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Designing Women S4 E10 Extra Sugar – A Guide to…Dating Guides: Sheesh

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

This week’s episode reminds us that the media loves a few things: 1) to publish scary stories that scare the bejeesus out of women and 2) sell them something to remedy whatever they scared them with in the first place. Also, have y’all looked at dating advice over the years? Weird stuff, friends. Weird. Stuff. We’ll talk about it.

You may also want to listen to these unintentional companion episodes:

  • S1E5, “1986 Called and It Wants Its Jokes Back” where we discussed the now infamous Newsweek article during the “Extra Sugar”

  • S3E6, “A Virtual Smorgasbord of Women” where we talked about the history of dating

Here are some reads we mentioned:



Salina: Hi, and welcome to this week's edition of Extra Sugar.

Salina: In episode ten, we, which we renamed Widow Shively, we were treated to a delightful Suzanne Mary Joe team up to find Mary Joe a may-an.

Salina: All I could think the whole episode, find a may-an.

Nikki: A May-an.

Salina: That's right.

Salina: I'm about to pop this thing off.

Salina: I'm about to get started.

Salina: But before I do, I just want to say, Nikki, as always, be the ear, the eyes, the body of the audience.

Nikki: I don't think I can do that.

Salina: But if you have questions along the way.

Nikki: Yes, I can do that.

Salina: Okay.

Salina: You just let me know.

Nikki: We'll do.

Salina: Okay.

Salina: So, like, the thing is, the dating landscape may have changed tactically over the years, but I think this one remains highly relatable for a few reasons that I want to cover today.

Salina: One, we really like to scare women about being alone.

Salina: Classic.

Nikki: We name episodes?

Nikki: Old Widow.

Salina: Shy bunch of douchebags over here.

Salina: And then number two, we really like to sell them a solution, sometimes in the form of dating guides.

Salina: It's explicitly talked about in the episode, but I thought that was very poignant and like I said, still relatable today.

Salina: But let's start with that first piece, the big scare.

Salina: We've talked about this before, way back in season one, episode five.

Salina: So you can go back and listen to us discuss this then as well.

Salina: But it bears repeating and that's at the time, the show talked about an infamous Newsweek article from June of 1986 that basically said any woman over age 30 has very little chance of getting married.

Salina: Specifically, they were referencing white college educated women who were 30 and still single and that they only had a 20% chance of marrying by 35, which is the group that Mary Joe's in.

Salina: The odds dropped to 5%.

Salina: 40 year olds are more likely to be killed by a terrorist, which is 2.6% at the time.

Salina: Just as a reminder as well, even the researchers came out saying that their work was being wildly and widely misinterpreted.

Salina: It would take 20 years for Newsweek to officially retract the article.

Salina: And so that was another thing that we discussed at the end of this week's episode, julia is reading from a real New York Times article published less than a month before this aired on November 11, 1989, which blows my mind.

Salina: That's how closely they were still doing.

Nikki: These episodes, telling you when I'm, like, squealing into the finish line on my show notes for the podcast, I'm like, sweating it.

Nikki: I can't imagine having a show that millions and millions of people are watching.

Salina: Right?

Salina: Anyways, I can't believe how tight that schedule was.

Salina: But here's what almost like it's their job, almost.

Salina: Here's what we read as a reminder.

Salina: Right now, my colleagues and I don't know whether we can stand behind our results or whether they warrant alteration or what have you.

Salina: And this was Neil G.

Salina: Bennett, who was a sociologist at Yale University.

Salina: The Reader's Digest version on this is that the study authors published a revised paper at that time in 1989, with a revised model, which made it impossible to recalculate the marriage probability stats.

Salina: And this was to the chagrin of many outside of academic circles.

Salina: We'll drop the link in the show notes and blog posts for those who want the full scoop.

Salina: For me, there are two walkaways here.

Salina: Number one, this show likely had a pretty female heavy fan base, and I think it's pretty special that lBT and or Pam Norris, whatever, whoever's really in charge of these things, that they took the time to work this into the script.

Salina: Because what Julia says is right.

Salina: The media does irresponsibly report things and then half heartedly or half acidly, depending on how you feel, sweep those things back under the rug.

Salina: So women everywhere are rattled by these findings, but they never really get to hear that.

