I recently ran into a friend of mine right after she had encountered a guy who has been flirting with her for the past few weeks. Watching the two of them interact, it’s obvious that he’s into her: the minute she enters the room he turns all of his attention to her, he never runs out of things to say when they’re talking, he finds a ton of small ways to touch her—and he teases her relentlessly. Most of the time their banter is a major turn-on, because it shows how quick and witty he is and it always keeps her on her toes thinking of the perfect comeback. It’s this fun little game that the two of them play together, and it’s exclusively theirs. Other times, though, it totally sucks. “Why,” my friend asked when I ran into her, “does he always scowl at me like that?”
It’s the oldest trick in the book, really. We like people who provoke us, who make us think, who drive us crazy. According to that great tome of dating advice, Wikipedia, “Challenges (teasing, questions, qualifying, feigned disinterest) serve to increase tension.” A brief Google search returns literally millions of results with instructions on how to play hard to get. eHow.com outlines five easy steps: 1) Flirt with your guy like crazy, but make sure that he sees you flirting with other guys, too; 2) Wait a day before calling him back—not too long and not too short, it’s the perfect amount of time to keep him guessing; 3) Only answer his calls and texts every other time—that way, you only appear “partially interested”; 4) If you feel the need to actually ask the victim of your affections on a date, opt for a group outing but never a one-on-one thing. Step 5, the sneakiest one of all, instructs that you “Tell one of his friends you are interested in him, but tell another friend you don’t want a relationship. This will send him a mixed message, which ultimately makes you look hard to get. He won’t know if you are really ‘into’ him or if it’s just a rumor.”
Somehow, I’m not sure that this is the best way to go about wooing Mr. Right.
The implication of this confounding plan seems to be that the harder we have to work to win someone over, the greater the payoff. It seems ironic, though, that our first recourse when we like someone is to act as though we don’t like them. How many times have I waited for hours to text back a guy I’m into just so he won’t think that I’ve been obsessively waiting for my phone to vibrate? How many times have I walked right by a dude I’m crushing on just so he won’t have a clue? And then, of course, he doesn’t have a clue, and he starts dating someone else! It’s preposterous! Yet, I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s never done it. I mean, hey, it worked for this girl, didn’t it?
A while ago, I told myself that I would stop playing these inane and often ill-fated games. When someone texted me, I would text back right away. When I saw someone I thought was cute, I would make a point of saying hi. I always list honesty as one of the things I am most looking for in a relationship, so why not be honest? (The number of emails I would have sent saying “I miss you” to the current object of my heartache, for one thing…) The problem is that we’ve all been conditioned not to show interest. The other day as I was walking to the library I saw a guy that I’ve danced with a few times at parties. Just some minor flirtation, that’s all. I looked over to greet him, and he was looking at some imaginary point in the far, far off distance. It wasn’t that he was pretending not to see me—he was pretending that I wasn’t there at all! So much for trying to be up front about things. In a way, I guess, playing hard to get is safer: you never have to admit that something suggestive and potentially embarrassing is going on. Safer, yes, but it seems to me that both giving and getting compliments could be a lot more fun.
Well, that’s all for now—I’m off to not return a few text messages!