I've been with my boyfriend for most of my adult life, since I was 20 years old and a junior in college.
Since I started having sex quite wantonly and frequently at 13 (gasp! pearl grab!), I am still more experienced than most people in the bedroom arts.
But when it comes to dating, I did most of it during a period of a few months between breaking up with my high-school boyfriend and becoming exclusive with my current one. I was thin for the first time in my life, euphoric to be free of a bad relationship that had been threatening to drive me steadily into the ground, and single in New York City. Trust, I did a lot of dating.
And I was great at it, too, which I why I feel qualified to take calls like the one I got from my good friend Heidi a few weeks ago, who was freaking out over her new relationship. She's been dating this hot mf-er for about three months and thinks she's falling in love with him, but she doesn't know that status of their relationship. She wants to ask him, but is scared to.
"I just don't want to be the crazy girl who's all like, 'What are we doing here?' she wailed, in agony.
Of course, that's not crazy. It's normal, both to develop feelings for someone you've been having dinner followed by sex with for three months, and to want to know if you're exclusive.
But I related, because in my brief dating experience, I was a consummate game player. Because here's a secret they never tell you: The best time to date is when you are totally emotionally unavailable. Thats when it's fun!
You’ve probably all heard of “The Rules,” the kind of creepy/conservative snag-a-husband book that gives women a guidebook for dating. Charlotte on "Sex and the City" was a "Rules girl."
Some of the rules include “Don’t accept a Saturday night date after Wednesday,” “Don’t call him and rarely return his calls,” and in a nod to modernity, “When using personal ads or dating services, place the ad and let him respond to you."
Yes, it's Stepford-y and dishonest. Also, IT WORKS.
It’s just human nature to be interested in those who are less interested in us; isn’t it ALWAYS the guys you have no interest in who are the most persistent? When someone we like seems to like us too much, we feel superior and lose respect for them, but when someone we like doesn’t like us enough we feel inferior and struggle for their affections.
It's ancient feminine voodoo magic and you don't have to like it, but you can't deny it.
People who don’t return calls, accept last-minute dates, or chase after love interests are usually independent, confident, and busy, which are good traits.
The gross thing about the Rules (besides some of the more personality-quashing suggestions like “Don’t be too funny” and “Men like women with long hair") is that instead of becoming independent, confident and busy, Rules Girls just want to trick men into thinking they are while they’re actually sitting by the phone. The Rules also presume all women are looking for a husband, when obviously some of us are looking for two-night stands or one of those really intense two-week relationships where everybody gets carried away and says stuff they later realize was totally untrue like "I love you."
Since I was determined not to become entangled in another of my already-endemic long-term relationships with people I didn't like that much, my emotional unavailability was half-real. But I quickly learned to feign it in all aspects of my interactions with the opposite sex.
I wouldn't call a man if I wasn't calling him back. I never wanted to appear to care too much, to be jealous, or eager, or insecure. I definitely would never say "I love you" first or initiate a talk about the future of our relationship. (One of the "rules" I never followed was the one about not rushing into sex. I did the Slutty Rules.)
Again, most of this was organic. I didn't accept last-minute dates because I was dating most of the tri-state area and was genuinely booked up by Wednesday. I didn't see anyone I was dating more than once or twice a week because I was dating more than one person, and also had an awesome and busy life.
But, like Heidi, I would have had a panic attack at the idea of revealing my feelings, even the fact that I actually had them, to a man I was seeing. I believe that "The Rules" work. That doesn't make them healthy.
I was lucky enough to meet a uniquely amazing man during this time period who saw through my bullshit and called me on it, who didn't need to be tricked into treating me well. I'm sure a lot of my craziness is masked by that fact; I'd be a train wreck out there.
But I gave Heidi what I think is the right advice: to talk to (not text!) the guy about what she's feeling, as terrifying as it may be. Because one thing I'm pretty sure of is that emotional unavailability is not sustainable for a lifetime, at least not a happy one.
Can we keep it real about the games we play in relationships, or are you bitches gonna pretend you're above all that? Do you have dating "rules"?