February 16, 2019

The Case Against Being The "Cool" Girl(friend)

Why It Doesn't Pay To "Play The Game"

What Is The Game?

The Rules. Why Men Love Bitches. He's Just Not That Into You. Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man What do these have in common? That is, besides their current location in an on fire garbage can. They are books, marketed almost exclusively to women, to teach us about what men like and how they think so that we can achieve our life-long goals of eventually being married to one of them. They teach us about how men are very masculine, and as such need to be reminded constantly that they are big, strong, smart men, and how it is our job to remind them. They teach us that wielding a screwdriver in the presence of a love interest could prove fatal to our chances of ever getting married. They teach us that men are incapable of picking up their dirty underwear and placing it in hampers, so we have to be clever and resourceful by turning our bathrooms into basketball courts with lidless hampers for them to play with. They teach us that we have to handle the very fragile male ego with kid gloves. To handle conflict slyly and often indirectly, because he needs to feel supported by us, not challenged. They teach us that when men cheat on us it is our fault, but not to fear because the answer to how to be the perfect wife who doesn't get cheated on is in Chapter Three. That if he used or disrespected us it is our fault for allowing it to happen, but not to worry because the secret to never being used or disrespected again is in next month's book. They teach us that someone for whom you have to pretend to be less smart, competent and opinionated than you are lest they feel threatened, who feels openly entitled to critiquing your looks and attributes against impossible standards that often they themselves do not hold up against, who holds you accountable for their bad behavior, who regards a relationship as support for their wants and needs yet doesn't acknowledge their own responsibility in actively and consistently supporting and meeting the wants and needs of the person they are in the relationship with - and I mean actual wants and needs, not "providing" so that the fully functioning adult with genuine career goals doesn't have to work "someday" - is probably not capable of having the kind of relationship with you that would actually make you happy in any sense of the word. Wait, sorry...that last bit wasn't in the books. But don't worry, because it's in this article.


The rules of the game, if you're a woman, are simple (and by simple, I mean complicated, often contradictory, and absolutely ridiculous). If you like a guy, the rules say you shouldn't let him know it, or he'll be frightened off by your oh, so intimidating attraction to him. If you get asked out you shouldn't accept unless he's asked you well in advance - you should be managing your personal calendar like a doctor's office, the rules say, and sometimes doctor's offices pretend the calendar is slammed just to make the doctor look super important and popular, to create demand. Run your love life like a business, the rules say. That man is like a client that once landed must still be catered to regularly and kept happy, lest he decide to explore his options and create new partnerships elsewhere. Once you've been on a few dates and mutual interest is clear, don't you dare relax and enjoy your budding relationship and do not - god forbid! - have sex! You've got to keep playing the game, keep him guessing, keep him on his toes, or you'll never win the title of girlfriend. It's the elusive, spontaneously available woman who snags the girlfriend title - not the "needy" girl. Neediness is the enemy. The kiss of death to a budding relationship.

Oh, what's that? You're in a relationship now? Games not over yet, honey. You still don't get to relax, otherwise he may never buy that ring and pop that question - so keep up the hard good work! Keep thinking your entire future rides on whether or not you remember to get your brows waxed regularly, what dress you decide to wear to his work function and whether you responded to that last text too soon. Never ask for anything you want directly - he'll feel nagged. God forbid the man feel nagged! What's wrong with you? Why didn't you subtly hint that you'd be more comfortable if he put his dirty underwear in the hamper rather than on the bathroom sink right next to your toothbrush? Why didn't you handle his fragile ego with kid gloves? Why didn't you pretend you couldn't change a lightbulb, despite your day job as an engineer, so that he could swoop in and save the day? A man needs to feel needed, you know...

How Does Gender Inequality Inform The Rules Of The Game?

The rules of heterosexual dating are very specific, structured, and frankly, silly. And yet most people abide them simply because they've never questioned the status quo. That's just the way things are, they think. But if you tried to apply the same rules to same sex relationships, you'd quickly see problems. Problems like, when it's two men exchanging numbers, or two women, who calls who first? Who is the aggressor and who is playing hard to get? Who is the cat and who is the mouse? Or even worse, as many a non-woke person has asked, who is the woman and who is the man? While questions like that are indeed frustrating, the intent isn't completely naïve. That's because in heterosexual dating culture, people rely on gender to predict the behavior of others and to know how to behave themselves. 

