Most tips about dating targeted at single women amount to a Sisyphean course of self-improvement, whether the focus is on their appearance as complicit with the beauty mandate or with interpersonal skills such as listening and hobby development, all are designed to make women a better match and ring ready, which culture has emphasised since they were knee-highs. Instead of regarding every date as a potential Prince Charming, it might be more useful to utilise the Rochester Rule as a primary criterion for finding a good man. Put simply, Charlotte Brontë’s novel unintentionally illustrates how much one can learn about a man from the way he treated women in past relationships, only her titular Jane Eyre was too much of an inexperienced sap to give the evidence full consideration. When you have a man’s track record to consult, do so with the knowledge that he’s not going to be an entirely different man with you. You can anticipate who he was with other women will remain consistent in the current relationship. In the case of Brontë’s Edward Rochester, a man who locked his wife up in the attic for a decade, just to keep control of her dowry, Jane would have to wonder what he’d do once she became inconvenient, put on some weight or asked too much of him. Marry him? Reader, she should have busted ass for the nearest exit.
Edward Rochester stands as a familiar romantic figure in popular culture. He’s usually attractive but in an unconventional fashion. A Rochester presents himself as a ‘deep’ or ‘tortured’ soul, a misunderstood genius, a man prone to emotional outbursts, passionate exclamations and who makes wild demands on a lady. After the 19th century original, there were several other men who fit the Rochester template, a leading man who should give women pause, including Charles Boyer in the classic Gaslight, Orson Welles, Ted Hughes, probably Richard Burton, Ike Turner, Charles Bukowski and Jack Nicholson. The Rochester type gets off on treating women like crap, by building himself up through reminding women how little they matter in the end. With outsized ego and a dissembling manner, Mr. Rochester manipulates women while remaining oblivious to the distress he causes.
Scarlett Johansson should take note of the Rochester Rule now that she’s moved in with Sean Penn. Any dude who imagines a divine intervention in terms of licence to blow rails and buy women, where god commands: ‘you’ve tortured yourself enough. Two hookers and the eight ball are inside’ (starts 9:16 mark) probably isn’t going to cozy up to monogamy, especially when he likens it to self-imposed water boarding. Penn rates close to Charlie Sheen’s level of wacked out entitlement, public rages, a total disregard for a woman’s well-being, with only a slight differential of talent in his favour. Ms. Johansson, go ahead and have your fling, but do it without the mistaken belief that you can heal or redeem him. Robin Wright tried that route and looks positively shell-shocked as a result. Vagina ain’t the Red Cross, ladies. Let the Rochester type save his own damn self.