Salina: First, these data never should have been reported until they'd gone through peer review.

Salina: And secondly, that their initial calculations were flawed.

Salina: So that's number one.

Salina: My second walk away.

Salina: It's too late.

Salina: Much like the New York Times article says at the time, the damage is done.

Salina: No one is going to remember the time researchers had to revise their statistical model, but the chances you'll hear these flawed data repeated are super high.

Salina: That was something else we discussed at the time.

Salina: This stat would just get picked up in pop culture and have a moment again and again and again.

Salina: So let's talk about the solution that they're selling both to Mary Joe and the show and to a lot of people, and I suspect a lot of women.

Salina: Here's what Julia had to say about the book that Mary Joe bought called Power Dating.

Salina: Give me just a second here.

Salina: All right?

Salina: I can tell you what it says.

Salina: It says what they all say.

Salina: Hey, all you single women, there's something really wrong with you.

Salina: Do as we say or die alone.

Salina: It's just a bunch of clever publishers preying on women's insecurities.

Salina: I don't see a lot of men running out to buy how to Please a Woman.

Salina: Where is the book, The Men Who Love Too Much?

Salina: I think some of these lines were cut, by the way, that would be in science fiction.

Salina: Julia.

Salina: That's from Mary Joe.

Salina: I mean, let's face it, men don't have to read books.

Salina: You remember what the survey said, there are more of us than there are of them.

Salina: So it's just a big game of musical chairs.

Salina: And frankly, Julia were running out of chairs.

Salina: So I actually looked into Power Dating to see if that was real.

Salina: And as far as I can tell, there wasn't a book at the time by this name in 1993.

Salina: There is one that comes out by that name, but it was written for men, basically, to help them find the confidence to have unlimited success with women, which to me almost kind of translated to something else.

Salina: That's okay.

Salina: The book in the episode might have been a fake, but self help type dating books are certainly not.

Salina: So here's just a few that I found online.

Salina: The rules, not your mother's rules.

Salina: The New Secrets For Dating Men Are From Mars women Are From Venus women Who Love Too Much how To Not Die Alone he's Just Not That Into You act like a lady, think like a man.

Salina: Get the guy.

Salina: How to find, attract and keep your ideal Mate why men love b****** why men marry B****** men Don't Love Women like you the brutal truth about dating relationships and how to go from placeholder to game changer So there's no shortage there.

Nikki: And some of them are disguised as empowering books.

Nikki: He's just not that into you.

Nikki: I remember that book and I remember sort of thinking it was this empowering like take the power back, like know when he doesn't care about you, but it's really all not the same thing.

Salina: He thought it's a movie.

Nikki: It was not a good movie and I'd love a movie like that.

Nikki: It was not a good one.

Salina: So according to an Insider article that I found, we've been serving up dating advice to women for at least 170 years.

Salina: Of note, this is pretty heterocentric, but I'm mining content from a really long time ago, so that's not exactly surprising.

Salina: But here are some of my favorite examples again from this Insider article that sort of pulled together this whole list in the William Josephus classic, Josephus I Can't Anyways woman her sex and Love life.

Salina: This is 1927.

Salina: That the underwear should be spotlessly clean goes without saying, but every woman should wear the best quality underwear that she can afford and the color should preferably be pink and lace and ruffles, I am sorry to say, add to the attractiveness of underwear and are liked by the average man.

Salina: That seems normal, right?

Salina: And then we get two great tidbits from a 1938 news article.

Salina: Also, I just want to say that it's almost entirely surprising that a man was talking about women's underwear in 1927 because, like, that feels so beyond the pale.

Nikki: You said sex and I got confused.

Nikki: So I didn't make it very far before I was like, oh, what a weird.

Salina: Also Josephus.

Nikki: Well, I was going to make a joke about two first names and I held myself back.

Salina: I changed my name to Josephus.

Salina: It's just so good.

Nikki: What if it's pronounced like Josephus?

Salina: It might be worth.

Salina: So there was also two great tidbits from a 1938 news article.

Salina: This is the first quote, drinking may make some girls seem clever, but most get silly.

Salina: The last straw is to pass out from too much liquor.

Salina: Chances are your date will never call you again.

Salina: And then the second quote, good tip.

Salina: Thanks.

