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‘Undateable’: Moral philosophy masquereding as a humor book

March 9, 2010

Normally I’m a snob when it comes to novelty books. No matter how smart the concept, they’re most often strained, manic, painfully unfunny. So imagine my surprise when I found myself gulping down Undateable, by Ellen Rakieten and Anne Coyle, in one sitting.

That’s because Undateable (subtitled “311 Things Guys Do that Guarantee They Won’t Be Dating or Having Sex”) has a rare consistent hilarity that grows out of common sense, keen social observation, ferocious tough mindedness, and, believe it or not, a generosity of spirit. Rakieten and Coyle, in the end, are women who really, really like men.

“The good news here is that many of these things are fixable,” they write in a section on “What Not to Wear.” “The bad news is that once a woman sees you in any of these getups, you have been compromised.”

Like what? Jorts, jean shorts: “Justin Timberlake can’t even pull this off. And he’s really rich.” Soul patch: The little brush of facial hair under the lower lip, which the authors call the “Flavor Saver.” Different shapes, sizes and colors. “All are nasty.” Or: “Overly Cologned:” “You’ve already assaulted three of our five senses and we don’t even know if you rent or own.”

Other fashion no-gos: Black jeans, Dad jeans, sky-blue jeans, sports jerseys (“They make you look like a big, lumbering seven-year-old”), Cosby sweaters, porkpie hats, “guylights,” Hawaiian shirts, cellphone holsters, Crocs, body piercings, transition glasses, sideways baseball hat (“a national epidemic”).

“The fact that you stood in front of the mirror, making your puckered-lipped ‘I’m so cool’ face, propping your ‘lid’ at the perfect angle to get this exact look, is so loserish it scares us. You don’t look like a stud. You look like a complete tool.”

Ellen Rakieten

I always knew women were smarter than men in some important ways, but the depth of intelligent perception displayed in this book would be terrifying if it weren’t so funny, and if I (a single man of a certain age and uncertain dateability) did not find myself in gleeful agreement with so much of it.

Underneath the humor and even the generosity of this book lurks a subtle but firm sense of morality, which could be summed up as: Take responsibility.  Rakieten and Coyle want men to grow up, show up, wise up, shape up, step up. At the beginning, the authors define the word “guy” as used in the subtitle: “We mean someone over the age of twenty-one (Any younger and you’re still considered a boy.)

“By the time you’re twenty-one, you ae working (hopefully) and beginning to make your way in the world. That’s the time to start pulling it together in terms of how you’re presenting yourself.”

The only bit of social bite in this entire book I cannot endorse is “What Not to Do: Own a Cat.” I understand why the authors say this, but some of the most archetypally manly men I’ve ever known (I’m talking bikers, bail bondsmen, fishing guides, cops, auto mechanics) have been helplessly devoted to their cats.

Anne Coyle

For the record, Ellen Rakieten and Anne Coyle are imminently datable themselves — attractive, powerful, high-achieving professional women. Rakieten was a key producer with The Oprah Winfrey Show for 23 yers, while Coyle is a senior copywriter-turned-interior design magnate.

Not surprisingly they have a witty and interactive Facebook page where you can take quizzes and stuff like that.

Meantime, I’d like to ask the women in the audience: What makes a man undateable for you? And men: Anyone like to defend your gender?

35 Comments leave one →
  1. alexis permalink
    March 9, 2010 2:19 pm

    Hahaha. This book sounds HI-larious. And many of the things you mention are very very true. I can’t think of anything additional to add just yet, but I will give it some thought….

    • Candice permalink
      March 9, 2010 2:28 pm

      Alexis–don’t you mean HE-larious?

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 9, 2010 2:55 pm

      You’d like this book. It’s smart and funny — the best combination in the known universe.

      • March 9, 2010 8:15 pm

        Dear Chauncey,

        We love you! It’S the authors of Undateable here….you get it! We are so appreciative of your support. Someday we hope to buy you dinner! We promise we won’t ask to “go dutch.”


        Ellen and Anne

  2. Candice permalink
    March 9, 2010 2:27 pm

    What I like: men to be themselves.

    What I don’t like: men who take fashion advice from comedy books.

    What I especially don’t like: Phonies (have to agree with Holden Caulfield on that one)

    Good Luck!

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 9, 2010 3:01 pm

      Well, that’s mostly the message of this book, but a man can be imperviously be himself — shouting “Booyah!”, wearing white socks with sandals, leave porn lying around the house, fail to pay on the first date, have a limp handshake, chew tobacco, and have no sense of personal taste — and that’s fine. But he won’t have much female company, or at least not for long.

      • alexis permalink
        March 9, 2010 3:26 pm

        Oh, yes, those are all things to stay away from too! These ladies sound very smart.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 9, 2010 11:39 pm

      Ellen, Anne: Gracious of you to write, and I would accept a dinner invitation someday. In the meantime, you’ve written one of the best novelty books I’ve seen in the past 20 years. And scratch the surface, it’s not a novelty book at all. Good job. I hope you have another book in the works.