Gender roles inform the rules of the game, and not always in obvious ways. There are the familiar rules, like wait three days to call, don't accept a Saturday date after Wednesday, don't text back right away, or too often, or you'll seem desperate. Rules about when to have sex are clearly informed by gender roles, as they ask women to ignore their own physical desires and instead focus on prolonging the man's experience of "the chase" lest he lose interest. There are rules about who pays for dinner and drinks. Who gets to be generally comfortable and who is expected to prance around in at least one physically enhancing apparatus at a given moment, with at least three coats of paint - ahem...I mean makeup - on at all times.

But gender roles inform the experience of dating in ways that seem subtle but are actually critical. Men often assume the role of hiring manager or casting director in the early stages of dating, because they've been taught that their job is to sow their wild oats until one day they meet the right woman and choose a wife. Men are encouraged to view themselves in an active role of this selection process, not in a passive role of being selected by someone else. While this can become problematic and create feelings of entitlement and an approach to dating that isn't always intentionally - yet can be nonetheless - disrespectful toward women, this is more an issue of agency. Men are groomed to believe wholeheartedly in their agency when approaching dating and relationships.

On the other hand, women are fed very different messaging from the time they are girls. Leave alone for a moment the problematic ways that girls are taught to relate to their sexuality, how they are taught to regard their virginity, how this relates to their sense of inherent personhood and self-worth, and so on and so forth. Let's just sweep that to the side for a moment and put it on tomorrow's to-do list. Speaking strictly from a perspective of agency, girls are fed a very passive message that is akin to someday my prince will come. Women are encouraged to take on an extremely passive role when it comes to dating and relationships. To essentially just wait. Wait to be noticed. Wait to be approached. Wait to be asked out. Wait to be asked to be someone's girlfriend. Wait for him to propose.

At the same time, though, women are taught to be very passive aggressive as they wait, as though they can somehow galvanize the behaviors they desire in men. So since she can't actively approach a man that interests her, but must instead wait to be noticed, she will instead actively focus on her appearance such that she will be noticed. She can't actively ask a guy out. That wouldn't be lady-like. But she can actively position herself in the orbit of the guy she likes; weave herself into his friend group, casually mention her Friday night availability. I could go on but I'm beginning to get a bit nauseous, so...

Notice the net result, though, even though I'm not quite there in my outline yet. The man's agency has been encouraged. The woman's agency has been discouraged. When he dates, he focuses on what he wants. And when she dates, she focuses...on what he wants. Or rather what she thinks he wants - or knows, depending on how much of a Navy Seal she turns into in an attempt to not feel completely powerless in her prescribed role. But if he's focused on him, and she's focused on him...then who the hell is focusing on her? What she needs, let alone what she wants, but while we're on the topic, if she's so focused on fulfilling his every whim and not checking in with herself regularly, then how does she know if she even wants him. (Dear all women who as a result of this paragraph resigned from their unfulfilling relationships - You're welcome.)

What I'm alluding to here, albeit with my tongue in my cheek, is the time that women lose, disproportionately in comparison to the time that men typically lose in pursuit of a love interest or in a clearly dysfunctional relationship, all because we have been conditioned to believe that relationships require an against-the-grain kind of work ethic. We have been conditioned to work tirelessly to be attractive, and desirable, and wanted, and worthy. While our male counterparts have been conditioned to aspire to their own happiness, we have been conditioned to merely facilitate that happiness, and worse, to enjoy and actually aspire to becoming the best facilitators we can be. What's that? Relationship conditions aren't favorable right now? Then you must not be facilitating well enough. Try a deep conditioning treatment. Try another coat of mascara. Try putting on a little lipstick. Try learning to cook. Try keeping fresh flowers in the home, and while you're at it learn a few Martha Stewart tricks. Try nagging less and being more fun. Try having your emotional needs met by friends and therapists so he doesn't feel put upon. Try just about anything besides questioning the man you're going to all this trouble for and whether he's even worth it, because he's definitely not the problem. He's perfect.