Salina: Hot tip.

Salina: The second one is careless women never appear to appeal to gentlemen.

Salina: Don't talk while dancing.

Salina: For when a man dances, he wants to dance.

Salina: It's so good.

Nikki: Stop talking.

Nikki: Want to dance so good.

Nikki: I got the fever in my shoes.

Salina: What can't be held back?

Salina: She was like, Well, I was going to sleep with you.

Salina: Just keep dancing.

Salina: Insider also included a 1958 McCall's article called 129 Ways to Get a Husband, which got some attention about five years ago because it winds up resurfacing on social media.

Salina: Yes, it does.

Salina: Absolutely.

Salina: So everybody's favorite tip seems to be that's T-I-P stand in a corner and cry softly so that he'll come to ask you what's wrong.

Salina: I do that sometimes at home just.

Nikki: To see if anybody knows.

Nikki: The dog, the kids.

Salina: So lunches, food or like, maybe you try that in a meeting, you know, they definitely won't care.

Salina: Nicky, are you listening?

Nikki: I have assignments for you.

Salina: But I think my favorite were in this section called how to Look Good to Him, which included these gems.

Salina: Take care of your health because men don't like girls who are ill.

Salina: This is not really funny.

Salina: Me either.

Salina: I can't help it.

Nikki: I don't like ill people.

Salina: Oh, yeah.

Salina: You're out of here.

Nikki: Terrible.

Salina: Get out.

Nikki: Caregiver.

Salina: Use the ashtray.

Salina: Don't use coffee cups to crush out cigarettes.

Nikki: Oh, God.

Salina: That's very specific.

Salina: Yeah.

Salina: Trash.

Salina: Use an ashtray.

Salina: Neanderthal.

Salina: Don't take a job in a company largely run by women.

Salina: I thought it was kind of progressive at first because I thought one of the tips said, go to medical, dental or law school.

Nikki: That's fantastic.

Nikki: No, that's just where the men are.

Salina: Yeah.

Salina: No, get a job in one of those places so you can meet a man.

Salina: Got it.

Salina: I'm also almost sure, like, thinking about in this week's episode when we talked about the three places they wind up going to meet a man, and you updated those references.

Salina: I'm almost sure that this article also included a tip to read the obituary, because you never know when someone is going to be widowed.

Salina: What?

Salina: I couldn't tell at some points whether they were being facetious or not.

Salina: So maybe we should take it with a grain of salt, but I don't know.

Salina: Yeah, we're going to link to nikki is going to link, if she doesn't mind, to all 129 ways.

Salina: I read all of them and they're all worth reading.

Nikki: I'm still laughing at crying softly in the corner.

Salina: Hey, it was a favorite.

Nikki: That was my favorite tip.

Salina: It came up over and over again.

Salina: All right, but what about the kept looking around in that time period for some kind of dating guide for women that might have sparked lBT and or Pam Norris's and or both's interest?

Salina: I never found a direct comp.

Salina: In fact, all I could find was a book for teen girls.

Salina: Thinly veiled title.

Salina: How to be Popular.

Salina: With boys, teenage girls, teenage girls.

Salina: I shrugged it off.

Nikki: Why are our kids so messed up?

Salina: I don't have crap like that, right?

Salina: So I shrugged it off because it didn't feel relevant.

Salina: Like these are grown women.

Salina: But the more I thought about it, the more relevant it felt.

Salina: So the book was released in 84 and it was informing or training a generation of young women on how to think a certain way.

Salina: I was able to get snippets from this BuzzFeed article, making fun of it.

Salina: So in full disclosure, they are bringing a specific tone to the table.

Salina: Nevertheless, here are some points readers would have found at the time.

Salina: Please feel free to react at any time.

Salina: Nikki boys may be rough and tough.

Salina: They may chug beer and make a contest out of who can belch the loudest, but they aren't attracted to girls who act crudely.

Salina: In fact, most boys I know won't go out with a girl who's not a lady.

Salina: This book is for teenagers and they're chugging beer.

Salina: Let me be clear, I was chugging beer as a teenager, but I didn't know we just put it out there in books, you know what I'm saying?

Salina: It's like something that we all know that a lot of teens do, but you're not like, hey, go chug beer.

Salina: I don't know.

