Friday, May 9, 2008

Don't Hate The Player OR The Game. Hate Both.

I wasn’t kidding yesterday when I said Single Allie loves to text message boys. At the height of my singledom, in just one month, I came in at a whopping 5,267 messages. That’s roughly 169 texts a day. When I got that bill I felt a mixture of pride and self-loathing. But mostly pride. What can I say? I’m an excellent communicator, even if my thumbs go a little numb sometimes.

But something as simple as communicating via text, phone, or even e-mail for that matter, takes on a whole new dynamic when there’s sexuality involved. Let’s be honest, when boys and girls interact, it becomes a game. But every game has to have rules. So where do we turn to for these?

Well I’m about to sell out my gender (sorry ladies) by telling you that there’s actually a book called “The Rules.” My copy is seven years old now. It’s been dog-eared, highlighted, and lent out numerous times.

Unfortunately, “The Rules” can seem a tad misogynistic, and might even set women back a hundred years with credos like “Rule #5: Don’t call him and rarely return his calls” and “Rule #7: Don’t accept a Saturday night date after a Wednesday.” But when The Ex and I broke up and I suddenly found myself back in the dating world, I used them as a refresher course as to how to play the game. Then when a guy I refer to as The Billionaire expressed interest in me, and I sort of felt out of my comfort zone, I followed them to the letter. I figured, why not?

I never initiated a text conversation and I always let him have the last word. I patiently waited for him to ask me on a date, which he finally did. Slowly, things progressed just the way the book said it would, until – gasp – I broke down and gave him head (hey that’s my go-to move.) In doing so, I totally broke “Rule #9: How to Act on Dates 1, 2, and 3.” And once you break "The Rules," you can’t go back and start over, it’s an all-or-nothing practice.

As it turned out, The Billionaire and I were better off as friends and I still see him from time to time in that capacity. I’m glad I never slept with him (at least I followed Rule #15: Don’t rush into sex) because it’s easier for us to maintain a congenial relationship without that awkward “we’ve seen each other completely naked” tension.

So while The Rules have their merits if you’re willing to banish your libido, I’ve found that a modified version devised by myself and my friend CK works best for me. The AB/CK Rules mostly have to do with the practice of text-flirting, something that didn’t even exist as an issue when “The Rules” were first written in 1996.

Here are some examples:

When a guy you like sends you a text, we call that “having the ball.” That means the power is momentarily on your side and how you decide to use it could have a butterfly effect on the entire interaction. We try to hold on to the ball for as long as we can (a power play, if you will) until we’ve come up with the perfect response. Then we throw the ball back, and immediately call each other for moral support, counting the minutes until it’s returned to our side of the court. We have a strict policy against double-texting (i.e., sending a second text before the first one has been answered) because that implies desperation. We respect – and expect – that texts without questions in them will not always be answered. Yes, I know this all sounds ridiculous to some of you guys. But girls, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So the AB/CK Rules seem to work, or at least we’ve convinced ourselves they do, and that’s good enough to keep us going and keep us sane.

However, a book that I’ve mentioned here called “Better Single Than Sorry,” says you should never start playing those games to begin with. Jen Schefft is the author, she of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette fame. She won the heart of millionaire Andrew Firestone but then dumped him. As The Bachelorette she turned down the proposals of not one, but two hotties. And then she dated Chicago’s nightlife impresario Billy Dec. Clearly, the girl knows how to pick 'em.

In her book, my friend Jen (I’ve only met her once but I like to call her my friend) writes:

“Whenever I’ve tried to follow one of those play-hard-to-get rules….instead of ending up with a boyfriend, I’m left with a massive headache.”

“There is a lot be said for not forcing yourself on someone. Think about it: If a man calls you a millions times and you don’t call him back, there is a reason. When that happens to me, I cringe every time his name pops up on my phone or e-mail. Reverse the situation and ask yourself, Do you want to be that girl he’s cringing at?”

“When I’m in the getting-to-know-you stage, I go with what feels right and I don’t stress about it. I want to be myself. Even more important, I just want to be…Always remember, that as a confident woman, you don’t need to play games. Be happy with you and everything else will fall into place.”

My friend Jen makes some good points. In the beginning of any relationship, it’s good to believe that less is more when it comes to communication. It can be kind of exciting to wait for the boy you like to text you, and if you actually called or e-mailed him every time you really wanted to, you’d look like a stalker. Moreover, some guys get turned off by girls that play hard to get in such an obvious manner. A boy’s ego is a powerful but fragile thing, and if he thinks you’re not interested (say by not calling him and rarely returning his calls) he goes into self-preservation mode and will move on in effort to save face.

Finally, if you’re always playing the game, or following “The Rules,” then you don’t get a real sense of what the relationship is actually about. Jen says:

“[When] my friends end up falling in love…There is zero game playing. Neither party is worried about doing or saying the right thing. You’re acting completely like yourself. You give that person as much time and attention as you want; your actions are not calculated. All the usual dating nonsense – like trying to figure out what it means when he says ‘Bye’ as opposed to ‘Talk to you later’ – doesn’t get in the way.”

The truth is, we no longer live in the age when it’s inappropriate for a woman to call a man or ask him out. However, a little demureness never hurt anyone either, and by waiting for the guy to initiate the situation, you know he’s doing it because he wants to, not because he felt bad turning you down. So I’ve decided to abandon “The Rules” when I start dating again. If I find someone with whom I can communicate openly and who doesn’t make me want to play games, well then I just might be onto something. But that doesn’t mean I’m never going to wait a few minutes before texting him back. That gives me time to think, and it makes him want it more. After all, in the dating world, guys already have two balls. So as a girl, sometimes it’s good to hold onto one.


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