Lacking all the answers

It is the kind of book that is discretely taken off the shelf and quickly skimmed through in a desolate corner of the bookstore. It is the type of book people buy online to save the embarrassment of being seen holding it in front of others. Few people like to admit they need help, especially when it comes to dating, but bookstores across the country contain a plethora of self-help guides to courting and keeping.

Books are not the only medium offering tips on dating and romance. Women’s magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Glamour and men’s magazines such as Maxim and Bachelor do the same, but who buys these books? Better yet, who follows what they say?

Junior Duncan Varda said he thinks dating advice books are fun to look at, but he could not see himself reading one from cover to cover. More inclined to do a quick skim for a funny read, Varda said the books make dating more serious and complex than it should be.

“I didn’t think there was too much focus put on (dating) until you start reading books like this that make it seem so complicated,” he said. “It shouldn’t be that complicated.”

Varda said Dating for Dummies offers a few useful chapters, including ones that teach people how to build confidence and where to take people on a first date. Varda said the best place for a first date is somewhere comfortable where the couple can talk.

“A movie is as stupid as you can get,” he said. “You get that two hours of discomfort sitting next to someone.”

Varda said he does not think a book can tell people exactly how to date because everyone has different attitudes to dating.

Senior Jacklyn Kelly said self-help books discuss things people should already know, but one can never assume.

“Some people can learn a lot from books like these,” Kelly said. “There are definitely guys who are 35 years old, who have never been on a date in their lives that would go `Oh! I never though of that!'”

Self-help dating books sometimes give good tips, such as where to go on a date, where to meet people and who pays for the date, Kelly said.

“The thing about taking someone out somewhere is that you know you’re going out to get to know each other better,” Kelly said. “If you go to your place or their place, there are more expectations.”

Kelly recommends for a first date an activity that two people can share.

Junior Danny Ponzo said dating is different for everyone. Dating advice books give people ideas on what the ideal situation of a date should be, but Ponzo said no one situation is ever ideal.

Ponzo said he believes people take dating too seriously. Books with courting tips turn dating into a process to go through when it should be as simple as two people who enjoy each other’s company spending time together, he said.

“Why do you have to take girls you don’t know on classy dates and make up pretend conversation to impress them?” he said.

Magazines and books offering suggestions on where to go on a first date often list museums – something Ponzo said catches his attention.

“I think girls want to have fun,” said Ponzo, who suggests going to an arcade or carnival on a first date.

Ice skating or roller blading are good first dates too, Ponzo said.

“It’s cute,” he said, quickly pointing out that cute is bad according to Dating for Dummies.

Ponzo found many other contradictions between his own beliefs and Dating for Dummies. He said it is the man’s obligation to pay for the date, while the book suggests that whomever asked the other out should foot the bill.

“I’m the gentlemen, I’m the guy,” Ponzo said. “That’s what I feel my role is, it’s how I was raised.”

The one thing the self-help dating books forget is emotion, Ponzo said. While everything seems cut-and-dry in the books, Ponzo said there is no codebook for dating or romance. It will always depend on the person and what makes him or her comfortable.

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