Salina: Anyways, that's what hit me on that one.

Salina: It was the wrong thing, really.

Salina: All the other stuff is so stupid.

Salina: I just went past that.

Nikki: What I'm processing is sort of semi related, but putting it in my generation.

Salina: Tell me about your generation.

Nikki: You don't remember like, the pickme girls from when you were in early college and late high school.

Nikki: The girls who aren't like all the other girls?

Nikki: The girls who like, I drink beer.

Nikki: I don't even like vodka.

Nikki: It's so gross.

Nikki: I love beer.

Nikki: Or like, oh, I was going to wear heels tonight, but I wasn't sure I love doing races in the middle of the street, so I wasn't sure if you wanted to race me because I'm not like other girls.

Nikki: Do you know what I'm talking about?

Nikki: Did you ever know any of these girls?

Salina: I always wore high hills, but that first thing really resonates.

Nikki: There was like a specific genre of girl that wasn't like other girls and she would show up all the time, like right next to the guys, showing all the ways she's more like them.

Nikki: So what I was processing, as you were saying that, is maybe there was sort of a whiplash to that or maybe even at the time they were writing this book, there were still girls like that.

Nikki: But there is some subsegment of girls that think that's an actual tact to get men.

Nikki: It's the opposite of what you said.

Nikki: So act more like them because they'll find that appealing.

Salina: That's so funny.

Salina: Yeah.

Salina: So when I took some feminist courses in college, I realized that I was a female chauvinist pig because I would often say things to be one of the boys, and I think at some point it was not a tactic to get a guy, because let me tell you, if it was, it didn't work very well.

Salina: I was just one of the guys.

Nikki: What I'm talking about is a girl who's very much not, but she positions herself.

Nikki: There's one person in particular, like, I can see her in my head.

Salina: Go on.

Nikki: Situation where there was a guy in.

Salina: The room, I know she would be.

Nikki: Right next to them, like, oh, my God, I thought so and so was going to win the basketball game this week, but, you know, I hadn't refreshed my ESPN app yet.

Salina: Yeah, always like that.

Nikki: Always like that.

Salina: That's funny.

Salina: Sorry.

Salina: No, it's just making me think about now, I'm classifying a lot of people in my head from high school.

Salina: Okay.

Salina: So be wary of an overtly aggressive gesture that might threaten a boy's sense of masculinity, of him being the one in control.

Nikki: They're fragile.

Nikki: They're fragile.

Salina: They're fragile creatures.

Nikki: They are.

Nikki: We got to be gentle.

Salina: So gentle.

Salina: So by letting a guy make the big moves, you'll be doing wonders for his ego.

Salina: When his ego is feeling fine, your life will be brighter, too.

Salina: It's just frustrating.

Salina: It's like not about the reader at all.

Salina: And then this one actually makes me wonder if Lvt wasn't looking at it or Pam Norris.

Salina: I legitimately can't remember.

Salina: So I'm going to continue to say both names.

Salina: If your school offers courses in woodshop or auto mechanics, take them.

Salina: Do you know these classes are 99% male?

Salina: You'll have to beat back the scores of boys who will want to help you find their carburetor or change the blade on a saw.

Salina: It'll lead to a dramatic improvement in your social life for sure.

Salina: Are they trying to get these little girls laid?

Salina: That's what it sounds like to me.

Salina: Carburetor sounds like a euphemism.

Salina: That's all I'm saying.

Nikki: At a minimum, my car would be in good shape.

Nikki: So it kind of seems like maybe.

Salina: Something good comes up.

Salina: By all the 99% males in the.

Nikki: Class and the one pick me girl, I just so not like the rest of them.

Nikki: I love working on cars.

Salina: I'm always working on cars.

Salina: What do you think I'm doing after you leave today?

Salina: I just got to go get under that hood, you know what I'm saying?

Salina: All right.

Salina: It's like 18 layers of joke there, guys, if you get it.

Salina: And finally, one that might have began filling the stem gap, if you will.

Salina: If you enroll at a college during the normal school year, you can meet older boys who are part time or evening students.

Salina: Take accounting, economics, biology, or calculus.

Salina: The ratio of males to females is always in your favor when you take math and science courses.

Nikki: Gross, gross, gross.

