Just because I'm dating again, do I have to play games?

I'm very direct by nature. Can't I just call a guy if I feel like it?


Cary Tennis
February 27, 2004 2:36AM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I am a 27-year-old woman who recently went through a very difficult breakup with a man I dated for six years and lived with for four. He would not commit to marriage and I could not be happy in our relationship without getting married.

I am back on my own now for about three months. Although I spent the first month in tears, I think I am doing reasonably well now. I am completing my MBA and have a great job lined up for the fall. Since I am in school, my social life is very full. I have been going out about three or four nights per week and am surrounded by fun and interesting friends. Despite the devastation of the breakup, my confidence is still more or less intact. When I look in the mirror, I like what I see. I am pretty, thin, healthy, etc. I smile and laugh a lot. I have all sorts of interests. I was in a chili contest last month. Next weekend I am ski racing.

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But I am completely inexperienced in the art of "dating." I never really "dated" my last boyfriend. We just hooked up one night and then he never left my side. Before that I was in another long-term relationship (four years) that started when I was in high school. From what I hear and read it seems like dating involves all these mind games. For example, I hear advice that you shouldn't appear too eager too soon -- that you shouldn't call a man if you want to see him, that you should let him do the chasing. It is just not in my nature to play these sorts of games. I am an honest, open and sincere person. If I want to see someone, I feel it should be OK to call them -- not 10 times or in an obsessive way, but just once to say, Hi, let's get together.

I am not good at being "mysterious." I like to share my life with people so I am just open about what is going on. I don't want to ruin my chances of finding a new partner, but I hate the idea of acting like someone who I am not. I am moving to New York City, where I am sure these dating rules and rituals are just insane. How can a nice girl survive?

Nice Girl

Dear Nice Girl,

There is indeed a whole system of semaphore signals, telephone tag and Kabuki hand gestures that people who are dating use to try to psych each other out. But I would avoid it.

The system your friends are referring to, it seems to me, is for people who don't communicate well verbally, think that others need to be manipulated, and are too insecure to put their cards on the table. They try through elaborate means to conjure an air of mystery and power about themselves, to create illusions in the mind of the other, to project themselves as giant shadows on the wall. I think it's phony and unnecessary. There is nothing quite so mysterious and powerful as directness. If a guy wants to know why you're calling, he can ask you.

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So if you're direct by nature, be direct.

However, use commonsense caution. I do note that, last time, you jumped into a six-year relationship without finding out for sure what the guy had in mind. So next time, ferret out his thoughts on marriage. If you sleep with him right off and he isn't the marrying kind, you could fall in love with him and then where would you be? Another six years with a guy who won't commit? So in that area, I would counsel a little deliberation. In divining his thoughts on the matter, while you don't have to be coy, you do want to avoid leading the witness. Ask his thoughts on marriage before you tell him where you stand, so he doesn't just tell you what you want to hear.

Otherwise, be yourself.

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Cary Tennis

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