I’ve never read anything quite like it. Honestly.
I started out laughing, particularly at ‘How to Treat a Pimple’, ‘How to Have Sex in a Small Space’ and the diagrams of ‘How to Remove a Back-Clasping Bra with One Hand’.
Then I read the The Experts and realised they were serious. I started to get angry. This kind of paranoia-inducing, suspicion-fanning farce is a genuine handbook?
‘How to Determine if Your Date is an Axe-Murderer’: watch out for any three of the following …
A Caucasian male in his 20s or 30s / Obsession with fire or matches / Cruelty to animals / History of bed-wetting / Sexually abused as a child / Middle-class background / Difficulty maintaining relationships
(How are you supposed to winkle out all those vital details over Scampi in a Basket and a Knickerbocker Glory? Most of my ex-boyfriends had at least 1, 6 and 7 in common, and always an obsession with something. Fire, Tractors, Howard Devoto …)
Subsequent chapters tipped me back into Irony-Land. ‘How to Determine if Your Date is Married / A Con-Man / Pick-Up Artist.’ Yet the laughs are still thin on the ground, until ‘How to Determine the Gender of Your Date’ had me rolling on my ass, laughing my floor off. Or something.
It IS a joke. So subtle I almost thought it was real.
Hang on … serious chapters on how to escape unwanted attention (including excellent line-drawing of how to smash a bathroom window with a bin to escape a restaurant – obviously the simplest option).
Now angry again. This kind of ‘help’ will turn people into freakish, suspicious weirdos. (How to Spot Fake Breasts/ a Toupee). “If a woman over thirty has full breasts which sit high on her chest, you have reason to be suspicious.”
‘How to Bribe a Maitre d’ for an Emergency Reservation’, ‘How to Stop Your Date from Choking’, and the position (I swear this is true) to adopt in the bathroom to expel excess gas. There’s a sketch of a pained bloke doing the Salute to the Sun on a tiled toilet floor in a desperate attempt to guff.
I’m crying again.
But soon after I’m frowning. ‘How to Fake an Orgasm’, ‘How to Deal with a Cheating Lover’, just before ‘How to Have an Affair Without Getting Caught’.
I still don’t know if this is the most ridiculous or subtly ironic book I’ve ever read, but the earnest diagrams are funnier than The Simpsons and the advice is entertaining, for the majority. Actively dangerous for the mildly unhinged.
At the end, I take away certain nuggets of wisdom such as the right way to squeeze a zit, how to lift a drunk, and most importantly, if I’m the type to detest snoring, I should avoid the obese, short-necked, sniffers, drinkers, and the tired.
No wonder I can’t get a date.