Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating
In the back of Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating, Lauren Henderson has formulated a questionnaire to determine which Austen heroine you most closely resemble. Apparently, I’m like Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, who isn’t much of a drinker, likes Viggo Mortensen, prefers card games to Twister, and admires the Brontë sisters. Just for fun, I did the test again, identifying with Tinkerbell, preferring Colin Farrell, and making myself an easy pick-up at a bar. Well, now I was Elizabeth’s wild and unthinking sister, Lydia Bennet, and the author suggested I forget commitments altogether and go hook up with Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility) or that oily soldier Lydia ends up with, Mr. Wickham.
Jane Austen aficionados, beware! Though Lauren Henderson has the bona fides—she wrote her dissertation on courting rituals in the novels of Jane Austen, and she clearly understands the subtleties of Regency ways—this frothy relationship guide is not for you. It’s meant for those who have seen the movies but haven’t read the books, and who appreciate the appendix in the back that summarizes each work. The complexities of Austen’s oeuvre are reduced to ten dating commandments. Be honest (like Elizabeth Bennet). Be discreet (like Elinor in Sense and Sensibility). Trust your instincts (as Anne initially failed to do in Persuasion). Be witty but not cruel (unlike Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park), and six more examples of common sense and polite social behavior desperately needed in these days of relationship game-playing.
Alas, if only Ms. Henderson had had the courage to resist the seduction of that wicked rogue, Mr. Modern Sensibilities! With each analysis of an Austen relationship, the author writes a parallel, current-day situation, where the modern gal is rewarded for following Austen’s dictums. What’s that reward? Well, she might find herself involved in a relationship that lasts six months or so. Maybe she’ll move in with her own Mr. Darcy. If she’s really lucky, she may have a child out of wedlock. Ah, Lord Love-so-Lightly has claimed another victim! If only this charming dating guide had included more of Austen’s vital lessons, the ones every single woman needs to know, like: value yourself; don’t settle for half measures; and expect a real commitment.