover, but was actually a very practical and down to earth set of ideas, with nothing that rang my feminist warning bell. It’s called If I’m So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single? by Susan Page. I guess the title made me laugh, and I knew it would make my single friends laugh too. It’s just a simple, practical book, which states that, if you feel you are one in a thousand, then you may have to date 999 frogs to find your prince/ss, and it gives tips on how to do that. One of the things it suggested was to make a full list of criteria for what you are looking for in a partner, and to identify which are non-negotiable. Then to put the list aside and get on with finding as many dates as possible: enlisting friends to match you up, using dating services, etc.
Well, I did make a list, and most people gasp when they hear it has 35 criteria on it! But, that’s not that many, as you’ll see if you read my list; it’s long because I’ve spelled out things one might normally take for granted, e.g. “I must fancy them, and vice versa”. On the surface it seems silly to spell that out, but then again, how often do we beat our heads against exactly that sort of brick wall when we think we’ve met somebody? Funny I chose that example actually because that was precisely the issue with Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit (or so they said). Soulmates who don’t fancy each other. Bummer.
Anyway, this is getting long, so I’ll stop and write another one just on the criteria.