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UR LIFE: My Cousin Bonnie’s 5 Dating Tips That Changed Everything

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My Cousin Bonnie’s 5 Dating Tips That Changed Everything

Written By Izzy David


This is my love life in a nutshell: my first boyfriend and I fell dorkily in love at first sight while typing papers side by side at a computer lab. We were freakishly linked until the day, while watching Empire Strikes Back, a friend remarked: “You two are Luke and Leia.” It was  true: we were more siblings than lovers, so we amicably parted. Going into the dating world with zero baggage and an earnest desire to be best buddies with every jaded bachelor I met proved to have consequences as ill as approaching dating with psychotic cynicism.

On the worst night of my single life, my mother told me to “tawk to your cousin Bonnie; she’ll know what to do”—her Brooklynese coming out in her distress over my “gawdawful” love life. So I reached out to my cousin, vaguely remembering her stream of steadies from my childhood, although initially, I was skeptical, never having liked the idea of dating “rules.”

My cousin Bonnie is one of those rare people both men and women can’t help falling in love with, but she’s not what comes to mind when you think “player.” She’s married and an elementary schoolteacher who, for over 20 years, has driven an hour a day to teach underprivileged children in Queens. She’s a funny, brash, nurturing, Long Island lady, and Marisa Tomei’s accent in My Cousin Vinny has nothing on hers. However, my cousin Bonnie so deftly explained what was going on in my life, I had to take note:

1. Never call a guy.

I know, I know. “But this is 2013! Feminism and stuff.” If you clicked on this article, you’re probably feeling powerless. If you’re feeling powerless, knowing guys, someone is probably taking your power away from you, but you’ve been letting them. After you’ve been dating for a while, feel free to pester his living daylights out, although I know some crazy ladies who never even call their husbands. As Bonnie put it: “Men love the chase, even aftah yuh’re married.”  Naturally, the degree to which you take this advice is up to you. Maybe you’ve just met a great guy and exchanged phone numbers: at least let him call you the first time. I guess there’s that chance he “lost your number” like the anti-hero of Gone Girl, but look how well that relationship turned out. Even if he lost your number, if he can’t be bothered to track you down on Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, he’s “just not that into you” as the saying goes (and if you don’t know the saying, read this). So if he’s not that into you, why should you bother about him?

2. If he hasn’t called you, don’t call him.
This might sound like a reiteration of the first rule, but it’s not, or maybe it’s like the first and second rule of Fight Club– a key concept that has subtle differences of meaning. Say you agreed to meet up for dinner with his friends: he’s supposed to call you with the details, but then he never does. You’ve applied your foxiest MAC lip glass, gotten a mani-pedi: you are ready-set-go to dazzle Prince Charming, only where is he? Did he lose his phone? Maybe masked invaders are holding him ransom in Benghazi? Doesn’t matter. Chances are he probably blew you off to hang with his bros. If he doesn’t call, tweet, text, post to your page or email you in a timely manner to apologize, it’s NOT your job to ascertain what happened to his sorry carcass, and it had better be a carcass at that point. I know it’s the hardest thing to do on earth, but just let that loser go. Two dozen roses and a lengthy explanation possibly could change your mind. Otherwise what you’ll do is…

3. Take the batteries out of your phone, go out,  and have a good time with your friends.
Obviously, you need the batteries long enough to make the plans, but after that’s accomplished MAKE yourself go out with your friends. You’ll be surprised at what a good time you can have, what a big world you’ll discover is out there, and how much it can help strengthen your spine to remember what it feels like to be treated like a valuable member of society. I can remember being in tears that night, but I listened to my cousin Bonnie. A friend helped me apply more MAC lip glass, and we went to watch another friend DJ at Pianos on the Lower East Side. That terrible night remains one of the most fun memories of my single life, and a couple nights later I found the backbone to officially dump Mr. Wrong. If you think you don’t have the strength not to call Mr. Wrong, give your friends those batteries to hold on to for you until your mind has cleared from its emotional state, because…

4. It is so much better to walk alone with dignity.
If he does call with a long-winded explanation about Libyan terrorists and a plot to take him back to the future, then that’s awesome, I guess. It’s up to you to decide to believe him or not (I wouldn’t.) Being BFF’s with my two guys past and present, what characterizes those relationships has been never, ever having to wonder how they feel. If he’s got you to the point where you’re sobbing and heaps of roses and decent explanations are not forthcoming, he’s probably a giant jerk who doesn’t care about your feelings. If you’re sitting around, parsing his every terse text with your friends, torturing the good people in your life, then it’s probably not much of a relationship anyway. When he likes you, you never have to wonder. Never. Honest. You just know it’s right. If he makes you doubt yourself: the best and only thing to do is walk away with dignity and like the Dido song goes: be a happy hunter again. Play it if you need to nerve yourself. It helps.

5. Don’t let men put you in a weak position in the first place, and if someone tries to, see step 4.
I know it’s easy to say the above and really hard to do, but one of the things I most admire about my cousin Bonnie is how tough and savvy her two daughters are. They’re her tiny, gorgeous, Long Island-accented doppelgängers and both take no guff from guys. My 13-year-old cousin already knows what to call guys who won’t take no for an answer, and it’s not Christian Grey or Robin Thicke. No, you don’t know what I want! Not unless you ask me. Because you respect yourself, your projects, your friends and family, you have every right to expect that from a sexual relationship. No means no. Guys who chase you after that are probably more interested in the chase than in you, because when it’s right, when he or she is the one, it should feel like the easiest thing on earth.

So why do we need these rules in 2013?

What I think these dating rules come down to is learning to take control of your own life. The idea of manipulating the opposite sex in order to “hook” them has never appealed to me. To this day, I carry the ideal of BFF’s with benefits, and it works pretty well for my husband and me. What Bonnie did for me was help me take control of my life and set boundaries. Her rules also work. So much so that it made me want to break up with the guy whose renewed interest in manipulating me disgusted me. I wanted him to like me, not the chase, and it was lucky for me I followed my own instincts. I met my husband and the father of my child a week later. After an initial cautious period, I left the rules behind and opened up and fell in love, but I’m glad I approached with caution. Still these rules changed my life: I never would have been at that party a week later if I’d stayed with my ex, trying to decipher the rules of the game he was playing. I’d have been sitting at home, parsing texts instead of living my life.

I’ve been using the he/ she dichotomy, because it flows easier, but I have plenty of gay friends who’ve told me the dynamics are largely the same for same-sex relationships. Good luck whatever your sexual orientation and may the Force be with you!

Are any of these “rules” pertinent to your situation? Any tried and true rules of your own? Or are you not a subscriber to dating rules? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!

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