In accordance to the older generations of women in my family, in my early 20’s my mom chimed in with some dating advice of her own for me: “He chased her, and chased her, and chased her until she caught him.”
Like her mother’s advice before her, it was a sentiment I didn’t want to hear. Why couldn’t – or shouldn’t – I handwrite flurries of postcards to a gentleman I was besotted with that did more than allude to how I felt, demonstrate undeniable interest in a guy, or be the first one call?
I lacked even more of a filter in my teens and twenties than I do now when it came to my emotions. If I liked you, you would know it. Which led to me chasing guys.
It took my brother translating for me to get it: “Don’t be Helena.” We’d watched the Michelle Pheiffer version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where Callista Flockhart plays the lovestruck-to-a-revolting-degree version of Helena. With that vision of her pushing her bicycle through the city and into the forest like a possessed woman playing on repeat in my head, I got it.
I was horrified that I might be coming across that way. But worse than that, I was horrified to learn that playing the “let him chase you game” worked.
A friend of mine taught me the basic gaming ropes: don’t contact them first, only be open to people who are open to you, and let him always be the last to respond. Mirror the guy’s interactions (ie: if he writes you a short email, you respond with a short email – not a long missive about every thought in your head). Teach him how to treat you by being clear about your expectations. Be busy. Wait for him to ask you out. If he’s into you, he’ll make it happen.
I started this change in my dating habits with a bang. I called it “The Summer of Yes” and only dated guys who asked me out (and said “Yes” to all guys who asked me out unless they didn’t seem safe).
The guys I chased didn’t pan out for the long term. They flickered on and then off like fireflies. The guys I let chase me turned into relationships.
I have to remind myself of the rules from time to time because it’s easy for me to slip and start chasing (just like it’s hard for me not to lead when dancing – there must be something to this). It’s easy for me to be hopeful that just because he only texts once a week, he might like me (the answer is no). It’s easy for me to think that if I feel like an afterthought, it must be a misinterpretation (the answer is it’s not – I’m just an afterthought). And it’s easy for me to want to remedy these things and think I have the power to do so.
The truth is, if he’s decent and he likes you, he’ll call.
I sometimes want to punch that truth.