My point - finally - is that if you focus your energies on trying to be what someone else wants; trying to look a certain way, and behave a certain way, and otherwise just work to create the perfect conditions to facilitate their initial and continued interest - that doesn't leave much room for you to consider whether you are even interested in the person you are working so hard to reign in. This is so problematic, I find, because often what starts the work - i.e.: let's get on the radar of the cute guy at the bar - is an initial impression. Maybe you were hanging out with friends and he made a funny comment, and it aligned with your political views, and now you've decided that you like him, or have a crush, and have unwittingly sprung into Navy Seal mode. But during the time between the low-hanging-fruit-anti-Trump remark he made and trying to get him to ask you out, this dude may in fact have said and/or done several things that, had you been paying attention, would have told you that he is not the type of person you want to - oh say - grow old with after all, and that actually he just plays the role of funny-politically-left guy in social situations. You might discover that he's not very respectful toward women. You might find out that he's a closet Trump supporter. You might find out that he's a Patriot's fan! (Sorry Patriots. I realize we haven't put points on the board since 2012, but my blood runs Big Blue nonetheless.) If you're so focused on trying to get a guy to like you, then you are not focused on whether or not you even like the guy that you are putting all of this time, attention and energy into. Additionally, if and when things do not go the way you'd like, you will blame your lack of effort, or misplaced effort, or otherwise read it as a flaw in your actions or worse, yourself, rather than reading the situation clearly. An example of this is when a man cheats and a woman believes he cheated because she gained weight, stopped wearing makeup 24/7, or started going to grad-school at night and is no longer giving him the amount of sex that he requires, rather than recognizing that he is responsible for his own behavior, flawed character, ethical shortcomings and all the rest.

This matter of agency - of perspective - with respect to gender roles and dating is not a small thing. It has tremendous impact. Traditional gender roles romanticize the idea of a man being the primary focus of a woman's attention, without ever considering the true implications of that. I take that back. Obviously the implications have been considered for men - loving, doting wife who cooks, cleans, does pilates five times a week, does her makeup so well she became an Instagram model and swings from the chandeliers. But I'm talking about the implications for women.

The thing about goals is that they are attainable. After a certain amount of work, you arrive; you accomplish; you win. The problem with traditional relationship ideology is that the finish line is presumably the relationship itself, but if attaining this relationship requires de-prioritizing or even sidelining one's own needs in favor of someone else's, and maintaining the relationship requires that these behaviors continue, then the goal is one that is only really fulfilling for one of that parties involved and - if you are a woman reading this - quick hint: that party isn't you.

This is not the case against falling in love, however, it is the case against playing the game in order to find or otherwise win love. Because make no mistake - the game is rigged. The game is rigged because we live in a patriarchy and traditional gender roles in dating cater almost exclusively to men while women do most or all of the mental, physical and emotional labor. This work is quantifiable as studies show (if you're reading this, you can Google it) that married men report higher rates of happiness than their single counterparts, however married women and single women report the same levels of happiness. This goes back to men aspiring to their own happiness, and women aspiring to be chosen by men via facilitating their happiness. Women are tricked when they are young, impressionable girls - before life perspective and collegiate gender studies courses - to aspire to a false fairy tale. There's a reason that the prose rarely extends beyond courtship. Again, this isn't the case against love or relationships, but rather the clearly gender asymmetrical and inequitable way that women and girls are taught to think about ourselves and our roles in relationships. The truth is that Disney is bad for your self-esteem, romantic comedies are propaganda, and if you allow yourself to be tricked into becoming the most desirable, perfect, or as millennials say, "cool" girlfriend and eventual wife, then congratulations, you will essentially have succeeded in auditioning your ass off for the principal role of domestic slave.

...okay that was a bit intense, even for me. I've been binge watching Season Two of Handmaid's Tale.

::clears throat awkwardly::

Moving on...

Who Is The Cool Girlfriend?

So...this is a combination, I think, of how society treats single women and what women are told men find attractive. Indulge me for a second...¹

If a woman is in a good relationship, for example, in which she is happy, she will receive positive feedback. If a woman is not in a relationship and is toting a I don't need a man attitude, she will receive positive feedback. However, a single woman who wants a relationship will typically receive negative feedback. She will be told that she doesn't need a relationship, shouldn't feel like she needs a man (even if the woman isn't complaining that she needs one) and that she should be content to just do her own thang, girlfriend.

