Play Jenga, not people

Anna and Seth know how to play games.

Much of what I learned about love, heartbreak and the sex appeal of nerdy Jews (both middle-aged and teenaged) comes from watching teen melodrama “The OC.” Take the Anna/Seth/Summer love triangle. Seth is hopelessly in love with Summer, who is the worst to him. And Anna is hopelessly in love with Seth, who only likes her as a friend, probably because she’s so nice and available. In the following conversation with Anna, Seth is confused by Summer’s disinterest.

Seth: “I don’t see what her problem is, I’m nothing but available to that girl.”

Anna: “All right, right there. That’s your problem. Girls like to be chased by guys that aren’t into them.”

Seth: “And that sounds a little bit like a game to me, Anna. And I don’t really like to play games, okay? Unless you’re talking about a little Saturday night Jenga. A little Magic the Gathering. Love Magic the Gathering.”

Unfortunately, Anna is not talking about fun-filled Saturday night Jenga, but rather some pretty terrible, often hurtful games. I find myself asking: Why do we play games when it seems like we all universally hate them? Why do we find someone who is uninterested so interesting, so delectable? It’s really alarming just how powerful the act of feigning disinterest, or being for real disinterested, can be in attracting someone. I was once involved with this guy who I decided I was no longer into, so I stopped responding to his texts. For the five months following this decision, he texted me incessantly, at all hours after 11 p.m., things like “Yo where u at?”, “Tryna kick it?”, or “Study break?” I didn’t respond to any of them, and this seemed to fuel his interest. Once, he even accosted me at SAE and asked why I no longer responded to his late-night propositions, to which I confessed that I preferred eating sandwiches, and he still persisted with the texts! I’ve never been the girl that was hard to get, and I became one by being legitimately uninterested.

I once ironically picked up a copy of “The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right,” and ironically read all of it and ironically thought about it for a while. Though the premise is pretty sickening — proposing that a woman should be passive, dainty and elusive if she wants a man to give her the time of day — much of it resonates. Like the following suggestion: “Your job right now is to treat the man you are really, really crazy about like the man you’re not that interested in — don’t call, be busy sometimes! Do all of this from the beginning — from day one! Do it from the second you meet him — or should we say, the second he meets you!” While the incessant use of exclamation points fails to convince me that any of this is urgent, I am convinced that these are some valid, albeit depressing, points. Guys want girls that treat them like shit, or at least who don’t respond right away, or who don’t initiate text conversations every time all the time.

It’s hard to be elusive when you actually like the person, which brings me to wonder: How do you apply this to people you are interested in, people you want to trap into liking you? Some girls get crazy. I have a friend who, when she’s talking to a guy, always “accidentally” texts him regarding another guy that was supposed to go to a friend, to make it seem as though there are other guys after her. Another friend tells me she never, ever initiates textual contact with boys. “If they text me I will respond and not be rude but never initiate it. If a guy really likes you he will make the effort.” Other girls are more forward and scheming, but cautiously so. My one girl pal, a self-described master of game-playing, tells me that she “facilitates situations such that what I want (the guy to kiss me or ask me out) will happen as a natural progression of our interactions.” While she makes a concerted effort to avoid initiating most of the time, when she does, she asks questions or brings up inside jokes, to achieve a healthy balance between coy and available: “I want to be the girl they want to befriend and hang out with, but I also want to be intriguing enough that they want to take off my pants.”

Trying to be intriguing enough for someone to want to take off your pants is difficult, because often, this goes against our instincts. When I like a guy, my instinct is to text him constantly, things like “Hey what are you doing?” “Who are you with?” “When will I see you?” “What do you think of my face?” “I like your face.” “Want to settle down?” “I saw this leaf and I thought of you.” It’s a shame that we live in a world where we can’t just be open with each other about our desires (or we can, but can’t be attractive doing this) and it’s a shame that a book like “The Rules,” which has a chapter titled “Closing the Deal: Getting Him to the Altar,” says a lot of true things about how men and women interact,

I have this theory about traffic jams. If there were some way to coordinate everyone pushing down on their pedals at the exact same time, everyone would start moving, and there would be no traffic jam. But there isn’t a way to coordinate this, and it takes just one person, who’s distracted listening to Car Talk or blasting T-Pain, not pushing down the pedal to get smashed and ruin everything for everyone. I feel the same way about game-playing; if everyone stopped playing them, relationships and hookups wouldn’t be so complicated. But there isn’t a way to coordinate this, either, and it takes just one person playing hard to get to maintain the competitive edge of game-playing, which ruins everything for everyone. This is unfortunate, because I’m sure we’d all rather be playing Jenga or Magic the Gathering.

Comments