Ms. Self-Help Junkie

What do the French all do in August?  They go on holiday.

This is perfect for me actually.  I can feel less guilty about taking a holiday from dating Frenchmen.  I can tell myself that there aren’t any in Paris for me to date.

I am obviously full of shit, of course.  The truth of it is, I’m just burnt out.  So many first dates, so many idiot Parisian pansies, I’m just fed up.

But the numbers don’t lie, people.  There must be something wrong here.  It’s obviously not me, since I am clearly a shitfuckton of awesome.  So it must be a cultural thing, right?  Therefore, my new project for the coming months is to get to the bottom of this.

For the time being, I will no longer be reporting from the dating trenches.  I am confining myself to a desk for now.  I will be hitting the books, conducting written research and reporting back to you all about my findings.  I need to formulate new, better-informed strategies before relaunching Operation Date A Frenchman.

I must answer the following question: how do Parisians date?

My theory is that they just don’t.

Therein lies the problem.

As an American, I cherish structure and ritual.  First date.  Second date.  Third date.  General courtship.  Pragmatism.  EFFICIENCY.

…None of which seem to have any presence in Parisian dating culture.

In other words, as an American dating in Paris, I am essentially up shit creek without a paddle.  So as any desperate determined single lady would do in America, I get my ass into a bookstore and scour the self-help section.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Now, I remember what the self-help section of Borders in the USA looks like.  It’s enormous.  It’s a shrine to the American work ethic and our desire to better ourselves, even if it fucking kills us.  It is a kind of testament to our obsession with pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.  It is, in a word, daunting.

However, here, I found myself staring at a small corner of the store next to the emergency exit.  And the light bulb was out.

And you know how there seem to be a plethora of books on dating and relationships in America?  Books on everything… first date etiquette, flirting, ‘The Game’, how to find your sugar-daddy, ‘The Rules’, etc.

Well, here I had to crane my neck to see the selection of a couple dozen titles on the top shelf.

That’s right, folks.


And this is where it truly gets interesting…

The dating books can be divided into only two categories:

  1. books about how to find your dream mate
  2. books about how to prevent the relationship/marriage from utterly falling to bits.

There are NO titles that advertise advice about dating etiquette, about flirting, about online dating, texting, sexting, or anything specific about the nuts and bolts of dating as we Americans perceive it.  I’m looking at titles like:

  • What Men Really Think: Know Them and Land Them
  • How to Find the Man of Your Dreams
  • Where to Look for the Man of Your Dreams
  • Your Husband, He’s Out There!
  • How To Find Love
  • What You Need to Do to Attract your Ideal Man
  • Women Are Crazy
  • Divorce: How to Avoid It
  • Easy Ways To Maintain Your Relationship

This is what these titles seem to be saying to me:

  1. Hey, you single women, there is something seriously wrong with you.  Get a man already.  We’re gonna tell you how not to be a pathetic, sad sop.
  2. Men, it’s not that hard to land a women; they’re all desperate to have a boyfriend ASAP.  But relationships are hard, so here’s how you put up with her.


I thought to myself, how am I going learn to date à la française??  These books tell me how to get that first date but then skip immediately to how to deal with the relationship you got yourself into after that first date.  What the hell do they do in between?

I’ve never felt more… American.

But I said to myself, “Suck it up, Man-shopper.  You have a blog project.  And you’re a researcher, dammit.  Put those skills to good use.  And you know what they say… When in Rome…”

So I chose the book that seemed to offer the most comprehensive information about the dating process.  It is entitled, “How to Find the Man of Your Dreams.”  (Shut up.)

I admit that I was a little ashamed of being seen with this book, so I tried to be surreptitious about slipping off the top shelf.  But as I am petite and was off balance on my tippytoes, this embarrassing little book fell off the shelf and landed on my face.

This was not an auspicious start to my cultural education.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I slid the book under my arm and scurried to the till.  I was greeted by a disgruntled-looking woman in her fifties.  She glanced at my neon pink book (yes, of course, it had to be neon pink), and she raised her eyebrows.

Disgruntled FNAC employee: “Oh, I have this book too!”

Man-shopper: “Really?  What did you think?  Will it help me find a man?”

Disgruntled FNAC employee: “You’re buying it for YOURSELF?”  She looked me up and down.  “You’re pretty.  Shouldn’t you already have a boyfriend?  Is there something wrong with you?”

Man-shopper: “Euhhh…”

Disgruntled FNAC employee: “Did you used to be fat?  Did you have a gastric bypass?  You look great!  Don’t worry, you’ll find a man now.”

Dear readers, this man-shopper has officially fallen down the Parisian rabbit hole.

God help me.


