Provocative opinions aired on the clothes line of life.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Can't Read My Poker Face...Or Can You?

 Aces high

I was recently accused of "revealing my cards too soon" in reference to my previous post about my search for the ultimate Sunday Boyfriend. The view held was that if any prospective dates were to read it they would have an unfair advantage in "knowing what makes Samantha Ellis tick". Personally I don't think that's such a bad thing in terms of that post in particular, as I was essentially specifying what I would want from a disposable boyfriend. I'm not exactly exposing my vulnerability in such a way that I would leave myself susceptible to heartbreak.

However it did present quite the conundrum in terms of approaches to dating and one which I've struggled with for years:

If you're to be successful in a relationship are there certain rules to follow ?

I touched upon this topic briefly a few months ago, where I discussed how for the longest time I had been Romance Intolerant and was of the opinion that games were the only option in securing someone's attention. However as I've gotten older, I've decided that knowing what you want and going after it is a far healthier approach to dating. But I admit, this method certainly isn't fool-proof and I've still lost out this way.

So should you go in guns blazing? Or is there something to be said for restraint?

Toying with our emotions

It's impossible to think about the concept of game playing without envisioning your first crush on the playground and the childish behaviour which ensued in order to gain their attention. Teasing, taunting, hair pulling, sulking. Not to mention throwing tin pencil cases and pushing each other over walls (I grew up in South Wales). Suffice to say it wasn't at all sophisticated and often had a decidedly negative effect on the relationship instead of reflecting the domesticity I'd lovingly portrayed with neon poster paint. 

But regardless of the outcome, the notion that you should behave negatively towards someone in order for them to reciprocate your feelings has become etched in our consciousness from a very young age. And while our romantic interactions with the opposite sex may have progressed from the bike sheds to the water cooler, confusion and immaturity still remain at its core. 

Time and again I've endured paper airplanes, footballs and balloons aimed at my head and been showered with pencil sharpenings, silly notes and amateurish drawings of penises. All encountered at my last office job no less. Who needs romance when you can be on the receiving end of continual childish pranks? Of course it's not regarded as a prank and instead this juvenile approach is justified by presenting itself as a predefined set of social rules, much like that of dinner table etiquette and queuing.

With the rules of the dating game being very clear: men thrive on the thrill of the chase. Which is a ritual within itself and has respective gender roles where the femme fatale is pursued by a suitor. (Never vice versa). While in order to successfully secure a man's attention and hold it, a woman must perfect the art of playing hard to get and keep him guessing at every opportunity by essentially curbing her feelings. 

 Curb your latent enthusiasm at all costs

Naturally every woman will go about this in her own individual way, but there are some fundamental rules of thumb when going to the painstaking effort of appearing nonchalant. 

And making it very clear that her life doesn't revolve around you is at the top of that list. Actually being confident and self-reliant just isn't enough because when it comes to men this has to be clarified. Whether it be turning down a date for her fitness class, having to leave early to work on her screenplay or simply having other plans which involve her and her equally successful friends drinking at a kitsch bar or dining at a classy restaurant. (When in reality what she's really doing is watching an exercise DVD with a glass of wine, writing her name over and over in Microsoft Word and spending quality time with her buddies via the screen of her laptop). But by conveying that she's not prepared to brush off her social agenda which existed before you, she's pertaining to that ideal of a modern independent woman who is highly sought after and not just by you. 

Paving the way for another classic tool which is commonly utilised by women in order to attract attention:  manipulating a man's competitive streak. Such as having him spectate while she casually chats to strange men at social events, working anecdotes about male friends into conversation and posting ambiguous photographs of nights out on social networks with no context around them. They're all subtle ways of spiking a little bit of healthy jealousy. With the basic strategy being if you're not prepared to treat her in the way that she deserves to be, she'll show you someone who will.

However the ultimate game is resisting the urge to have sex straight away and can be somewhat of a dilemma.Women want to portray themselves as selective about who they take their knickers off for, but are also juggling their own sexual needs as well as trying not to disillusion men by behaving like a tease. While giving it up on the first date is generally regarded as a rookie error, there is no hard or fast (no pun intended) rule for correct timing when it comes to erotic urges. A lot of dating guides I've read instruct you to let him fall for you first. Which is a catch-22 for many reasons:
  1. When is this breakthrough moment when you know a man is being genuine?
  2. How can you truly fall for someone without knowing what they're like between the sheets? (I'm not convinced).
It's mind boggling, not to mention exhausting. Being unavailable and alluring to a man is a full-time job which you're unsure will even pay off in the end. And if it does are there suitable avenues for a promotion? Is there a pension plan? In all seriousness though, while a woman may have succeeded in igniting the elusive spark, how long does it take before it's snuffed out by a man's waning attention span?

(Ladies, for more insight on playing too hard to get click here).


While women put hard work into their dating efforts it seems to me that men's attempts are decidedly lackluster. Chasing only appears to be challenging, when in actual fact it's a very lazy endeavor indeed. Clumsy attempts at uninterrupted online conversation, halfhearted compliments and people watching as opposed to a romantic date. I wouldn't call that a breathtaking chase. An aimlessly misguided stroll perhaps. And I don't wish to berate, but if men adore the thrill of it so much then why does it feel so deflated? Is it because leisurely trying to win a woman over is less hassle than an actual relationship?

If so (which I suspect it is) then I'm rather inclined to think that there are several simultaneous chases going on at any given time. Since a man's poor effort is often a direct result of juggling too many things at once. But at least it takes the pressure off, because if men don't succeed with one woman there's always the others to keep plugging away at.

It's clear to me that the only thing which is so perpetually intoxicating is the hunt itself. Men are always the hunter and never the hunted. Not knowing what the outcome will be is such an aphrodisiac to them. A man will home in on a woman with limited accessibility like a guided missile. Purely because she's a fantasy, an unattainable ideal. And what is the true measure of winning a woman over?

A lot of the time I don't even think it's about sex. It's more about having a woman reciprocate with something as small as a reply or a compliment designed for nothing more than an ego boost. And when this small victory has been achieved, she begins to lose her allure as the realisation sets in that she's not everything she's been built up to be. Well how could she be? It was never about her in the first place.

In a lot of respects, game playing is nothing more than the other person trying to assert that they have a life which doesn't always have time for you in it. And while you shouldn't let yourself be driven by desperation, being hounded by rules isn't much better. As for the chase, it's nothing more than an immature phase which will all but diminish once a man finds a woman he's willing to put the effort in for.

Although if it is only inevitable before some men get bored, I'd rather take the direct approach and be secure in the knowledge that they merely didn't want what was on offer, instead of being plagued by the notion of what if? While I'm certainly not one to jump to a man's attention, I'm not a fan of wasting opportunities either purely to appear aloof. Because contrary to popular belief going out on dates with someone you like are few and far between. Besides it's essential to be vulnerable sometimes, if only to learn a little humility in your errors.

So, have I revealed my cards too soon? I don't think so. If anything I've thrown the deck on the floor and if a  man has enough foresight he might pick up the right one.

Further reading on the candid opinions of dating rules can be found from fellow bloggers: