PHILosophy: A Date with Dr. Phil

Feb 20th, 2006 | By | Category: Columns

Theodore Dreiser once wrote, “The mystery of life–its inexplicability, beauty, cruelty, tenderness, folly–has occupied the greater part of my waking thoughts; and in reverence or rage or irony, as the moment or situation might dictate, I have pondered and even demanded of cosmic energy to know Why.”

But to a self-help guru, this is just the mumblings of a man who was never hugged as a child. Why, even Socrates was just $29.95 from knowing the mysteries of love and life! Life is just a puzzle and all you need to do is find the corresponding pieces! Or that’s what self-help books promise with their glossy covers and catch phrases. One of my favorites is “Live Each Day Like It’s Your Last.” Can anyone seriously contemplate what the world would be like if everyone lived their life like each day was their last? Nothing would get done! Everyone would be too busy punching people in the face and snorting coke off the asses of expensive hookers. And I’d waste my last minutes on this earth waiting in line to get my banking done. I’m not saying I’m pathetic because I’d spend the last day of my life balancing my checkbook, I’m just saying that the banking industry is full of a bunch of violent druggies.

Love that sizzlin' blazer. Rawr.

Dr. Phil is probably considered the “figurehead” of the self-help world. And if the self-help world was a boat I would most certainly string this man up to the mast. Built like the Long John Fisherman, Dr. Phil has channeled his used car salesman pitch to become a “#1 New York Times Bestselling Author,” as well as Oprah’s favorite head case–I mean headshrinker. And who doesn’t love Oprah? Well, Judge Judy. But that’s a mud-wrestling match for later, children.

Dr. Phil’s recent masterpiece is Love Smart, a book that promises to, “Find the one you want–Fix the one you got.” Since he compared the opposite sex to a leaking toilet, I was immediately disgusted–and intrigued.

When I looked on to check out the reviews, I was generally pleased with the positive results, such as: “EVEN A PRIEST THINKS IT’S GOOD,” and really folks, when you have a priest on your side, everything is golden. Ask Torquemada. Another reader proclaimed, “YOU ARE MY HERO DR MCGRAW. YOU’VE HELPED ME IN SO MANY WAYS YOU CANT EVEN IMAGINE. IT SEEMS THAT YOUR BOOKS ALWAYS COMEOUT WHEN I NEED HELP. I’VE BEEN HAVING A LITTLE TROUBLE IN MY CURRENT RELATIONSHIP SO I GOT THIS BOOK. I HAVENT STARTED IT YET BUT I CANT WAIT. THE LAYOUT LOOKS GREAT AND LIKE AN EASY READ. I KNOW IT WILL BE HELPFUL TO ME.”

Oh Andrew, I’m so glad you’ve found some comfort in this harsh world!

The book jacket of Love Smart summarizes, “If you are sleeping single in a double bed–then this book is for you.” And promises to give a woman the ability to “peek behind the male curtain.”

This brings three thoughts to my mind. 1) I sleep alone in a single bed. Get it right, genius! 2) What part of male is the male curtain made out of? 3) Where can I buy said male curtain made of male?

“I’m talking about making a major change in your life, specifically your love life. It’s time to be a winner. It’s time to start being a bride instead of a bridesmaid.” (7)

This happens often in the book. Points are made, and all of a sudden something is stated in bold font because I like pork chops. I suppose it’s annoying but the message needs to come across so everyone knows that in Tokyo, a bicycle is faster than a car. Sure the boldfaced, large font can get annoying. But Dr. Phil is really driving his point home! He wants the reader to remember and understand his words and to really understand why the Mona Lisa has no eyebrows.

In Dr. Phil’s mind, generalization is key. Therefore if you’re female, over thirty, successful and have a cat, you need his help! You need to love yourself and embrace (as he puts it) “The Character Of Me.”

“Well, I knew how hard Kate worked. The hours she put in at the office left precious little time for nurturing a relationship. So I asked her to list her priorities for me. Sure enough, like many unmarried thirty-seven-year-old women, she had marriage and children at the top of her list.” (69)

For those of you who would like some illustration to go along with this paragraph:

Women enjoy:

Black and White Household Duties

Baby Creatures

Restrictive Boobie Clothing

Because I don’t own a cat, am not over thirty and live in a barn, I questioned whether Dr. Phil’s book was the right one for me. I decided to answer his list of thought-provoking questions to discover whether or not I was “A Character of Me” or or “Some Other Misplaced Pronoun.”