This is an interesting phenomenon, I find. Single men with relationship goals are catches that people can't wait to set up or be set up with, meanwhile single women with relationship goals are typically labeled as needy, desperate, crazy, psycho - none of these words are synonymous with Beyoncé. So who are we supposed to be setting up the eligible single men with? The quintessential independent women that are boasting their happiness to the extent that they don't need men? How can a woman avoid being needy yet magically convey that, yes, she is available, yes, she does want to get married someday, and that ps: the clock started ticking three years ago so you might want to go ahead and start saving for that ring; no pressure - just one fiscally responsible adult on a timeline to another.

What results from this far too typical damned if you do, damned if you don't predicament is the "cool" girl, or the "cool" girlfriend if the audition process is successful. If you're not sure who she is, she might have some of these traits...

Is or appears to be just as interested in his traditionally male hobby/interest as he is and often does it with him. To be clear, it's because she's really, really into it. Not because she thinks it's the only way to get and keep his attention. Fifty years ago that might have meant gambling or cigar smoking, but with the millennials I'm pretty sure it's sports or video games. 

Doesn't mind behaviors that girlfriends typically mind and complain about. Staying out late with the guys, going to strip clubs, showing up late, cancelling at the last minute, not calling when you said you would, not doing what you said you would do, basically not having to live up to even the most basic of expectations, because she doesn't mind - she's cool. 

Doesn't push for commitment and may even outright state that she just wants to have fun or doesn't "do" relationships. 

Projects a half air of I-don't-care with respect to male companions. 

Has very low expectations of men with respect to relationships and puts up with a lot of bad behavior, though she may claim not to notice or care about the bad behavior because she's oh, so very cool. 

Is very independent and often keeps very busy, not in the least because she's trying to distract herself from her unfulfilling relationship. 

Basically the cool girl is pretending that she doesn't give a shit, even though she actually gives many a shit, because she's been taught that neediness is unattractive. And by pretending not to give a shit, she believes that she will somehow magically attract someone who...does give a shit?

::massive eye-roll::

As with many of the double standard paradoxes, the numbers just don't work out, and the messaging that women receive about what emotional dispositions are most attractive for them set up a contradictory situation. If women believe that appearing to want a relationship is unattractive, and behave as though they don't, they will appear to be emotionally unavailable. The irony is that while they are behaving this way out of fear of being unattractive (thereby subconsciously doing it in the hopes of finding a partner), available men are unlikely to be interested in a woman who is signaling that she is not interested from the outset. Instead, the type of men a woman giving off "unavailable" signals is likely to attract is one that is also emotionally unavailable and genuinely disinterested in a relationship (in contrast to her practiced facade of disinterest).

Which leads to... 

Who Benefits From The Cool Girlfriend Being "Cool"?

First of all, "cool" girls are not something any of us should be aspiring to be. People worth being in relationships with actually care about who you are, and that includes your hobbies and interests. You don't have to transform into a gamer even though the last video game you enjoyed was Super Mario World. You don't need to adjust your yoga schedule to accommodate every game during basketball season so you can sit there in a jersey trying to look cute and stay awake. If you're bending over backwards to try and get into Anime yet he isn't taking you to the Film Forum to see It Happened One Night but instead telling you about this black and white Anime you two should watch together - this is inequity! Part of the joy of being in a relationship with someone is discovering who they are, and sharing and being appreciated for who you are. Not to get into the casting director role, but in those terms the role you want is partner, not sidekick. Which means you don't need to feign interest in everything that makes him perk up so that he gets his partner in crime, then head off to your sip and paint or whatever it is that you're into alone. Your interests matter too! Sip and paints are awesome. You shouldn't have to assume someone else's interests for them to be interested in you - you're already interesting. And all that stuff cool girls are so okay with, like a guy generally behaving like an asshole unless or until you prove just how cool you are, it is because they don't care. About themselves. Enough. Even if you are only interested in casual sex, or hooking up, or friends with benefits, or whatever, these things do not come with a mandatory side of disrespect. And hell, furthermore, what's the point of a fuck buddy who doesn't keep appointments?! It's not even practical!  Putting on an air of not giving a fuck is going to attract people who genuinely do not give a fuck, and are more than happy to treat you like shit if you're going to hang around anyway and pretend not to care. 

