How I Fucked Up My Own Game
In the foggy haze of a slightly hungover morning, I heard an earthy voice echo softly in my ear, “time to get up, Danny Boy.”
I buried my face into the strange, pink-fringed pillow I’d slept on while slowly realizing my own nakedness. I opened one eye to see an oddly darkened purple room that wasn’t mine. I realized pretty quickly that the wet lips on my ear and the warm breasts pressing against my back weren’t mine either.
My memories spread over me like syrup over pancakes, slow and sweet. I’d only met Maggie the night before, but here we were, in her bed at 5 AM on a Friday morning. I reached up to stroke her hair.
“Maggie,” I mumbled, “you’re a beautiful girl.” As I grabbed a handful of hair and pushed her face back down into her pillow, I continued, “but you’re a shitty alarm clock.”
She laughed. I grumbled. She pushed. I woke up. She made coffee. We kissed. I went all the way back to my house, showered, and went to work. Later, I gave her the “obligatory day-after” phone call, but it didn’t feel obligatory. Maggie responded with a text that she was at work. We made tentative plans in text conversation that we’d get together the following week.
I’d had plenty of one night stands before, but this didn’t feel like one. I wasn’t thinking about hanging out with Maggie, I was thinking about taking her on a date. I was legitimately excited about a woman for the first time in a while. And that’s exactly why I fucked things up.
How soon after meeting somebody new do we feel totally comfortable? How long does it take before we take off our cool and just be ourselves? There are a thousand different reasons why and when we decide to reveal ourselves, but the one constant criterion is that we need to be comfortable enough with our own feelings to let our guard down. Most of the miscommunication that causes men to think women are crazy and women to think men are idiots happens during that critical period between feeling an initial spark of interest and knowing for sure how we feel about the other person.
For me, dating is less about figuring out women than it is about figuring out myself.
If I’m not sure how much I like a girl, I’m not about to waste my time building up her expectations. I’m not going to call her and try to force a conversation or feign interest. I’m too old to be faking feelings just to get laid. More likely, I’ll text her a bit, get a sense of her personality, and see if I’m interested in learning more about her. If she’s not on my mind every day, I don’t contact her every day. If I don’t know how to respond to one of her messages, I simply won’t.
Some people would say this is “playing games” or “sending mixed messages.” I won’t argue with that. But I know that these types of “games” serve the larger purpose of uncovering and validating my feelings for somebody I may know close to nothing about.
When I am comfortable with a girl, there are no games or mixed messages. A text message isn’t an informal way of getting her attention and finding out if I like her. It’s just a text. A phone call isn’t an overly eager message to her that I’m interested in getting to know her. It’s me actually getting to know her. Or, at least, that’s what it should be.
Talking with Maggie the night we met, things felt different. Instead of talking about our lives, current events, or the usual trivial bullshit, Maggie and I talked about our passions. She’s a writer, and she’s been published in some very mainstream magazines. (If I used her real name, you could Google her.) We talked about ideas. We didn’t talk about movies we’d seen or bands we liked, we talked about directors we hated and underrated musical genres. She had wild, curly blond hair and a slightly crooked nose.
Within minutes, I was in love. And in hindsight, that was the problem.
We’d agreed to get together on Tuesday night. I knew Maggie was working on Monday, so I sent her a text asking if she was as excited for tomorrow as I was. I woke up on Tuesday morning to two texts. In the first, Maggie told me that she wouldn’t be able to make it that night. The second one said that she was just getting out of a relationship and isn’t ready to start dating again.
Was she lying? I don’t think so. Did that make it hurt any less? Absolutely not. Just as I haven’t been that excited over a girl in a while, I also hadn’t been let down this hard in an equally long time. Is this really how girls feel when I flake out with some half-assed excuse?
(Um, don’t answer that.)
Like any semi-fractured human being coming to terms with his own flaws, I obsessively checked all communications with her to see where I might have messed up. Wasn’t I charming? Check. Wasn’t I funny? Of course! Was my tone too flirtatious or not sexual enough? That’s crazy talk–I’m good at this. Very good at this. Could I really have screwed things up so royally? Was I *gulp* too desperate?
It sure looked like I was. We’d known each other for barely one week, and I was already sending her three text messages for every one she sent me. They were insanely charming and thoughtful text messages, mind you. But it was too much. I’d called her three times; she’d never called me back.
Then again, maybe desperate wasn’t the right word. I was hurt, but I wasn’t devastated. I hadn’t built her up into anything more than she actually was. I realized instead that I had felt too comfortable too quickly. I had been too sure of myself and my feelings that I didn’t give her enough time to figure out her own. That night and that morning in her bedroom, Maggie was into me. In ten days, I’d scared her away. I’d already finished the game before Maggie had a chance to start.
For me, dating is less about figuring out women than it is about figuring out my own feelings. Maybe it’s too easy to forget that the funny, articulate, and intoxicating blonde I’d just fallen for might be doing the exact same thing.