As an avid reader, a single 20-something woman, and a cynic, it’s sometimes hard for me to find a go-to author for relationship advice. No offense, Jane Austen, but your happy endings aren’t cutting it for me. Luckily, Dorothy Parker has addressed pretty much every issue a modern dater could encounter, and has done it in a wonderfully misanthropic style. So, if (like me) you’re looking for a love guru who refuses to sugarcoat her truth bombs, here are six quotes that prove that Dorothy Parker totally understands how hard modern dating is.
1. “I know you shouldn’t keep telephoning them—I know they don’t like that. When you do that, they know you are thinking about them and wanting them, and that makes them hate you.” (“A Telephone Call”)
Have you ever been impatiently waiting for that guy you liked to text you back, and wondered whether you should text him again? Well, your dating guardian angel Dorothy Parker has an answer for you. Parker is essentially prophesizing the Great Texting Debate decades before the invention of the cell phone. Who should text first? How long should you wait before texting back? And how desperate do you look if (heaven forbid!) you actually show interest? Parker understands that simply picking up the phone and contacting someone isn’t an option; it’s a strategic battle designed to establish a hierarchy of who likes the other more. And, as Parker grimly realizes, lord help you if you aren’t at the top of that hierarchy.
2. “Men seldom make passes / At girls who wear glasses.” (“News Item”)
Maybe I’m reading too deeply into this one, but I personally think Parker is pointing out the unfair smart/pretty binary that women are too often forced to adapt to. The glasses are a symbol, people. They represent the need for women to (at least initially) dumb themselves down to seem attractive and unintimidating to men. Being smart isn’t always seen as a plus in the dating world, or at least isn’t always as important as how physically attractive you are. And I think Parker would agree that this really sucks.
3. “And why with you, my love, my lord, / Am I spectacularly bored, / Yet do you up and leave me—then / I scream to have you back again?” (“On Being a Woman”)
So you finally end up with someone. Huzzah! Too bad your new partner isn’t all that great. He’s boring, or he picks his nose, or he misuses the word “literally.” Whatever it is, you decide you want nothing to do with him. Once you break up, though, you realize that these flaws were actually adorable little quirks that you loved, and you’re desperate to get back together. And so the cycle continues. We want what we can’t have, and once we get it, we forget why we ever wanted it in the first place. You’re so wise, Dorothy.
4. “Accursed from their birth they be / Who seek to find monogamy, / Pursuing it from bed to bed— / I think they would be better dead.” (“Reuben’s Children”)
Everyone has that one friend who seems to always be in a committed relationship. It has to get exhausting, constantly jumping from one serious partner to another without any time to yourself in between. Parker might be a little melodramatic with the whole death thing, but she does have a point: being in a relationship shouldn’t be your ultimate goal. There are a ton of awesome things in the world that don’t involve having a partner. Don’t go searching for a monogamous relationship; if it happens, great, but if not, that’s ok too.
5. “I’ve got to give up using mascara, Fred; life’s too sad.” (“Just a Little One”)
Parker is, if nothing else, practical. If you’re going to cry over a man, at least know better than to wear mascara. The only thing worse than being heartbroken is smudging your makeup. This is flawless advice, and the perfect go-to quote for when you’re feeling just a tad overdramatic. It makes you sound cynical, world-weary, and also really glamorous. I can just imagine Parker matter-of-factly saying something like this over a gin martini or five.
6. “They hate you whenever you say anything you think. You always have to keep playing little games. Oh, I thought we didn’t have to; I thought this was so big I could say whatever I meant. I guess you can’t, ever.” (“A Telephone Call”)
This quote is for anyone out there who has ever had to play the insane and counterproductive mind games that are essential to any relationship. And, for those readers insisting that they’re above such petty things, Parker’s calling you out. According to Parker, the games are inevitable, and there will never be a point in your relationship where you aren’t at least a little involved in some sort of mental/emotional chess match. This may sounds ridiculously bleak, but it’s hard to argue with her that the games exist, whether we like them or not. It’s at least comforting to know that they aren’t a modern development, though; relationships have been messed up for AT LEAST the last 100 years, and probably for hundreds of years before that.
God bless you, Dorothy Parker, patron saint of cynical single girls everywhere.
Have you read anything by Dorothy Parker?