Elevate Difference

Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me

I have a love/hate relationship with liberal publications, like the New York Times, that discuss progressive issues and at the same time print articles that seem to use stone age mentality to “prove” the differences between women and men. I am forever intrigued by science’s never-ending love affair with sexual dimorphism, and articles with the headlines “What Do Women Want?” and “Varying Sweat Scents Noted By Women” seem to fill the pages of publications every day. 

I have a similar love/hate relationship with Ben Karlin’s collection of essays, Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me, which expounds on gender differences for the sake of humor and, at times, offers a bit of insight. I am not alone in my intrigue because, unsurprisingly, this book is a national bestseller.

It also comes as no surprise that the “I” in the title refers exclusively to men, as heteronormativity runs rampant in this book. With the exception of one essay, written by Dan Savage, most of the essays detail the faults and failures of previous relationships and how those relationships prepared the dumped ones for marriage. Marriage is a reoccurring theme in these essays, and it is depicted as the final, succeeding goal for most of the men. Not much seems to be learned in these essays, as the men just realize ways to finagle their way into a less demanding, more comfortable relationship.

While the matters mentioned above encompass the latter part of the love/hate relationship, there is the part of me that loves to read a book like this. As it is a humor book, I release the hold of my feminist lens a bit, and relax into what is otherwise an engaging book. Part of me is curious what the average, mainstream male thinks today of their relationships with women. This book is not so much a birds-eye-view into the hearts and minds of men, but more of a carefully crafted, one-sided story of woe, and nonetheless an honest exposure of feelings. 

While many of the essays rest on age-old stereotypes, some essays reveal insights that are often overlooked in the discussion of men and sexuality. In the opening essay, Dan Vebber discusses his lack of sexual drive and utter fear of intercourse, Andy Richter writes about coping with male body issues, and Rodney Rothman tells a tale of teenage heartbreak. It is essays like this that make this book unique and unlike the common portrayal of gender dynamics that is present in contemporary media.

This book offers readers more to think about than the average easy read, while still maintaining its funniness and fluidity. You might not learn much from this book but it is at least a fun way to further your love/hate relationship with indulgent gender commentary.

Written by: Krista Ciminera, April 14th 2009

Great review Krista! Intelligent and well written - thanks for sharing your insights.