Playing It Cool Isn’t Cool Anymore
I was back home on my first summer break in college when I met Amy. I was 18 years old, rushing around the mall trying to find a gift for my newborn cousin. Amy was a kind-hearted brunette, willing to help a flustered (and charming) stranger find a gift for a five-day-old baby girl. I insisted that she give me a chance to repay her kindness, so she gave me her number.
When I got to my uncle’s house that Saturday afternoon, I was happy to tell my family about the cute girl who had helped me pick out the gift I’d brought. Almost immediately, the question was asked, “So how long are you going to wait to call her?”
My uncle chimed in, as if on cue, “Tuesday, Dan.”
I immediately agreed, telling my younger cousins, “Uncle Mike’s right–gotta play it cool at first.” And I believed this.
This was 1999. Amy had written her number down on the back of my Babies-R-Us receipt. She hadn’t entered it into my cell phone, because neither of us had a cell phone. My cousins didn’t ask me when I would text her, because “texting” wasn’t even a verb yet. When I decided I was going to pick up the phone and call Amy, I literally picked up the house phone, dialed a (1) before her area code, and hoped that she would be the one to pick up on the other end. This really wasn’t that long ago.
On that Tuesday when I finally did call, I gently reminded Amy who I was, and she definitely remembered me. We went out a few times before realizing that we had very little in common besides dark hair and newborn cousins, and we amicably decided to go our separate ways.
Fast-forward to 2005.
I had just broken up with my college girlfriend of four years and was now a man of sophistication. I had two college degrees, my own apartment, and a wealth of sexual experience garnered from two college campuses and a four-year committed relationship. I was, in a word, capital-T Trouble.
That’s when I met Christine. We were waiting in the deli line of Shop-Rite, and we realized that we knew many of the same people. This time, there was no pen-scrawled receipt. Christine entered her number into my cell phone. I graciously accepted and thought to myself, “Gotta play it cool. Three days.” And I still believed this.
What I didn’t want to believe was that I had been out of the game for too long. I was driving home from work when I called Christine on that Wednesday, and it went to her voicemail. I put on my slickest cool-guy voice and said something like, “Hey, it’s Dan–give me a call when you get this.”
Three hours later, I got a text message saying simply, “WHO IS THIS??”
Undeterred, I immediately pushed “send” on my cell phone to give her a call. When her voicemail picked up again, I suspected something had gone awry. Three more calls over the next 24 hours confirmed another thing I didn’t want to believe: she was avoiding me.
The moral of my story? Playing it cool doesn’t work anymore. Playing it cool used to mean that I was too busy to get to the phone or had too much going on during a particular day to call a girl back. I would say things like, “I was helping my brother move furniture,” or “I had a lacrosse game down the shore.”
And these were perfectly reasonable excuses for me not to call. After all, who could get to a phone under those circumstances?
Not anymore. Now I can log on to three different websites before I even get out of bed in the morning. By the time I sit at my desk to start work, I’ve read more than 30 emails and responded to probably half of them. I get texts from friends in England, Canada, and California just seconds after they’ve hit “send.” If I were still on Facebook, I could probably tell you what three of my friends ate for breakfast on any given morning.
There is no such thing as downtime anymore. Today, we are always connected, we are always plugged in, we are always able to reach out and touch someone. And that also means that we have no excuses not to be in touch with potential love interests.
Playing it cool has become too obvious for what it really is: a contrived attempt to be aloof.
Uncle Mike might not agree, but now, when I meet a girl and get her number, I text her the next day. Nothing big–just something intentionally short and funny to get a response. If I happen to get lucky and sleep with a girl, she’ll get a phone call within 24 hours. Again, nothing big–just a quick, light conversation that may or may not serve as a little reassurance that she’s not a ho for banging me.
Of course, I don’t need to smother a girl, either. When I first meet someone, I have a strict one text/call per day policy. Playing it cool might have worked once upon a time, but I’m pretty sure being annoyingly needy has never been cool.
Not that I would know from experience or anything….