Tuesday , September 22 2020
"Valentine's Day definitely causes us to take stock of our romantic status."

Interview with J. Courtney Sullivan, Author of Dating Up: Dump the Schlump and Find a Quality Man (Part 1)

When a publicist asked if I wanted to review Dating Up: Dump the Schlump and Find a Quality Man, my first thought was why would I want to do that? But then I remembered that Valentine's Day was coming up and, like millions of others, I'm single and would like a relationship. (I still believe those not dating in February should join together for a class action suit against Hallmark cards but that's an issue for another day.) I was curious, though: What exactly is a "Quality Man?" Am I one? And what advice is this author giving to other women?

This might work, too, I thought, as a companion piece to my interview about a new book on online dating. I decided it would be fun to read this female author's advice to women about "dating up," sort of like reading Cosmo articles for the sex tips but without all the shots of models.

Perhaps that's why my biggest bone to pick was with something which is not the fault of the author but rather the publisher: The author's photo is smaller than a stamp. Each time she would write about the importance of good appearance or having the right makeup I'd turn to look at the author's photo and squint to try to see if I could tell how she looked.

That's not her fault, though. While the book had more sweeping generalizations than I would like — I highlight one, men liking sports, below — that's to be expected in this type of book.

Since this is such an important topic I'm splitting this into a two-part interview.

Part 1

Scott: What prompted this book project?

Courtney: My best friend and I were in the dressing room at Banana Republic, trying on summer dresses and talking about my non-relationship with a 29-year-old  aspiring rock star, and the equally pathetic relationships that all of our close friends were in. That's when it dawned on me that so many of the brilliant, ambitious, funny, beautiful women we knew were dating absolute schlumps – men with no ambition, no manners, no money, or no clue (and in some cases, all of the above). My friend and I started talking about how we needed a guidebook for breaking the loser-cycle and meeting quality men. That's when I decided to write Dating Up.

What was your goal with this book? Did you succeed?

I interviewed over 100 men and women for Dating Up, because, as a schlump-aholic myself, I knew I needed to seek out the help of people who had found fabulous partners and formed great, lasting bonds. What were their secrets? Where did they find each other? How did they go from casual dating to serious couplehood to marriage? Using what I learned in my interviews, I began to develop a set of guidelines for getting rid of the schlumps, and meeting great men. Like any good researcher, I put my theories to the test.

Not long after I'd resolved to kick my starving artist habit once and for all, I met and fell in love with an amazing guy. We've been together for a year-and-a-half now.  All of the tips in Dating Up are road-tested, and they've worked for dozens of women I know (myself included!).

The book appears geared toward women. Is there any reason why curious men should not also read it?

The book is definitely geared toward women, but I suppose a man in search of a relationship upgrade could benefit from it as well. The book is focused on meeting a mate who is your equal – in terms of intellect, ambition, kindness, values, and more. I think that's what we all want, regardless of whether we are male or female.

Will men who read it find the contents dismaying?

They shouldn't. (See next answer for more detail – I think it pretty much applies to both questions).

Devil's advocate question with no offense intended: Don't books like this hurt some people, such as those who women are being discouraged from dating? Or is that not your concern?

This book discourages women from dating all varieties of losers – men who can't commit, men who aren't kind, men who lack motivation, men who just can't seem to get it together. It's not an attempt to punish these guys, but rather to help successful, bright accomplished women find the kind of men they deserve. I don't think there are necessarily two predetermined types of guys – schlumps and quality men. I think each of us makes the choice about who we want to be, and we can always change for the better. If a guy is not at the point where he's ready to be a quality man, personally I think he'll make a lousy partner. These days I'm telling a lot of guys the following: Try to be the quality man, never the schlump. You can do it.

If a man sees his girlfriend/wife reading this book should he be concerned?

Definitely. He might try reading it himself, to figure out why his wife or girlfriend is so unsatisfied. The book offers advice from several happily married couples, so there's a lot to be learned!

Would this book make a good or bad Valentine's Day gift?

Valentine's Day definitely causes us to take stock of our romantic status. We all know a woman (or several women) who is so wonderful, and yet caught up in some schlumpy guy. (The phrase "What on earth does she see in him?!" comes to mind.) This book would make a great gift for that woman. Why should she spend one more lousy Valentines Day waiting for Mr. Commitment-phobe to call her? If she reads this book and takes the advice to heart, she'll be well on her way to a meaningful, wonderful relationship. And if that woman happens to be you, why not buy the book for yourself, instead of (as I used to do in my single days) splurging on expensive chocolates in a heart-shaped box?

Why is your photo on the book smaller than my thumb?

That is a life-sized photo. I am actually only three inches tall. Just kidding. I actually have no idea. I am responsible for what's inside this book. The jacket is the work of my publisher.

I'm a guy who doesn't like sports. Does this mean I have to act interested and memorize your summaries of the various sports?

Ha! Well, I don't think any woman (or man) gets very far in relationships by pretending to be someone she's not. That said, I do think it's important to take an interest in your significant other's passions. So if you happen to meet a wonderful woman who's crazy about the Red Sox, you might just need to bone up on that baseball section in chapter one.

About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been working in mental health for the last ten years. He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.

Check Also

Cover Savage Legion

Book Review: ‘Savage Legion” by Matt Wallace

Matt Wallace, author of Savage Legion, first entered my radar with his seven wonderful ‘Sin …