Sometimes, “For Dummies” isn’t just branding. Like in Branding For Dummies.
I’ve always had a knee-jerk negative feeling toward the “For Dummies” series of books. I don’t find it disarming or comforting. I find it condescending to me and belittling to the content of the book.
If I’m buying a research book, it’s because (1) I want to increase my knowledge about a certain topic and (2) I’m intelligent enough to believe I can read about said topic, process the material I’m reading and increase my skill set.
I don’t want to spend my entire book reading experience being reminded that I’m too much of a dummy to inherently understand the topic I’m reading about.
Of course, the ultimate theory of the “For Dummies” books is that they’re not at all for dummies — they’re for a person with regular or above-average intelligence who happens to be a novice when it comes to a certain topic and wants to read a plain-English, simplified primer on that topic.
Except for a few cases. I dug through the epic list of “For Dummies” books to find the ones I think could actually be geared toward dummies… and would only be purchased by said dummies. And I took the liberty of writing out my guess on how the first few paragraphs of each of those books goes…
“Thank you for buying the second edition of this book! The first edition was called ‘How to Make Sure Your Kid Isn’t As Dumb As You for Dummies’… but we had a feeling this was more marketable. So let’s jump right in.
“Step one: If you’re currently pregnant, put down the scotch. Step two: If you’ve already had the kid, put down the scotch. Step three: If your kid comes home from school, excitingly talking about a book, historical event or math concept, don’t call him a homo and quickly turn on any show on Fox.”
“In the Venn diagram of beekeeping and dummies, the circles almost entirely overlap. What’s a Venn diagram? What’s a circle? Don’t worry. All you’ve got to worry about is that you don’t mind spending every day at work having vicious, angry bees jamming their stingers into every inch of your stung.
“Now, if you are allergic to bees, you should probably stop reading here.”
3 | IBS for Dummies
“Odds are, you’re reading this on the toilet.”
“Astrology is great. Of course, it’s for dummies, because non-dummies only believe in actual, logical religions. That’s just the way it’s always been, for all of the few thousand years the planet’s been around. Yes, when Jesus was out back feeding his pet dinosaur he would gaze up at the stars, but he never used the fact that he was a Capricorn to try to pick up women at bars.”
“So you’ve been hearing a lot about green living, and you bought this book to learn more. Very nice. First, put down that paintbrush. Green living does not involve painting all the walls in your house green. But it will take screwing in some special, energy efficient lightbulbs. How many dummies does it take to screw in an energy efficient lightbulb? You and your family are about to find out!”
“Next time you’re distracted by something shiny — and, let’s be honest, that happens hourly — instead of just looking at it for a while with a look that reflects a mix of confusion, intrigue, hunger and bewilderment, pick it up. Now bite it. If you do not taste chocolate, put it in your pocket — preferably one without a hole in it — and take it home.”
“Thinking is hard. And it can make your head hurt. But sometimes, your head hurts when you’re not thinking. And if it hurts a lot — like, a lot a lot — then you might be getting migraines.”
8 | Sex for Dummies
“Please try to stop having so much of it. Especially without protection. Pulling out doesn’t count. Either does the women-on-top position. Or that anti-AIDS amulet you bought from a gypsy traveling through town.”
“So you’ve got your metal rod. You’ve shaped the end in a cool pattern, quite possibly your initials. You’ve got all your cows lined up.
“We’ve got some bad news. This book is all about how to make people 32-49 associate the name of your company with a sense of luxury and privilege. Half of the chapters are about fonts and colors.”
“You’re unhappy with something about your body. Maybe it’s your breasts. Your thin lips. Your chins. Your second toe that’s longer than your big toe. So you’ve decided to cash in the kids’ college fund and get that taken care of.
“Before you do, remember: Making yourself more attractive on the outside won’t fix anything on the inside. Just because you’re filled with silicone doesn’t mean you’ll be less hollow.
“You’re still on board? Of course you are. OK. You’ll need to find a reputable surgeon. The big secret: You will not find him in Mexico. Yes, he’s offering a breast enhancement for $50 each. That’s because your breasts will be filled with a mix of mercury and carne asada.”
“It sure is.”