Who benefits from the cool girlfriend being so cool? Really un-cool dudes. Those are the primary beneficiaries of you being cool as fuck. What's more, is that the un-cool dudes you will inevitably attract in an attempt to appear all devil-may-care will not experience the same kind of emotional battery and hits to self-esteem that you will as a result of being involved with them.

So there's a little more gender inequality for you think about. 

Emotional Unavailability and Gender

Trying to play the "cool" girlfriend, or otherwise imitating emotional unavailability, can lead to accidental and yet nonetheless actual emotional unavailability. This is critical, because as society is still overwhelmingly patriarchal and misogynistic views still prevail, the consequences for being an emotionally unavailable man and being an emotionally unavailable woman are very different. That isn't to say that emotionally unavailable men do not experience direct consequences of emotional unavailability, but rather that in addition to the direct consequences, emotionally unavailable women - this is speaking only to those who aren't intentionally and consciously unavailable - will inevitably suffer secondary consequences which can ultimately become harder to overcome that the unavailability itself.

Conscious Unavailability vs. Unconscious Unavailability

Emotional unavailability is not always a psychological block. Sometimes it is a practical state that one consciously puts themselves in. Examples: Someone visiting another country for two weeks may meet people they like and find attractive, but will likely be closed off to the idea of starting anything serious due to impractical circumstances. The same can be said for someone who knows they will be having a big move soon, or for someone who travels very frequently without staying in any one place very long. Someone who is extremely focused on work to the point of literally not having time to cultivate a relationship may also make the choice to deliberately close off unless or until circumstances change. What is important about these various unavailable situations, though, is that they are conscious and deliberate, so the person can just as easily make a different choice if they want to. If the traveler suddenly settles down in one place, they may immediately be able to work on a relationship now that the obstacle has been removed, and then voila! They're emotionally available.

However, there is another kind of emotional unavailability that doesn't happen on a conscious level. It happens subconsciously, and it is less about the external factors of one's own life but rather a reaction to someone else's emotional unavailability. Or, in other words, a way to combat neediness.

Think about the plight of the woman who is afraid of appearing to be needy. She projects her aura of independence and attracts an unavailable guy who is happy to meet someone like her who doesn't need a man and doesn't want a relationship (because her independence ensures that he doesn't have to work very hard). They start dating. When he, for example, says he'll call on Monday but now it's Wednesday and there has been no phone call, rather than holding him accountable for his failure to call, the woman who is afraid of being needy will instead hold herself accountable for caring. Strong, independent women don't notice when a man hasn't called. They are too busy being fabulous to notice. Broken date? That's fine - she has a rich life with hobbies, interests and friends and will dive into one of those instead. Three hours late for date? No big deal, she isn't needy and therefore is comfortable enough with her own company that other people's lateness doesn't phase her very much.

This kind of adjustment is necessary if you are consistently engaging with someone who is emotionally detached. A person with healthy emotions would be very hurt were they met with this kind of behavior over and over again. (And I would be remiss if I didn't add that a person with a healthy connection to their emotions typically leaves if and when it becomes clear that this is going to be the case.) There are endless books, advice columns and blogs (hello!) advising women on how to attract the right kind of men who don't engage in shitty behavior, but I would argue that there is no magic formula that will attract a certain type of person and keep another at bay. Rather, the magic is in being honest with yourself about how a person and/or situation is actually making you feel, and having the self-love and self-respect to walk away from unfavorable circumstances rather than either doubling down and trying to change said circumstances or otherwise finding ways to stay in them without them hurting...that much. This is how I believe women who are trying to play the game accidentally become emotionally unavailable. Women who habitually date emotionally detached men have to become emotionally detached themselves in order to survive it. Smiling when she actually feels like crying, texting "it's okay," when it's really not okay, then plastering on that practiced smile and posting a flirty IG pic, because she got all dolled up, so why the hell not, as though being stood up doesn't phase her. If it happens subconsciously, she won't realize that in an attempt to become the super attractive, ideal independent woman, she has inadvertently cut herself off from the healthy emotions that are necessary to have a truly fulfilling relationship.