      • March 11, 2010 12:04 am

        Dear Chauncey,

        We plan to write one from a man’s pov. It is incredible how deeply you get this book. You have two new huge fans and not just because you like our book – because you are really smart and that’s beyond DATEABLE!

        Much Love,

        Ellen and Anne
        ps. someone just told me they left what they thought would be a promising date depressed because during dinner the man spent most of the time OTB. Oy.

  3. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    March 9, 2010 3:02 pm

    I mean, civilization is based on the imposition of rules that make it difficult to be ourselves. And that’s a good thing.

    This position is not in opposition to the idea that phoniness is bad. But taste, discretion and common sense are not the same thing as phoniness.

  4. Candice permalink
    March 9, 2010 3:25 pm

    Taste is very subjective.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 9, 2010 11:40 pm

      That’s debatable.

      • Candice permalink
        March 10, 2010 11:58 am

        Only when its you.

  5. John Karwacki permalink
    March 9, 2010 5:05 pm

    Defend my gender, I’ve been married over twenty years and have yet to win any argument involving fashion, hygeine or manners. “Grow up, show up, wise up, shape up, step up…” – what an order, I can’t go through with it. Please contact me if you want to write a boorish novelty book in response.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 9, 2010 11:43 pm

      That’s one of the funniest comments yet posted to this blog, John. Kudos. I have to add, though, that the authors have you pegged, pickled and categorized, as: Weekend White Guy: “WWGs are usually easy to fix because they really don’t care about fashion. At all. They’re like big dolls, ready to be dressed.” Believe me, they mean this in the most positive way. I hope every time you leave the house, you express deep gratitude to your wife.

  6. March 9, 2010 8:38 pm

    Oh and about owning a cat…we did give a free pass sort of and although we love cats – there is just something a smidge sexier about a guy with a dog and not a toy dog either…
    Again, thank you!

    ps. I noticed my typo – sort of Undateable on my part.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 9, 2010 11:45 pm

      I’m not much of an animal man myself, but I prefer cats to dogs. I won’t argue the point, though, I have too many close friends who are dog lovers and might throw things at me. I have been amazed, through my life, to come across some unbelievably masculine fellows with cats.

      • Candice permalink
        March 10, 2010 11:59 am

        Here Pussy Cat.

  7. Monica permalink
    March 9, 2010 9:53 pm

    I’d love to read this book. Most men are so egocentric … they pose and look in the mirror and decide what looks “cool” on them … women are constantly asking others what looks good, hoping to make the best out of what they have

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 9, 2010 11:46 pm

      You’d love this book, Monica. It’s very funny, but best of all, it’s true, all of it. The authors have a profound yet affectionate understanding of that fragilist of natural phenomena, the male ego.

  8. Amy Rubinson permalink
    March 10, 2010 8:03 am

    interesting that the take home message is to “take responsibility,” i think the major problem with these “undatable guys” is that they don’t see the problem. they have no self awareness, or awareness of what the kind of message their appearance is giving off to other people! Everyone should get a copy of this book and pass it around to all of those undatable men we see roaming the streets, assuming they aren’t to stubborn to read it.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 10, 2010 12:15 pm

      Of course, some guys probably should remain undateable, and thus be removed from any chance of further polluting the gene pool. But as the authors say, many seemingly clueless men are teachable. Remember, men are several years behind women in the cycle of emotional and psychological maturity.

  9. PJ Parrish permalink
    March 10, 2010 11:22 am

    Well-fitting jeans with no weird adornments or loops that hold tools.
    A clean white dress shirt.
    A blazer, dark blue or black.
    No jewelry (Exemption for plain gold wedding band)

    That’s all you need, guys.

    Oh, and a tux.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 10, 2010 12:16 pm

      PJ — You could have written this book, I think. Your advice is completely consonant with its contents.

      • PJ Parrish permalink
        March 10, 2010 12:40 pm

        Would that I had written it, Chauncey. I’d be putting that downpayment on that little place in Provence.

  10. Candice permalink
    March 10, 2010 12:01 pm

    Taste is subjective. Because to me that’s lame.

  11. Oh one permalink
    March 29, 2010 9:54 am

    Bernard Chapin over on youtube has done a review of this book in three parts called Undatable, Shallow Twits Bash Men and Male Bashing for Dollars. I think is a pretty good assessment and response to this racist and misandrist twaddle.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      April 25, 2010 7:29 pm

      And now we hear from the angry white male contingent who has not seen the book in question.

      • Brad O'Neil permalink
        August 28, 2010 1:36 am

        Chauncey – automatically assuming negative things, getting defensive, and dismissing rather than debating (all things you have done in this post) – these are very feminine qualities. This book, which I have read, is trash. Men are not put on this earth to appease snotty women (and nor are women here to appease men). This book works if life was one these “reality” shows on TV where things are carefully controlled by a producer to imitate some non-existent Hollwoodized vision of America where everything is easily compartmentalized – but its not. Most people don’t give a rat’s ass about being told how to look, act, etc., don’t give a rat’s ass that these two women “will give a free pass” on somethings… none of it. Men of all sorts are dating and marrying women of all sorts. But these “high-achieving” , “powerful” (your phrases) “hip” “modern” “people on the go” (similar phrases used elsewhere to describe the same sort of person) don’t think in real terms. They are TV-fed and fantasy-minded. Walk abroad in America one day and you’ll see how wrong you are.

