few months ago, to my delight and utter shock, I found myself dating a bona fide gem. Determined not to “mess this one up,” I did everything I could to play my cards right. I gave him space when he needed it, was careful not to call too often, and more or less stayed away from (as my best male friend put it) “any psycho girlfriend moves.” Then, seemingly out of nowhere, on a sunny Thursday afternoon, I received The Breakup Call.
When I complained about this turn of events to a good friend, she told me I’d been “too available” throughout our relationship. I replied that I did so because I genuinely liked spending time with him and I wasn’t interested in making up fictional plans in order to keep him waiting. Self-righteously, I stated that I had very little interest in playing games. She suggested I rethink my plan. “A little game-playing never hurt anyone,” she told me.
Which got me to thinking: Can two people create a healthy relationship without game-playing, or is it a necessary evil to instill a little excitement? Have the rules of the game changed in the past few years? A quick poll of my savvy single friends and experts revealed that yes, I had a lot to learn. Here’s a rundown:
Rule #1: Game-playing can be exciting, not evil
For starters, my friends told me that I had to get over the idea that games are for insecure, manipulative liars out to destroy the self-esteem of singles everywhere. Without game-playing, they argued, dating can actually get pretty dull. Just think: If you get a call or e-mail back from someone immediately, where’s the fun in that? Sure, it can seem cruel to
make someone wait (or wait yourself), but take it for what it is: a delicious dose of anticipation. It could pan out, or it could not. But either way, if a person does like you, he or she will call—it may just be a few days. What’s the rush? So I learned that I don’t need to accept an offer for a date tomorrow night, nor do I need to give my answer right away. Slowing down and being a bit unavailable can be good things.
|Without game playing, dating can get a bit dull. Just think: If you get a call back immediately, where’s the fun in that? |
Rule #2: Ladies, take his number
A close friend of mine, Natasha, has a hard and fast rule: Never give out your number, even to guys you like. A few nights ago while at dinner, I saw her wisdom at work when some guys at the next table began chatting us up. When one of them asked Natasha for her digits, she refused, but said she’d be more than glad to take his. “But when a girl takes your number that means she’s not going to call,” he argued. Natasha coyly replied, “It doesn’t mean I’m not going to call you, it just means that I have a choice in whether I’d like to talk to you or not. If I give you my number, I lose my right to vote.” Instantly, her suitor’s interest level leaped, and the reason is quite simple: She was playing her own version of hard to get. And he was very intrigued.
Rule #3: Guys—quit with the compliments
Men have been taught that women love compliments—and in many cases this is true. But in the early stages of dating, compliments can backfire, warns pickup guru Neil Strauss, best-selling author of The Game. Sure, telling her that you can’t take her eyes off of her is flattering, but she’ll ultimately be more interested if she doesn’t know she’s absolutely
|If you’re face-to-face with someone you’re dying to impress, it helps to have some tried-and-true “routines” at the ready. |
riveting. Instead, throw out a more questionable comment like, “Those are nice nails. Are they real?” or “I like your skirt—I’ve seen a few woman wearing that very thing recently.” Your goal is not to hurt your date, merely to make her question whether you’re really interested in her. If done right (note: never tell her she needs to lose weight), she’ll be eating out of your hand once you do follow up with a more sincere, “I’d love to see you again. How about Saturday?”
Rule #4: You don’t always have to be yourself
While it’d be nice to think that you can just “be yourself” on a date and always bowl someone over, let’s face it: No one’s scintillating 24/7. So if you’re face-to-face with someone you’re dying to impress, it can help to have some tried-and-true “routines” at the ready. A “routine” is any story from your life, eye-catching conversation topic, or party trick that always wins kudos from a crowd, says Strauss.
Take note of what’s worked in your own social interactions. Maybe you always get laughs when you regale people with a tale of the time you lost your car in a parking lot and wandered around for hours. Or maybe the question “I’m totally stumped about what to get my mom/dad for her/his birthday. Any ideas?” always gets people talking. These are the kinds of conversation starters you should have up your sleeve before heading to a party or off on a date. The way I look at it, this form of game-playing—plotting out ways to impress the object of your affection—can also just be seen as doing one’s prep work. Which is definitely an asset in the world of dating.
Natalie Krinsky is the author of Chloe Does Yale—and currently is not available for a date on the weekend if you call after Wednesday.
Tell us what you think: Has game-playing ever been a valuable tool for you in your love life? Or do you avoid it at all costs? Let us know what’s worked for you, and your comments may appear in a future issue of Happen.