By the author of the multi-million copy bestseller Thin Thighs in 30 Days…
It is my intention to return to our regularly scheduled programing (and on a regular schedule!) in the next few weeks, but I could not resist pulling one more oddball title that I’ve acquired over the years under the excuse that everything else in the world is pretty weird right now.
As touted on the cover, this is Stehling’s second entry in the paperback-original-self-help game, and obviously once you have Thin Thighs the next thing you need is a MAN.
While the directions contained herein are both Of Their Time and Timeless, she does mostly deliver on the premise of a streamlined 4-week plan to lure a man (ANY MAN) into wedlock. But SPOILERS: if you get to the end and are still single, you are instructed to repeat the program for as many 30 day increments as necessary.
Published in 1985, this clearly took some time to find a home at Pinnacle Books, because she opens with the genesis of the book some years earlier…
High above dark, sleeping New York City, eight of my good women friends and I sat packed around my TV watching Princess Diana’s wedding. We sat in a trance watching her prince help her out of the golden coach- her amazing dress, like a cloud of ruffly dreams…
“That does it,” I announced. “It’s time for me to find a husband!”
My friends politely shook their heads. Hadn’t we all been “looking” for years?
“Well, you got our thighs thin in thirty days. Think you can tell us how to round up a husband in thirty days?”
(See! One logically follows the other!)
The rest of the slim volume (110 pages) consists of YM-style personality quizzes, weekly “assignments” and unattributed quotes from men that TOTALLY don’t sound made-up, y’all!
It concludes with a hand-drawn calendar page laying out everything that you need to be doing every day for a month. For example, today I should “read sexy books” before cleaning my apartment.
Bizarrely, while she name-drops the people and places of New York City like crazy, she also dismisses any prospects. Don’t BOTHER:
New York has a large confirmed bachelor population over 45 years old. New York City, in reality, is such a merry-go-round, I didn’t even bother to do any research there. It would have been like interviewing the air traffic control people at O’Hare Airport during rush hour.
To fall in love in New York is like getting a taxi in the rain. No matter how hard you try… but once in awhile you see that little yellow light (vacant) bravely on… and it’s love found…
While she declares “Buffalo, Columbus, Newark, Pittsburgh and St. Louis” as also being “war zones”, she finds Washington DC “promising” as long as you “pick a man’s division, like NASA.”
The first chapter is entitled “GET READY” and assesses via quiz if you are fat, need deodorant, need your teeth fixed and if you have any unpleasant habits (T/F “In public I use a four-letter word at least twice a day”)
If you score less than 29 points you are declared NOT READY: “I don’t care if you heard sheep all day. Shave your legs!”
This is followed by our first round of unattributed, totally-not-made-up quotes from men:
“If you’re out and they order a beer, something about a woman who orders a beer…”
“Yeah, and she drinks it out of the bottle!”
“Yeah, it’s so unfeminine, it’s ridiculous.”
Men are very concerned about women and drinking. Order wine and drink no more than three glasses.
Drugs are also out, which is why you’re not getting anywhere in that 24-hour cocaine disco, New York City. This point is illustrated with the following unattributed quote:
“If I do coke, I get high and forget about the girl I’m with.”
SOUNDS LIKE A PERSONAL PROBLEM, STEVE.
The next quiz is boring and about how independent you are, although weirdly for 1985 it does not presume that you are grown-ass woman who is employed. No, I don’t know who supports you (although the author warns against the impossibility of having a man stay over if you still live with your parents: you’re supposed to borrow an apartment from a more successful friend for the night. Maybe you have a trust fund.)
But anyway, the point is that no man is going to marry a Bossy Bertha!
“I’ve run into women, you know, who complain about other men… I think we all think we are nice guys and would like to meet someone who’s as nice as we are.”
Men feel you are taking life’s unfairness out on them:
“A seething kind of anger… anger that manifests itself in different ways, and yes, I run into a lot of hostile women.”
Hairy-legged lady sheepherders, no doubt.
The chapter ends with your to-do list for the weekend, which focuses heavily on leg-shaving and not eating, although it does prescribe “a few glasses of wine”.
The next chapter, GET SET, orders you to make a frank assessment of yourself:
Look at yourself. Are you one of the boys? A bitter divorcee? Real, real fat?
I mean GEEZ, Wendy, do you ever think anything you don’t say????
This quiz evaluates your dating readiness, scoring you points if you are willing accept a blind date with a man who is…
1. Older than I
2. Younger than I
3. Poorer than I
4. Shorter than I
What is the strategy for meeting these older/younger/poorer/shorter men?
Basically, act as kooky as possibly. Go out into the universe and spew out non-sequiturs until you lure one in. Stehling recommends:
THE CAR WASH: Men in my research kept saying how the help girls hold the big, heavy hose [I am DYING -Ed.]
IN THE OCEAN: Yell “Great surf!” or “Isn’t this the greatest!”
AUCTIONS: Does he think that grandfather clock will go over the estimate?