Men are just as capable of being unconsciously emotionally unavailable as women. Their reasons can be as variable as the men themselves. Maybe they have abandonment issues because they lost a parent at a young age. Maybe they never really got over their first heartbreak. But even if the result is an emotionally detached man who won't be a good relationship partner for anyone unless or until he addresses his own issues, he often doesn't see it that way and doesn't have to, because society is as fine with him being single as it is with him being in a relationship, or lingering in between in a series of casual dalliances along the way. His ability to be in a relationship if he wanted isn't something he is made to feel he has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt; his qualities and attributes aren't critiqued under an impossible magnifying lens. As a result of living in a society that allows, nay, encourages emotionally unavailability in men, men aren't punished by society when they are unavailable. There is no wrong relationship status for a man to have. If he's single, he's a catch. If he's single past a certain age, he's a bachelor, and therefore even more of a catch. If he's in a relationship or married, he's still a catch, and someone caught him. But all of these states of being are generally viewed as OK. Even the most questionable of patterns that he might develop, such as being a serial dater, being extremely promiscuous, becoming dependent on an unhealthy nightlife/weekend life, drinking to excess, cheating habitually, are all still generally rationalized by and supported by society as OK. Men are expected to sow their wild oats, explore their options, exercise their virility, so these behaviors and patterns aren't criticized very heavily. Additionally, because of the perception of agency in the selection process of dating, unless suffering from already low self-esteem, men who habitually engage in "almost" relationships, a lot of casual sex, friends with benefits situations, and even affairs, don't experience the same kind of erosion of their self-esteem and self-worth following these experiences that women do. On the contrary, if any of these are perceived by others as a failure to have entered into a relationship with a particular woman, they are more likely to blame the woman in question for not having lived up to their expectations, standards, etc. than to shoulder the blame themselves. He'll say he's really focused on work, or enjoying his youth, or he just hasn't found the right woman yet. And he won't just say these things. He'll believe these things! Unless already suffering from low self-esteem there is no reason for an emotionally unavailable man to believe that there is something wrong with him despite his being the common denominator in all of the relationships he participates in.

For women, however, it's a different story. A women's single status, especially past a certain age, is often seen as an indication that there is something wrong with her. If she internalizes this belief she'll approach dating as a means of validation, i.e.: See, I have a boyfriend? There's nothing wrong with me. Promiscuity is discouraged and frowned upon, yes still, and often the partners who are willing to engage in, say, casual sex with a woman privately view her as less-than for her willingness to participate, though again, they don't regard their own self-worth as having taken a hit for their own participation. A women's ability to find sexual partners is not championed the way it is with men, and conversely there is an idea that this behavior is indicative of them not being good enough to have a relationship with, which is further invalidating and damaging to self-esteem and self-worth. The types of relationships that tend to develop with emotionally unavailable partners, such as friends with benefits, "almost" relationships, and the like do erode her self-esteem one after another, because as she doesn't approach relationships with agency and instead is hoping to be selected, she feels both rejected and invalidated after each of these experiences, which only makes her more likely to be involved in another, and then another, and then another, and so the erosion continues. Whereas men are more likely to view relationships like this as "having fun", and may even look back at them fondly or as having accomplished the sowing of the aforementioned oats, women are more likely to view these relationships as personal value judgements and failures, even with the crappiest of partners, due to the perception of having failed at being selected, chosen, and thereby validated as "girlfriend material", "wife material", or otherwise just a worthy relationship partner. 

Disadvantages To Playing The Game

You attract people you're not compatible with.
By playing it "cool" and pretending not to care that much, you attract people that are actually cool or even cold and aren't pretending at all - they just don't care. The truth is that you really want a relationship. The truth is that they really don't. It's a mismatch of agendas, desires and goals from the outset.

You're forced to keep up the act or lose the relationship. 
If things continue past a certain point and you end up dating this person, you have to go on playing "cool" so as not to disrupt the pace of things (which you're neither in agreement with or in control of, by the way.) You keep playing hard to get, waiting a while before calling back, second guessing every punctuation choice in every text, because although you haven't done it intentionally you've created a relationship that's predicated on you playing a role that you now have to keep playing in order to stay in the game.