  12. dave permalink
    May 1, 2010 7:05 pm

    These women have overlooked an entirely separate category of men… those who couldn’t be bothered to pander to the vanity of the “modern” woman, and prefer simply to call up a good hooker when “nature” calls. These kinds of guys prefer to spend their time running hunting dogs, dry fly fishing for trout from customized drift fishing boats, and building or customizing outdoor equipment with an arsenal of Mig Welders, Plasma cutters and Angle Grinders.
    Men like this soon learn that everything they want in a woman can be had for a few bucks, and then it’s “out the door”with her and back to the serious business of pursuing their own little Hemingway trip.
    Our mantra when it comes to high maintenance women is “Why own when you can Rent?”

  13. June 20, 2010 4:21 pm

    tux or tuxedo is same if you want to smart choose one from tux shop

  14. July 9, 2010 12:38 pm

    Women’s Issues Moms Deal With Every Day

    Posted by on 02 Jan 2010 | Tagged as: Uncategorized |

    Have you ever noticed how women have the same things over and over again. The food, cooking and eating take care of home and family work are all redundant. Apart from women treated with cycles of monthly invoices, schedules and routines that can not resist. But … It is an important issue that women move to the side and think again.

    Let’s talk about this problem.

    By investing your time only once, you can set aside this event and think again. It will literally take care of themselves. In fact, you can go about your life and forget about it because all it has done. Although there are big changes in your life, this thing will not become a problem, it was just all ready completed.

    Last Wednesday, I have completed this project and decided that even if the issue comes back to tell … It is finished! And forget about it. Why you should not worry about this issue in particular.

  15. July 13, 2010 10:04 am

    Icons Hairstyles Setting Cultural Trends
    Hairstyles of the rich and famous not only serve to be their signature identity. You can also specify, cultural changes and trends. A celebrity hair style is a statement to the world. And if this hairstyle is copied and popular, could only mutual relations of the people affected. So we can say it is a way of a haircut to a social trend set.

    Celebrity hairstyles symbolize each generation. From a haircut to say what it was ten years old can. In the 50s, the hair securely in place, which was considered the era of reconstruction in the United States. The 60s was a transition from the reconstruction of the boom. There was relative prosperity and could be seen in the “Twiggy” and the page boy. 70s was the age of Aquarius, an era of radical hippies, the Black Panthers, anti-Vietnam War, LSD, Woodstock. The adults had taken a relaxed attitude to life and youth spoke out against the decades-old traditions, or secular. This was the age of conformism, in which boys and men wore long hair or greater than that of women. The general styling of which have long been flowing, as she wanted to be the world. Rebellion was more open in the 80 years, has become as the wild hair was hard or drastic cutbacks.

    The end of the millennium the new millennium, we witness hairstyles mixing so many decades. This attitude reflects the current life, past and look to get by him, combined with those together to create something completely new can.

    Celebrity hair fashion and trends are set. A cut popular celebrity who is an inspiration for new fashion designs. The 70 long hair flowing caftans inspired muumuus popular in the Middle East and Hawaiian. This was a sharp contrast to the structured hairstyle of the 50’s with semi-rigid and lifestyle combined. The wild hair cuts and saw the 80’s, are metal and leather clothing and accessories abound.

    Groups of films, TV programs, have the companies hair, which had become popular. Facts that become icons of the introduction, a trend that will be in the generation of the then common. The worldwide phenomenon of the Beatles has a haircut that, similarly, has become popular in the world. Michael Jackson and Motown Afro popular across the Atlantic to Europe and even Asia. The stars of fashion created Twiggy Twiggy hair and began preference for anorexic thin that still exists to this day. Charlie’s Angels catapulted Farah Fawcett Farah Fawcett hairdo and worldwide popularity. In recent years, the Friends TV show Rachel lay in different countries for almost a decade.

    The haircut or style affects how people live. The company is structured hairstyles 60s and demanded a lot of preparation meant women had to get up before you have enough time to have to fix her hair. This would be a day’s work harder. The long hair cut short or long ones are easier to keep the people time for other activities for the day.

    We hope, Celebrity hairstyles always give us the time. If we can prevent not copied

  16. gustav gunner permalink
    August 13, 2010 1:47 pm

    Wow…two cunts and a huge pussy…..c’mon Mabe get your head out of your ass.
    have a good one

  17. December 14, 2014 3:59 am

    That book is filled with 311 things I don’t do and I don’t get dates or have sex.
    What’s that?
    Oh it’s how short and ugly I am?
    Fair enough.

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