BARS: Look somebody in the eye and smile. Say something that he has to answer with more than a grunt. “What did you do today- did you have a nice day?” If he keeps looking over your head like an Indian scout, try someone else.
THE RACETRACK: Stand at the paddock and ask in the bay horse is lame in the left foreleg.
Well, that’s a way to meet men who are poorer than you…
She also offers a strategy for parties where you are supposed to pretend that every man you meet is Ronald Reagan:
You would anticipate that he needs the salt passed; you might ignore the other man next to you. Your jaw would be paralyzed in a smile. You wouldn’t interrupt.
You are going to be sure that he feels comfortable, relaxed (is she going to throw tomato juice on me and scream, “That’s what an abortion looks like, Mr. President!”)
The next man you meet whom you think is eligible is your Mr. President!
She also shares a poem that she wrote for a man she had a crush on…
Ferraris are red,
Violets are blue,
When are you going to meet
This girl who loves you?
Unfortunately, things go AWRY when she sneaks into his garage and tries to tuck it under the tarpaulin of said Ferrari, setting off the alarm and summoning the security guards. SO KOOKY!
Allegedly her girlfriend had better luck …
She sent him a brand new, sharpened pencil, gift wrapped with a note: “I think you’re sharp. This will come in handy for writing down my number.”
Then she sent him a pencil with a dull point a note that read, “I think you are so charming. You have worn down my resistance. Please call.”
The next time they were in a meeting, she pulled out a brand new, sharp pencil. He noticed and CALLED her. Suddenly she had become a femme fatale; a creature to be ravished.
This all seems pretty complicated and tedious. Maybe I’ll just hang around the car wash and ask men to help me and then when they ask where my car is, I’ll just laugh hysterically and be like WHAT CAR???????
The third and final chapter is (what else?) GET MARRIED. It opens with a selection of unattributed quotes from men about why they want to get married… but for some reason I can’t stop thinking about Nazi rocket scientists:
“I want to get married because one of the main purposes in life is to find a mate (woman) to share your life.”
“I just think that married life, procreation of the species, leaving something of yourself behind, continuation of your ideals, of what the world is supposed to be, is nice.”
But what they really want is “mom”:
The lonely guy sees himself as undernourished (things from a can and Cup-a-Soup), never having enough clean clothes, living in a mess. Think of single men as “homeless”. All you have to do is feather that nice nest and be cozy.
As a case history, she offers up confirmed bachelor Jack, whose great tragedy in life is that he eats a turkey and swiss cheese sandwich for lunch every Saturday.
The checklist for your first date includes staring at your reflection in the mirror and smiling for ten seconds, remembering not to ask any questions that are “too personal” (“how come your children are eleven years apart?”) and doing some light stalking beforehand:
Let’s say he works at one of the private long-distance telephone discount services. Call the service and ask them about their rates, customer service features and so on. Find out about the competition the same way.
For the second date, she suggests a battery of compliments, such as:
“You’re a very strong man. I can tell by the size of your wrists.”
If you are going to outshine every other woman, you have to be constantly creative.
So that’s date #2. For date #3 you are finally allowed to BOARD THE TRAIN TO BONERVILLE and have him “stay over”. There is a highly detailed process for dinner at your place, involving wearing a caftan and “a ribbon in your hair, a flower behind your ear”, and very specific ideas about appetizers:
Pigs in a blanket (men love those!) No peanuts or potato chips. No dip. Dip is too expected. Stuffed mushrooms are great; deviled eggs are too picnicky.
Don’t spend all day in the kitchen. If you have made beef Wellington, that will seem fake. It should be digestible.
She also warns against turning on the TV, “unless you have a VHS,” but even then “no porno or sad love stories.” Her preferred activity is looking at coffee table books.
After that comes the actual act, but also:
“Most men sometimes simply don’t have an erection. Very often, he simply had too much to drink.”
God willing, he’ll fall asleep. Yes, you WANT him to stay overnight. If he’s awake, go get him a nice big brandy.
LADIES, it is a delicate balance, ply him with enough alcohol so he conks out and doesn’t leave, but not so much that he can’t get it up!
And that is pretty much where we end out 30-day plan! If you are still husband-less, you’re supposed to start over again, which all sounds much more exhausting than not shaving my legs and acquiring a heard of sheep.
But wait, one last tip:
Try to get a man to reveal his fears.
Which seems kind of sinister when you just throw that in at the end? Like you’re saving it up for emotional blackmail?
Topical And Relevant Anecdote Department:
On the phone he name-dropped like crazy. He told me he personally knew the builder, Donald Trump. I couldn’t resist telling him that Donald’s brother, Bob, was my next-door neighbor in my apartment building.
Whither Wendy? Department:
She had more lasting impact with thinning thighs than entraping husbands, and Thin Thighs in 30 Days remains in print! A number of her TV appearances, both recent and vintage are available on YouTube, in which she comes across as unexpectedly personable, and not at all the kind of person that would call you “real, real fat” to your face.
Blog Update: I have finally updated the Name That Book! Page, so go take a look and see if anything rings any bells and you can help out a fellow reader!