I used to play games. I’d wait to text back. I’d pretend I was busier than I actually was. I made it seem like I wasn’t that interested, when the truth was, I had already conjured up a dozen romantic ways I wanted to propose.
It required a lot of work. A lot of white (or flat-out) lies. I doubt it was in any way helping my self-esteem, and it definitely wasn’t helping with my anxiety. It worked – sometimes – but never long-term.
The thing is: When you play hard to get, there’s no future when you’re finally got. Your allure wasn’t your personality or your charm but that you were unattainable. People like attaining the unattainable. People like working hard for something and then getting it. But once you’re got, they’re done.
So I stopped playing games.
Instead, I tried the opposite. Instead of initially rejecting other folks, making them work to see, date or sleep with me, I gave them the opportunity to reject me easily and without any guilt.
This wasn’t a premeditated plan, per se. I didn’t think to myself before my first Tinder date: “Let me tell him if he doesn’t like me, I won’t be upset, and he should carry on his merry way.” But what I did know was that I was tired of the limbo period that comes after a good first date. I was tired of having to wait and see whether he wanted to hang out again. I was tired of getting my hopes up, only for them to be dashed a week later. While I, of course, couldn’t demand commitment, I think it is fair to ask for at least some level of clarity. That’s exactly what I did.
This one date wasn’t particularly memorable. At the time, I remember liking him and wanting to see him again. I vaguely remember his Harry Potter glasses and the way he boyishly combed his cherry-blond hair to the side. I also remember that I couldn’t determine whether he was into me or being polite. The date lasted only 60 minutes. Given all the mediocre duds I had met via dating apps, I figured an OK first date absolutely deserved a second.
As he was leaving, we were doing the usual routine: “This was fun – I’d like to do this again sometime.” I couldn’t tell whether he meant it or was simply going through the motions. I wanted to have a tad more clarity before leaving. So after we said goodbye, I followed up with: “I also realise you have a lot on your plate with graduate school right now, so if you can’t hang out, no worries.”
He thanked me for understanding and said he’d let me know. Not exactly the clarity I had hoped to achieve, but I was still glad I said something.
A couple days later, when I hadn’t heard anything, I texted him, asking if he wanted to grab drinks later that week.
His response was quick: “Hey, I think you were right and I have a lot on my plate right now. I’m super swamped this week with school work, and don’t think I can hang out for a while. It was great meeting you!”
I wasn’t sure I believed him. He realised, conveniently after our first date, that he actually was too swamped? It seemed more likely that he wasn’t into me at all.
I went back and forth, arguing with myself as to whether he was genuinely too busy or simply didn’t like me. Finally, after being caught in an obsessive loop for what felt like hours, I told myself he was too busy.
Was it delusional? Somewhat, but I was OK with that. If that’s what I needed to do to protect my ego, so be it.
So that’s what I started to do. Now, whenever I give someone my number, ask someone out on a date or talk after a first date, I always give the person an easy way to reject me. Everyone has a lot going on in their lives, so it’s always easy to come up with some reason they can’t hang out. Sometimes it’s specific: “I know you mentioned you just got out of a serious relationship, so I completely understand if this is too soon.” And other times, it’s more generic. “I know you’re busy with work so …”
Saying this has treated me pretty well. It not only gives them an easy way out and protects my ego, but it also lets the other person know that I’m interested without coming on too strong. It lets them know I’m not willing to wait around for them. It’s honest on my behalf and puts the ball in their court. However, because of the way I opened myself up to rejection, they’re not penalised for not taking the shot. They can put the ball down and simply walk off the court.
It has made dating a tad bit more tolerable, too. And anything to accomplish that is solid gold in my book.