Friday, August 05, 2011

The Single Girl’s Guide to Meeting European Men by Katherine Chloé Cahoon

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

• Paperback: 272 pages
• Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2010
• Price: $14.95
• ISBN-10: 1608320588
• ISBN-13: 978-1608320585

When I received the advance reader’s copy of this book, The Single Girl’s Guide to Meeting European Men, in the fall of 2010 with a request for a review, I was curious at best. I was packing to go to Europe at the time, had no interest whatsoever in pairing up with anyone—I prefer to travel alone for a list of reasons—but thought this might at least be an amusing review to write. I could bring the perspective of a single woman to it, one that enjoys travel abroad and is not averse to sharing an occasional moment in pleasant company.

Normally, out of principle, when reviewing a book, I read every page. It is long into the next summer since I received this book, but I have not been able to get past a dutiful less-than-half read. I just can’t. So there, fair disclosure, although skimming the remainder tells me that it will just be more of the same.

I’m a dyed in the wool feminist, thank you, and am all for empowering women—but this guide to picking up European men is not for any feminist I know. That claim is about as lame as calling Playboy Bunnies empowered women, when everything these women do is meticulously regulated and controlled by the club owner, usually male, down to needing permission to drape a coat over her bare shoulders when standing at the door as a greeter in the winter cold.

No, what this book does is give women a bad name (I can think of several, none of which I will post here in print) and treat men like imbeciles. Both are heavily stereotyped, and from what travels I’ve enjoyed in Europe, all inaccurate—both in descriptions of best places to hang and in descriptions of the local men.

“My girlfriend’s European man fantasy was to create her own erotic memoirs. Her goal was to have a one-night stand in every European country she visited and get laid in unique cultural landmarks. Her fantasy became a reality. Who says she didn’t study her history classes while she was abroad?” (Page 2.)

This kind of insipid commentary gets sandwiched with “flirty tips” on where to find and nab men, what to wear (show as much skin as possible), what to say, how to reel ‘em in. Of course, for the most part, the recommendation is to hit and run, although catching husbands is part of the advice, if so desired.

Here’s my thought: if feminism is about being treated as whole human beings, with respect, why should women treat men like lesser human beings? There’s a Golden Rule in there somewhere—treat others as you would wish to be treated, and if you didn’t enjoy being treated like a piece of meat, taste and discard, why treat the opposite gender that way? It’s not about sinking to the lowest common denominator.

If the reader might for a moment have the good sense to wonder about the riskiness of such behavior, the author addresses those risks this way:

“Until you are sure you can trust a guy, I’d play it safe … looking back, they asked me to warn single girls that losing control can lead to scary situations. Even my girlfriend who put the hookup stars on her European map feels that she took too many risks. She was nineteen at the time. Now that she is older, she says that if she had it to do again she would be more careful … STDs aren’t the European souvenirs single girls seek. It may seem obvious, but sleeping with random men can be dangerous … I don’t want to linger on unpleasant topics, so whatever you choose to do with the men in Europe, just be careful.” (Page 33)

And on to the next “flirty tip”: “As with your hometown hotties, only stay with guys who make you feel good.”

Okay. That’s safe and smart. (I’m still wondering how you can “trust a guy” you met only an hour ago.) And if you have a homeboy, no need to worry overmuch and don’t keep in touch too much. It might ruin your fantasy.

What else can I say? I have been blessed with memorable European romances, but I did not travel with a mission to hunt down a male of the species, or a romance. Such things happen, if they happen, while you are traveling with an authentic wish to experience a new place, meeting across cultures to find common interests, enjoying an experience that enriches both parties.

This is an unserious book at best, an ugly and cheap portrayal of both genders at worst. If you are traveling to Europe, don’t miss the scenery—the history, the architecture, the culture, the cuisine, the locals of all ages and types. This book can only put blinders on to what should be a fantastic journey.


Erin O'Riordan said...

A thought-provoking review of a shallow and, it seems, irritating book.

Maryte said...

Sadly, the "flirty tips" work with lowest-common-denominator men. You got half way through? That's discipline!