A Case of the Human Condition: He Never Called Me Back . . . Why?

book jacket for Why He Didn't Call You Back by Rachel Greenwald.By Barbara Falconer Newhall

The book’s cover was fuchsia, its title blunt:  Why He Didn’t Call You Back. Wow. Just what I needed. Not now. But back in the 60’s and 70’s when I was young and single and hopeful in New York and San Francisco . . . when I was doing a lot of dating and a lot of wondering why so many guys would take me out once or twice — then disappear without explanation. Gone. Evaporated. Poof.

Barbara Falconer as a young single woman in 1968. Photo by BF Newhall

The New York me. And, yes, I’ve edited a guy out of the picture. Photo by BF Newhall

And now, years later, the mysterious rejections still rankled. Why hadn’t those guys (and there were dozens of them) ever called me back? I still wanted to know.

The book was sitting on a shelf  in the Chicago Midway airport bookstore. I had some time before my flight left for Oakland. I picked it up and started to read.

The author, Rachel Greenwald, explained that as a professional dating coach she was puzzled by the large numbers of attractive women among her clientele who weren’t getting called back after the first date. To find out why, she located some actual men,  hundreds of them, and talked to them. She asked each one why he hadn’t called various women back after the first date. Greenwald then analyzed their responses and compiled the rejectees into categories.

I couldn’t stop reading, but it was time to catch my flight, so I plunked down $24 and took Why He Didn’t Call You Back with me to the gate. I wasn’t buying this book for my own improvement, I told myself. I was buying it for my daughter, who was single and would be turning 26 soon.

Somewhere over Iowa, still wondering why all those guys had never called back, I cracked open Greenwald’s book, studied her categories and took her little quizzes. Which kind of loser had I been, really, as a young something all those years ago? Greenwald outlined more than a dozen possibilities, some of which maybe applied to me:

The Blahs. A major turn-off, Greenwald states, is the Blah woman, the one who doesn’t say or do much on the date. Definitely not my problem, I was pretty sure. I was a big talker as a young woman, a sharp dresser, a good dancer, and a flirt.

The Psychobabbler. Another big turn-off, according to Greenwald. But no, that wouldn’t be me either.

The Wino? No. Not that I remember anyway.

The Ex Factor. This is the woman who talks too much about her ex. I never got far enough to have an ex.

The young and single me -- smoking! Photo by Newhall

The young and single me in San Francisco a few years later — smoking! Photo by BF Newhall

The Boss Lady. The career woman who takes charge, one-ups her date in conversation, expresses opinions with finality, and generally acts like this is a competitive job interview rather than dinner with a new and interesting friend. Hmmm. That could be me.

Dicing women up into types objectifies them, of course. But the idea that a woman, nervous on a first date, can unwittingly fall back onto stereotypical behavior is a useful one. And Greenwald has lots of suggestions for tweaking one’s conduct to avoid giving misleading first impressions.

The woman who is a jock, for example, can bring out her feminine side by wearing a skirt or jewelry. The talker might do some heavy listening. And the woman who’s sure she wants to marry a Jew or a Catholic or a virgin or a New Englander would do well to keep a lid on her opinions long enough to find out whether that divorced Unitarian from Kansas City might actually be Mr. Right.

Greenwald’s best advice, however, had nothing to do with types, and it came as a surprise to me. The quality most appreciated by the men Greenwald interviewed was simple human kindness. Men notice and appreciate a woman who shows consideration  for the waiter, the cabbie, the ticket taker, her date.

Some women have found Greenwald’s book irksome. That is, they have found the men in her book irksome. They read the men’s criticisms of their first dates as further evidence that guys are basically arrogant bastards and not to be trusted.

Which makes me wonder whether a lot of single women (my young self included) aren’t too inclined to find fault with the male of the species and behave accordingly — all too ready to fire the first shot.

I read this book to its end, wishing somebody had given it to me when I was young and fearful. My daughter got it for her birthday.

Why He Didn’t Call You Back, by Rachel Greenwald, Crown Publishers, 2009, $24 hardcover.

Note: Rachel’s book is now titled “Have Him At Hello: Confessions from 1,000 GUYS About What Makes Them Fall in Love… Or Never Call Back.”  To tell the truth, I’m not sure the new title would have riveted me at the Chicago Midway bookstore the way “Why He Didn’t Call You Back” did.

Wondering how I got out of my single woman predicament? Find out at “The Day She Popped the Question.”




  1. My WIP is about the pitfalls of online dating for women. When finished, I’ll read Ms. Greenwald’s book. It sounds great – still a single woman (widowed), I am open to advice. Best of luck to her and all who are still looking for that One Love…

    • Barbara Falconer Newhall says:

      Marilyn, Pls keep us posted on your work in progress. I’ve heard of several very successful relationships that got started through on-line dating services. But I’ve talked to an equal number of women who say that the guys looked good on paper — perfectly nice guys — but just no spark.

  2. Interesting. I can remember being told as a child to watch how dates treat wait staff, clerks, animals, etc because it is an indicator of how you will eventually be treated.

    I think too many people take personal offense at these kinds of books.

    I think they are written in the spirit of providing information for people who accept reality as it is and who would like information to adjust their behavior to achieve a goal.

    In other words it isn’t for people who aren’t willing to accept constructive criticism or who want to insist that they world change to suit them personally.

    I share your sentiments about wanting this book. I wish there was a book like this for men.

    • Somebody very wise was counseling you. I hope that your sisters, if you have some, were tipped off that guys might be noting kindness in their behavior. btw, the author mentioned several times in this book that she hadn’t written such a book for men, because she didn’t think they would buy it. You could contact her at the above link and let her know she’s got at least one customer.

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