The dating game

When I was a teenager, my mother gave me one piece of advice on how to handle the world of dating and relationships then opening up to me:

“Don’t ever call boys,” she said.

Understood was, “the worthy ones will call you.”

I’m not sure I thought much of that advice at the time, but lo and behold, decades later as we head towards June and the month for weddings, I’ve found my mother’s wisdom distilled into a new book, “The List: 7 Ways to Tell if He’s Going to Marry You _ in 30 Days or Less!” by sisters Mary Corbett and Sheila Corbett Kihne (Adams Media).

“The List” reminds me of “The Rules,” the blockbuster book which purported to tell women (ital) how (end ital) to get him to marry you. “The List” tells you whether or not he will marry you _ and encourages a woman to move on if he’s not in the game for keeps.

Yes there are “Rules Girls”_ but this book is about “List Men.”

“The List” doesn’t include much research, _ just lots of supposed “case studies” _ but it sounds like a lot of common sense. Try this exercise: For every 10 married couples you know, if you ask “how did you fall in love,” probably nine of those couples will have a story about how he wooed her, pursued her, worked to win her over, etc. Sure, as my mother would say of my dad, she “let him chase her until she caught him,” but most happily married couples will have a story of him going after her.

Our feminist sisters may tell us it’s just fine to “make the first move/pursue him/sleep with him” _ you name it. But the “The Lists” makes the case, through all sorts of stories that end up reading like a delightful chick-lit romp, that that’s not fine if a woman wants a husband. Or at least a husband worth having.

Here’s the bottom line, according to the Corbett sisters: A List Man …

  • Makes the first move.
  • Calls within 24 to 48 hours to set up the first date.
  • Makes the first date easy and fun (and yes he picks up the check).
  • Calls within 24 hours to set up the next date.
  • Wants to talk to you every day and wants to spend his free time with you.
  • Demonstrates unconditional loyalty.
  • Talks about marrying you in concrete terms and actually proposes _ or lets you know his intentions.

The Corbett sisters maintain that if he’s “heard the alarm,” (meaning “I saw her, I was ready, and that was it”) these things will happen in the first 30 days.

If these things don’t happen, they say, then “He’s Just Not That Into You,” as one entertaining and best-selling book is titled. Don’t take it personally. Just move on.

“The List” authors suggest every woman who wants to be married make a list of her “must-haves” for a man. Then if he comes along and is “into her,” she’ll be ready for him.

Oh, and the Corbett sisters say that if he is into you, if he does hear the alarm, it won’t matter what your “baggage” is _ there will be little you can do to dissuade him. In other words, even if one is, say, oh, 43 and suddenly divorced and raising four young kids on her own (just as an example) even that’s not going to faze a “List Man.”

(Having tested the waters a little bit in that regard, I can say that no one is more surprised than I to find out that the authors may just be onto something there.)

I suppose sometimes the question may be determining whether one wants a List Man at all, and just how does one know it’s the right List Man, at the right time, anyway? Some questions remain unanswered.

I can say that in my own last few roller coaster and much unexpected years, I’ve decided that this crazy and amazing world is a lot more unpredictable, wonderful, complicated, heart rending and beautiful than I had originally realized. Whether or not I’ve learned anything about men in particular, I think I’ve learned a little about people in general.

So taking all that into account, what’s the advice I will offer to my girls (and my son) when they one day embark on these amazing things we call relationships?

Well, I’ve come up with this little nugget of wisdom: Girls shouldn’t call boys. The worthy ones will call her.

It just seems I’ve heard that somewhere before.

(Betsy Hart is the author of “It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids _ and What to Do About It.” She can be reached at or