How To Spot A Player
The subtle clues that your date likes to, well, date around.
he term “sinking stomach” doesn’t even begin to describe the moment when you realize that the person you’re on a date with — who seemed perfect in both their online profile and subsequent phone calls — is nothing but a cold-hearted player. If you’re looking for a serious relationship, you want to catch those clues sooner rather than later, before you fall too
hard for someone who’s only interested in passing dalliances. To help you do just that, here are some tips from Angelo Pezzote, a New York-based psychotherapist and author of syndicated advice column “Ask Angelo” (www.askangelo.com), which focuses on gay and lesbian issues. Watch out for the following:
|Yes, mystery can be attractive, but too much mystery usually spells trouble.|
1. Being too vague is a bad thing.
Of course, someone shouldn’t be expected to spill the beans about his or her whole life, especially on the first date. But if you sense too much vagueness and hesitation in conversation, your date could be a cover-up artist. “Watch out for the elusive person,” says Pezzote. “Yes, mystery can be attractive, but too much mystery usually spells trouble. If your love interest, after a few dates, still doesn’t want to open up about past relationships or can’t be pinned down regarding hopes for future relationships, consider it a warning sign.”
2. Beware of radical departures from the online profile.
It’s only human for someone to embellish on his or her best qualities a bit in an online dating profile. But in person, watch out for major inconsistencies. “Is the person’s profile radically different than real-life presentation? Or last week did this person say one thing about, say, summer plans, and this week it’s a completely different story?” says Pezzote. “This is rarely a good sign, and can mean your date is deceitful or hiding something.” In other words, this kind of person probably has a reason for cultivating those different personas and stories—he or she may be juggling more on the personal-life front than you’re aware of.
3. Your date is prone to last-minute cancellations.
It’s OK if someone bails on plans a few days in advance or calls 10 minutes later than he said he would, but anything more than that is suspect. “Canceling dates at the last minute, no-shows, tardiness, promised calls at seven o’clock that never come... When this happens, run the other way,” says Pezzote. “You deserve nothing less than respect and courtesy. It takes less than a minute to make a call and say, ‘I can’t make it.’ If your date doesn’t do this, you need to get the message: It’s all about that person, not you. You’re not a priority, though you may be one of several smaller ‘priorities’ in his or her life.”
4. Your date’s available only on certain days.
Work and other essential obligations aside, if someone’s always unavailable one specific evening or time of the week — most
notably, Friday or Saturday night — that’s an eyebrow-raiser. “If your date’s only available on certain days to be with you, he or she’s probably not that interested in you alone,” says Pezzote. “No matter how busy we are, when we want to be with someone, we make the time and the sacrifices to be with that person.”
|There’s something to be said for that initial “click” and feeling of honest connection.|
5. Be cautious of the date who never invites you to his or her place.
Obviously on the first few dates, it’s usually not protocol to spend time at someone’s house—but if you’re past the first couple of dates and your sweetie hasn’t invited you over, Pezzote says, “then you need to be concerned.” Perhaps there’s evidence of other relationships there... or perhaps your date is actually living with someone. That kind of situation isn’t so unusual in the world of the player.
6. Take note if your date recognizes and says hi to everyone in the immediate vicinity.
We’re not just talking about seeing the boss or a friend. We’re talking about the type of person who recognizes everyone, then hugs these ‘acquaintances’ a little too long... leading you to wonder if he or she has dated everyone in the neighborhood. “When everyone’s saying ‘Hey, honey,’ including you,” says Pezzote, “then maybe there’s too many names in this person’s little black book to remember.”
7. Keep your eyes on your sweetie’s cell phone.
That tiny cell phone can be hugely revealing, says Pezzote: “The cell phone rings during lunch. You ask, ‘Who was that?’ Your date says, ‘Oh, it’s no one.’ Trouble.” Cell-phone issues can pop up not only when you’re in person with your date, but when you’re calling later on the cellie: “If your sweetie always calls you, then when you call back, he or she always says ‘Can’t talk now, have to get back to you’… that’s risky business.”
8. And finally, trust your intuition.
This is a harder one to gauge, but it’s important. While it takes time to really get to know someone, there’s something to be said for that initial “click” and feeling of honest connection—if it’s not there, that might mean something. “In relationships, as in most other things, it’s important to remember that you do know what you like,” says Michael Longacre, an art director in New York. Sometimes you don’t click even if the person apart from you is matinee-idol attractive... and that might be your intuition kicking in, sensing some player vibes. And while you shouldn’t let such not-quite-right vibes lead you to sabotage yourself, you shouldn’t be hesitant to trust them, either. Self-protection can be a very valuable asset.
Stephen F. Milioti is a freelance writer and editor who contributes to New York and Salon. He’s dated more than one player and advocates the use of a lie-detector test on the first date.