Don't buy self-help books — help yourself

Loved ones, non-dates mend romantic woes better than bestsellers


Last week while I was job hunting, I stopped into a bookstore to apply for a job. After briefly scanning the shelves, I noticed a large display table dedicated to Valentine’s Day related books. At first I thought it would be those cheesy romance novels with half-naked hunks on the cover or even frilly decorated journals. Nope. It was a table full of romance-filled self-help books.

If I admitted to judging books by their covers — which I do — I would have picked up a few of them. But my cynical self immediately rolled her eyes. I recalled that “Sex and the City” episode that taught us all that self-help romance books are pointless. It’s like someone trying to tell you how to surf in a book. Trust me, it’s not that easy. Balancing atop a wave and finding Mr. Right require much more than a book can teach.

Now I understand it’s not that easy to just take a leap and put yourself “out there.” It’s as scary as watching “Jaws” before you go to the beach. Eventually you will feel like a floundering ship in a sea of sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads. And for those foundered ships, you begin to feel like a little fish inside a fish tank; it gets harder to leave the reef.

But a book won’t get you anywhere. The best way to get wherever you want to be romance-wise is a non-date with a close friend.

Last Friday night I went on a non-date with an old fling. He opened my door and paid for my dinner. As far as dates go, it was perfect — minus the goodnight kiss at the end of the night. With Valentine’s Day, the sappiest, most pointless holiday all year, a few days later, you might find it strange that I went out with someone other than my boyfriend. You obviously haven’t been on a non-date.

If you haven’t I offer you my own self-help advice. Go ask that special friend that you don’t particularly have feelings for out for a Friday night non-date. No presents or sappy love poems required. It’s just two friends out at dinner, maybe a movie, maybe a party, having fun celebrating.

It will make you feel like a princess. Most likely he will make you laugh. He can make you forget your romance woes. And who knows, you might find something there that wasn’t there before.

Last Saturday, once again I spent the night celebrating not with my boyfriend, but with my girlfriends. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning watching the best chick movie, “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.” We ate Valentine’s cookies and drank cosmos.

The point is that Valentine’s Day isn’t just a day or week for celebrating being in love with that special Mr. or Mrs. Right. As cheesy and sappy as the holiday is, it is more about sharing love with all the people you love. I don’t just have one Valentine but more like 10: my guy friends that I can go out to dinner with and not worry about “feelings,” my girlfriends that I can tell anything to, my mom and my boyfriend, of course.

The answer to all of your love woes is within your circle of friends, not some writer telling you how to stay balanced from the pages of a bestseller. Don’t waste your money on self-help books. Surf’s up.


(Originally 2.15.2006)


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