Salina: You feel skeeved out, don't you?

Nikki: There's so many layers and to what.

Salina: That did to an entire generation of women if they really were truly reading that.

Nikki: Yeah, I don't like that.

Salina: I've made Nikki sad.

Nikki: I don't like that.

Salina: All right, so look, I get it.

Salina: Of course people seek guidance on dating.

Salina: We seek guidance on everything.

Salina: That's why the X for Dummies line of books exist.

Salina: I thought you were going to say.

Nikki: That'S why the Google exists.

Salina: That's why those idiots where is she going?

Salina: That's why encyclopedias like this I love a good encyclopedia.

Salina: So I'm not an expert by any means.

Salina: I mean, I will tell you that over and over.

Salina: I don't know.

Nikki: You're married.

Salina: Not on anything that's expert level.

Nikki: Dating.

Salina: I guess there does appear to be some evolution in the genre because I did a lot of looking around.

Salina: It's not like I had time to read them all, but I did try and read the different summaries and see what are we really talking about here?

Salina: And I did see that there are a lot more dating books for men, and they weren't exclusively these how to get laid manuals, because there's definitely those out there.

Salina: I also saw titles and book summaries that at least indicated a more empowering and progressive narrative for readers.

Salina: They're not all just like, for straight people.

Salina: Like, there is some LGBTQ inclusiveness happening.

Salina: You do you but my take is this.

Salina: If someone were to ask me what to be on the lookout for, I would steer clear of anything that asks readers to unreasonably change for someone to mask or hide who you really are just to fit someone else.

Salina: And I don't mean if it tells you like, stop smoking.

Salina: They're right.

Salina: You should stop that.

Salina: Don't do that.

Salina: It's bad.

Salina: Okay, speaking as a former smoker, don't do it.

Salina: But if it's like, don't be funny.

Salina: Men don't like humor from women.

Salina: Yeah, you need to be really suspicious of that because that's a little strange.

Salina: So where can people get trustworthy advice?

Salina: Oh, Lord, I don't know.

Salina: I'm the one to give dating advice, that's for sure.

Salina: I never really was someone who dated.

Salina: Sounds great.

Salina: And I've been with Casey since before dating apps were, like, a thing.

Salina: Because I'm also old on top of everything else.

Salina: So I've never personally navigated the online dating world.

Salina: But many of us have that friend, you know, the friend with the good advice.

Salina: And so seek them out.

Salina: I tried my whole life to meet them.

Nikki: Where are they?

Salina: Need you.

Salina: Even if this person is not a serial dater, a wise person can be wise in many things.

Nikki: You're going to say serial killer?

Salina: Serial killers give the best dating advice.

Nikki: Dark.

Nikki: A lot of layers of darkness today.

Salina: Very dark.

Salina: All right, so therapists are also an option for serial killers.

Salina: People looking for dating advice, all of the things.

Salina: My personal take is that a healthy relationship starts with a healthy you self work can lead to that.

Salina: And a therapist can give you tools to be a better partner.

Salina: And if you don't have insurance, the good thing about today is that you can seek out really smart people for free.

Salina: They're online.

Salina: There are world renowned therapists.

Salina: There are people who are experts in relationships, and they write articles, they appear on podcasts.

Salina: So their advice may not be tailored to your specific situation, but I think you can get good nuggets just from doing things like that.

Salina: With that in mind, we'll link to a Mashable article that looks at ten best places to find dating, sex, and relationship advice.

Salina: I definitely saw a few of the dating guides there that I mentioned at the top, so use your best judgment if you go that route.

Salina: For a long time, women were taught that marriage and children were their currency.

Salina: And these can be two really beautiful parts of life, but they are parts and not the whole.

Salina: We are so much more than what the world has told us that we are.

Salina: And if you want to be married, be married.

Salina: If you want to be single, be single.

Salina: Date.

Salina: If you want to date kids, no kids, whatever.

Salina: I think the point is that there should be options.

Salina: No one should feel like they're a failure because they haven't reached some mile marker or some goal line that someone made up a long time ago.

Salina: What do you want out of life?

Salina: What do you seek to put into the world?

Salina: Those are the questions worth asking and answering yourself, with or without a guidebook in tow.

Salina: And that's this week’s Extra sugar.


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