I know how to play the games.
I get it.
The: wait-at-least-ten-minutes-before-texting-back, never-make-yourself-look-too-eager, give-him-a-little-hint-about-who-you-are, but-never-give-him-too-much; the: don’t-be-too-sweet, never-be-corny, and never-ever-make-him-realize-you-actually-like-him – kind of games.
I don’t know where we learned these games. Perhaps the cell phone industry created them for us, to keep our text messages frequent and our phone bills high. Or maybe we created them for ourselves, in order to feel as if we were always in a position of power. But no matter how you look at it, those games have always been the norm, and not just for me, but for my friends as well. Deciphering text messages and attempting to infer the tone of our crushes was our vice. It was what kept us up at night, talking into the late hours of slumber parties. It is what woke us up early in the mornings, hoping beyond hope that a new text message from our crush would be waiting; waiting to tell us that “player two” was still playing. But as the years went on half-assed feelings and dismissive text messages started to seem like just that – dismissive.
I have always been an expressive person, so holding back when it came to the person I was interested in seemed silly to me. I was sick of the games and sick of the douchebags who played them, so I decided to conduct a little experiment.
The experiment was simple: I was quite literally going to stop playing the games. Now, this was a ballsy move. Taking yourself out of the games, while the rest of the world was still playing, is a risk, and as I was soon going to discover, a high one.
The rules were as follows: I wasn’t going to wait forever to send a text message, I would call instead of text when it seemed appropriate, I would say the things I wanted to say and I was going to find out if a person I actually liked knew how I felt about them, if they would still feel the same way.
It wasn’t easy at first. The thought of texting my crush back too soon literally made me cringe. The calling thing made me anxious, too. I couldn’t get the thought, “he is going to think I’m so fucking desperate,” out of my head.
But I persisted. I was on a mission. A mission to prove to myself, and to others, that our world of romance and courtship didn’t revolve around dating games, and was instead made up of a genuine interest in one another.
Well, the plan backfired. I tried out this “more honest” approach on two guys: one who I had known for a while, a person I had developed genuine feelings for, even though we had kind of a rocky past, and the other was a random person whose lips I ran into one night at a bar.
I don’t even know if I have to explain to you how my honest approach with these guys blew up in my face. Two guys, two different relationships, two very similar endings. It happened just as you could imagine it would. I texted back right away — they waited five hours; I asked them questions about their life — they thought I was getting too attached; I told them things about my life — they thought I was needy; I called them just to talk — they thought I was a freak.
Needless to say, after my two attempts caused my crushes to run for the hills, I stopped experimenting. But that’s the thing about an experiment – successful or not, you always learn something.
There was a Spaniard in the 18th century, Giacomo Casanova who was coined: “the original womanizer.” This man was regarded as an expert in his “craft.” A man who could bend any woman to his will. The ultimate player. It turned out that his game was not so different from the game this generation is oh so familiar with. His game was simple, he would lead girls on, share little details about himself, and in return, listen as the women shared their deepest secrets about themselves. Then when he had them at their most vulnerable, he would disappear from their lives. This elusiveness caused women to go absolutely insane. It made them fall madly in love with him; madly in love with this mysterious, elusive and dismissive man.
Who knows, maybe you need to keep a little bit of mystery about you in order to keep your crushes coming back for more. Maybe it is as simple as: “we want what we can’t have so even if you want it too you should pretend like you don’t, at least for a little while.”
Or maybe this game playing is exactly that – a game. A set of actions that have seeped their way into our heads and stuck there. Perhaps we have become so attached to these rules we abide by, that we have forgotten how to truly get to know one another.
If you look back, you’ll find that even Giacomo Casanova, the original womanizer, the inventor of “the game” died alone and loveless. He knew how the play the game, but false love doesn’t have staying power.
Perhaps it’s time to throw away the game-book and go back to the basics. Maybe it’s high-time we stop thinking that an elusive attitude and a nonchalant interest in one another leads to love. Because how are we ever supposed to make connections, if we’re too scared to connect?