Even if you win, you lose. 
Maybe you end up in a relationship. Maybe you date for a few years and then you get a big ring. Maybe you get married and you pop out a couple kids. But if all the while you've been playing this role, holding back your true thoughts and feelings, worrying whether you said or did the right thing, strategically keeping "cool" when you feel warm or even hot as hell, then you're not really being you. Which in a very real way means that you aren't even really in the relationship! You don't have the freedom and trust to be your authentic self. You aren't getting your emotional needs met. You've been so busy doing so much for the relationship that you haven't stopped to think about what, if anything, the relationship is doing for you. So even if you manage to win...what are you winning, really? 

New Rules

Don't play games. Accept that some people will be weeded out accordingly. 
If saying that you want a relationship causes someone to not call back - good! Now you're free to get a call from someone who wants a relationship too. You mentioned wanting kids someday and he got so nervous he went sprinting from the bar? Great! You just saved yourself an awkward conversation two years down the road. You're not going to want the same things out of life as every single human you encounter, but if you waste your time pretending to align with people you aren't compatible with, you won't have the time, or the space, or the energy (ahem...availability) for the people you might encounter who do want the things that you do.

Be yourself without apologies. 
I have a very polarizing personality. People tend to either love me or hate me. The ones who hate me tend to use the word "too" a lot when explaining just why they can't stand me. I'm too this, too that. I actually get a lot of "too much". But the ones who love me tend not to use the "too" word much at all, and I find that I'm much happier when I'm surrounded by those people than trying to find ways to be less me to appease the people I'm apparently too much - what...human? - for. You're not going to be liked or loved by every single person that you meet. It's just not possible. But the people worth your time, who won't accuse you of being too much or too little of anything, are going to have a hard time seeing you if you aren't being you because you're trying to be something else for someone who doesn't appreciate you as you are.

Don't date to win. 
It's not a game show. It's not a competition. It isn't a referendum on your inherent worth as a person, a partner, or anything in between. You have nothing to prove to the person you just met five minutes ago at the bar, and especially not to the person you literally just met because you both happened to swipe right between Candy Crush levels.

When it's not a competition, or an attempt to win - if not a relationship, then validation, or both - then dating just amounts to meeting new people. Even if it doesn't result in a two car garage and a dog, just meeting people isn't this battering experience that leaves you feeling shitty about yourself. The shitty feeling that can accompany a long string of unsuccessful dates or relationships usually has more to do with being inauthentic on these dates/in these relationships, ignoring your boundaries, or both. Of course you'll feel shitty if you give up all your hobbies for someone who doesn't pick you six months later. Of course you'll feel shitty if you did something you didn't really want to do - like have sex all of eight minutes in - in the hopes of winning some coveted prize. And of course, if you're continuously downplaying or trying to change who you are to appease people you're afraid won't really like you for you, you'll continue to doubt yourself and feel that you're being consistently rejected, because by opting to play some version of yourself instead of simply being yourself, you are the one who is consistently rejecting you.  

If you approach dating with agency, and self-respect, and healthy boundaries, and a conscious attachment to your own feelings, wants, likes and dislikes, meeting new people can be just that. Meeting people. People you like. People you don't like. People you become friends with. People who make you thank your lucky stars you live in a big city among fellow Democrats. People you eventually decide you'd like to mortgage a house and adopt a dog with. Who the fuck knows. But with a healthy sense of self and just the right amount of selfishness - it's okay to put you first - dating need not turn into one devastating, self-sacrificing train wreck after another.

So there you have it. The case against playing the game, adhering to clearly gender biased rules and becoming the cool girlfriend for someone else's benefit. At the end of the day, you are the one who has to walk in your shoes, sleep in the bed you've made, and all the other analogous clichés to that effect.

For the record, my shoe of choice is a stiletto, I'm typing this in a four poster canopy bed, and while some may indeed think this is all too much, I'm cozy and fabulous AF.

Wouldn't have it any other way.

Go forth now, ladies, and be yourselves. ;)

¹one second = about three monster paragraphs with excessive commas and clauses 


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