Valentine's Day, dismissed by many as a cynical Hallmark holiday, actually stretches back to about 498AD, when it was established by Pope Gelasius in honour of the Christian martyr Saint Valentine. But the dating game has undoubtedly changed since then – and, don't be fooled: it definitely is a game.
So convincing was Neil Strauss of this that he made a multi-million-pound fortune based on the very premise. His book, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, is a masterclass in manipulation and deceit designed to help men transform themselves from AFCs (Average Frustrated Chumps) into PUAs (Pickup Artists).
To participate in this peculiar love game, it helps to familiarise oneself with the rules – and PUAs meet their match in Rules girls, devotees of The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr Right, the dating book by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. Its underlying philosophy is that a woman must never pursue a man; rather, she should get the object of her affections to pursue her.
Rule number one, which commands: "Be a creature unlike any other", sets the tone for the rest of the book. Other useful tips have apparently been sourced directly from the 18th century, with Fein and Schneider dispensing such pearls of wisdom as "Don't talk to a man first" and "Let him take the lead".
The modern dating pool is swarming with people under the influence of these "self-help" manuals. But rest assured, they actually play an essential role in maintaining its delicate equilibrium. In a delightful feat of poetic justice, the only type of woman foolish enough to fall prey to a Game-player is likely to be a Rules girl, and vice versa. Thus, they selflessly pair off to enjoy a lifetime of ignoring each other's calls, putting each other down and sitting miserably in stony silence, leaving the path clear for us remaining Average Frustrated Chumps to clumsily court each other. Ain't love grand!