So a funny thing happened on the way to the romance aisle at my local Barnes and Noble.
I was there ostensibly to hunt down more romance novels to shore up the base of my already towering TBR pile so it wouldn't fall over and crush The Cat. Without warning, I was distracted by the joyfully sinful aroma of the adjoining Starbucks chocolate muffins. I am naturally directionally dyslexic yet, naturally, I choose to blame chocolate muffins for what happened next.
I took a wrong turn and wound up meandering down the "Self-Hell" aisle. This unfortunate journey is a little like when one trustingly follows those ginormous arrows on the floor of IKEA for hours searching for the perfect SMÖRBOLL only to wind up in Valhalla limbo, subsisting on Lingonberry jam and Swedish meatballs until rescue arrives.
But I digress.
The books in the "Self-Hell" aisle are engorged with probably well-intentioned, often eyebrow-raising, and sometimes inadvertently humorous yet earnest tips that promise to give the lovelorn reader the satisfying relationship (or a reasonable facsimile) to rival the most lurid cover of their favorite HEA romance novel.
Perusing just a handful of the hundreds of relationship-centric albeit nonsensical titles on the "Self-Hell" shelves, I think we can all agree that that particular aisle is ironically the most unromantic aisle in the joint. Well, except for maybe the "Strange Diseases You Never Knew Existed But Probably Already Have" aisle. There aren't enough chocolate muffins to trick me into that aisle, by the way, but I hear it's pretty unromantic, too. Again, I digress.
They say never judge a book by its cover. In this case, it was pretty hard to resist and I am guilty as charged, your honor. Cue drumroll...
Six (6) of the Most Disturbing Self-Help Book Titles. Ever.
1. Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them: When Loving Hurts And You Don't Know Why
(All of those women's friends know why, and we tried to warn them.)
2. How to Get Your Husband to Talk to You
(For the woman who marries the guy from title #1.)
3. How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking about It
(Plan B for the woman who married the guy from title #1 when he still won't talk to her.)
4. How to Get Over that B*tch and Grow Balls They Can’t Resist
(Obviously written by the guy from title #1 after the wife he won't talk to serves him with divorce papers.)
5. DogSense: 99 Relationship Tips from your Canine Companion
(If only the guy from title #1 and his wife had listened to their dog, this entire list needn't have happened.)
6. Self Help for the Bleak
(Mommy, I need a chocolate muffin now.)
Easy now, self-helpers. Don't call a firing squad on me quite yet. I have no doubt some readers of these books found the comfort and/or guidance they sought. But confronted with so much relationship angst and woe staring at me from the book shelf all at once when what I was after was a lurid HEA fix, what would have "helped" me best in that moment was a compass to find my way back to the romance aisle (or even IKEA) stat.