Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Games People Play

[The scent of my cigarette as I lean over my keyboard makes me ravenous in a way I don’t like to admit, probably like how a sex addict craves the feeling of first penetration. Scratch that. I know that’s exactly how it feels.]

The first day I met Mr. Perfect, two significant things happened. The first was an example of one of those brilliant moments in life when liquor helps you discuss the issues that you normally wouldn’t be caught dead asking. While sitting side-by-side, knees touching on my living room sofa and watching Mr. Perfect keep reaching into his jean’s pocket time after time for his vibrating cell phone, Cait, my short-term roommate, our mutual friend and his closest friend for years, asked innocently, “Oh, Joellen?” Mr. Perfect gave her a look and muttered, “No, Joa.” Three minutes later, it was Janessa. The number of girls he knew whose names began with the letter J wasn’t the only thing that shocked me; it was also the number of texts from different girls he was getting all at the same time. In a moment of tequila-induced insouciance, I piped up, filter between thoughts and mouth not working. “Are you a player, Mr. Perfect?”

“No,” he said, looking a little embarrassed. “I just have a lot of girl friends.”

“Oh, so you’re a pimp? Ladies is pimps too,” I told him, mock-brushing the dirt off my shoulders in a moment that would have made Jay-Z proud to have penned those lyrics.

Mr. Perfect laughed with a charming grin and then acquitted. “Kinda.”

“He’s not a man-whore,” Cait agreed, which was enough for me and Mr. Cuervo. Privately and later, without tequila clouding my thoughts, I would re-evaluate this occurrence.

The second significant thing was a surprise. I didn’t realize that when Cait gave me Mr. Perfect’s number in case of emergencies (i.e—her cell dying while they were out and about in her car that was in the process of wheezing its last death-rattles,) she had also given him my number. So it was a very pleasant surprise indeed when not even twenty minutes after he had left my roommates and I to our drunken girl’s night, I received a text from him.

“It was very nice to meet you!” it said. (I didn’t know then that this marked the start of my love/hate relationship with the exclamation points that Mr. Perfect was so fond (exclamation point!) of using.)

It was cute; it was polite; it was unexpected. I’ve always held much stock about men who are willing to text you first, which is probably where the problem started. Jersey Blunt, for all of his faults (illegal substance and legal issues included), still managed to surprise me with a few random texts, most of the time about needing community service or getting new weed in, but still. This is probably one of the reasons why despite everything, I considered him a great guy. Communication is big with me, and a guy who is willing to communicate first gets extra-big gold-star bonus points. Women do not want to romance themselves. We already do enough of the talking and the typing and the texting. Sometimes, we just want to be pleasantly surprised by nothing more than a “What’s up?” Or, in my case, a “Got more Purple Haze in,” will do, too.

Hence, The Game. The Game is something that I put all my perspective men through. It gets its roots from the school of Playing Hard to Get, with enough feminist thought and self-torture thrown into the mix to make it really interesting. Mr. Perfect was a perfect candidate for the game. We texted each other every single day, sometimes for hours, since the day we were introduced and his first unbidden text message. We’d done this for about 12 days and 2 surprise text messages from him before I decided it was time to make him a player in The Game: I stopped texting him.

The Game is a remarkably simple one. It just involves not taking his name from my cell’s contact list and putting it in the address box of a text message. Also, not Facebooking or calling. Basically, I disappear for either as long as it takes for him to text me, or until I can’t stand it any longer. Usually, I end up calling or texting first, which means that I lose The Game and from then on have to deal with the knowledge that I’m more invested in whatever it is that’s going on than the Man du Jour is and that I shouldn’t expect a call or text from them out of the blue. Which is a little sad, but no more sad than the fact that I find myself having to play this game in the first place. Which begs the question, why can’t we seem to be happy without playing games with other people? Is it a hold-over from the days of elementary school recess tag, when we knew that Jason would always chase and tag Julia because he liked her? Are playing games our twisted way of trying to make our partners realize this and work for something, anything to happen like we are? Or do we just play games to excite ourselves because when it comes down to it, sometimes it gets our blood boiling more to play than to win?

Day One into The Game with Mr. Perfect, and I wasn’t expecting anything. I slept most of it away anyway, using the excuse of the unemployed and slightly hung-over. Day Two, I jumped every time my cell phone rang and ran to get it. By Day Three, I was starting to realize that Mr. Perfect would go about a week before texting to see if I’d died or just dropped off the face of the earth.

This may seem like a lot of needless work and worry to you, dear reader, but let me explain something: I knew I’d have to do this from the first time I met Mr. Perfect. Do you remember the first surprise that I got from him, all the mysterious women and their urgent texts? Well, that told me one thing after he admitted that while not playing them, a lot of women constantly called on him: that he was used to women hounding him for both his attention and his time. What throws a pimp more than one of his flock not needing him? Nothing, dear reader—nothing. It’s that logic is playing hard-to-get that while I can’t seem to follow in the bedroom, I eagerly apply to The Game: people want what they cannot have. If I fail in that aspect when it comes to abstinence, then I’m going to be the only girl not getting arthritis in her thumbs from texting him.

Every woman has her own version of The Game. Some follow the tried-and-true rules of things like the sex-on-the-third-date rule to make sure a guy is interested enough in her to go through three separate instances of public and monetary showmanship. Some enlist physical touch or making their hands (or any other body part, for that matter), available to see if the offer is taken. Others doll themselves up in heels, make-up and particularly pretty or provocative outfits to see if they can make men remember that they are, in fact, pretty damn fine women, and not just that girl who he always crashes on the sofa with wearing jeans and a hoodie. Still more women play the jealously card and go so far as to blatantly ogle other men or casually mention in passing to their beau another man who has recently admired them/complimented them/ asked them out. These are the games that women play, and we are not the only players. Men may either realize it or not, but they are almost always engaged in some sort of cleverly connived feminine subterfuge. (Scary, isn’t it?) If it’s done well, a man will never even know what hoops he’s being made to jump through—he’ll just know that he suddenly feels a strong urge to do something, the result of which is probably the means to the end of the game. Games and their outcomes tell girls a lot more about a particular guy than dating for a number of months or hours spent talking could.

This isn’t to say, gentlemen, that the next time you feel the urge to pick up the phone and call a lady, you shouldn’t because that means she “wins”. Dear lord, please…take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. There are no real “winners” or “losers” to these games. The only thing that can be said to be “won” is a sense of what is going on—if you’re into us enough to make a move, be it picking up the phone, taking our hand, threatening to take out a co-worker with wandering eyes, or asking us out for a forth date. And the only thing that can possibly be “lost” is the sense of an equal attraction. I know that my desire to let Mr. Perfect know what’s up every day means I want him to be part of my life; by finding out if he has the same desire to know what’s going on in my life or include me in his lets me know that I can let my guard down and let him in, and not have to worry so much about those fifteen other girls with names like Janelle and Joanna and Jessica. Now that you know what’s up, please, be a little more proactive—if you want your sex life to get better and/or more frequent, I guarantee you, this is the secret to making your life easier. Call or text her first, just to say “hey”. Compliment her on an outfit or on a choice she’s made. Take her hand when you’re out and about for no reason. Tell her that one of her male friends makes you feel jealous, even if it’s complete bullshit. I’m giving you gold, here—what women are really after. And the best part? You’ll win The Game, and she’ll never be none the wiser that you’re on to her own Game. Nothing like a little competitive spirit, eh?

As for Mr. Perfect? I folded and texted him on the afternoon of the third day. Score: Perfect, 1. Carissa: 0, but a sense of relief.


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