There are times when, upon revisiting an old work of literature, the lack of political correctness can make it almost unreadable (e.g. William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew–though it is still immensely watchable in 10 Things I Hate About You form). This is not the case with Zsa Zsa Gabor’s 1970 “guide”/”autobiography,” How To Catch A Man, How To Keep A Man, How To Get Rid of A Man. The things she says of both men and women would never have made it to print with a major or even small press today. And yet, most of what she writes remains completely accurate with regard to male and female relationships.
Equal parts offensive toward men and women, Zsa Zsa wastes no time in suggesting strategies for how a female can make herself more desirable to the male, and first and foremost on the list is, essentially: don’t be intelligent. Or at least don’t let on that you are. In the How to Attract a Man segment that begins on page 49, Zsa Zsa commences with the “Bosoms Over Brains” rule, in which she states, “The best way to attract a man immediately is to have a magnificent bosom and a half-size brain and let both of them show.” In truth, it can’t be denied that, as Zsa Zsa asserts, “Men adore helpless women, because they can do anything they want to them, and the women just say thank you. Helpless women also make a man feel superior. And men love that.” In many ways, this is all too pertinent to the current so-called “president-elect,” Donald Trump and his tailored for Bible Belt Americans wife, Melania Trump. She acts the part of dullard, looks attractive while doing it and rarely has to perform any tasks beyond speech plagiarizing and making occasional public appearances that prove she’s having sex with the Donald (even though we all know she’s not). Alas, it is just as Zsa Zsa tells it: “The only place men want depth in a woman is in her décolletage.”
An entire chapter on “The Species of the Male” breaks down all the key ethnicities by country–of course, leaving plenty of room to cause offense in the twenty-first century. Though Zsa Zsa finds American men to be among the best for marrying, she admits, “they are often too nice… I feel sorry for American men and for their wives, too. As they said in The Secret of Santa Vittoria, ‘It is a sad house where the cock is silent and the hen makes all the noise.'”
But regardless of what nationality a woman settles on, Zsa Zsa, no matter what, “consider[s] jealousy an important part of romance.” She further insists, “As a European I understand jealousy. I was brought up on it. I believe, in fact, that where there is real love and real attraction, a man has to be jealous and so does a woman.” And while there are some milquetoasts now who believe that not being the jealous type simply means you’re evolved on the Goop level, one has to admit that Zsa Zsa’s wisdom probably still holds true on this one, too.
Where it does not, on the other hand, is when she declares, “Making marriage work is the woman’s job. The man should be busy earning a wonderful living and he won’t have time to think about how to improve a marriage he’s not even too interested in to begin with.” Although relegating all the responsibility and blame to the woman in the late mid-twentieth century might have been acceptable then, it certainly wouldn’t fly with most women now, unless, again, you count Melania Trump. Zsa Zsa digs herself deeper into an antiquated hole by adding, “As far as sports and arguments and mostly everything except bringing up children, a woman can only win if she loses.”
One thing that can be said of Zsa Zsa’s ability to be bold and candid as a result of the time period her book was published in is that her misogyny as a woman is rather admirable for its honesty. She guffaws, “I never go out with women in the evening. I’d rather shoot myself.” Because what’s the point of keeping female company when it’s either 1) only going to detract from your trolling abilities or 2) going to mean more competition for you if you happen to be with a man already? So Zsa Zsa iterates, “As I have always said, ‘Three’s company, but four’s an orgy.’ And orgies are not good for anybody–except Fellini, who films them just beautifully.”
But Zsa Zsa’s political incorrectness doesn’t stop at gender roles either. It also extends to classism. While it’s evident that discrimination against one’s social standing still runs rampant now, it’s more whitewashed than it ever was when you could at least freely admit it–just as Zsa Zsa does in shrugging, “You know, money goes where money is. People only lend you money if you are rich. The rich even get more presents than the poor. We always treat the rich better.”
Her over the topness in calling out her own wealth would never go over so well today, as she tongue-in-cheekly gives us “thrift hints” in the segment on page 106 entitled Waste Not. These hints include, “When you open a new five pound can of Beluga caviar and you are not able to eat it all right away, put what’s left over back into your refrigerator, where it will keep for five days, then you will always have nice fresh caviar ready.” Such mockery would not be taken as “humorous” in a time where we seem to be constantly on the brink of a class war.
But at least Zsa Zsa brings it back to what this book is really all about, which is love–or at least loving a man for the money he can give you. No, no, it’s not really like that. Zsa Zsa at least loved, at the bare minimum, George Sanders for a time, admitting, “No one can ever hurt you as much as a man you once loved and who once loved you.”
By the How To Get Rid of A Man portion, Zsa Zsa has fully let all of her frank opinions hang out. And they continue to do so in “Men Who Are Poor Divorce Risks,” a section in which Zsa Zsa highlights the worst offenders for both marrying and divorcing, chief among them mama’s boys, who “make dreadful husbands, and what’s worse, they will be perfectly useless to you as ex-husbands… If you are unfortunate enough to fall in love with a mama’s boy, the only thing you can do is take him to a psychoanalyst. If you can’t get him cured, then you have to send him back to mama with a nice big red ribbon around him with your best wishes and forget that you ever met him.”
Artists, she notes, might be worse: the “problem with artists is that they’re always poor,” plus “no woman…can win out when she is competing for a man’s attention with his precious muse.” In this instance, it’s likely that no The Opiate writer or aspirant would make the cut for marriage.