Filed under Misses

31 responses to “Ms. Self-Help Junkie

  1. “I am clearly a shitfuckton of awesome”
    OMG…I f**#ing LOVE it!!

  2. i will be looking forward to the results of this research… we need all the help we can get!

  3. dude

    There’s definitly something wrong with you girl 🙂
    French people don’t need reading for these things, and trust me, They DATE (first date, second date, etc …)

    • Yes, judging from the tiny selection of relevant self-help books, French people clearly don’t read up on this stuff. They may not need to. But I certainly do! There’s plenty wrong with me, but I’m going to save that confidential information for the (un)lucky fellow that may one day be forced to be my boyfriend…

  4. Oh dear goodness. And I’m with you on strictures and routines! It’s just confusing otherwise.

    • I am so glad that someone shares my love of structure. I was beginning to think that I really am as crazy as people are telling me.

      • The love of structure and the structure of love – excellent! And don’t take me as a guide to sanity for goodness’ sake – I’m as mad as a hatter!

      • Anyone who is worth knowing is usually mad. 🙂 However, you are lucky that you don’t suffer from the special brand of crazy that is specific to the fairer sex. I spend most of my free time trying to keep a lid on that. It’s exhausting!

      • Exhausting for whom…? And, don’t worry – we… err… less fair sex also have our own special kind of madness. We don’t like to be outdone on the insanity stakes.

  5. This was a fun post and I learned new vocabulary–although it only applies to you–like, “I am clearly a shitfuckton of awesome” How amazing it that?

  6. HAHA awesome. I was wondering what the self-help culture is like in other countries. I would venture to say, despite the over-abundance of self-help options, we Americans are just as F-ed up if not more, because we overthink these things waaaay too much. Good luck Manshopper!

    • Thanks, LITD. My opinion is obviously not impartial, but I’d rather overthink than run around like a chicken with my head cut off. Because that’s how I think the dating scene works here.

      Chicken? Yes. The fools that I’ve gone on dates with exhibited a number of characteristics that were chicken-like.

      Head cut off? Well, the head with the brain in, yes.

  7. That might explain a lot about your dating experiences, actually. One date and you’re in a relationship and that’s why they say some of the truly bizarre things reported here.

    I used to have a copy of the Rules somewhere, but I’m pretty sure I set it on fire. Otherwise, I’d totally send it to you.

  8. dude! Do enlighten us, because there is a whole ton of us anglophone girls here in paree who have never witnessed a date…. perhaps we are doing something wrong?!

  9. Ah, love to see that you’re venturing over with me to the self-help book section. I’ve got less than a month left to finish my, “Love in 90 Days” project. These will no doubt make for some great stories. So come on you. “Shitfuckton of awesome,” read up.

    • You are an inspiration, Zia. I just have to figure out a way to put a less conspicuous cover on my hot pink self-help book about how to find a man. Reading it on the metro has proven to be too provocative.

      • I held my book at weird uncomfortable angles to avoid stares from book-cover-readers. Old school paper bag wrapper that you decorate with stickers might work?
        So glad to serve as inspiration.

  10. Aren’t we the only country with an entire self-help section? That and prozac seem to keep us going. Anyway, it’s because we Americans are more self-aware, no? Sigh. Well, I’m looking forward to your research findings.

    • We have cornered the self-help market, that’s for sure. I just wish that we were better at actually helping ourselves with said self-help material. I wonder if anyone has done a study about the efficacy of self-help treatments?

  11. Correction: You were a shitfuckton of awesome before the gastric bypass. Now you’re more like a shitfuckmetricton. But still very, very awesome.

    Can’t wait for the book report!

  12. Alex

    Love that the books are now coming into play. I’ll be truly impressed once you start compiling a supply of citations including articles and online sources. Admit it: this is something you’d carry out with pride.

  13. Haha, fabulous post. I had a similar period of soul-searching myself. In the end I realised my single status was my barber’s fault – so I dumped her for a new snipper. Anyway, good luck…
    *Plentymorefishoutofwater – One Man’s Dating Diary*

  14. RB

    Man, it’s hard enough dating here in San Jose. I can’t imagine it in another land.

    Great blog. I’m adding this to my daily reads..

    • Thanks, RB! From what I can tell, dating seems to be one of those things that is universally annoying in any environment.

      Even though I grew up in San Jose, I left when I was 17, so I know nothing about dating there… I leave it to you to enlighten me.

      • RB

        There’s a reason they call it Man Jose – ratio of single men to single women is awful. Dating as a single woman here isn’t so bad, but as a single man it’s not so great.

        But I guess it’s also true that if you keep at it, eventually you find someone.

  15. Pingback: Ms. Outer Beauty « Man-shopping in Paris

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