Dear Level

Death to the Three-Date Rule

We’re all grown. Let’s forget archaic constructs and feel free to have sex whenever we want.

Aliya S. King
LEVEL
Published in
4 min readSep 18, 2020

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Illustration: Olivia Fields

Update 6/7/22: Level has a new home. You can read this article and other new articles by visiting LEVELMAN.com.

A week from now, I will be 47 years old. I am as grown as grown can be. I have an adult daughter and a teenaged daughter. I’m a divorcée and a fiancée, two fancy French words that give me extra grown woman status. I’m doing well in my career and thriving in all areas of my life. I’m blessed to have made good choices.

So why is it that a 25-year-old book and a 22-year-old television show can still control my thought process?

In 1995, Grand Central Publishing released The Rules, a self-help guide written by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. The subtitle is anti-feminist as hell — Time Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right — and the guidance within the pages even more awful. The “rules” were all catered toward changing you into a man’s idea of the perfect woman: Always wear heels; get a nose job; wear your hair long; don’t call him, ever; go out as much as possible, even if you’re not in the mood. (The one that makes me facepalm the hardest? If you have sex with him and spend the night, get dressed quickly and leave, so he doesn’t think you’re angling to spend time together the next day. Oof.)

It was exhausting. Secrets for capturing someone’s heart? There are no secrets. Just be your best self, have a complete life without a partner, and put as much effort into finding a partner as you want to!

And yet. If you were in a certain age bracket back then and possibly looking for a life partner, you might’ve wondered if there was some merit to The Rules. You wouldn’t have been alone: A lot of women out there, wobbling on stilettos and exhausted from the scene, were trying to follow the rules. They made no sense — but that didn’t stop the book from selling millions of copies and intriguing many Generation Xers. Like me.

Have I waited until at least the third date before having sex? Sure. When I wanted to. Have I not waited? Sure. Again, when I…

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Aliya S. King
LEVEL
Writer for

Aliya S. King is an author, freelance writer and editor.