A Practical Handbook for the Boyfriend starts off fine enough with vintage looking illustrations decorating both cover and chapter intros, but quickly falls apart. The book written by former Desperate Housewife actress Felicity Huffman and Patricia Wolff, whom I assume is the one with an IMDB page which lists her as primarily a producer and writer (one of her credits includes co-producing the cheerleading epic Bring It On). Huffman seems to have a solid marriage to William H. Macy which for me appears to be her biggest credential in offering advice to boyfriends on how they should behave. As for Wolff, I just assume she has been on dates.
The book was published in 2007 and with the advances in smartphone technology and therefore texting, sexting, and updated Facebook statuses the material seems as dated as Dear Abby columns from the 1960s. Changes in technology lead to changes in social interactions and new forms of etiquette. On one hand it appears we live in an age where no nudie pic is ever free from theft, and vengeful exs have the ability to post to the World Wide Web videos that were made in lust and diminished states of culpability. On the brighter side (which I suppose is defined by what side you root for) people are able to air their complaints about loutish behavior which often includes screen grabs of communiques from online dating services which start with flirting and go south fast.
A Practical Guide starts with a promise it isn’t some Men are from Mars, Woman are from Venus verbiage and then proceeds to be just that. As I haven’t read Men are from Mars I can’t directly condemn it, however I think the basic premise that men and women operate differently in communication isn’t that far-fetched and that a little understanding of that can improve relationships between the sexes. With that said, I don’t think that a one size fits all approach works with either gender or every relationship. I know that A Practical Handbook is supposed to be light-hearted reading with sprinkles of sage advice, but perhaps any relationship advice can never be totally light-hearted because human interaction is complicated and what works for one doesn’t work for another. Example, the book tells men never give women a mix tape/CD as a gift and I was like whoa, I would adore it if someone made me a mix tape especially if they got the songs right (you know, not some random s__t they threw together at the last minute).
Overall I think what people generally want in relationships is someone who has their back and loves them despite their warts – someone you look forward to seeing at the end of the day. Of course getting to that person is the trick because not only do you have to know what you want you have to know what you don’t. Compromise is an art and the main ingredient for a healthy relationship. The key is to know where you draw your line. When does light banter become nagging and then self-esteem damaging? When do the pressures of living become an excuse for curt behavior and then morphs into abuse? I am sure there are relationship advice books out there which broach those topics; however A Practical Handbook for the Boyfriend ain’t one of them.
I don’t recommend A Practical Handbook for the Boyfriend unless you are up for a frustrating read. The best thing about the book were the vintage looking illustrations.