1) Do I feel that I have to disguise myself?

In a superhero costume? Yes.

2) Do I live with shame and guilt?

Yes. Living in an apartment alone is expensive.

3) Do I believe that I lack intelligence?

I make up for it in cup size!

4) Is there something fundamentally wrong with me?


5) Do I lack confidence?


6) Do I think I am a second-class citizen?

Well I’m a woman. So yes.

7) Do I feel unworthy of love?

Daddy don’t leave me!

8) Do I often feel I have no control over my lies and behavior?

Only when I’m drunk. Like now.

9) Am I damaged goods–have I been dumped so many times that there has got to be something wrong with me?

I’ve been walked all over like Jesus. Because I’m misunderstood. Also magical.

10) Do I say to myself that I’m not worthy?

Yes. But when I talk to myself people start to stare. Especially when I perform my famous one woman show of Fiddler on the Roof in the freezer section of my grocery store. “Tradition, tradition! Traditioooooooooon!”

So! Dr. Phil has discovered the root of why you’re single. You have low self-esteem because Daddy never bought you that Barbie Dream house.

“I already know one thing is keeping you single right there: You’re desperate, and–trust me–that will scare men to death. Language can be a powerful thing. If you’re telling yourself you’re “desperate” and you “must” have a man, you will “reek” of fear, weakness and desperation.” (69)

(Sound of waves crashing, a black and white landscape of a beach appears. A woman’s voice, like a summers breeze, calls through the storm.)




Reek, a new fragrance by Calvin Klein.

Dr. Phil goes on to explain that, “I’ve never heard of a guy who has those three qualities on his list of major turn-ons. It would be like a woman saying, ‘Well, the first thing I look for in a man is sexual ambiguity.'” (71)

1) I hate Dr. Phil

2) If women weren’t into sexual ambiguity, David Bowie would never get laid.

Dr. Phil then goes on to describe “The Many Faces of Desperation.” It’s kind of like “The Three Faces of Eve” but with less screeching and more misogyny. Dr. Phil notes that a main reason a woman is single is if she is “an independent woman,” someone who “make(s) your own money. You’re used to being the boss. You don’t play second fiddle to any guy.”

Men, “like to at least feel they have some control,” they “don’t like to acknowledge their needs,” are “capable of serious commitment, but do sometimes respond to competitive territorial protection like an alpha male trying to dominate the herd.” Finally, “Men need to clearly perceive why they are needed.” Wow, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think a man was some kind of sheep dog with low self-esteem. Dr. Phil, why are you trying to make me hate dogs? That’s just wrong.

“Let’s just cut to the chase. When you’re sitting there with your date discussing the latest contestant to be voted off the reality TV show of the moment, you’re not really interested in his thoughts on the world of television. What you really want to know is ‘Do I like him a little or a lot and will this guy marry me if that is what I want, how does he feel about having children and is he going to treat me well?’ Correct?” (207)

Well, here’s what I was thinking:

“Let’s cut to the chase. When Eileen is sitting there with her date discussing the latest contestants to be voted off the reality TV show of the moment, Eileen isn’t really interested in her dates thoughts on the world of television. What she really wants to know is, “Why hasn’t someone smacked Dr. Phil upside the head? It really wouldn’t be too hard. Sure he’s tall, but I think it would be worth it since he’s basically implying that women were put on this earth to shoot out babies like a gumball machine.”

Trite, insufficient and pretty much an insult to women (and even men) all over the world, Dr. Phil’s book does have one sentence of truth to it. When discussing internet dating, Dr. Phil states on page 189, “I’m glad these matchmaking sites weren’t around before I met Robin. With such a huge network out there and with all the choices she’d have, I probably wouldn’t have stood a chance!” When the author of a “how to meet your soul mate” book doubts his own abilities, that certainly leads to some deeper thought. It could be fair to say that love is sometimes more by chance then by choice. But if Dr. Phil admitted that, he wouldn’t have any cars to sell.

The Sum of My Feelings, Delicately Expressed


Eileen has a Master’s Degree in Professional Writing and Editing from George Mason University. Frequent target of fallen angels, Eileen hides from their seductive wrath in the hallowed confines of Defenestration HQ, where she hopes to erect a wall of words between herself and the forces of evil.

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